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Context of 'March 4, 2001: Television Show Eerily Envisions 9/11 Attacks'

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Debt of Honor, by Tom Clancy.Debt of Honor, by Tom Clancy. [Source: HarperCollins]A novel by the military thriller writer Tom Clancy, one of America’s top-selling authors, includes a plotline of a suicide pilot deliberately crashing a commercial jet plane into the US Capitol building in Washington, DC. The story of Debt of Honor is based around a crisis between Japan and the United States. A short, armed conflict between the two nations arises and is won by the US. The book ends with a Japanese commercial airline pilot deliberately crashing a Boeing 747 into the US Capitol building during a joint session of Congress. The president is killed, along with most of the Senate, House, Supreme Court, and others. [New York Times, 10/2/1994; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 8/13/1996; Inter Press Service, 9/15/2001; Newsday, 5/20/2002] Clancy later describes to the BBC how he’d gone about writing this book: “I didn’t write Debt of Honor without first discussing it with an Air Force officer. And so I ran this idea past him and all of a sudden this guy’s eyeballing me rather closely and I said come on general, I know you must have looked at this before, you’ve got to have a plan for it. And the guy goes, ‘Mr. Clancy, to the best of my knowledge, if we had a plan to deal with this, it would be secret, I wouldn’t be able to talk to you about it, but to the best of my knowledge we’ve never looked at this possibility before.’” [BBC, 3/24/2002] Debt of Honor makes number one on the New York Times bestseller list. [Washington Post, 10/6/1994] Following the 9/11 attacks, there will be considerable interest in it, particularly because the Capitol building is considered to have been a likely intended target of Flight 93. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; Daily Telegraph, 9/17/2001; Book Magazine, 1/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 14]

Entity Tags: Tom Clancy

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Senator Sam Nunn.Senator Sam Nunn. [Source: Carnegie Corporation of New York]Time magazine’s cover story reports on the potential for anti-American militants to kill thousands in highly destructive acts. It mentions that, three weeks earlier, Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA) had outlined a scenario in which terrorists attack the US Capitol building on the night of a State of the Union address, by crashing a radio-controlled airplane into it, “engulfing it with chemical weapons and causing tremendous death and destruction.” The scenario is “not far-fetched,” and the required technology is readily available, Nunn said. [Time, 4/3/1995] An almost identical scenario was included in the storyline of the Tom Clancy bestseller Debt of Honor, released the previous year, but this involved a plane guided by a suicide pilot, rather than radio control (see August 17, 1994). High-ranking al-Qaeda leaders will claim later that Flight 93’s target was the Capitol Building. [Guardian, 9/9/2002]

Entity Tags: Sam Nunn, Time magazine

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

An advertisement for the Lone Gunmen show.An advertisement for the Lone Gunmen show. [Source: Fox]Contradicting later claims that no one could have envisioned what happened on 9/11, the pilot episode of a short-lived Fox television program involves a scenario chillingly similar to the attacks that occur six months later. In the episode of The Lone Gunmen, which is a spin-off of the popular show The X-Files, a small, radical faction within the US government takes over a large passenger jet plane from the ground, using remote control, and then tries to crash it into the World Trade Center. Their intention is to blame the attack on foreign terrorists and therefore revive the arms race. Their plot is thwarted at the last moment, with the pilots regaining control of the plane and steering it upwards over the Twin Towers. [Knight Ridder, 9/14/2001; Jack Myers Report, 6/20/2002 pdf file] In the program, the plane is destined for Boston, where two of the hijacked aircraft will in fact take off from on 9/11. [Fox Television, 3/4/2001; Boston Globe, 9/12/2001] One of its stars, Bruce Harwood, later calls the storyline a “strange awful coincidence,” adding, “[W]ho knows if it was the source of inspiration for September 11.” [Mirror, 11/26/2002] Ratings are good for the show, with 13 million people watching it. [TV Guide, 3/9/2001] Yet despite the similarity to the actual attacks on the WTC, there will be very little commentary about this after 9/11. Media commentator Jack Myers later observes, “This seems to be collective amnesia of the highest order.” [Jack Myers Report, 6/20/2002 pdf file] A best selling 1994 novel by Tom Clancy had similarly included a large passenger jet used as a weapon, being deliberately crashed into the US Capitol building (see August 17, 1994). [Newsday, 5/20/2002]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, Jack Myers, Bruce Harwood

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

John Glenn.John Glenn. [Source: John Glenn Archives, Ohio State University]Despite being a potential target for terrorists, the US Capitol building in Washington is not evacuated when the second World Trade Center tower is hit and it is clear the US is under attack. [CNN, 9/11/2002] Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) is in the lobby of his office at the Capitol, and some of his staff members there are watching the television coverage of events in New York. Daschle has already been told about the first plane hitting the WTC, and then sees the second one hitting the South Tower live on television. As Daschle later recalls, he now realizes, “This is an attack.” Former Senator John Glenn (D-OH), who has stopped by to say hello to Daschle, now warns him: “I’m not sure you ought to be here. This would be a logical target.” Indeed, Daschle will later comment, “I’ve heard people observe since that day what a prime target the Capitol building makes for such an air attack—this brilliant white structure perched on its own terraced hill, its dome outlined against the sky, with the broad, sprawling expanse of the Mall leading up to it like a long open runway.” [Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 105-107; Kent State University, 5/10/2004] A bestselling 1994 novel by Tom Clancy in fact included the plotline of a suicide pilot deliberately crashing a Boeing 747 into the Capitol building (see August 17, 1994). [New York Times, 10/2/1994; Newsday, 5/20/2002] Yet Daschle is able to continue with his scheduled weekly team meeting with his senior staff, where they discuss budget issues. [Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 106-107] Even by the time the Pentagon is hit, more than 25 minutes later, there will still have been no evacuation of the Capitol. [CNN, 9/11/2002] The building will eventually be evacuated around 9:48 a.m., reportedly due to fears of a plane approaching it (see 9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 8/21/2002; Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 109; Hastert, 2004, pp. 8]

Entity Tags: Tom Daschle, John Glenn

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Senator John Kerry looks up to the sky as he and others evacuate.Senator John Kerry looks up to the sky as he and others evacuate. [Source: CBC]The Capitol building in Washington, DC is evacuated. [Associated Press, 8/21/2002] It is the first time in US history this has ever happened. [Chicago Tribune, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001] Both the Senate and the House are in session at the time. [CNN, 8/17/2002] Capitol Police officers go through the building and order people to leave at once. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/11/2002]
Reports of Plane Approaching the Capitol - The evacuation appears to be in response to reports of a plane heading toward the Capitol. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; CNN, 8/17/2002; Bamford, 2004, pp. 80-81] According to CNN congressional correspondent Dana Bash, “the Capitol Police were hearing, in their radio, that there was a plane—another plane in the air, likely headed for the Capitol.” [CNN, 9/11/2006] When a Capitol Police officer instructs Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) to leave the building, he says: “We have word that an airplane is heading this way and could hit the building anytime. You need to evacuate.”
'Nothing Orderly' about Evacuation - However, there are problems with the evacuation. According to Daschle, “The fire alarm system, which was working in the nearby Senate office buildings, was never activated in the Capitol, so there were people who weren’t aware that an evacuation was taking place.” Also, some individuals are reluctant to leave. [Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 109-110] Rep. Bob Stump (R-AZ) will recall: “They tried to throw me out three times, but they didn’t succeed. I figured I was safer in the building than out on the street.” [Associated Press, 9/11/2001] Daschle will recall that there is “nothing orderly” about the evacuation. Outside the building “No one knew what to do or where to go. People congregated on the grass and in the parking lot. Senators and staff were mixed in with tourists, all staring up at the sky, wondering what might be headed our way.” [Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 110] CNN will report, “[S]ome of the most high ranking officials in the United States government were just kind of scattered around this area without a gathering point.” [CNN, 9/11/2006]
Sergeant at Arms Concerned over Poor Security - Al Lenhardt, the Senate’s sergeant at arms, will later say how alarmed he was “to see members of Congress and their staffs mixed in with visitors and passersby wandering in the open around the Capitol grounds. One of the tactics that terrorists have been known to employ is to create a diversion to move their intended target to the area where the actual attack will take place. Al imagined a bomb or gunfire erupting right there on the lawn outside the Capitol.” [Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 111] Eventually, many of the members of Congress go to the Capitol Police headquarters, which then serves as their command center for the day (see (9:55 a.m. and After) September 11, 2001 and (10:00 a.m.-6:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/11/2002; Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 112]

Entity Tags: Al Lenhardt, Robert Lee Stump, US Capitol Police, Tom Daschle

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Tom Clancy.Tom Clancy. [Source: UPI]CNN’s Judy Woodruff remarks, “People in our newsroom have been saying today that what is happening is like right out of a Tom Clancy novel.” [CNN, 9/11/2001] James Lindsay, a former member of the Clinton administration’s national security team, subsequently comments on the attacks, “People both inside and outside the government would think this is more the stuff of a Tom Clancy novel than reality.” [Washington Post, 9/12/2001] Clancy had in fact written a book called Debt of Honor, released in 1994, that included a plotline of a suicide pilot deliberately crashing a Boeing 747 into the US Capitol building (see August 17, 1994). Presumably influenced by this book, Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA) had outlined a similar scenario the following year, which he’d said was “not far-fetched” (see April 3, 1995). Some commentators will later refer to Clancy’s book when criticizing official claims of surprise at the nature of the 9/11 attacks. Air Force Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, who was in the Pentagon when it was struck, will write, “I thought most people in the military read Tom Clancy novels in the 1990s. And yet, military leaders and spokespersons consistently expressed shock and surprise at such a possibility.… Was Tom Clancy really more savvy than the entire Pentagon?” [Griffin and Scott, 2006, pp. 27] Newsday columnist James Pinkerton later comments, “insofar as Clancy is one of the best-selling authors in the country with a particularly large following among military types, it’s a depressing commentary on military intelligence that Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, could say, a month [after 9/11], to the American Forces Radio and Television Service, ‘You hate to admit it, but we hadn’t thought about this.’” [Newsday, 5/20/2002]

Entity Tags: Judy Woodruff, James Lindsay, Tom Clancy, James Pinkerton

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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