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(Between February and August 2001): Senior White House Officials Visit Bunker that Will Be Used on September 11 during Exercise

The location of the Presidential Emergency Operations Center.The location of the Presidential Emergency Operations Center. [Source: Space Imaging]Joseph Hagin, the White House deputy chief of staff for operations, runs a training exercise for a number of senior White House staffers in which the staffers are made aware of and shown to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), a bunker below the White House where numerous government officials will go on September 11 to respond to the terrorist attacks. Josh Bolten, the White House deputy chief of staff for policy, will later recall that at some time before September 11, “the other deputy chief of staff [i.e. Hagin] had run an exercise for a bunch of us on the senior staff of what happens in a crisis.” In the exercise, the senior staffers find out “who was supposed to go to the bunker [i.e. the PEOC]” in a crisis and they also visit the PEOC. Bolten will not say which staffers, other than him, take part in the exercise. [C-SPAN, 10/6/2013]
Exercise Possibly Held Shortly before 9/11 - He will also not say when the exercise is held, but presumably it takes place sometime after George W. Bush is inaugurated as president, near the end of January this year (see January 20, 2001). [BBC, 1/20/2001; CNN, 1/20/2001] It is possible it takes place just two weeks before 9/11: Mary Matalin, a counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney, will write that “a couple [of] weeks [before September 11], I had visited this underground dungeon [i.e. the PEOC] for my top-level security clearance training.” It is unclear, however, if she is referring to the exercise Bolten describes. [Carville and Matalin, 2014, pp. 140-141]
PEOC Is a 'Nerve Center' on September 11 - It is apparently fortunate that Hagin runs the exercise for the senior White House staffers, since numerous government officials, including Bolten and Matalin, will go to the PEOC on September 11 to respond to the terrorist attacks. [CNN, 9/11/2002; Mother Jones, 5/24/2009] That day, the PEOC will be “the nerve center for America’s response to the unprecedented attacks,” according to the London Telegraph. [Daily Telegraph, 9/10/2011] As a result of the “pretty casual training” that Hagin conducts, Bolten will say, “I did know the bunker and knew where to go” on September 11.
White House Staffers Were Often Unaware of the PEOC - It is also apparently quite unusual for White House staffers to know about the existence of the PEOC. Steve Ricchetti, who served as deputy White House chief of staff during the Clinton administration, will tell Bolten that during the Clinton administration, “it had been in some cases months and years before people were briefed on the existence of [the PEOC]… because nobody ever thought the US itself would be under attack.” The PEOC, Bolten will comment, “was kind of an artifact of the bygone Cold War era and of no particular use to a current White House.” [C-SPAN, 10/6/2013] Its use by government officials on September 11 will in fact be its “first test in an actual emergency,” according to CNN. [CNN, 9/11/2002] “[N]o one alive remembers using it for its intended purpose,” Matalin will write, “which only drew our attention to the fact… that [9/11] was a unique event in our nation’s history.” [Carville and Matalin, 2014, pp. 141]

Entity Tags: Joshua Bolten, Mary Matalin, Joseph W. Hagin, Steve Ricchetti

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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