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Context of 'Between August 15, 1998 and February 22, 2000: NORAD Radar System and Control Software Inadequate, Commander Finds'

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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

At some point during his tenure as commander in chief of NORAD (see August 14, 1998), General Richard Myers expresses concerns about the adequacy of the radar system over the US, which NORAD shares with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in what is called the Joint Surveillance System. Myers will later tell the 9/11 Commission that NORAD is unable to “correlate” over 50 percent of the unknown radar tracks it picks up, either because it cannot launch an interceptor aircraft in time or because it cannot deal with the tracks appropriately. Some of them disappear from radar before NORAD can correlate them with the FAA. Myers makes Pentagon officials aware of the problem, telling them, “don’t think we’re providing 100 percent air sovereignty here… we’re looking outward, and a number of those tracks are never correlated.” He will recall that in connection with the internal radar issue, “I saw a letter I put out talking about a potential terrorist issue… that’s why you would want these radars up… it’s kind of a future issue.” According to Myers, there is talk about the future potential of a terrorist threat as a rationale for “trying to get people to address the FAA/[Air Force] radar funding issue in a more robust way.” Myers also finds NORAD’s command and control software inadequate. He will tell the 9/11 Commission that the “system was very old and was contracted to be replaced, but the contractor did not perform. The issue was how many tracks the system could handle at once; NORAD kept modifying the equipment to allow more inputs but it needed a new system.” However, Myers will also confirm to the 9/11 Commission that “from a technical radar standpoint, NORAD had pretty good coastal range, and that the activity on 9/11 was within the radar area that was accessible to NORAD.” [9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 6/9/2004]

Entity Tags: Joint Surveillance System, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Richard B. Myers

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

A Canadair 600.A Canadair 600. [Source: Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives]The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) practices a scenario in which terrorists plan to crash a stolen aircraft into the White House in Washington, DC. The scenario is included in a command post exercise conducted by the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR) called Falcon Indian. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 8/25/1989; US Air Force, 2003 pdf file; Arkin, 2005, pp. 362]
Terrorists Have Stolen a Plane - The scenario is intended to practice identification, intercept, and terrorist procedures. In it, the FBI contacts the commander in chief of NORAD this morning and tells him that two members of a terrorist group called AOL have stolen a Learjet 35—a small jet aircraft—from the airport in Bermuda. The FBI says the aircraft is loaded with explosives, is heading toward the United States, and the terrorists intend to carry out a suicide attack against the White House. The stolen Learjet is being flown “in tight formation” under a Canadair 600—another kind of business jet—at an altitude of 20,000 feet. For some reason, the flight plan for the Canadair plane is not in the system and is therefore unknown.
Commander Has to Order the Shootdown of the Stolen Plane - The simulated NORAD commander in chief in the exercise has to contact the CONR battle commander and order the destruction of the Learjet before it crashes into its target. But before an attempt is made to destroy the plane, NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector must ensure that the aircraft it confronts is the correct one, such as by checking the plane’s tail number. After NORAD fighter jets intercept the Learjet, the fighter pilots report that it is hidden underneath the Canadair plane and confirm that its tail number is that of the stolen aircraft.
Scenario Can End with the Learjet Crashing into a Populated Area - However, in the scenario, the terrorists notice the fighters and take evasive action, accelerating to maximum speed and heading at low altitude toward the White House. After this, more than one outcome is possible. If the fighter pilots gain clearance to shoot down the Learjet and are able to do so over water, then they should do this. However, if the Learjet is over a populated area, this fact should be declared and, if necessary, the scenario should progress to the plane crashing into a heavily populated residential area. This will result in 20 people being killed, 100 people being injured, and many fires occurring. NORAD will hold another Falcon Indian exercise that features the same scenario as is used in today’s exercise in June this year (see June 5, 1999). [US Air Force, 2003 pdf file] And a scenario that is apparently identical to this will be included in a Falcon Indian exercise in June 2000 (see June 5, 2000). [US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services, 8/17/2004]

Entity Tags: Falcon Indian, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Continental US NORAD Region, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) practices a scenario in which terrorists plan to crash a stolen aircraft into the White House in Washington, DC. The scenario is included in a command post exercise called Falcon Indian that is conducted by the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR). [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 8/25/1989; US Air Force, 2003 pdf file; Arkin, 2005, pp. 362] It is identical to a scenario that was included in a previous Falcon Indian exercise, held in January this year (see January 9, 1999), and is intended to practice identification, intercept, and terrorist procedures.
Plane Was Stolen in Bermuda - It begins with FBI headquarters contacting the commander in chief of NORAD and telling him that two members of a terrorist group called AOL have stolen a Learjet 35—a small jet aircraft—from the airport in Bermuda. The aircraft is loaded with explosives, is heading toward the United States, and the terrorists plan to carry out a suicide attack against the White House. The stolen plane is being flown very close to and under a Canadair 600 business jet.
Fighters Intercept the Stolen Plane - The simulated NORAD commander in chief in the exercise has to contact the CONR battle commander and order that, after being correctly identified, the Learjet should be shot down. Fighter jets are able to intercept the Learjet and their pilots report that its tail number is indeed that of the stolen plane. However, the terrorists notice the fighters and, in response, accelerate to maximum speed and head at a low altitude toward the White House.
Fighters Can Shoot Down the Learjet if It Is over Water - The scenario is “dynamic” and so more than one outcome is possible. If the fighter pilots have the necessary clearance and are able to do so, they should shoot down the Learjet over water. However, if the Learjet is over a populated area, the stolen plane can, if necessary, crash into a residential area, resulting in 20 people being killed, 100 people injured, and many fires erupting. [US Air Force, 2003 pdf file] A scenario that is apparently identical to the one practiced in today’s exercise will be included in a Falcon Indian exercise held in June 2000 (see June 5, 2000). [US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services, 8/17/2004]

Entity Tags: North American Aerospace Defense Command, Falcon Indian, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Continental US NORAD Region

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The United Nations headquarters building in New York.The United Nations headquarters building in New York. [Source: Mark Garten / United Nations]The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) practices a scenario in which five terrorists take over a transcontinental aircraft with the intention of crashing it into the United Nations headquarters building in New York. The simulation takes place during a command post exercise conducted by the Continental United States NORAD Region, called Falcon Indian. NORAD’s three air defense sectors in the continental US, including the Northeast Air Defense Sector based in Rome, New York, take part in this exercise. General Richard Myers, currently the commander in chief of NORAD, will reveal the details of the scenario during an August 2004 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. According to Myers, the scenario is based around a China Air aircraft flying from Los Angeles to JFK International Airport in New York, which is “hijacked east of Colorado Springs by five terrorists.” If the plane is not intercepted by the US military, the terrorists intend “to crash into [the] United Nations building.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 8/25/1989; US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services, 8/17/2004; Arkin, 2005, pp. 362] The UN headquarters building is a 39-story high-rise, located a few miles from the World Trade Center. [New York Daily News, 12/2/1999; Evening Standard, 9/11/2002] In response to the simulated crisis, exercise participants have to follow hijack checklists, exercise command and control, coordinate with external agencies, and carry out a handover of responsibilities between NORAD sectors. [US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services, 8/17/2004] Like in this scenario, the teams of hijackers that take over three of the four aircraft targeted in the 9/11 attacks will comprise of five terrorists. And all four of the aircraft targeted on 9/11 will be making transcontinental flights, like the plane hijacked in this scenario, although they will be flying from the east coast to the west rather than from the west to the east. [New York Times, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/20/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 4, 11] A subsequent Falcon Indian exercise in June 2000 will include scenarios in which hijackers plan to crash aircraft into the White House and the Statue of Liberty (see June 5, 2000). [US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services, 8/17/2004]

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

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 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 a Learjet and Plan to Crash It into the 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 a Plane into the 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 scenario that was apparently identical to one of those practiced in today’s exercise, involving terrorists planning to crash a plane into the White House, was included in two previous Falcon Indian exercises, held in January 1999 and June 1999 (see January 9, 1999 and June 5, 1999). [US Air Force, 2003 pdf file] Another previous Falcon Indian exercise, held 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: Northeast Air Defense Sector, Richard B. Myers, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Southeast Air Defense Sector, Continental US NORAD Region, Western Air Defense Sector, Falcon Indian

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A FedEx MD-11 aircraft.A FedEx MD-11 aircraft. [Source: Alan Radecki]The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) practices scenarios based around suicidal pilots planning to deliberately crash stolen aircraft into the United Nations headquarters—a skyscraper in New York. The two scenarios are practiced on October 16 and October 23 as part of NORAD’s annual command post exercise called Vigilant Guardian. All of NORAD, including its Northeast Air Defense Sector based in Rome, New York, participates in this exercise. [US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services, 8/17/2004; Arkin, 2005, pp. 545; GlobalSecurity (.org), 4/27/2005]
Simulation Involves Planned Suicide Plane Attack - General Richard Myers, currently the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will later describe the scenario practiced on October 16: “Due to recent arrests involving illegal drug trafficking in Maine, an individual steals a Federal Express plane and plans a suicide attack into the United Nations building in New York City.” In response to the simulated crisis, exercise participants follow hijack checklists, exercise command and control, and coordinate with external agencies.
Simulation Involves WMD Directed at the UN - The October 23 scenario, according to Myers, is based around “[w]eapons of mass destruction directed at the United Nations. An individual steals a Federal Express aircraft and plans a suicide attack on the United Nations building in New York City.” In response, exercise participants practice command and control, and coordinate with external agencies, and fighter jets conduct an interception of the stolen aircraft. [US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services, 8/17/2004] Federal Express currently flies mostly the DC-10 and the MD-11, which are both large jet planes, so presumably one of these kinds of aircraft is considered in the exercise scenarios. [Washington Post, 1/17/2001] The UN headquarters building—the target in the scenarios—is a 39-story high-rise, located just a few miles from the World Trade Center. [New York Daily News, 12/2/1999; Evening Standard, 9/11/2002]
Scenarios Revealed in 2004 - The details of these two scenarios will come to light in August 2004 during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. They will be revealed by Myers, at that time the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after Senator Mark Dayton (D-MN) asks him, “Did NORAD conduct exercises or develop scenarios, prior to September 11, 2001, to test a military reaction to an aircraft hijacking which appeared destined to result in a suicide crash into a high-value target?” [US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services, 8/17/2004] NORAD will state in 2004 that, until 9/11, it conducts four major exercises each year. Most of these include a hijack scenario, but not all of them involve planes being used as weapons. [USA Today, 4/18/2004; CNN, 4/19/2004] NORAD’s next Vigilant Guardian exercise, in 2001, will actually be several days underway on 9/11 (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). It will include a number of scenarios based around plane hijackings, with the fictitious hijackers targeting New York in at least one of those scenarios (see September 6, 2001, September 9, 2001, September 10, 2001, and (9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 2004; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006]

Entity Tags: Richard B. Myers, Southeast Air Defense Sector, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Vigilant Guardian, Western Air Defense Sector, Northeast Air Defense Sector

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Carl Levin.Carl Levin. [Source: Publicity photo]Air Force General Richard Myers is questioned about the US military’s response to the 9/11 attacks when he appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee for his confirmation hearing as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but his answers are vague and confused, and he claims, incorrectly, that no fighter jets were scrambled in response to the hijackings until after the Pentagon was hit. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 119; Farmer, 2009, pp. 241-243] Myers has been the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff since March 2000. [US Air Force, 9/2005] With General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, flying toward Europe on the morning of September 11 (see (8:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he served as the acting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the 9/11 attacks. [Myers, 2009, pp. 10; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 431-433]
Myers Says Fighters Were Only Scrambled after the Pentagon Attack - During the hearing, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) asks if the Department of Defense was contacted by “the FAA or the FBI or any other agency” after the first two hijacked aircraft crashed into the World Trade Center, at 8:46 a.m. and 9:03 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), but before 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon was hit (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). Myers replies, “I don’t know the answer to that question.” Levin then asks if the military was “asked to take action against any specific aircraft” during the attacks. Myers answers, “When it became clear what the threat was, we did scramble fighter aircraft, AWACS, radar aircraft, and tanker aircraft to begin to establish orbits in case other aircraft showed up in the FAA system that were hijacked.” Myers elaborates later in the hearing, telling Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL): “[A]fter the second tower was hit, I spoke to the commander of NORAD, General [Ralph] Eberhart (see (9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). And at that point, I think the decision was at that point to start launching aircraft.” But he tells Levin that “to the best of my knowledge,” the order to scramble fighters was only given “after the Pentagon was struck.”
Flight 93 Was Not Shot Down, Myers Says - Myers addresses the military’s response to Flight 93, the fourth hijacked plane, which crashed in a field in Pennsylvania (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He says: “[I]f my memory serves me… we had launched on the one that eventually crashed in Pennsylvania. I mean, we had gotten somebody close to it, as I recall.” However, he adds, “I’ll have to check that out.” When Levin mentions that there have been “statements that the aircraft that crashed in Pennsylvania was shot down,” Myers responds, “[T]he armed forces did not shoot down any aircraft.” He says, “[W]e never actually had to use force.” Although Myers appears unclear about when the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) launched fighters in response to the hijackings, he is more confident when he states: “At the time of the first impact on the World Trade Center, we stood up our Crisis Action Team. That was done immediately. So we stood it up. And we started talking to the federal agencies.” [US Congress, 9/13/2001]
NORAD and the 9/11 Commission Contradict Myers's Account - Myers’s claim that fighters were only launched in response to the hijackings after the Pentagon was hit will later be contradicted by the accounts of NORAD and the 9/11 Commission, which state that fighters were ordered to take off from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) and from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia at 9:24 a.m. (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20, 27] The 9/11 Commission will also contradict Myers’s claim that the military launched fighters in response to Flight 93 and “had gotten somebody close to it.” “By the time the military learned about the flight,” the 9/11 Commission Report will state, “it had crashed.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 34]
Myers's Testimony Prompts Criticism in the Media - Journalist and author Philip Shenon will question why Myers, a veteran Air Force fighter pilot, would give such an inaccurate account of the military’s response to the 9/11 attacks during the hearing. “It seemed obvious that Myers, of all people at the Pentagon, would want to know—would demand to know—how jet fighters under NORAD’s control had responded on the morning of September 11 to the threat in the skies,” he will write. [US Congress, 9/13/2001; Shenon, 2008, pp. 119] John Farmer, the senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission, will comment that “Myers’s evident confusion about precisely what had occurred prompted criticism in the media and a quick, if contradictory, response from the administration.” [Farmer, 2009, pp. 243] Major General Paul Weaver, director of the Air National Guard, will provide a more detailed account of the military’s response to the hijackings in an “impromptu hallway interview” at the Pentagon on September 14 (see September 14, 2001). [Dallas Morning News, 9/14/2001] And four days later, NORAD will release a timeline of its response to the hijackings (see September 18, 2001). [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001]

Entity Tags: Richard B. Myers, Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, Clarence W. (“Bill”) Nelson

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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