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The Third Tower: A Critical Examination

On July 6, 2008, BBC released a documentary examining the collapse of World Trade Center 7, on September 11, 2001. The film purported to "solve the final mystery" of 9/11 in regards to whether the collapse of the building was due to fire or controlled demolition. The film used interviews of people from both sides of the argument, as well as stock footage and reconstructions to show the viewer the cases to be made for each theory. This is the second film the BBC has created on the subject of alternative theories of 9/11.

The film is highly charged and controversial, with emotions running deep. In this review I will attempt to remove the emotional side of the film and simply look at the facts and opinions offered, their validity, and the BBC's attempt to make a "balanced" film.

Act I

The film opens with a quick introduction that thrusts the viewer into the chaos of 9/11 - the plane impacts and subsequent destruction of the World Trade Center towers that we are all familiar with. But in a rare event, the BBC finally choose to now focus their attention on the little known collapse of World Trade Center 7, almost a decade after the fact. Up until this point in time, WTC7 has largely been ignored in the media - with very small clips here and there, but never telling the whole story. In fact in its previous film, the BBC discussed WTC7 as a small side event and dismissed the controlled demolition claim purely on the word of a Popular Mechanics researcher. Now the BBC has returned and vows to do justice to the subject.

After a fast introduction in which we are introduced to various commentators on the subject, the film opens with a discussion of Loose Change and a government conspiracy. The film then goes on to a brief description of WTC7 as a government building, with the Office of Emergency Management, CIA, Secret Service, and others. The film then goes on to its first use of the term "some say" in reference to the use of WTC7 as a command post for the attacks on the WTC. I say this because the producers are fond of using the term "some say" to inject speculative, spurious and emotionally charged rhetoric into the film, often in a way that paints "conspiracy theorists" as irrational and vitriolic people. The term is used constantly in the film to make it sound like the 9/11 truth movement believes that the FDNY, NYPD, CDI, and others are all engaged in a massive conspiracy to destroy WTC and cover it up. To this of course the producers then turn to members of these institutions for their response, which of course are angry rebuttals to these depraved conspiracy theorists. These attacks serve to victimize those members and engender sympathy from the viewer. It is quite telling that NONE of the guests offering an alternative theory of 9/11 ever use this language themselves or make these charges. Instead the BBC is reduced to citing totally anonymous sources for the accusations. As many in the 9/11 truth movement know, no serious proponent of alternative theories believes that the firefighters or police officers were involved that day. In fact many in the movement support these rescuers attempt to get proper medical treatment and admission of guilt by the government for the EPA air scandal (a fact which BBC is loathe to mention at all) The only place you'll find that charge is from nameless posters on forums who are looking to be flamed. It is also interesting that these 'some say' attacks are only portrayed as coming from the conspiracy camp, and not supporters of the official story. If they had included that we may have heard something along the lines that "Some say Steven Jones' research is a sham since he is a Mormon with odd religious beliefs" or that "Some say Dylan Avery is a stupid kid" to accurately reflect some of the random forum postings that supporters of the official story have made over the years. Instead the BBC paints only 'conspiracy theorists' as making such remarks.

Continuing, the film correctly discusses the fact that WTC7 was omitted from the 9/11 Commission report and that the initial FEMA team was unable to come up with a conclusive hypothesis on its destruction. The film then shows a side by side comparison of WTC7's collapse and a standard commercial demolition which is very informative for the viewer to compare and contrast. We are then introduced to Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, people "who understand buildings". This a remarkable statement for the BBC to make, who along with most media up until this point, have largely ignored or denigrated those with credentials who speak supporting alternative theories.

The film then mentions the fact that all of the steel evidence from this unique event was totally destroyed, an explosive fact that the film treats as almost a mundane triviality. No discussion is ever made in the film as to the who, what, where, when, and why of the steel's destruction. This would have been a very good opportunity for the filmmakers to exercise some investigative journalism. Surely after talking to Gene Corely, Shyam Sunder, and Mark Loizeaux the filmmakers could have simply asked each of them why the steel was destroyed so quickly and what their opinion is on the legality/methodology of destroying crime scene evidence. Instead the question is ignored - and later the producers will claim that no evidence was found for controlled demolition - even though they are admitting that much of it was destroyed.

The single corroded steel member from WTC7 is then shown, and is presented as a mysterious piece of evidence to entice the viewer. The piece will be forgotten for almost the entire film, until it makes a reappearance in the film's final act as merely an example of natural corrosion (more on this later).

Act II

The film's next act opens with the BBC correctly mentioning that the fire suppression system in WTC7 was disabled for testing on the morning of 9/11, with judgment left to the viewer as to whether it was routine or malicious. Barry Jennings is introduced and he begins to tell the story of his experience in WTC7. Barry talks of how he went up to the OEM, the still hot coffee, and the phone call he received to get out. He then talks of an explosion on the 6th floor that destroys the landing and traps him in building 7. Unfortunately at this point, the film becomes very loose with it timelines. Barry's interview is interspersed with a chronology of the day, misleading the viewer into believing that the two are linked. I do not know if this is intentional, but at the very least it seems designed to suggest to the audience that the explosion that Barry witnessed was the South Tower collapsing - even though in his interview with Dylan Avery he claims that both towers were still standing at this point. The fact that the coffee was still hot also suggests that Barry was in the OEM center shortly after 9am, since the order came down to evacuate it after WTC2 was hit. It collapsed almost an hour later at 9:59 am, so what was Barry doing hanging around in an abandoned center for a whole hour? The whole timeline is nonsensical. It is also telling that the film never explicitly says that the explosion was WTC2's collapse - instead it is left to slick editing to create this illusion. This reeks of playing fast and loose with the facts. Interestingly the BBC also makes no mention of Michael Hess, who was with Barry Jennings that day - even though in his interview to the BBC he mentions 'we' several times when talking about being trapped.

Next, Richard Gage is introduced and the severity of fires in other skyscrapers over the years is shown. Interestingly the film also shows the results of the Cardington tests performed in the mid 1990's on steel framed structures and correctly explains that very little sagging was observed and that steel structures were more robust than commonly believed at the time. As an aside, have engineers forgotten these results when formulating WTC collapse theories?

Next the film talks to Fire Chief Peter Hayden about the events surrounding WTC7's imminent collapse that day. Interestingly he talks about a 'specific engineer' who accurately predicted the collapse down to a T. By the way he says it, it sure sounds like a whole team of engineers was consulted that day and he was the only one who predicted the collapse! It would have been nice for the BBC to identify and interview this engineer, since he seems to have a better understanding of the building's collapse mechanisms than all the engineers at NIST! He single handedly predicted the collapse, in advance, and with limited understanding of the situation. NIST in a multi- million dollar, multi year investigation has yet to come to a definitive collapse hypothesis! It would have been very informative for the public to know the specific evidence and reasons this engineer had for making his prediction. Alas, he remains unnamed and forgotten by the filmmakers.

Next Silverstein is introduced, but interestingly the BBC makes no mention of the fact that he only acquired the buildings in July, 2001. They mention the insurance policy, but try to explain it away as a normal action for him to take. Unfortunately they do not mention that since 9/11 Silverstein tried to collect twice on the policy and was subsequently awarded ~1. 5 times instead. They also mention his "pull-it" statement but thankfully little is made of it and Richard Gage correctly leaves it to the audience to decide.

Daniel Nigro is then introduced and discusses his experiences that day. He mentions that he cordoned off building 7 at about 3 pm that day and that he did not need to consult with Silverstein on whether or not to do this, which is or course logical. Nigro then injects himself into the fray by claiming that there is no conspiracy since it would imply that he was part of it, which would be "obscene". However, very few people have suggested that Nigro was involved. It is very unlikely that the FDNY or any other rescue services were involved that day, but it is a constant source of delight by debunker's to promote the idea that 9/11 Truthers believe the fire fighters were involved.

Then the BBC turns to its own reporting that day and the anomalous report of WTC7's collapse before the fact. However the BBC leaves the simple question of what its source was in favor of dramatic license. As will be seen later, the film is carefully and deliberately structured to present an overload of mysteries in the first half - and then in the second to have official experts weigh in and solve all the mysteries in one fell swoop, leaving the viewer satisfied that the mystery is solved.


Next the actual collapse of WTC7 is discussed, but not before the BBC injects the statement that at "5:21 pm Tower 7 finally collapses", clearly biased in support of the fire theory. Richard Gage then goes on to explain that the collapse is not produced by a natural process since buildings typically fail by following the path of least resistance. At this point it would have behooved the BBC to simply show pictures and videos of other buildings destroyed in earthquakes or in failed controlled demolitions. It would have clearly shown the viewer that indeed buildings often have enormous reserve strength are very rigid - even when toppling.

Instead, the BBC goes into a technical description of WTC7 and various A&E 9/11 engineers' opinion on the impossibility of total complete, symmetrical collapse. Next, Danny Jowenko, a CD expert is presented with his opinion that WTC7 was demolished. The BBC rebuts him by saying it is "not a view shared by other demolition experts", and introduces Mark Loizeaux of CDI. Interestingly, the BBC makes no mention of these "other" experts and Loizeaux is the only one presented.

Loizeaux mentions the fact that it takes months of design and preparation to bring a building down, and that usually you gut all the walls where the explosives are placed. There are also the hundreds of charges and miles of cable needed. This is all true for a standard commercial demolition, where the goal is to bring the building down safely, with little environmental impact, and for the cheapest cost, but not when safety and cost are irrelevant. Additionally only one floor would need to be rigged low down in the building so most tenants are not likely to notice. Also remember that Jowenko himself hypothesized that it would not have been too difficult to bring WTC7 down quickly: Only a single floor of explosives plus some quick cutting in the upper floors. Therefore we have a debate of experts, but as will be seen shortly, Loizeaux appears to let his emotions cloud his judgment.

Next Steven Jones is introduced as well as the thermite and super thermite hypothesis. Jones' dust analysis is discussed including the microspheres. It is also mentioned that one of the samples was taken only 20 minutes after the collapse, yet this does not stop the filmmakers from trying to suggest only seconds later that the spheres could have come from cleanup operations! Do the filmmakers even pay attention or do they just parrot any explanation? They also try to explain the spheres away as a natural product of the collapse or even as a result of other construction in the city! Of course no data, or even expert opinion is provided on these points, so the filmmakers simply grasp at straws to try to "balance" Jones.

Next Loizeaux rebuts thermite by claiming quite condescendingly that he saw it as a kid and that "I've never seen anyone use a material which melts steel for demolition purposes. I don't see how you could possibly get all of the columns to melt through at the same time. " This is an AMAZING statement from Loizeaux. He is trying to say on one hand that engineered thermite cutter charges would be unable to melt all the columns with the correct timing to properly implode the building, but on the other hand that random office fires disbursed on multiple floors had enough precision to do just that - BY CHANCE. The contradiction in logic is simply laughably, and yet this kind of double- think is passed off without second thought. Think for a second: Loizeaux's claim that the building fell due to fire is contradicted by his later statement that thermite charges would be unable to fell the building! But it gets worse for Loizeaux. Jones next brings up the fact that no one ever discusses nano- thermite and its cutting abilities - they instead choose to be ignorant of it and only consider standard incendiary thermite. What does Loizeaux do in rebuttal? He DENIES the existence of nano-thermite! In fact he calls it "fantasy land" because he would have clearly heard about it! It is quite likely that nano- thermite would not be in used in commercial demolitions, but it is in active R&D by Lawrence Livermore labs since the late 1990's at the earliest. Thus his statement is provably false - nano- thermite exists and has been molded into sol- gels capable of cutting large steel members. Conspirators with access to these materials would have been able to use them in the destruction of the buildings for the very reason that they are more silent and do not leave tell tale physical and chemical signatures of standard RDX.

Act IV

At this point the filmmakers switch gears. For largely the remainder of the film, they will now focus their attention on proponents of the official story. First the film explores how much damage was inflicted on the building. Several accounts are given by both firefighters and Steve Spak, a photographer who was able to get close enough to take pictures. Most of the information presented here is not new, although it was only recently discovered what the full extent of damage was to the south side. Spak also calims that he witnessed smoke and fire on almost every floor in WTC7, a point which Richard Gage disputes. Gage points to the fact that the winds were northerly that day and that as the wind whipped around WTC7, it created a zone of low pressure air on the south side. This had the effect of drawing smoke up from the rest of the WTC complex (which was still on fire) and creating the illusion that all of the smoke was coming from WTC7. Gage does not dispute that there were fires and that some of the smoke is from WTC7, just that it appears that a large part of it is from neighboring buildings. In fact there is strong evidence to support Gage's hypothesis: Pictures clearly show that the smoke and debris from WTC2's destruction were also sucked into a low pressure zone and clung to the south side of WTC1. The effect is quite pronounced and in fact one could be forgiven for believing that every floor on WTC1 was on fire! (See and

Next the BBC again attacks conspiracy theorists by alleging that they claim that 'not just the government and foreign intelligence, but police, fire service and even the media' are alleged to be involved in the conspiracy. Again, it must be reiterated that very few "conspiracy theorists" believe that the rescue services or even the media were actively involved in the cover-up, and that they were duped like everyone else. As usual, the filmmakers have no direct source for this statement, and in fact do not even attribute it - merely saying it as a statement of fact. Finally, the BBC attempts to answer its report of WTC7's collapse ahead of time. Richard Porter of the BBC discusses how the confusion of the day led to the report and that "[our] investigations very strongly suggest we were working on the basis of an incorrect news agency report. " They then mention that Reuters also had put out a false report. However, it was never in question that only the BBC put out the report, since CNN also made the report. Porter never directly claims that the BBC source was Reuters either. The question still remains as to the actual source of the report! The only thing the BBC can say is that it was an erroneous local story - but of course that day EVERY story from New York City was a local news story! Therefore the source of the report is still left unanswered. Why can't the BBC simply investigate the matter with the supposed due diligence they are famed for? Simply track down the original source - who it was and where it came from. This is exceedingly simple - and yet the inability of anyone to take any responsibility is amazing. Even more amazing, the filmmakers then try to exploit the situation by interviewing Jane Standley - who opines at the emotional torment caused by crazy conspiracy theorists. Again, the filmmakers bring in the emotions to try to demonize all "conspiracy theorists." Instead of sticking to the topic at hand - the investigation of the destruction of WTC7 - they continually roam into editorializing.

Next the filmmakers talk about the Barry Jennings controversy about dead bodies in the lobby, with the clear spin that "conspiracy theorists" constantly misrepresent witnesses. Thankfully Jenning's actual interview is allowed to be played and helps demonstrate to the viewer the actual situation, which is mostly blown out of proportion by the filmmakers.

Next we return to the mysterious melted steel from WTC7. Now however, the filmmakers inform us that their is nothing special about it: "it was attacked by a liquid slag. . . a liquid containing iron, sulfur, and oxygen. " The hypothesis is that the sulfur in the gypsum board was responsible as the fire burned in the rubble pile. However, the description of this slag seems to match thermate by products almost to a T: Molten iron, sulfur, and oxygen. Therefore, I believe more study is necessary to determine the cause. Until an experiment is performed to compare the effects of each cause, this remains an open question.

Finally, we are introduced to Shyam Sunder and NIST. Sunder first tries to deflect criticism of the length of time required for the WTC7 report saying that "we've been at this for a little over two years, and doing a two or two and a half year investigation is not at all unusual. " While this is completely true, the reason the criticism is leveled at NIST is because they have constantly set and broken their own deadlines over the years. They continually promise a 6 month release, but have yet to produce. Their investigation is opaque and the progress updates are very vague and lacking in any detail. Sunder also claims that they are moving as fast as possible but that they require high fidelity computer models and a certain level or rigor in the analysis. This is almost laughable considering the massive gaps in NIST's original WTC 1&2 report, in which they pruned scenarios and in the end had to throw out all their data in order to declare that floor sagging caused massive inward bowing (see my post on the subject ( as well as the Journal of 9/11 Studies ( for more detail). What is also funny is that NIST had already concluded it was fire - before the investigations began. When one starts with assumption the truth of what one is trying to prove, the results are always the same. Finally NIST states its hypothesis, that as the fire progressed some of the steel members simply sagged and disconnected from the core columns - leaving a longer unsupported length and leading to global collapse. Of course the Cardington tests results may conflict with this hypothesis and it will be interesting to see if NIST contrasts these empirical data with its computer generated models. As to the how and why of total, rapid, and complete implosion, NIST has only this to say: "it turns out than when you have connections that essentially don't have strength for the loads they are being subjected to and you have this massive failure of a column it does not take time - the structure has lost all integrity at that point in time. " It seems quite likely that NIST has not modeled the actual collapse - as this sounds almost exactly the same as their explanation for column instability in the WTC towers. We shall have to see, but this explanation just does not cut it, no pun intended. If it takes demolition teams months of planning and careful execution to implode buildings half the size of WTC7, you can be sure that fires could not do it - otherwise CDI would be out of business! Let us hope the NIST report is more detailed than this, once it comes out that is.

Finally even Richard Clark gets in on it and asserts that the government is incompetent and can't keep secrets. As well the filmmakers conclude with interviews with Ronald Wieck and Mark Roberts, who denigrate conspiracy theorists as true believers, unable to ever accept data which contradicts their position. The film ends with Daniel Nigro opining conspiracy theory as fiction, fund to read, but fiction.

Well, let us do a tally at the end of the documentary of the data presented for each side:

Pro Demolition

* It looked like a typical controlled demolition
* The building collapsed at free fall speed
* The evidence was rapidly destroyed so that no proper forensic investigation could be carried out
* Some eyewitnesses both outside an in the building reported explosions and damage, which has been suggested to have been the collapses of WTC2 - but not established.
* Danny Jowenko, a CD expert believes it was demolished
* Iron rich spheres were found in the dust - with NO prosaic explanation yet proffered that is even plausible
* Unreacted thermite (of a very fine quality) appears to have be found in the dust as well
* Super thermite exists in a sol gel form, capable of being molded and cutting steel
* Surface temperatures of the rubble pile were in excess of 700C
* Corroded steel members were found, a prosaic explanation of gypsum is possible, as is an explanation of thermate

Anti Demolition

* A specific engineer in the OEM predicted the collapse time
* The building appeared unstable during the time up to its collapse
* Some eyewitnesses report not hearing explosions, others have
* Daniel Nigro claims that if it was demolition he would know
* Mark Loizeaux claims the building could not have been rigged quickly or covertly (although if only a single floor is needed this may be possible)
* Loizeaux claims that thermite is not precise enough, but fires are (by implication of course)
* Loizeaux claims there is no such thing as super- thermite that could be used to fell a building
* Many of the commentators do not believe it was demolished and that conspiracy theories are disgusting

Pro Fire

* The building was on fire and not fought that day
* It was an unusually designed building
* Computers models suggest that some of the floor beams may have failed, which may have lead to column instability in particular columns, which may have lead to global collapse, which may have occurred rapidly

Anti Fire

* Fire is highly unlikely to implode a skyscraper, as teams of experts with hi tech tools are normally required to do this. If the fire hypothesis is true, controlled demolition would not be necessary.
* No other tall building has ever collapsed from fire, let alone in the manner of WTC7
* While the building was on fire, there is little evidence to suggest that the entire building was engulfed, nearby fires in WTC 5 and 6 would cloud the view
* WTC7 was damaged, but as far NIST can determine this was localized to an exterior column running the length of the building and the south west corner - the building purportedly failed in the east side.
* Loizeaux statement that thermite would not be precise enough to cut all the columns at the same time implies that fire would also not be precise enough to do the job


The final score does not seem good for the pro fire theory. There is no hard data on it, and the historical record does not support it. Plus even Loizeaux has by implication testified against it. The pro demolition theory also outweighs the arguments against it. Many of the contrary arguments are also based on personal opinions rather than data.

Thus, in the end the balance of evidence both supports the demolition theory and counts against the fire theory. Although it is clear the BBC attempted at the end to put a pro fire spin on its documentary, it is interesting to note that by the numbers, the film actually supports the demolition theory! Overall this film was much better than the BBC's first film, which was completely laden with straw men, personal attacks, and charged emotions. Unfortunately, this film also suffers from this disease in parts, and the filmmakers appear to try to magnify its effect. Overall the film is educational for those who have not seen the evidence on WTC7, although the clear bias is designed to assuage the average viewer's curiosity and imply that the mystery is solved. What is clear though is this: When viewed on the balance of evidence, the logical hypothesis is that WTC7 did not collapse due to fire, and that it is likely, just like the 9/11 attacks themselves, that the hand of man was actively involved.