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Context of 'June 17, 2004: 9/11 Commissioner Gorelick and General Myers Spar over NORAD Failure'

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General Richard B. Myers takes over as commander in chief of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), commander in chief of the US Space Command, and commander of the Air Force Space Command. He replaces General Howell M. Estes III. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 6/3/1998; Air Force News, 8/19/1998] Myers will serve in these positions until February 22, 2000, when he will be replaced by General Ralph E. Eberhart. [Air Force News, 2/22/2000] On 9/11, Myers will serve as the acting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. [Myers, 2009, pp. 10]

Entity Tags: North American Aerospace Defense Command, Richard B. Myers, Air Force Space Command, US Space Command

Timeline Tags: US Military, Complete 911 Timeline

The Statue of Liberty, with the World Trade Center standing behind it.The Statue of Liberty, with the World Trade Center standing behind it. [Source: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey]The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) practices two scenarios in which aircraft are hijacked, and in one scenario the hijackers plan to crash the plane into the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, while in the other the hijackers plan to crash into the White House in Washington, DC. The scenarios are included in a command post exercise conducted by the Continental United States NORAD Region called Falcon Indian. NORAD’s three air defense sectors in the continental United States, including the Northeast Air Defense Sector based in Rome, New York, are participating in this exercise. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 8/25/1989; US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services, 8/17/2004; Arkin, 2005, pp. 362]
Hijackers Take Over Learjet, Plan to Crash into White House - The two hijacking scenarios will be described by General Richard Myers, currently the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee in August 2004. According to Myers, one of the scenarios involves a Learjet being hijacked and maintaining a “tight formation with [a] Canadair airliner, loaded with explosives.” (From Myers’s description it is unclear whether the Learjet or the Canadair airliner is the plane carrying explosives.) According to Myers, the “Learjet planned to crash into the White House.” In response to the simulated crisis, exercise participants have to follow hijack checklists, exercise command and control, and coordinate with external agencies.
Communist Group Plans to Crash Plane into Statue of Liberty - The other scenario is based around a “Communist Party faction” that hijacks an aircraft “bound from [the] western to [the] eastern United States,” according to Myers. There are “[h]igh explosives on board” the aircraft and the fictitious hijackers intend “to crash into the Statue of Liberty.” During the simulation, the FAA requests assistance from the military. Exercise participants have to again follow hijack checklists, exercise command and control, and coordinate with external agencies, as well as carrying out a handover of responsibilities between NORAD sectors. [US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services, 8/17/2004] Even though these two NORAD exercise scenarios involve hijackers attempting to use planes as weapons, the 9/11 Commission will claim in its final report, “The threat of terrorists hijacking commercial airliners within the United States—and using them as guided missiles—was not recognized by NORAD before 9/11.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 17] A previous Falcon Indian exercise in November 1999 included a scenario of hijackers planning to crash an aircraft into the United Nations headquarters building in New York (see November 6, 1999). [US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services, 8/17/2004]

Entity Tags: North American Aerospace Defense Command, Continental US NORAD Region, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Falcon Indian, Southeast Air Defense Sector, Western Air Defense Sector, Richard B. Myers

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

During the 9/11 Commission’s twelfth public hearing, Commissioner Jamie Gorelick is sharply critical of NORAD’s failure to protect the US on 9/11. NORAD failed because it “defined out of the job,” she says. “[W]here was our military when it should have been defending us?” she asks General Richard Myers, who was the acting Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman on 9/11. “And the response… is that NORAD was not postured to defend us domestically unless someone was coming at us from abroad.… That’s why I come back to this word posture, we were postured against an external threat.” But, says Gorelick, the military’s own directives clearly state that NORAD has an “air sovereignty” mission that is not limited to watching the borders. “[T]he foundation documents for NORAD, they do not say defend us only against a threat coming in from across the ocean, or across our borders. It has two missions, and one of them is control of the airspace above the domestic United States, and aerospace control is defined as providing surveillance and control of the airspace of Canada and the United States. To me that air sovereignty concept means that you have a role which, if you were postured only externally you defined out of the job.”
Posse Comitatus - Gorelick also dismisses the Posse Comitatus Act of 1876, which prohibits the military from acting in a law enforcement capacity, as one of the reasons for the military’s failure. When Myers invokes the act, she quickly interrupts him. Myers says, “What we try to do is follow the law, and the law is pretty clear on Posse Comitatus and that is whether or not the military should be involved in domestic law enforcement.” Gorelick replies: “Let me just interrupt, when I was general counsel of the Defense Department, I repeatedly advised, and I believe others have advised that the Posse Comitatus says, you can’t arrest people. It doesn’t mean that the military has no authority, obligation, or ability to defend the United Sates from attacks that happen to happen in the domestic United States.”
Unanswered Questions - Gorelick then pointedly asks Myers, a former NORAD commander, how the military came to neglect its air sovereignty mission: “[B]y what process was it decided to only posture us against a foreign threat?… [I]s it your job, and if not whose job is it, to make current assessments of a threat, and decide whether you are positioned correctly to carry out a mission, which at least on paper NORAD had?” She adds that on several occasions, such as the 1996 Olympics (see January 20, 1997) and the G8 summit in Genoa (see July 20-22, 2001), the government had prepared for air attacks. While Myers offers a general assurance that the US military is now better prepared for “non-traditional” attacks, he does not provide specific answers to Gorelick’s questions. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]

Entity Tags: North American Aerospace Defense Command, Jamie Gorelick, Richard B. Myers, 9/11 Commission

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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