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Context of 'Early August 2001: Counterterrorism ‘Tsar’ Clarke Investigates Security Protecting Wall Street Telecommunications'

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President Bush, after having trouble making a telephone call, instructs Joseph Hagin, the White House deputy chief of staff for operations, to fix the problem and ensure that he is able to make calls at any time, but the issue will not have resolved by September 11, when Bush experiences significant communication problems. While he is being driven through Washington, DC, in his limousine, Bush tries to make a phone call but is unable to get a signal and hears only static. When he arrives at the White House, he calls Hagin over to discuss the problem. [National Journal, 4/11/2011] Hagin is a little known but influential member of the White House staff who, according to Politico, “manages everything around the president and the presidency except politics and policy.” [Politico, 7/3/2008; Washington Post, 7/4/2008] Bush tells him the president should be able to call anyone at any time. “He essentially said to me, ‘We need to fix this and fix it quickly,’” Hagin will later recall. Bush adds, “What would we do if something really serious happened and this didn’t work?” [National Journal, 4/11/2011] Presumably as part of Hagin’s effort to resolve the problem, in the spring of 2001, the White House commissions the Department of Defense to study a communications upgrade. [ABC News, 12/20/2006] However, Hagin’s task will not have been completed by September 11. On that day, Bush and other senior government officials will experience serious communication problems (see (After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001; (9:04 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001; and (9:34 a.m.-11:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [National Journal, 4/11/2011] But the 9/11 attacks, according to the Associated Press, “spurred on the effort to modernize White House communications.” Hagin subsequently “took the White House’s cell phone technology digital, upgraded the systems in the president’s cars, and moved staffers to the BlackBerry wireless communicator, while not freeing them from carrying pagers as well.” [Associated Press, 8/22/2003] According to Thomas Kean, the chairman of the 9/11 Commission, “[T]he fix to the presidential communications was one of the first things that was done after 9/11.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Thomas Kean, Joseph W. Hagin, US Department of Defense, White House

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Paul Kurtz.Paul Kurtz. [Source: Publicity photo]Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke and Paul Kurtz, a member of the White House counterterrorism team, visit New York, where they tour the facilities of the stock exchange and telecommunications company Verizon, and inquire about security precautions there. Clarke will later describe that, about a month before 9/11, he and Kurtz spend “two days literally crawling around Wall Street.” They visit the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and also go through the tunnels that carry the fiber optic cable to the Verizon and AT&T switches. (Verizon has a switching center for Wall Street located next to the World Trade Center.) Clarke and Kurtz ask about the security precautions that are in place to protect such a large concentration of critical communications equipment. According to Clarke, “What they told us was that after the 1993 attack against the World Trade Center they had diversified some of their routing capability.” Clarke will recall that he and Kurtz identify “several buildings that, were they taken out, would disconnect Wall Street from the world.” The two men also talk to stock market officials about the need for alternative sites and backup facilities. [Verton, 2003, pp. 157; Clarke, 2004, pp. 19-20]
Infrastructure Examined by Clarke Damaged on 9/11 - On September 11, damage to some of the telecommunications infrastructure Clarke and Kurtz inspect will severely hamper communications in the area surrounding the WTC, including the financial district (see (After 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The New York Times will describe: “The collapse of the World Trade Center crippled many of the connections that downtown Manhattan depended on, threatening crucial links for the police and emergency crews. Cellular sites were knocked out.… Fiber-optic transport equipment was crushed. Power failures cut off high-speed Internet service for many companies across the city.” Verizon’s switching center at 140 West Street will be badly damaged by falling debris and burst water pipes. AT&T officials will say “they are certain that they lost several pieces of sophisticated equipment in the basement of the World Trade Center that were used to transport data over fiber-optic cables.” [New York Times, 9/20/2001; General Accounting Office, 2/2003, pp. 91-92 pdf file; Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 33; 9/11 Commission, 2/25/2004 pdf file] As journalist and author Dan Verton will note, “For Richard Clarke, the digital destruction that severed Wall Street from the world [on September 11] was a nightmare come true.” [Verton, 2003, pp. 157]

Entity Tags: Paul Kurtz, Richard A. Clarke

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

CIA Director George Tenet has just learned of the first attack on the WTC while having breakfast with former Senator David Boren (D-OK) at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, DC. He later says, “It was obvious to us both that I had to leave immediately.” Along with Tim Ward, the head of his security detail, he gets into his car and, with lights flashing, hurries back to the CIA headquarters in Langley. Tenet later recalls that in these first minutes after the attack, “All the random dots we had been looking at started to fit into a pattern.… [M]y head was exploding with connections. I immediately thought about the ‘Bojinka’ plot to blow up twelve US airliners over the Pacific and a subsequent plan to fly a small airplane into CIA headquarters, which was broken up in 1994.” During his journey, he calls John Moseman, his chief of staff, and instructs him to assemble the senior CIA staff and key people from the Counterterrorist Center in the conference room next to his office. However, Tenet claims, it is difficult for him to get calls through on the secure phone, meaning he is “Essentially… in a communications blackout between the St. Regis and Langley, the longest twelve minutes of my life.” He only learns that a second plane hit the World Trade Center when he arrives at CIA headquarters. Tenet enters the conference room at around 9:15 a.m. By that time, he says, “I don’t think there was a person in the room who had the least doubt that we were in the middle of a full-scale assault orchestrated by al-Qaeda.” [Tenet, 2007, pp. 161-163]

Entity Tags: George J. Tenet, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

In the Washington, DC, area, members of the public, emergency responders, and government officials experience serious communications problems. Telephone and cell phone services around the capital remain unavailable to members of the public for most of the day. [Verton, 2003, pp. 149]
bullet Particular problems are experienced around the Pentagon. Reportedly, cellular and landline telephone communications there are “virtually unreliable or inaccessible during the first few hours of the response,” after it is hit at 9:37 (see After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C36]
Some senior government officials also experience communications difficulties:
bullet CIA Director George Tenet has problems using his secure phone while heading from a Washington hotel back to CIA headquarters, located about eight miles outside Washington (see (8:55 a.m.-9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Independent, 11/6/2002; Tenet, 2007, pp. 161-162]
bullet Secretary of State Colin Powell has to take a seven-hour flight from Peru, to get back to the capital. He later complains that, during this flight, “because of the communications problems that existed during that day, I couldn’t talk to anybody in Washington” (see (12:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 9/11/2002]
bullet Between the time of the second WTC attack and about 9:45 a.m., Vice President Dick Cheney, who is at the White House, has problems reaching Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert at the US Capitol by secure telephone (see (9:04 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Daily Herald (Arlington Heights), 9/11/2002; Hayes, 2007, pp. 336-337]
bullet Even President Bush experiences difficulties communicating with Washington after leaving a school in Florida, and subsequently while flying on Air Force One (see (9:34 a.m.-11:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006]
A classified after-action report will later be produced, based on observations from a National Airborne Operations Center plane launched near Washington shortly before the time of the Pentagon attack (see (Shortly Before 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to one government official, the report indicates that the nation was “deaf, dumb, and blind” for much of the day. [Verton, 2003, pp. 150-151] Members of the public in New York City also experience communications problems throughout the day, particularly with cell phones (see (After 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Colin Powell, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Dennis Hastert, George J. Tenet, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Dennis Hastert.Dennis Hastert. [Source: Congressional Pictorial Directory]Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, who is third in line for the presidency, is in his office suite on the second floor of the US Capitol building when he sees the second plane hitting the World Trade Center live on television. [Hastert, 2004, pp. 5] He is told that Vice President Dick Cheney will soon be calling him on the secure telephone in his office. [Daily Herald (Arlington Heights), 9/11/2002] However, Cheney is currently having problems using secure phones, and Hastert is too. Hastert later recalls, “To use the secure phone, you have to push a button and turn a key. On that dreadful day I couldn’t make the thing work. No matter what I did, I couldn’t connect with the vice president. As the minutes passed, my frustrations grew.” [Hastert, 2004, pp. 6; Hayes, 2007, pp. 336] Several attempts to reach the vice president are unsuccessful. Hastert’s later explanation is that “Anyone who has used a secure phone can tell you they do not work very well.” However, numerous other people in the Washington area, including senior government officials, are also experiencing serious communications problems throughout the day (see (After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Around the time the Pentagon is hit, the light on Hastert’s regular phone starts flashing, but instead of being Cheney it is apparently a nuisance caller, who complains, “I can’t get a hold of Jeb Bush, I can’t get a hold of the president, I can’t get a hold of Colin Powell. All this stuff is happening. What are you guys doing?” When Hastert asks the caller who they are, their reply is, “I’m just a citizen. Who is this?” [Chicago Sun-Times, 9/25/2001; Daily Herald (Arlington Heights), 9/11/2002; Associated Press, 6/16/2007] Shortly afterwards, the Capitol is evacuated (see 9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001) and Hastert’s Secret Service agents hurry him out of the building. It is not until around 11 a.m. that Cheney finally speaks to him. [Hastert, 2004, pp. 8-9; Hayes, 2007, pp. 337 and 340-341]

Entity Tags: Dennis Hastert, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Bush trying to use a cell phone while sitting next to Andrew Card as his motorcade nears the Sarasota airport.Bush trying to use a cell phone while sitting next to Andrew Card as his motorcade nears the Sarasota airport. [Source: Associated Press]After departing the Booker Elementary School, President Bush experiences problems trying to communicate with the White House. On his way to Air Force One, he is unable to get a secure phone line to Dick Cheney, and has to rely instead on using a borrowed cell phone. According to the CBC, even this cell phone doesn’t work. Lee Hamilton, vice chair of the 9/11 Commission, claims the difficulty is because the members of Bush’s entourage, all suddenly trying to call Washington, create a “communication jam.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; New York Times, 6/18/2004; Observer, 6/20/2004; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006] Yet after boarding Air Force One the problems continue, despite the plane’s elaborate communications equipment. Bush will later tell the 9/11 Commission “that he was deeply dissatisfied with the ability to communicate from Air Force One,” and that “this was a very major flaw.” Thomas Kean, chair of the Commission, says Bush’s inability to communicate with the White House is “scary on both sides because the president is the only one who can give certain orders that need to be given.” [NBC, 4/4/2004; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006] Some time before 11:45 a.m., Bush’s senior adviser Karen Hughes tries calling him through the White House switchboard. In a shaky voice, the operator tells her, “Ma’am, we can’t reach Air Force One.” Hughes is very frightened as, she says, “I never had that happen before.” [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006]

Entity Tags: Karen Hughes, Lee Hamilton, Thomas Kean, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

An E-4B National Airborne Operations Center (NAOC) takes off from an unspecified airfield outside of Washington, DC. The aircraft, which is carrying civilian and military officials, is launched in order to participate in a pre-scheduled military exercise. This would be Global Guardian, which is being conducted on this day by the US Strategic Command (Stratcom) to test its ability to fight a nuclear war (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). E-4Bs are a militarized version of a Boeing 747. They serve as an airborne command center that could be used by the president, vice president, and Joint Chiefs of Staff, in order to execute war plans and coordinate government operations during a national emergency. Two other such planes are also participating in Global Guardian on this day (see Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). For the exercise, the E-4B launched from outside Washington is supposed to be using and testing its sophisticated technology and communications equipment. According to journalist and author Dan Verton, the aircraft has “only just taken off” at the time the Pentagon is hit (at 9:37 a.m.). Verton will say it is then “immediately ordered to cease the military exercise it was conducting and prepare to become the actual National Airborne Operations Center.” [Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002; Verton, 2003, pp. 143-144] (Global Guardian was reportedly put on pause at 9:11 a.m. (see 9:11 a.m. September 11, 2001), but it is not formally terminated until 10:44 a.m. (see (10:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bombardier, 9/8/2006 pdf file] ) Minutes after the Pentagon attack, an unidentified four-engine jet plane will be seen circling above the White House (see (9:41 a.m.-9:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). CNN will later suggest this is an E-4B, so it is possible it is the plane launched from the airfield outside Washington that Verton describes. [CNN, 9/12/2007] Air traffic control tapes will reveal that an E-4B takes off from Andrews Air Force Base, 10 miles from Washington, at 9:43 a.m., several minutes after the Pentagon is hit (see 9:43 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004; Farmer, 2009, pp. 206] Whether that aircraft is the one participating in Global Guardian that is described by Verton, or another E-4B, is unclear.

Entity Tags: Global Guardian, E-4B National Airborne Operations Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Firefighters and other rescuers at the Pentagon crash site.Firefighters and other rescuers at the Pentagon crash site. [Source: US Department of Defense]Emergency responders and others at the Pentagon experience serious problems with communications following the attack there. These difficulties last for several hours. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. 12-13; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 114] According to a federally funded report on the emergency response to the Pentagon attack, communications systems had been busy “even before American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon.” But when the crash occurs, “all area communications [seem] simultaneously overwhelmed.” [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A34] The Defense Department’s book about the Pentagon attack later describes, “Almost immediately radio traffic gridlocked, land lines were unavailable, and cellular telephone networks became so overloaded that for a time Pentagon officials and employees as well as some emergency responders could not call outside.” [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 114] This leads to significant problems: “Firefighters calling the [Arlington County Emergency Communications Center] couldn’t get through. Relatives of Pentagon workers found cellular and land lines jammed.” [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A34] The DiLorenzo Tricare Health Clinic at the Pentagon and the Rader Clinic at nearby Fort Myer are unable to establish reliable communications. Reportedly, “Hospitals and clinics could not be informed about the flow of casualties, and perhaps more damaging, communication between the fire and rescue and the emergency medical elements on-site was severely impaired.” [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 114] Officer Aubrey Davis of the Pentagon police heads to the crash site with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld immediately after the Pentagon is hit. He receives frantic pleas over his radio, regarding Rumsfeld’s whereabouts. But, as Davis later recalls, “the system was overloaded, everyone on the frequency was talking, everything jumbled, so I couldn’t get through and they went on asking” (see (9:38 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Cockburn, 2007, pp. 1-2] Cellular and landline telephone communications remain “virtually unreliable or inaccessible during the first few hours of the response.” But later on, in the afternoon, Verizon technicians and Secret Service technical staff install portable cellular towers at the Pentagon, and this significantly increases cell phone access. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C36] Communications problems are experienced not just around the Pentagon but also in the broader Washington area, with some senior government officials being affected (see (After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Verton, 2003, pp. 149]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, DiLorenzo Tricare Health Clinic, Arlington County Emergency Communications Center, Pentagon, US Department of Defense, Aubrey Davis, Rader Clinic

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Candy Crowley.Candy Crowley. [Source: CNN]After the Capitol building in Washington is evacuated (see 9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001), those located around it—including members of Congress—experience serious problems communicating by phone and other means. CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley will describe: “Nobody knew anything.… Nobody had any way to communicate.… The cell phones went down. Eventually… the personal BlackBerrys that bring your e-mail to you, they went down. And inside the Capitol, remember [there are] still switchboard operators there. Inside the Capitol, the phones worked only on and off.” According to Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), there is “no communication whatsoever going on.” [CNN, 9/11/2002] Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) will recall: “People were punching their cell phones to no avail. The lines were jammed.” [Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 110] Consequently, for more than an hour Daschle’s own staff is unable to establish where he is. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002] House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) was experiencing communications problems even before he was evacuated from the Capitol, while trying to contact Vice President Dick Cheney by phone (see (9:04 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Hastert, 2004, pp. 6; Hayes, 2007, pp. 336] Whether others at the Capitol also experienced similar difficulties prior to the evacuation is unclear. What causes these problems is uncertain. However, numerous other people in the Washington area, including senior government officials, also experience serious communications problems throughout the day (see (After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Edward M. (“Ted”) Kennedy, Tom Daschle, Dennis Hastert

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Throughout the day of 9/11 and after, members of the public in New York City experience significant communications problems, particularly with cell phones. “In the aftermath [of the attacks], and for several days afterwards, cellular phone services were either not working or were severely overloaded.” [SatNews, 10/19/2001] As Time magazine reports, “Lines formed, at least 20 people long, at all pay phones, because cell phones were not working.” [Time, 9/14/2001] (Reportedly, though, the 911 system is not disrupted.) Later accounts will suggest that an increased volume of phone calls being made in response to the attacks may have overloaded networks. Within minutes of the first attack, according to the New York Times, there were “tens of millions of [phone] calls—many from worried relatives and friends—that threatened to clog the system.” [New York Times, 9/20/2001] The call volume of Verizon Communications, which has its main regional switching station across the street from the World Trade Center, reaches twice its normal daily rate of 115 million calls in New York City. “And although it remained operational, the wireless network experienced massive congestion that prevented most calls from getting through. During the peak of the chaos, Verizon experienced nearly 100 percent more traffic than normal on its nationwide wireless network.” [Verton, 2003, pp. 148] Some of the communications problems in the New York area are later attributed to physical damage to the infrastructure. A report by the Mineta Transportation Institute will summarize, “The collapse of the World Trade Center towers knocked out Verizon’s switching center in Lower Manhattan and severely damaged the infrastructure for cellular telephones. Telephone communications for NYPD Command and Control was also destroyed in the attack. As a consequence, cell phone service was subsequently overloaded. NYC Transit lost a key portion of its fiber-optic network in one tunnel.” [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 33] Similar communication problems are also experienced around Washington, DC, and some top government officials are affected (see (After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to one government official, the nation was “deaf, dumb, and blind” for much of the day. [Verton, 2003, pp. 151]

Entity Tags: Verizon Communications, Verizon Wireless

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Secretary of State Colin Powell learned of the attacks on the US while away in Peru, Lima (see (9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). During his seven-hour flight back to Washington, he is frustrated at being unable to communicate with other senior government leaders. In a March 2002 speech at the State Department, Powell will recall, “I never felt more useless in my life than on the morning of the 11th of September. Phones [were] gone because of what happened here and what happened to the [communications] system here in Washington. They couldn’t get a phone line through. I was able to get some radio communications—two radio spots on the way back—but for most of that seven-hour period, I could not tell what was going on here in my capital, and I’m the secretary of state!” [Telecom News, 2002, pp. 4-5 pdf file; Verton, 2003, pp. 149-150] Powell is able to talk by radio with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. But, according to journalist Bob Woodward, any “real talk” between them “was hopeless.” [Woodward, 2002, pp. 10] Yet, in a 7:40 p.m. press briefing, State Department Deputy Spokesman Philip Reeker will claim that Powell “has been kept in the loop and informed all day.” [US Department of State, 9/11/2001]

Entity Tags: Colin Powell, Richard Armitage

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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