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Context of 'November 1997: Ali Soufan Joins the FBI'

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FBI agent Robert Fuller in 2009.FBI agent Robert Fuller in 2009. [Source: Associated Press]The FBI’s New York office opens a full field intelligence investigation to locate Khalid Almihdhar. New York FBI agent Robert Fuller, new to the international terrorism squad, is the only person assigned to the task. The New York office had been given a “heads up alert” about Almihdhar on August 23, but the search only begins after the FBI decides on August 28 to conduct an intelligence investigation instead of a criminal investigation (see August 29, 2001). Another agent had labeled the search request “routine,” meaning that Fuller has 30 days to find his target. However, Fuller will be busy with another matter and won’t begin work on finding Almihdhar until September 4 (see September 4-5, 2001). (US Department of Justice 11/2004)

According to author Lawrence Wright, on this day there is a conference call between FBI field agent Steve Bongardt, FBI headquarters agent Dina Corsi, and a CIA supervisor at Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, who tells Bongardt to stand down in the search for future 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar. Corsi and Bongardt have been arguing over whether the search for Almihdhar in the US should be a criminal or intelligence investigation (see August 28, 2001 and August 28, 2001), and the CIA supervisor apparently sides with Corsi, saying the search should be an intelligence investigation, and so Bongardt, a criminal agent, cannot be involved in it. Bongardt is angry with this and remarks, “If this guy [Almihdhar] is in the country, it’s not because he’s going to f___ing Disneyland!” (Wright 2006, pp. 353-4) However, there will be no mention of this conversation in the 9/11 Commission Report or the Justice Department’s report into the FBI’s performance before 9/11. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 271; US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 306-7 pdf file) According to the Justice Department report, there is a similar conference call between Bongardt, Corsi, and her supervisor at the FBI around this time (see August 28, 2001). It is possible Wright is confusing the supervisor of the CIA’s bin Laden unit with the supervisor of the FBI’s bin Laden unit, meaning that the CIA supervisor is not involved in this argument.

The FBI opens an intelligence investigation to find future 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar, despite protests from the FBI New York field office that FBI headquarters has wrongly insisted on an intelligence investigation, when a criminal investigation would be more appropriate and have a better chance of finding him. The Justice Department’s office of inspector general will later conclude that “the designation of the Almihdhar matter as an intelligence investigation, as opposed to a criminal investigation, undermined the priority of any effort to locate Almihdhar.” Upon learning of the decision, Steve Bongardt, an investigator working on the USS Cole bombing investigation, writes to headquarters agent Dina Corsi to express his frustration. He points out that she is unable to produce any solid documentary evidence to support her view of the “wall,” a mechanism that restricts the passage of some intelligence information to criminal agents at the FBI (see Early 1980s and July 19, 1995), and that her interpretation of the “wall” is at odds with the purpose for which it was established. He adds: “Whatever has happened to this—someday someone will die—and wall or not—the public will not understand why we were not more effective and throwing every resource we had at certain ‘problems.’ Let’s hope the [Justice Department’s] National Security Law Unit will stand behind their decisions then, especially since the biggest threat to us now, UBL [Osama bin Laden], is getting the most ‘protection.’” (US Congress 9/20/2002; Firestone and Risen 9/21/2002; US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 307-9 pdf file; Wright 7/10/2006 pdf file) Both the Justice Department’s office of inspector general and the 9/11 Commission will later back Bongardt and say the investigation should have been a criminal investigation, as the “wall” procedures did not apply. The inspector general will comment that Bongardt “was correct that the wall had been created to deal with the handling of only [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] information and that there was no legal barrier to a criminal agent being present for an interview with Almihdhar if it occurred in the intelligence investigation.” (US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 351 pdf file) The 9/11 Commission will remark that Corsi “misunderstood” the wall and that, “Simply put, there was no legal reason why the information [Corsi] possessed could not have been shared with [Bongardt].” It will conclude: “It is now clear that everyone involved was confused about the rules governing the sharing and use of information gathered in intelligence channels. Because Almihdhar was being sought for his possible connection to or knowledge of the Cole bombing, he could be investigated or tracked under the existing Cole criminal case. No new criminal case was needed for the criminal agent to begin searching for [him]. And as the NSA had approved the passage of its information to the criminal agent, he could have conducted a search using all available information. As a result of this confusion, the criminal agents who were knowledgeable about al-Qaeda and experienced with criminal investigative techniques, including finding suspects and possible criminal charges, were thus excluded from the search.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 271, 539)

The CIA finally tells the FBI that al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash attended an al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia in January 2000 with future 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi (see January 5-8, 2000). The CIA monitored the meeting and has known that bin Attash attended it for at least eight months (see January 4, 2001), but repeatedly failed to tell the FBI of this (see Shortly Before February 1, 2001, February 1, 2001, Mid-May 2001, and June 11, 2001). The CIA will later say that it thought the FBI knew of the identification in January 2001 (see January 5, 2001 and After), but a CIA manager asked for permission to pass the information to the FBI in July 2001, implying he knew the FBI did not have the information (see July 13, 2001). (US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 298, 305, 310 pdf file) In addition, the text of the notifiction states, “We wish to advise you that, during a previously scheduled meeting with our joint source,” bin Attash was identified in a surveillance photo. (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 150 pdf file) The cable containing the information is for Rodney Middleton, acting head of the FBI’s bin Laden unit, and also says that, if the FBI thinks it does not have all the photographs it needs of the Malaysia summit, it should ask the CIA for them. Middleton is aware that the FBI is investigating Almihdhar (see August 29, 2001), but there is no record of him or anyone else providing this information to either the agent investigating Almihdhar or the main investigation of the USS Cole bombing, which bin Attash commanded. The information was requested by FBI agent Dina Corsi and was passed through a CIA Counterterrorist Center representative to the FBI, presumably Tom Wilshire. Although one of bin Attash’s aliases was watchlisted one week ago (see August 23, 2001), he is not watchlisted under his real name even at this point, meaning the commander of the USS Cole attack can enter the US under his own name as he pleases. (US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 298, 305, 310 pdf file)

Prince Turki al-Faisal, head of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence service for 24 years, is replaced. No explanation is given. He is replaced by Nawaf bin Abdul Aziz, his nephew and the king’s brother, who has “no background in intelligence whatsoever.” (Agence France-Presse 8/31/2001; Henderson 10/22/2001; Seattle Times 10/29/2001) The Wall Street Journal later reports: “The timing of Turki’s removal—August 31—and his Taliban connection raise the question: Did the Saudi regime know that bin Laden was planning his attack against the US? The current view among Saudi-watchers is probably not, but that the House of Saud might have heard rumors that something was planned, although they did not know what or when. (An interesting and possibly significant detail: Prince Sultan, the defense minister, had been due to visit Japan in early September, but canceled his trip for no apparent reason less than two days before an alleged planned departure.)” (Henderson 10/22/2001) It will later come out that Turki’s removal takes place during a time of great turmoil in the relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia, though it is not known if there is a connection (see August 27, 2001, August 29-September 6, 2001, and September 6, 2001). Turki is later sued in August 2002 for his role in 9/11 (see August 15, 2002), and is later appointed ambassador to Britain (see October 18, 2002) and then ambassador to the US (see August 21, 2005).

With President Bush back in Washington after a long vacation, CIA Director George Tenet resumes personally delivering the Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB) to him. Tenet has one meeting with Bush on August 31, 2001, after Bush’s return (see August 17 and 31, 2001), and then briefs him six more times in the first eight days of September. Bush is out of town the next few days, so he is briefed by other CIA personnel. (Agence France-Presse 4/15/2004) By this time, Tenet has been told about the arrest of suspected terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui (see August 23, 2001). But there is no evidence he mentions this to Bush before 9/11. Further, on August 23, 2001, the CIA watchlisted 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi and began looking for them in the US (see August 23, 2001), but there’s no evidence Tenet or anyone else briefed Bush about this, either.

Said Bahaji at his 1999 wedding.Said Bahaji at his 1999 wedding. [Source: Public domain]Members of Mohamed Atta’s Hamburg al-Qaeda cell leave Germany for Pakistan. Said Bahaji flies out of Hamburg on September 3, 2001, using his real name. (Crewdson, Swanson, and Simpson 2/25/2003) German intelligence already has Bahaji under surveillance, and German border guards are under orders to report if he leaves the country, yet the border guards fail to note his departure (see September 3, 2001). (Schrom and Laabs 2/2/2003) German agents later discover two other passengers on the same flight traveling with false passports who stay in the same room with Bahaji when they arrive in Karachi, Pakistan. (McDermott 9/1/2002) Investigators now believe his flight companions were Ismail Bin Murabit (a.k.a. Ismail Ben Mrabete) and Labed Ahmed (a.k.a. Ahmed Taleb), both Algerians in their late 40s. Three more associates—Mohammed Belfatmi, an Algerian extremist from the Tarragona region of Spain, and the brothers Mohammad Sarwar Joia and Patrick Joia—also travel on the same plane. (Crewdson, Swanson, and Simpson 2/25/2003; Crewdson, Swanson, and Simpson 2/25/2003) Ramzi bin al-Shibh flies out of Germany on September 5 and stays in Spain a few days before presumably heading for Pakistan (see September 5, 2001). (McDermott 9/1/2002) Some of these men are reported to meet in Karachi around this time, possibly with others (see September 4-5, 2001).

White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke sends a memo to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in which he warns that hundreds of Americans could die in an attack by al-Qaeda and complains that the Bush administration is not doing enough to combat the threat posed by the terrorist network. (9/11 Commission 3/24/2004; Eggen and Pincus 3/25/2004) The National Security Council’s principals committee—a group of senior officials who advise the president on issues of national security policy—is set to meet today to discuss al-Qaeda. Before the meeting takes place, Clarke sends a memo to Rice in which he criticizes US counterterrorism efforts.
Al-Qaeda Could Kill 'Hundreds of Americans' - The “real question” before the members of the principals committee, Clarke writes in the memo, is, “[A]re we serious about dealing with the al-Qaeda threat?” He suggests: “Decision makers should imagine themselves on a future day when the [White House Counterterrorism Security Group] has not succeeded in stopping al-Qaeda attacks and hundreds of Americans lay dead in several countries, including the US. What would those decision makers wish that they had done earlier?” “That future day could happen at any time,” he adds.
Clarke Complains about the Lack of Response to the USS Cole Bombing - Clarke criticizes the US military for failing to respond to the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, in October 2000 (see October 12, 2000). “Many in al-Qaeda and the Taliban may have drawn the wrong lesson from the Cole: that they can kill Americans without there being a US response, without there being a price,” he writes. He states that he cannot understand “why we continue to allow the existence of large-scale al-Qaeda bases where we know people are being trained to kill Americans.”
Clarke Warns of a Possible 'Big Attack, with Lots of Casualties' - Clarke complains that without adequate funding: “You are left with a modest effort to swat flies, to try to prevent specific al-Qaeda attacks by using [intelligence] to detect them, and friendly governments’ police and intelligence officers to stop them. You are left waiting for the big attack, with lots of casualties, after which some major US retaliation will be in order.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 212-213)
Rice Later Says Memo Is 'Not a Warning about September 11th' - Rice will later say of Clarke’s memo: “It would not be appropriate or correct to characterize what Dick [Clarke] wrote to me on September 4th as a warning of an impending attack. What he was doing was, I think, trying to buck me up so that when I went into this principals meeting, I was sufficiently on guard against the kind of bureaucratic inertia that he had fought all of his life.” The memo, she will say, “was a warning to me not to get dragged down by the bureaucracy, not a warning about September 11th.” (9/11 Commission 4/8/2004) The principals committee’s meeting today is the committee’s first meeting on al-Qaeda issues. (9/11 Commission 3/24/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 212) Clarke had “urgently” called for such a meeting back in January this year (see January 25, 2001). (Clarke 2004, pp. 237)

Oklahoma City District Attorney Wes Lane announces that Oklahoma will continue prosecuting convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see March 29, 1999) on 160 state charges of murder, in part because the state fears Nichols may win his federal appeals (see June 4, 1998). “I will not roll the dice on this issue. There is simply too much at stake,” Lane says. He says that the state will seek the death penalty against Nichols. Lane took over the case after District Attorney Robert Macy retired in June 2001; some have speculated that Oklahoma might drop the case due to the expenditure, the difficulty of finding an impartial jury, and the emotional toll on the victims of another trial. Nichols’s lead lawyer for the state case, Brian Hermanson, writes in a letter quoted by local newspapers that Nichols was willing to drop his appeals and accept a federal life sentence to avoid a state trial. The letter states: “Taking such a step ensures that he will spend the rest of his life in prison. It would enable Mr. Lane to drop the state prosecution, thereby sparing Oklahoma the trauma and expense of another trial.” Lane responds that “the interests of the people of the State of Oklahoma cannot be vindicated by the blind reliance on the federal government or Terry Lynn Nichols,” and says he will seek sanctions against Hermanson for what he calls a “glaring, blatant violation” of a state court order not to discuss the case. Shelly Thompson, who lost her mother in the blast (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), says: “You can’t just get away with a little bit of a crime. We’re going to go for the whole thing. I want to make sure he will stay in prison for his life. This is something I need to do for her. He was not found guilty in my mother’s death and 159 other deaths. They are more than numbers.” (Thomas 9/6/2001; The Oklahoman 4/2009; Mayhem (.net) 4/2009)

According to a New York Times article several days later, on this day President Bush holds a National Security Council meeting with Secretary of State Powell, National Security Adviser Rice, and others, to consider how to change his Middle East policy. This potential change in US policy comes after the Saudis threatened to end their alliance with the US because of US policy towards Israel and Palestine (see August 27, 2001 and August 29-September 6, 2001). It is reported that he is considering meeting with Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat when Arafat is scheduled to come to New York for the opening of the United Nations General Assembly two weeks later. Bush has so far been firm in refusing to meet with Arafat. According to the New York Times, at this meeting, “Bush discussed the wisdom of changing tack, officials said. While no clear decision was made, there was an inclination to go ahead with a meeting with Arafat if events unfolded in a more favorable way in the next 10 days or so…” Additionally, it is reported that Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres will meet with Arafat in mid-September, in what it is hoped will be “the first of a series that could start a process of serious dialogue” between Palestine and Israel. (Perlez 9/9/2001) Reporter Bob Woodward will add in 2006, “Bush agreed to come out publicly for a Palestinian state. A big rollout was planned for the week of September 10, 2001.” (Woodward 2006, pp. 77) But after the 9/11 attacks a few days later, Bush and Peres do not go forward with any meetings with Arafat and US policy does not change. The Nation will later comment, “In the aftermath of [9/11], few people recalled that for a brief moment in the late summer of 2001, the Bush Administration had considered meeting with Arafat and deepening its political involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” (Rozen 7/14/2005) The leak to the New York Times about this September 6 meeting will result in a wide FBI investigation of Israeli spying in the US (see September 9, 2001).

9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi transfers $200 from his and Atta’s joint account at SunTrust Bank to fellow hijacker Abdulaziz Alomari’s account in Buraidah, Saudi Arabia. Alomari’s account is with Al Rajhi Banking & Investment Corp, which will later be unsuccessfully sued for allegedly supporting terrorism (see August 15, 2002). The transfer costs $50 plus charges. The reason for the transfer is not clear, as Alomari, who also has an account with the Hudson United Bank in the US (see June 27-August 23, 2001), had only left Florida the previous day and will be in Boston at the same time as Alshehhi on September 9. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia; Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 pdf file) Records show that Alshehhi completes the transaction just before 4.00 p.m. However, according to some accounts, Alshehhi is drinking at Shuckums bar at this time (see September 7, 2001). (Eggen 9/13/2001; Vulliamy et al. 9/16/2001)

A training exercise is held at New York’s La Guardia Airport, based around the scenario of a terrorist attack with a biological weapon. Mark Edelman, chief external relations officer of the Greater New York chapter of the American Red Cross, will later say the Greater New York chapter has been preparing for the possibility of a biological terrorist attack since the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995 (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). And today—“the very Saturday before September 11”—there is “a bioterror drill at La Guardia Airport,” he will add. Details of what the exercise involves are unstated. Whether any agencies other than the Red Cross participate in the exercise is also unstated. (Philanthropy News Digest 12/7/2001) La Guardia Airport is located eight miles from midtown Manhattan in the borough of Queens, New York, and is operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. (Braun and Gjorgievska 7/27/2015; Malo 7/27/2015) Another exercise is being held there today by the New York City Fire Department Bureau of Emergency Medical Services, which is based around a simulated plane crash (see September 8, 2001). (Asaeda 3/2002)

Massoud’s two assassins pictured just before their assassination attempt. One holds the rigged video camera.Massoud’s two assassins pictured just before their assassination attempt. One holds the rigged video camera. [Source: CNN]General Ahmed Shah Massoud, the leader of Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance, is assassinated by two al-Qaeda agents posing as Moroccan journalists. (Elliott 8/12/2002) A legendary mujaheddin commander and a brilliant tactician, Massoud had pledged to bring freedom and democracy to Afghanistan. The BBC says the next day, “General Massoud’s death might well have meant the end of the [Northern] alliance” because there clearly was no figure with his skills and popularity to replace him. (Clark 9/10/2001; NPA 9/10/2001) “With Massoud out of the way, the Taliban and al-Qaeda would be rid of their most effective opponent and be in a stronger position to resist the American onslaught.” (Martin 9/9/2002) It appears the assassination was supposed to happen earlier: the “journalists” waited for three weeks in Northern Alliance territory to meet Massoud. Finally on September 8, an aide says they “were so worried and excitable they were begging us.” They were granted an interview after threatening to leave if the interview did not happen in the next 24 hours. Meanwhile, the Taliban army (together with elements of the Pakistani army) had massed for an offensive against the Northern Alliance in the previous weeks, but the offensive began only hours after the assassination. Massoud was killed that day but Northern Alliance leaders pretend for several days that Massoud was only injured in order to keep the Northern Alliance army’s morale up, and they are able to stave off total defeat. The timing of the assassination and the actions of the Taliban army suggest that the 9/11 attacks were known to the Taliban leadership. (Elliott 8/12/2002) Though it is not widely reported, the Northern Alliance releases a statement the next day: “Ahmed Shah Massoud was the target of an assassination attempt organized by the Pakistani [intelligence service] ISI and Osama bin Laden” (see September 10, 2001). (Wesolowsky 9/10/2001; Gardiner and Rayman 9/15/2001; Reuters 10/4/2001) This suggests that the ISI may also have had prior knowledge of the attack plans.

Al-Rajhi Bank logo.Al-Rajhi Bank logo. [Source: Al-Rajhi Bank.]Extremists order “operatives in Afghanistan, Indonesia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Yemen” to use accounts at the Al-Rajhi Banking & Investment Corp, according to a 2003 CIA report. The Al-Rajhi Bank is one of the biggest Saudi banks, with billions in assets. Who gives this order and when will not be made public. However, some examples of militants using the bank will later be alleged:
bullet When al-Qaeda leader Mamdouh Mahmud Salim is arrested in late 1998 (see September 16, 1998), he is carrying records of an Al-Rajhi account.
bullet When Wadih El-Hage’s house in Kenya is raided in 1997, investigators find contact information in his address book for Salah Al-Rajhi, one of the billionaire co-owners of the bank (see Shortly After August 21, 1997). (Simpson 7/26/2007)
bullet Some of the 9/11 hijackers use the bank. For instance, Hani Hanjour is sent wire transfers from Al-Rajhi bank in Saudi Arabia at least six times in 1998 and 1999. In September 2000, Nawaf Alhazmi uses $2,000 in Al-Rajhi traveler’s checks paid for by an unnamed person in Saudi Arabia. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/2001, pp. 19, 31, 33, 34, 41, 87 pdf file) And Abdulaziz Alomari has an account at the bank (see September 7, 2001).
bullet The bank is used by a number of charities suspected of militant links, including the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), the Muslim World League, the Saudi branch of Red Crescent, Global Relief Foundation, and the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY). (Mowbray 10/13/2003)
bullet An al-Qaeda affiliate in Spain holds accounts at the bank. According to a fax later recovered by Spanish police, the group’s chief financier tells a business partner to use the bank for their transactions. (Mowbray 10/13/2003)
bullet In 2000, Al-Rajhi Bank couriers deliver money to insurgents in Indonesia to buy weapons and bomb-making materials.
bullet According to a 2003 German report, bank co-founder Sulaiman Abdul Aziz al-Rajhi contributes to a charity front buying weapons for Islamic militants in Bosnia in the early 1990s. He is also on the “Golden Chain,” a list of early al-Qaeda funders (see 1988-1989).
bullet A US intelligence memo from shortly after 9/11 will say that a money courier for al-Qaeda’s second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, travels on a visa obtained by the bank.
The 2003 CIA report will state: “Islamic extremists have used Al-Rajhi Banking and Investment Corporation since at least the mid-1990s as a conduit for terrorist transactions.… Senior al-Rajhi family members have long supported Islamic extremists and probably know that terrorists use their bank.” (Simpson 7/26/2007)

A group of five Middle Eastern men, which includes two men who will later be identified as alleged 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Marwan Alshehhi, get into a confrontation with Eric Gill, an employee at Washington’s Dulles International Airport, from where Flight 77 will take off on September 11, after they try to get to a secure area of the airport. Gill, who works for Argenbright Security, which handles the passenger security checkpoints at Dulles Airport, notices the men while supervising the west checkpoint on the upper level of the airport’s main terminal. He initially sees just two of them as they try to go through a side door next to the checkpoint that only a few people are permitted to use. People can use this door to bypass the checkpoint, but they need to swipe a card and enter a code on a keypad to pass through it. Going through the door enables a person to reach the airport’s secure, employee-only areas, including the area where planes are parked.
Men Try to Go through a Door Used by Security Personnel - One of the men trying to go through the door is wearing a green ID badge with a red “A” on it, of the kind typically worn by the airport’s baggage, ramp, and services personnel. However, use of the door is restricted to police, security personnel, and government officials. Gill then notices the other three Middle Eastern men following the first two. Two of these men are also wearing green ID badges with red As on them. Gill will describe one of the five men as Arabic or Palestinian and the other four as Middle Eastern. He will say the men appear to be aged between 30 and 35, and between 5 feet 7 and 5 feet 9 in height. The three men with ID badges are wearing dull grey striped shirts and blue pants, like the uniform worn by United Airlines ramp workers. None of the men are carrying anything and Gill does not recognize any of them.
Men Appear to Be Examining Security Procedures - As the men are approaching the side door, they stop and look around for a few moments, as if they are examining security procedures at the checkpoint. Gill finds this unusual. “Normally, people who had legitimate business would just keep walking because they knew where they were going and what they were doing,” he will comment. One of the men swipes his ID card and enters a code into a keypad in order to open the side door and allow the group to go through it. But Gill is suspicious and goes up to the men. After asking if he can help, he refuses to let them proceed through the door. The men who have ID cards show them to him. But he then notices that the other two men are not wearing uniforms and have no airport identification, and so he tells these men they cannot enter the secure area unless they have their own IDs with them.
Men Don't Say Who They Are - Gill asks the men who they are and why they are trying to go through the side door, but they give no answer. He tells the two men without IDs that they have to come back through the door, but they say they have IDs and are going to continue on their way. Around this time, Gill is joined by his colleague Nicholas DeSilva, who subsequently witnesses the rest of the incident. Gill then notices that the uniforms worn by three of the men are very dirty, which strikes him as odd, since United Airlines managers would not usually tolerate this. He refuses to let the men in uniforms escort the other two men through the side door and says the men without IDs will have to go through the main security checkpoint.
Men Become Abusive - At this point, the men get angry and become abusive. One of them tells Gill to “f_ck off” and says they are important people he doesn’t know. Next, however, instead of the men without IDs simply passing through the security checkpoint as requested, all of the men retreat, which surprises Gill. They then head off and go down the stairs that lead to the lower level of the main terminal. Gill will never see them again. However, Ed Nelson, his supervisor, will note that if they’d wanted to access a plane at the airport, perhaps to plant weapons on it, they could have returned after 10:00 p.m., when Gill’s shift ended, and used their ID cards to activate the electronic lock and pass through the side door next to the west checkpoint.
Incident Will Be Reported the Next Day - The exact time when Gill’s confrontation with the five men occurs is unclear. Gill will tell the FBI that it occurs “[d]uring the approximate time period of 8:10 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.” But he will tell the 9/11 Commission that it occurs at around 8:00 p.m. And he will tell investigative journalists Joseph Trento and Susan Trento that it occurs at 8:15 p.m. The incident is not unusual enough to necessitate a report and so Gill will take no further action this evening. But he will report it after he comes into work at 1:00 p.m. the following day and hears about the hijacking of Flight 77.
Two of the Men Will Be Identified as Hijackers - Gill will subsequently identify two of the men he confronted as 9/11 hijackers. A week or two after 9/11, his wife will show him a story in the National Enquirer magazine that includes photos of the alleged hijackers and he will recognize two of the hijackers as having been among the group he encountered. And, at some point after this, he will be shown the photos of the alleged hijackers that are published on the FBI website by Steve Wragg, the district manager in charge of Dulles Airport for Argenbright Security. From looking at these, he will identify two of the men he confronted as Flight 77 hijacker Alhazmi and Flight 175 hijacker Alshehhi. He will say these two hijackers were among the men wearing uniforms and ID badges. He will also recognize Alshehhi as the first man to have shown him his ID and Alhazmi as the man who verbally abused him. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/14/2002; 9/11 Commission 1/19/2004 pdf file; Trento and Trento 2006, pp. 1-6, 43-44; Priska Neely 10/21/2010) However, in 2004, when the 9/11 Commission shows Gill photos of numerous individuals, including Alshehhi, Alhazmi, and other 9/11 hijackers, he will say he does not recognize any of these individuals as having been among the men he confronted at Dulles Airport. (9/11 Commission 2/10/2004 pdf file) The FBI will not take Gill’s account seriously because it has difficulty understanding how and why one of the Flight 175 hijackers would have been at Dulles Airport on the evening before he took an early morning flight from Boston, according to a source with the bureau. (Trento and Trento 2006, pp. 44) Khalid Almihdhar and “possibly” Salem Alhazmi—two of the alleged hijackers of Flight 77—are recorded on video at Dulles Airport at an unspecified time this evening (see September 10, 2001). (9/11 Commission 9/29/2003 pdf file; Federal Bureau of Investigation 11/14/2003 pdf file)

An Echelon station in Menwith Hill, Britain.An Echelon station in Menwith Hill, Britain. [Source: BBC]By the 1980s, a high-tech global electronic surveillance network shared between the US, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand is gathering intelligence all over the world. The BBC describes Echelon’s power as “astounding,” and elaborates: “Every international telephone call, fax, e-mail, or radio transmission can be listened to by powerful computers capable of voice recognition. They home in on a long list of key words, or patterns of messages. They are looking for evidence of international crime, like terrorism.” (Bomford 11/3/1999) One major focus for Echelon before 9/11 is al-Qaeda. For instance, one account mentions Echelon intercepting al-Qaeda communications in Southeast Asia in 1996 (see Before September 11, 2001). A staff member of the National Security Council who regularly attends briefings on bin Laden states, “We are probably tapped into every hotel room in Pakistan. We can listen in to just about every phone call in Afghanistan.” However, he and other critics will claim one reason why US intelligence failed to stop terrorism before 9/11 was because there was too much of a focus on electronic intelligence gathering and not enough focus on human interpretation of that vast data collection. (Brzezinski 2/2/2002)

It has been widely reported that the CIA never had any assets near bin Laden before 9/11. For instance, Lawrence Wright will write in his highly regarded 2006 book, The Looming Tower, “The fact is that the CIA had no one inside al-Qaeda or the Taliban security that surrounded bin Laden.” (Wright 2006, pp. 265) But author Ronald Kessler will write in a 2004 book, “Often, the CIA used operatives from Arab intelligence services like those of Jordan, Syria, Egypt, and other countries to infiltrate bin Laden’s organization.” A longtime CIA officer says, “Egyptians, Jordanians, [and] Palestinians penetrated the bin Laden organization for us. It’s B.S. that we didn’t.” Kessler further explains that such operations remain one of the CIA’s best-kept secrets and often occur even with intelligence agencies the CIA is sometimes otherwise at odds with. Kessler says, “In return for help, the CIA provided them with money, equipment, and intelligence on their adversaries. Over the years, the Jordanians, for example, relied on the CIA to alert them to plots against the king. Over time, the Jordanians became so good at the intelligence game that they were better at detecting plots than the CIA.” (Kessler 2004, pp. 143) Jack Cloonan, an FBI expert on al-Qaeda, will later say, “There were agents run into the camps. But most of them were not very well placed,” and lacked access to the inner circles. (Waterman 11/27/2006) One example of such an asset may be Khalil Deek, who worked closely with al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida (see 1998-December 11, 1999) and was reportedly a mole for Jordanian intelligence (see Shortly After December 11, 1999). In the months before 9/11, Jordan will warn the US that al-Qaeda is planning a major attack inside the US using aircraft (see Late Summer 2001), and Egypt will warn the CIA that al-Qaeda has 20 operatives on a mission in the US, some of them training to fly (see Late July 2001).

Zainelabdeen Ibrahim Omer, a Sudanese man, tells police in Sarasota, Florida, he is concerned that a friend of his may pose a threat to President Bush, who is spending the night on nearby Longboat Key and is due to visit Sarasota today. After he contacts the Sarasota police, Omer is visited by some officers. He tells them that on the previous evening he talked to a friend of his, who he identifies only as “Gandi.” He says Gandi is in Sarasota with two companions, with the intention of getting a friend of theirs out of jail. Omer is apparently concerned that Gandi may be a danger to Bush while he is visiting the area. He says Gandi “has made several remarks in the past that indicated extremely violent thoughts.” He adds that, considering the man’s “past inclinations,” the fact that Gandi is in Sarasota at the time Bush is visiting the area “might not be coincidental.” The Sarasota police officers will contact the Secret Service, whose agents then question Omer about his concerns. Police officers and Secret Service agents will visit an address on 32nd Street in Sarasota, where they find 11 Arab men apparently at morning prayer. One of the men has a card for the Longboat Key Club, which is near the resort where Bush has been spending the night (see September 10, 2001). The men will be questioned, held until Bush has left the area, and then released. It will later be reported that Gandi has links to the guerrilla group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. However, an unnamed law enforcement source will tell authors Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan that there is “nothing to indicate” the 11 Arab men questioned by the police and the Secret Service are linked to the 9/11 plotters. (Sarasota Police Department 9/11/2001; Sarasota Police Department 9/11/2001; Summers and Swan 2011, pp. 457) While Bush is staying on Longboat Key, several Middle Eastern men reportedly arrive at the resort where he is staying and falsely claim they have an interview with him arranged (see (Before 6:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). And at 8:50 a.m. on September 11, a local man will see a van in Sarasota with two Middle Eastern men screaming out the windows, “Down with Bush” (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sullivan 9/26/2001)

Abdulaziz Alomari (a passport stamp overlaps part of his face).Abdulaziz Alomari (a passport stamp overlaps part of his face). [Source: FBI]Having spent the previous night at the Comfort Inn in Portland, Maine (see September 10, 2001), hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari check out at 5:33 a.m. and drive their rented Nissan to the nearby Portland International Jetport Airport, entering its parking lot at 5:40 a.m. The FBI will later seize their car there. (Vulliamy et al. 9/16/2001; Portland Press Herald 10/5/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/5/2001; Dorman 4/17/2006) Their flight is due to take off for Boston at 6:00 a.m. (see (6:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The Boston Globe points out, “Any significant delay would foil [Atta’s] big plans for the day.” (Zuckoff 9/16/2001) The 9/11 Commission later concludes: “The Portland detour almost prevented Atta and Omari from making Flight 11 out of Boston.” (9/11 Commission 6/16/2004)

Michael Tuohey.Michael Tuohey. [Source: CNN]9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari check in at the US Airways counter at Portland International Jetport. (Portland Press Herald 10/5/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/5/2001) They are wearing ties and jackets. Atta checks in two bags, Alomari none. Atta is randomly selected for additional security scrutiny by the FAA’s Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS) (see (6:20 a.m.-7:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, the only consequence is that his checked bags will be held off the plane until it is confirmed that he has boarded. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 1; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 2; CNN 3/3/2006) Noting that their flight is soon due to leave, the ticket agent who checks them in, Michael Tuohey, says, “You’re cutting it close.” (Hench 3/6/2005) Tuohey thinks the pair seems unusual. He notices they both have $2,500 first-class, one-way tickets. He later comments, “You don’t see many of those.” Atta looks “like a walking corpse. He looked so angry.” In contrast, Tuohey will say, Alomari can barely speak English and has “a goofy smile, I can’t believe he knew he was going to die that day.” Tuohey will later recount, “I thought they looked like two Arab terrorists but then I berated myself for the stereotype and did nothing.” (Smerconish 2/24/2005; Massie 9/11/2005; CNN 3/3/2006) Atta becomes angry when Tuohey informs him he will have to check in again in Boston. He complains that he was assured he would have a “one-step check-in.” (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 2; Associated Press 3/7/2005) Tuohey will be recalled to work later in the day to speak to an FBI agent about his encounter with Atta and Alomari. He is shown video footage of them passing through the airport’s security checkpoint upstairs (see (Between 5:45 a.m. and 5:53 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Although recognizing the two men, he notices that in the video they are no longer wearing the jackets and ties they’d had on when checking in just minutes before. He assumes they must have taken these off and tucked them into their carry-on baggage. He is also informed that the security camera behind his own desk, which should have captured the two hijackers, has in fact been out of order for some time. (Hench 3/6/2005; CNN 3/3/2006)

Shay Sullivan.Shay Sullivan. [Source: Longboat Observer]A group of Middle Eastern men pulls up at the resort on Longboat Key, Florida, where President Bush is staying and falsely claims to have an interview scheduled with the president, but the men are turned away from the premises, according to a local fire marshal who later hears about the incident. (Sullivan 9/26/2001) Bush arrived at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort on Longboat Key at 6:30 p.m. on September 10 and then spent the night there (see September 10, 2001). (Sammon 2002, pp. 13; Bayles 9/10/2002) Sometime before 6:00 a.m. on September 11, or possibly on the evening of September 10, a van occupied by some Middle Eastern men pulls up at the resort. The men claim to be reporters and say they are there for a “poolside” interview with Bush. They then ask for a particular Secret Service agent by name. Security guards phone the receptionist at the resort and relay the men’s request. The receptionist has not heard of the Secret Service agent named by the men or anything about a planned interview with Bush. She passes the phone to a Secret Service agent, who similarly tells the security guards that no one knows of the agent the men referred to or is aware of any scheduled interview with the president. The Secret Service agent says the men should contact the president’s public relations office in Washington, DC, and has them turned away from the premises. (Sullivan 9/26/2001; Longboat Observer 9/7/2011)
Incident Resembles Recent Assassination Method - Some people will later note the similarity of this alleged incident to the method used to assassinate General Ahmed Shah Massoud, the leader of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, on September 9. (Martin 7/4/2004) Massoud was killed by a bomb hidden in the video camera of two Arab men who said they were journalists who wanted to interview him (see September 9, 2001). (Elliott 8/12/2002; Martin 9/9/2002) “Were the men on Longboat Key planning to kill Bush in similar fashion?” the St. Petersburg Times will ask. (Martin 7/4/2004)
Fire Marshal Learns about Incident - The alleged incident on Longboat Key will come to light after reporter Shay Sullivan hears local Fire Marshal Carroll Mooneyhan describing it to a colleague during a lull in a firefighters’ union meeting and then writes an article about it for the Longboat Observer. Mooneyhan does not witness the incident firsthand, but will learn about it when he is at the front desk at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort at around 6:00 a.m. on September 11. At that time, he will overhear the receptionist and a security guard discussing what happened. It is unclear when exactly the incident they discuss is meant to have occurred. (Sullivan 9/26/2001; Hartill 9/7/2011) The Secret Service will question Mooneyhan about what he hears. (Martin 7/4/2004) Two weeks after 9/11, the FBI will reportedly be looking into the alleged incident. (Sullivan 9/26/2001)
Incident Is Later Denied - The day after the incident is first reported in the Longboat Observer, Mooneyhan “went silent” about it, Sullivan will say. (Hartill 9/7/2011) In 2004, Mooneyhan will deny telling anyone at the Longboat Observer about the incident. “How did they get that information from me if I didn’t know it?” he will say. (Martin 7/4/2004) However, Sullivan will suggest that Mooneyhan may have been “ordered to stop talking about it.” He will note that Secret Service agents visited his newspaper and “suggested we back off the story.” (Hartill 9/7/2011) Longboat Key Police Chief John Kintz will say in 2011 that he has been unable to find any evidence of the incident. “[T]here wasn’t a single person who could confirm that it happened,” he will say, adding, “We never found anyone who worked at the gate who could tell us that that happened.” (Hartill 9/7/2011)
Other Suspicious Incidents Occur - Other suspicious incidents occur in the Longboat Key area around this time. Shortly after 4:00 a.m. on September 11, a Sudanese man contacts police in Sarasota and says he is concerned that a friend of his might pose a threat to the president while he is visiting the area (see 4:07 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Summers and Swan 2011, pp. 457) And at 8:50 a.m. on September 11, a local man will see a van in Sarasota with two Middle Eastern men screaming out the windows, “Down with Bush” (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sullivan 9/26/2001) Whether these two incidents are related to the alleged incident at the Longboat Key resort is unclear.

All the alleged 9/11 hijackers reportedly check in at the airports from where they board Flights 11, 175, 77, and 93. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 1-4; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 27, 89, 93) Since 1998, the FAA has required air carriers to implement a program called the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS). This identifies those passengers who might be a security risk, based upon suspicious behavior such as buying one-way tickets or paying with cash. CAPPS also randomly assigns some passengers to receive additional security scrutiny. If a particular passenger has been designated as a “selectee,” this information is transmitted to the airport’s check-in counter, where a code is printed on their boarding pass. At the airport’s security checkpoints, selectees are subjected to additional security measures. (Satchell 4/1/2002; 9/11 Commission 1/27/2004; US Congress 3/17/2004; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 2, 85) Their baggage is to be screened for explosives or held off the plane until they have boarded. Supposedly, the thinking behind this is that someone smuggling a bomb onto a plane won’t get onto that same flight. According to the 9/11 Commission, nine of the 19 hijackers are flagged by the CAPPS system before boarding Flights 11, 175, 77, and 93. (Goo and Eggen 1/28/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 84; United States of America v. Zacarias Moussaoui, a/k/a Shaqil, a/k/a Abu Khalid al Sahrawi, Defendant 3/6/2006) In addition, Mohamed Atta was selected when he checked in at the airport in Portland, for his earlier connecting flight to Boston (see 5:33 a.m.-5:40 a.m. September 11, 2001). All of the hijackers subsequently pass through security checkpoints before boarding their flights. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 1-4)

NORAD’s war room in Cheyenne Mountain, ColoradoNORAD’s war room in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado [Source: Val Gempis]Lieutenant Colonel Dawne Deskins and other day shift employees at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, NY, start their workday. NORAD is conducting a week-long, large-scale exercise called Vigilant Guardian. (Seely 1/25/2002) Deskins is regional mission crew chief for the Vigilant Guardian exercise. (ABC News 9/11/2002)
Exercise Includes Simulated Attack on the US - Vigilant Guardian is described as “an exercise that would pose an imaginary crisis to North American Air Defense outposts nationwide”; as a “simulated air war”; and as “an air defense exercise simulating an attack on the United States.” According to the 9/11 Commission, it “postulated a bomber attack from the former Soviet Union.” (Seely 1/25/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 55 and 122; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 458) Vigilant Guardian is described as being held annually, and is one of NORAD’s four major annual exercises. (Filson 2003, pp. 41; Arkin 2005, pp. 545; GlobalSecurity (.org) 4/27/2005) However, one report says it takes place semi-annually. (Scott 6/3/2002) Accounts by participants vary on whether 9/11 is the second, third, or fourth day of the exercise. (Code One Magazine 1/2002; Seely 1/25/2002; Kampouris 9/11/2002) Vigilant Guardian is a command post exercise (CPX), and in at least some previous years was conducted in conjunction with Stratcom’s Global Guardian exercise and a US Space Command exercise called Apollo Guardian. (US Congress n.d.; Arkin 2005, pp. 545; GlobalSecurity (.org) 4/27/2005) All of NORAD is participating in Vigilant Guardian on 9/11. (Scott 6/3/2002)
Exercise Includes Simulated Hijacking - Vanity Fair reports that the “day’s exercise” (presumably Vigilant Guardian) is “designed to run a range of scenarios, including a ‘traditional’ simulated hijack in which politically motivated perpetrators commandeer an aircraft, land on a Cuba-like island, and seek asylum.” (Bronner 8/1/2006) However, at NEADS, most of the dozen or so staff on the operations floor have no idea what the exercise is going to entail and are ready for anything. (Cooper 8/5/2004)
NORAD Fully Staffed and Alert - NORAD is currently running a real-world operation named Operation Northern Vigilance (see September 9, 2001). It may also be conducting a field training exercise calling Amalgam Warrior on this morning (see 9:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). NORAD is thus fully staffed and alert, and senior officers are manning stations throughout the US. The entire chain of command will be in place and ready when the first hijacking is reported. An article later says, “In retrospect, the exercise would prove to be a serendipitous enabler of a rapid military response to terrorist attacks on September 11.” (Scott 6/3/2002; Kelly 12/5/2003) Colonel Robert Marr, in charge of NEADS, will say: “We had the fighters with a little more gas on board. A few more weapons on board.” (ABC News 9/11/2002) However, Deskins and other NORAD officials later are initially confused about whether the 9/11 attacks are real or part of the exercise (see (8:38 a.m.-8:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

During this period, all five Flight 11 hijackers check in at Boston’s Logan Airport and board their plane, bound for Los Angeles. The FAA has a program in place called the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS), which is designed to identify those passengers most likely requiring additional scrutiny by airport security (see (6:20 a.m.-7:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Ticket records will show that CAPPS selects three of the Flight 11 hijackers at Logan: Since Waleed Alshehri checks no bags his selection has no consequences; Wail Alshehri and Satam Al Suqami have their bags scanned for explosives, but are not stopped. All five hijackers would need to pass through a security checkpoint to reach the departure gate for their flight. Each would have been screened as they walked through a metal detector calibrated to detect items with at least the metal content of a small-caliber handgun. If they’d set this off, they would have been screened with a handheld metal detector. An X-ray machine would have screened their carry-on luggage. However, Logan Airport has no video surveillance of its security checkpoints (see 1991-2000), so there is no documentary evidence of exactly when they pass through them, or if alarms are triggered. According to the 9/11 Commission, none of the checkpoint supervisors later recall seeing any of the Flights 11 hijackers, or report anything suspicious having occurred. (9/11 Commission 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 1-2; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 5-6) However, a WorldNetDaily article will claim that some Logan staff members recall seeing Mohamed Atta (see (6:50 a.m.-7:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sperry 9/21/2001) The Boston Globe will later comment, “aviation specialists have said it is unlikely that more rigorous attention to existing rules would have thwarted the 10 hijackers who boarded two jets at Logan on Sept. 11. At the time, the knives and box-cutters they were carrying were permitted.” (Carroll 10/17/2001)

Jackie Chan.Jackie Chan. [Source: Reuters]A scene for a Hollywood movie about a terrorist plot to blow up the World Trade Center was originally scheduled to be filmed at the top of one of the Twin Towers at this time, but the filming has been canceled because the script for the scene is late to arrive. (ABC News 9/19/2001; Empire 9/19/2001; Moore 9/27/2002) The action-comedy movie, titled Nosebleed, which was written in 1999 (see February 1999-September 11, 2001), is set to feature the well-known martial artist and actor Jackie Chan as a window washer at the WTC who uncovers a terrorist plot to bomb the Twin Towers. (Carver and Petrikin 2/7/1999; Jensen and Svetkey 9/24/2001)
Actor 'Would Probably Have Died' if Filming Took Place - Chan will later tell the Hong Kong newspaper Oriental Daily News, “Filming was scheduled to have taken place at 7:00 a.m. [on September 11] and… I had to be at the top of one of the towers for one of the scenes.” (ABC News 9/19/2001; Empire 9/19/2001) The scene, Chan will say, was going to be filmed at the “Top of the World restaurant.” (Moore 9/27/2002) Presumably he is referring to Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of the North Tower. Everyone who is in Windows on the World when Flight 11 hits the North Tower at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) will subsequently die. (NPR 9/11/2003) Chan will comment, “I would probably have died if the shooting had gone ahead as planned.” Today’s filming at the WTC has been canceled, reportedly because the script for the scene that would have been filmed is late. (ABC News 9/19/2001; Empire 9/19/2001) “The action was good, but, somehow, the script not ready,” Chan will say.
Actor Is in Canada for Another Film - Instead of doing the scene for Nosebleed, Chan is in Toronto, Canada, where filming began the previous day for another movie he is starring in. That movie, The Tuxedo, is an action-comedy that Steven Spielberg is involved in producing. Chan will say of The Tuxedo, “I only did this movie because Steven Spielberg asked me himself.” (Tourtellotte 6/17/2001; Bickley 7/11/2001; Moore 9/27/2002) He will recall learning of the attacks in New York during filming, saying: “After the first shot, I turned around and everyone was looking at one monitor, and nobody had responded to me. They said, ‘Jackie, a plane crashed into the World Trade Center.’ Then we [saw] the second plane crash. We knew it was a terrorist attack and everyone started crying.” Chan will add, “The whole day I was like a walking dead man.” (Klass 9/23/2002)
Actor Learned 'Secrets' of the WTC in Preparation for Film - Chan has done a lot of groundwork for Nosebleed. “We had visited the [WTC] before September 11,” he will recall. “The producer. My manager. We had dinner upstairs. We were getting all kinds of information. I was going to play a window washer, so they were telling me things like how many windows the building had.” Chan has therefore learned “the ‘secrets’ of the towers—how air pressure was regulated with doors that might be useful as gags in one of his trademark fights—which sides of the buildings one could work on to avoid the wind,” according to the Orlando Sentinel. (Moore 9/27/2002; Denerstein 9/28/2002) Production of Nosebleed will be canceled as a result of the 9/11 attacks. (Aberman 10/24/2001; Hoberman 12/4/2001)

According to the 9/11 Commission, between 7:03 a.m. and 7:39 a.m. the four alleged Flight 93 hijackers check in at the United Airlines ticket counter at Newark (New Jersey) Liberty International Airport. Only Ahmad Alhaznawi is selected for additional scrutiny by airport security under the FAA’s CAPPS program (see (6:20 a.m.-7:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The only consequence is that his checked bag is screened for explosives, and not loaded onto the plane until it is confirmed that he has boarded. (9/11 Commission 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 4; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 35) On their way to boarding the plane, all four would pass through a security checkpoint, which has three walk-through metal detectors, two X-ray machines, and explosive trace detection equipment. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 97) The 9/11 Commission later claims Newark Airport has no video cameras monitoring its security checkpoints, so there is no documentary evidence showing when the hijackers passed through the checkpoint or what alarms may have been triggered. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 4; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 35) However, Michael Taylor, the president of a security company, who has done consulting work for the New York Port Authority (which operates the airport), claims that Newark does use security cameras at the time of 9/11. (Hanchett and Washington 9/29/2001) All of the screeners on duty at the checkpoint are subsequently interviewed, and none report anything unusual or suspicious having occurred. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 4; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 35) The 9/11 Commission later concludes that the passports of Ahmad Alhaznawi and fellow Flight 93 hijacker Ahmed Alnami have suspicious indicators and could have been linked to al-Qaeda, but it does not elaborate on this. (Sullivan 1/27/2004)

Khalid Almihdhar and Majed Moqed, two of the men who will allegedly hijack Flight 77, check in at the American Airlines ticket counter at Washington’s Dulles International Airport. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 2-3; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 27) They are recorded by one of the airport’s security cameras approaching the ticket counter, with Moqed pulling a large, dark, roller-type suitcase and Almihdhar pulling a smaller, dark, roller-type suitcase. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/19/2001) They are checked in by a female ticketing agent for American Airlines whose name is unstated. The ticketing agent will later recall Moqed giving her a small, old, leather suitcase to check in. Almihdhar, meanwhile, has a carry-on bag with him, she will say in one interview with the FBI. However, a week later she will tell the FBI he had no bags with him.
One Hijacker Seems Unable to Understand the Agent's Questions - Almihdhar and Moqed appear to be in a very good mood and are polite as they are checked in. They provide Virginia identification. One of them seems to be in charge and answers all of the ticketing agent’s questions. He hesitates, though, before responding to the question, “Has anyone given you anything to carry on the flight?” The other man appears unable to understand the security questions he is asked. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/19/2001) After being checked in, the two men proceed to a security screening checkpoint (see 7:18 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 27) Almihdhar is pulling along his suitcase but Moqed does not have his suitcase with him at this point. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/19/2001) As they leave the ticket counter, they wave and smile at the ticketing agent. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/19/2001)
Hijackers Are Flagged by a Computerized Prescreening System - Almihdhar and Moqed are both flagged by CAPPS (the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System) when they check in. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 3) CAPPS is an FAA-approved automated system administered by commercial airlines that aims to identify passengers whose profile suggests they may pose more than a minimal risk to aircraft. Passengers selected by CAPPS have their baggage screened for explosives or held off the plane until they have boarded. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 84; Trento and Trento 2006, pp. 12) Almihdar’s name was recently added to a terrorism watch list (see August 23, 2001). (Associated Press 7/22/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 270) Almihdhar was recorded on video in a terminal at Dulles Airport at some time the previous evening, possibly accompanied by Salem Alhazmi, another one of the alleged Flight 77 hijackers (see September 10, 2001). (9/11 Commission 9/29/2003 pdf file; Federal Bureau of Investigation 11/14/2003 pdf file)

Khalid Almihdhar and Majed Moqed passing through a security checkpoint at Dulles Airport.Khalid Almihdhar and Majed Moqed passing through a security checkpoint at Dulles Airport. [Source: FBI]Khalid Almihdhar and Majed Moqed, two of the men who will allegedly hijack Flight 77, go through a security screening checkpoint at Washington’s Dulles International Airport. They are screened at the west checkpoint in the airport’s main terminal. Screening passengers is the responsibility of United Airlines, but it contracts the work to Argenbright Security.
Hijackers Set Off the Metal Detector Alarms - After entering the checkpoint, Almihdhar and Moqed place their carry-on bags on the X-ray machine belt and then pass through the first walk-through metal detector. Both men set off the alarm. They are therefore directed to go through a second metal detector. Almihdhar passes through this without any problems but Moqed again sets off the alarm. This leads to him being screened by a security officer with a handheld metal detector wand. No problems are found and so he is allowed to proceed on his way. None of the men’s carry-on bags are inspected by checkpoint personnel. As Moqed is leaving the checkpoint area, he appears to intentionally look down at the floor as he passes a security camera, thereby preventing the camera from capturing a close-up of his face. The other three Flight 77 hijackers will go through the west checkpoint 17 or 18 minutes later (see (Shortly Before 7:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 7:36 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/19/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 3; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 27)
Screeners Will Recall No Suspicious Activity - Immediately after today’s terrorist attacks, the FAA’s Washington Civil Aviation Security Field Office will investigate the security screening at Dulles Airport. It will interview 43 of the 44 screeners who were on duty today, and these employees will all report having encountered no suspicious activity and nothing out of the ordinary this morning. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 3; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 93) However, lawyer Ron Motley, whose firm will represent some families of victims of today’s attacks, will later criticize the screeners at Dulles Airport, commenting, “Even after setting off these alarms, the airlines and security screeners failed to examine the hijackers’ baggage, as required by federal regulations and industry-mandated standards, or discover the weapons [the hijackers] would use in their attack.” (Associated Press 7/22/2004)

Vaughn Allex.Vaughn Allex. [Source: USA Today]Brothers Nawaf Alhazmi and Salem Alhazmi, two of the men who will allegedly hijack Flight 77, check in at the American Airlines ticket counter at Washington’s Dulles International Airport. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 3, 452; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 27) They are running late. They “come running in the front door, looking around, and didn’t know which way to go,” Vaughn Allex, an employee at the ticket counter, will later describe. (CNN 9/8/2012; Hughes 9/10/2016) They are captured on security video pulling large, dark, roller-type suitcases as they approach the counter. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/19/2001) They are allowed to check in despite having missed the official deadline for doing so by a few minutes. (CNN 9/8/2012; Hughes 9/10/2016)
Trainee Checks in the Hijackers - Nawaf and Salem Alhazmi are checked in by Inga Hill, a trainee who is overseen by Allex. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/19/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/25/2001) Today is only her second day working at Dulles Airport. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001) Allex looks on while she confirms the brothers’ tickets. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/25/2001) The Alhazmis check in two dark-colored bags, one of them a hard plastic suitcase, the other a soft bag, Hill will recall. One of the brothers has a carry-on bag, she will say. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001) Allex will recall the brothers having only one bag, which he considers to be “totally inappropriate for a trip to Los Angeles.” The bag is “almost like a satchel” with straps across the top but which doesn’t seal, he will say. (CNN 9/8/2012)
Hijackers Have Difficulty Answering Questions - Nawaf and Salem Alhazmi show passports for their photo identification but are unable to recall the country from which these were issued. They also have trouble answering the security questions that all passengers must answer. Allex therefore has to get involved and take over the task of questioning them, Hill will recall. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001) However, Allex will say he takes on the task of checking them in from the outset because they are running late. (CNN 9/8/2012) Nawaf Alhazmi is the only one of the brothers who speaks during the check-in, but his English is poor. Salem Alhazmi, meanwhile, acts “very anxious or excited,” according to Allex. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/25/2001) “He was grinning, he was smiling, and he was dancing back and forth,” Allex will say. (CNN 9/8/2012)
Hijackers Are Selected for Extra Scrutiny - Allex selects the two brothers for extra security scrutiny. He does this because he finds them suspicious, and one of them—probably Salem Alhazmi, according to the 9/11 Commission—has no photo identification and cannot understand English. However, the only consequence of the extra scrutiny will be that their bags are held off Flight 77 until it is confirmed that they have boarded it.
Employee Is Suspicious and Follows the Hijackers - After being checked in, Nawaf and Salem Alhazmi proceed to a security screening checkpoint (see 7:36 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 3; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 27-28; Leshan 9/12/2016) They no longer have their suitcases with them when they leave the ticket counter. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/19/2001) Allex is still uncomfortable with the two men and follows them for a few steps. He stops himself, though, as he is concerned that his suspicion may be racially motivated. (CNN 9/8/2012) The name of Nawaf Alhazmi was recently added to a terrorism watch list (see August 23, 2001). (Associated Press 7/22/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 270) An employee at Dulles Airport will recall encountering him and four other Middle Eastern men as they tried to get to a secure area of the airport the previous evening (see (Between 8:00 p.m. and 8:45 p.m.) September 10, 2001). (9/11 Commission 1/19/2004 pdf file; Trento and Trento 2006, pp. 2-6, 43-44)

An unnamed gate agent at Logan Airport in Boston calls Donald Bennett, the crew chief for Flight 11, and asks him if the two suitcases of a passenger who has just boarded the plane have arrived from US Airways. Bennett replies that the suitcases, which belong to lead 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta, have arrived, but Flight 11’s baggage compartment has already been locked for departure, so they will not be loaded. Atta flew from Portland to Boston on a Colgan Air flight operated for US Airways (see (6:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). American Airlines baggage expediter Philip Depasquale will later claim that bags from US Airways are always late, and so this problem is a common occurrence. The luggage is turned over to Depasquale to have it sent to Los Angeles on another flight. According to Salvatore Misuraca, a ramp service manager for American Airlines at Logan Airport, gate agents do not usually call about a bag unless the passenger that owns it has specifically asked about it, to ensure that their bags have been put on their flight. Atta’s luggage will remain at Logan Airport and be found after the attacks, revealing important clues (see September 11-13, 2001). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/17/2001; 9/11 Commission 2/10/2004)

Hani Hanjour, one of the men who will allegedly hijack Flight 77, checks in at the American Airlines ticket counter at Washington’s Dulles International Airport. He is flagged by CAPPS (the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 3) CAPPS is an automated system created to identify passengers who should be subjected to special security measures. Passengers selected by it have their baggage screened for explosives or held off the plane until they have boarded. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 1, 84; Trento and Trento 2006, pp. 12) The exact time when Hanjour checks in at the ticket counter is unclear. American Airlines will be unable to find information about his check-in time when the 9/11 Commission requests it. However, the 9/11 Commission will conclude, the check-in “had to have taken place between 7:25 a.m., when he may have parked the rental car in the airport parking lot, and 7:35 a.m., when he appears on the checkpoint videotape” (see 7:35 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 93)

Hani Hanjour passing through a security checkpoint at Dulles Airport.Hani Hanjour passing through a security checkpoint at Dulles Airport. [Source: FBI]Hani Hanjour, one of the men who will allegedly hijack Flight 77, passes through a security screening checkpoint at Washington’s Dulles International Airport without incident. He is screened at the west checkpoint in the airport’s main terminal. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 3; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 27) He has two carry-on bags with him: a small black suitcase and a black bag with a shoulder strap. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/19/2001) After entering the checkpoint, he places them on the X-ray belt and walks through the metal detector. He sets off no alarms and so, after picking up his bags, proceeds on his way. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 3; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 27) His carry-on bags are not physically inspected at the checkpoint. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/19/2001) Two of the other Flight 77 hijackers passed through the west checkpoint 17 minutes ago (see 7:18 a.m. September 11, 2001) and two more will go through it a minute later (see 7:36 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 3; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 27) The FAA’s Washington Civil Aviation Security Field Office will investigate the security screening at Dulles Airport today, and the screeners who were on duty will report having encountered no suspicious activity and nothing out of the ordinary this morning. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 3; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 93)

Salem (white shirt) and Nawaf Alhazmi (dark shirt) passing through security at Dulles Airport.Salem (white shirt) and Nawaf Alhazmi (dark shirt) passing through security at Dulles Airport. [Source: FBI]Brothers Nawaf Alhazmi and Salem Alhazmi, two of the men who will allegedly hijack Flight 77, go through a security screening checkpoint at Washington’s Dulles International Airport. They are screened at the west checkpoint in the airport’s main terminal. Both men have one carry-on bag. After entering the checkpoint, Salem Alhazmi walks through a metal detector without setting off the alarm and so is allowed to continue on his way. However, Nawaf Alhazmi sets off the alarm when he passes through it and so he has to walk through a second metal detector. He again sets off the alarm. He is therefore hand-wanded by a member of staff and has his carry-on bag swiped by an explosive trace detector. These checks apparently find no problems and so he is allowed to proceed on his way. Salem Alhazmi’s bag is not physically inspected while the two men are at the checkpoint, nor are the contents of Nawaf Alhazmi’s bag. Security camera footage will later reveal that Nawaf Alhazmi has an unidentified item clipped to the rim of the back pocket of his pants. One of the other Flight 77 hijackers passed through the west checkpoint a minute ago (see 7:35 a.m. September 11, 2001) and two more passed through it 17 minutes before that (see 7:18 a.m. September 11, 2001). The FAA’s Washington Civil Aviation Security Field Office will investigate the security screening at Dulles Airport today and the screeners who were on duty will recall having encountered no suspicious activity and nothing out of the ordinary this morning. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/19/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 3; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 27-28)

Many aircraft at Andrews Air Force Base, which is just a few miles outside Washington, DC, are taking part in training exercises. James Ampey, an FAA air traffic controller who is currently on duty in the control tower at the base, will later recall that there are “an unusually high number of aircraft taking off and landing at Andrews [this] morning, because previously scheduled military exercises [are] underway.” (9/11 Commission 7/28/2003 pdf file) It is unclear what specific exercises these aircraft are participating in, and the exact time period Ampey is referring to.
Militarized 747 Involved in 'Global Guardian' Exercise - According to journalist and author Dan Verton, around the time of the Pentagon attack, “civilian and military officials [are] boarding a militarized version of a Boeing 747, known as the E-4B National Airborne Operations Center (NAOC), at an airfield outside of the nation’s capital. They [are] preparing to conduct a previously scheduled Defense Department exercise” (see (9:27 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Verton 2003, pp. 143-144) This airfield is Andrews Air Force Base and the exercise being referred to is the US Strategic Command’s annual exercise, Global Guardian, for which three E-4Bs are launched (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001 and Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Dejka 2/27/2002; Kieschnick 9/7/2012 pdf file) Whether other aircraft that are taking off or landing at Andrews are participating in Global Guardian is unknown.
NORAD Exercise, 'Vigilant Guardian' - Another major exercise taking place this morning is called Vigilant Guardian. All of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is participating in it (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Seely 1/25/2002; Scott 6/3/2002) However, Andrews is not one of NORAD’s seven “alert” sites around the US. (McKenna 12/1999) And the 113th Wing of the District of Columbia Air National Guard, which is based at Andrews, is not part of the NORAD air defense force. (Scott 9/9/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 76) Furthermore, members of the 113th Wing have just returned from a major training exercise in Nevada (see Late August-September 8, 2001), and so, with only a few pilots and planes available, today is a “light flying day” for their unit. (9/11 Commission 3/11/2004 pdf file) Presumably the 113th Wing is therefore not currently participating in Vigilant Guardian or any other major exercises.
Numerous Units at Andrews - There are, however, many units at Andrews that may be participating in exercises. Among more than 60 separate organizations located at the base are units from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard. (DC Military (.com) 6/2001; GlobalSecurity (.org) 1/21/2006) These units include Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 321 (VMFA-321), which flies the F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet, and Naval Air Facility, Washington, DC, which has numerous aircraft available, including the F/A-18 Hornet. (DC Military (.com) 2/9/2001; DC Military (.com) 6/2001)
Andrews Units Respond to Attacks - DC Air National Guard fighters will later take off from Andrews to protect Washington in response to the morning’s attacks (see (10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001, 10:42 a.m. September 11, 2001, and 11:11 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Scott 9/9/2002) And a member of VMFA-321 calls NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) at around 9:50 a.m. to offer his unit’s assistance in response to the attacks (see (9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 188)

In the event of a hijacking, all airline pilots are trained to key an emergency four-digit code into their plane’s transponder. This would surreptitiously alert air traffic controllers, causing the letters “HJCK” to appear on their screens. (CNN 9/13/2001; Adcock 9/13/2001; Missing 8/3/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 17-18) The action, which pilots should take the moment a hijack situation is known, only takes seconds to perform. (Grier 9/12/2001; CNN 9/12/2001) Yet during the hijackings of flights 11, 175, 77, and 93, none of the pilots do this. (CNN 9/11/2001)

John Ogonowski.John Ogonowski. [Source: Associated Press]At some unknown point after the hijacking begins, Flight 11’s talkback button is activated, which enables Boston flight controllers to hear what is being said in the cockpit. It is unclear whether John Ogonowski, the pilot, activates the talkback button, or whether a hijacker accidentally does so when he takes over the cockpit. A controller later says, “The button [is] being pushed intermittently most of the way to New York.” An article later notes that “his ability to do so also indicates that he [is] in the driver’s seat much of the way” to the WTC. Such transmissions continue until about 8:38 a.m. (Clayton 9/13/2001; MSNBC 9/15/2001) However, Ogonowski fails to punch a four-digit emergency code into the plane’s transponder, which pilots are taught to do the moment a hijack situation is known (see (8:13 a.m.-9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Grier 9/12/2001; CNN 9/13/2001; Johnson 11/23/2001)

Pete Zalewski.Pete Zalewski. [Source: NBC]Because the talkback button on Flight 11 has been activated, Boston Center air traffic controllers can hear a hijacker on board say to the passengers: “We have some planes. Just stay quiet and you’ll be OK. We are returning to the airport.” (Johnson 11/23/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 19) Air traffic controller Pete Zalewski recognizes this as a foreign, Middle Eastern-sounding voice, but does not make out the specific words “we have some planes.” He responds, “Who’s trying to call me?” Seconds later, in the next transmission, the hijacker continues: “Nobody move. Everything will be OK. If you try to make any moves you’ll endanger yourself and the airplane. Just stay quiet.” (Wald and Sack 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004; MSNBC 9/9/2006) Bill Peacock, the FAA director of air traffic services, later claims, “We didn’t know where the transmission came from, what was said and who said it.” David Canoles, the FAA’s manager of air traffic evaluations and investigations, adds: “The broadcast wasn’t attributed to a flight. Nobody gave a flight number.” (Murray 9/11/2002) Similarly, an early FAA report will state that both these transmissions came from “an unknown origin.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file) Zalewski asks for an assistant to help listen to the transmissions coming from the plane, and puts its frequency on speakers so others at Boston Center can hear. Because Zalewski didn’t understand the initial hijacker communication from Flight 11, the manager of Boston Center instructs the center’s quality assurance specialist to “pull the tape” of the transmission, listen to it carefully, and then report back. They do this, and by about 9:03 a.m. a Boston manager will report having deciphered what was said in the first hijacker transmission (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004; MSNBC 9/9/2006) Fellow Boston controller Don Jeffroy also hears the tape of the hijacker transmissions, though he doesn’t state at what time. He says: “I heard exactly what Pete [Zalewski] heard. And we had to actually listen to it a couple of times just to make sure that we were hearing what we heard.” (MSNBC 9/11/2002) At some point, Ben Sliney, the national operations manager at the FAA’s Herndon Command Center, gets word of the “We have some planes” message, and later says the phrase haunts him all morning. American Airlines Executive Vice President for Operations Gerard Arpey is also informed of the “strange transmissions from Flight 11” at some point prior to when it crashes at 8:46 a.m. (Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002) Boston Center will receive a third transmission from Flight 11 about ten minutes later (see (8:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

A Sikorsky S-76A helicopter flying over New York.
A Sikorsky S-76A helicopter flying over New York. [Source: Sikorsky]A helicopter is tracked on radar apparently crashing into the World Trade Center, according to a report later given by a New York air traffic controller over an FAA teleconference.
Helicopter Is 'the Only Target that We Saw ... to Fly into the Trade Center' - At around 10:15 a.m., Tom White, an operations manager at the FAA’s New York Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON), will tell those on the FAA teleconference that his facility tracked a Sikorsky helicopter that had taken off from the airport in Poughkeepsie, New York, and this helicopter appeared to fly into the WTC at 8:27 a.m. (see (10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). White will add that, after replaying radar information, it is concluded that the helicopter is “the only target that we saw in the vicinity of the Trade Center at 12:27 [Zulu time, or 8:27 a.m. Eastern time] to fly into the Trade Center.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 5/21/2004) (However, the first crash at the WTC will not occur until 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 7) ) The “Poughkeepsie airport” the helicopter took off from is presumably Dutchess County Airport. Sikorsky reportedly bases a fleet of its S-76 helicopters at Dutchess County Airport, “dispatching them to the New York metro areas as needed.” (Venable 5/2000; Wagstaff 8/1/2003) Poughkeepsie is about 70 miles north of New York City. (Sherman 2/3/2008)
Helicopter 'Consistent with the Speed' of What Hits WTC - White will say the helicopter’s tail number is N7601S, that it departed the Poughkeepsie airport at 8:03 a.m., and that it then headed south at a speed of around 160 knots, or 184 miles per hour. He will add: “The tower [presumably the air traffic control tower at the Poughkeepsie airport] says the only thing they had southbound at that time was a Sikorsky helicopter, which is consistent with the speed that we followed it down.… They’re saying they replayed the radar and it’s consistent with the speed of what went into the [WTC] tower.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001) (However, an analysis by the US government will later estimate that Flight 11 hits the WTC at 494 miles per hour, or 429 knots, which is significantly faster than the helicopter was flying. (Lipton and Glanz 2/23/2002) )
Mistaken Information Later Corrected - It will apparently take until early afternoon for the suspicions about the Sikorsky helicopter hitting the WTC to be dismissed. An FAA chronology of this day’s events will state that at 1:00 p.m., the “Sikorsky helicopter” is “now believed not to have hit the WTC.” (Federal Aviation Administration 1/2/2002) Another FAA chronology will state that at 1:04 p.m., it is reported that the Sikorsky helicopter “landed 20 minutes early, normal GE run at 12:28Z [i.e. 8:28 a.m. Eastern time] to WTC.” (It is unclear what is meant by “normal GE run.”) (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001)

Steve Bongardt.Steve Bongardt. [Source: Government Matters]Steve Bongardt, an agent at an FBI office in Manhattan, reads a report on his computer about Osama bin Laden reopening his underground facility in Afghanistan and he will subsequently determine that this incident is related to the attacks on the World Trade Center. (Wright 2006, pp. 356-357; Graff 2011, pp. 309-310) Bongardt is a member of the FBI’s I-49 squad. (Wright 2006, pp. 377) The squad is focused on bin Laden and al-Qaeda’s central command. It is based in an office on the eighth floor at 290 Broadway, across the street from the FBI’s New York field office at 26 Federal Plaza. (Graff 2011, pp. 205-206) Bongardt is one of the first people to arrive at the office this morning, coming into work sometime before 8:30 a.m. He turns on his computer and reads some of the day’s intelligence. He is puzzled by one particular piece of information he sees. “A report had Osama bin Laden reopening his large underground facility at Tora Bora in Afghanistan and sprucing it up,” journalist and author Garrett Graff will write. According to author Lawrence Wright, the report states that “the al-Qaeda camps in Tora Bora [are] being revitalized.” (Wright 2006, pp. 356-357; Graff 2011, pp. 309) The Tora Bora encampment is a “natural and manmade fortress of caves and bunkers,” according to the Chicago Tribune. It comprises a “series of rooms and tunnels,” and can “comfortably house 1,000 people,” according to an Afghan who visited the complex a few months ago. (Diamond and Lev 11/28/2001) “That can’t be good,” Bongardt thinks upon reading the report. “What the hell is [bin Laden] doing?” he wonders. Bongardt will feel the room shake when Flight 11 crashes into the WTC, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), and promptly head out of the building. He will realize what has happened when he sees that both of the Twin Towers are on fire and notices a massive jetliner engine lying on the street. He will then connect what is occurring to the report he read on his computer. He will understand that “this was the work of bin Laden,” according to Wright. “This is al-Qaeda. This is why they’re polishing up Tora Bora,” he will think. (Wright 2006, pp. 357-359; Graff 2011, pp. 309-310)

Kirk Lippold.Kirk Lippold. [Source: CNN]At the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, three senior CIA officers—John Russack, Don Kerr, and Charlie Allen—are having breakfast with Navy Commander Kirk Lippold. Lippold was the commanding officer of the USS Cole when it was attacked in Yemen the previous year (see October 12, 2000). The men’s discussion is focused on terrorism. Lippold is upset that the American public still does not recognize the threat it poses, and says that it will take a “seminal event” to awaken them to the problem. Following the breakfast, Lippold heads to the Counterterrorist Center at CIA headquarters for some briefings. Just minutes later, after the WTC is hit, Charlie Allen will contact Lippold and tell him, “The seminal event just happened.” (Tenet 2007, pp. 162-163)

Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, calls the FAA’s New York Center but is quickly cut off when the air traffic controller who answers says the center is busy dealing with a hijacking. According to author Lynn Spencer, Scoggins “calls New York Center to notify them that American 11 appears to be descending toward New York, most likely to land at JFK” International Airport. But the controller who takes the call snaps at him: “We’re too busy to talk. We’re working a hijack,” and then hangs up. According to Spencer, the New York Center controller is referring to Flight 175, but “Scoggins just figures that he’s talking about American 11. He has no idea that a second airliner is in crisis.” However, the timing of this call is unclear. If it is made while Flight 11 is descending toward New York, this would mean it occurs in the minutes before 8:46, when Flight 11 crashes (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). But in Spencer’s account, the call is made just after New York Center controller Dave Bottiglia notices that Flight 175’s transponder code has changed and he calls out to another controller, “I can’t get a hold of UAL 175 at all right now and I don’t know where he went to” (see 8:51 a.m.-8:53 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 48-49) The transcript of radio communications between the New York Center and Flight 175 shows that this would mean Scoggins’s call occurs around 8:53 a.m.-8:54 a.m., about seven minutes after Flight 11 crashes. (New York Times 10/16/2001)

Employees at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina, lose communication with Betty Ong, a flight attendant on the hijacked Flight 11. (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 20-22; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 5-6)
Ong Stops Responding to Questions - For about the last 25 minutes, Ong has been on the phone with a number of employees at the reservations office, and has been providing them with information about the trouble on her plane. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 8) But now she stops responding to their communications. Nydia Gonzalez, one of the reservations office employees, continues questioning Ong. She says: “What’s going on Betty? Betty, talk to me. Betty, are you there? Betty?” Receiving no response, she asks her colleague Winston Sadler, who is also participating in the call, “Do you think we lost her?” On another phone line, Gonzalez immediately notifies a manager at the American Airlines System Operations Control center in Texas that contact with Ong has been lost (see 8:44 a.m. September 11, 2001). (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 20-22; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 14)
Ong Asked Airline Employees to 'Pray for Us' - Toward the end of the call, Ong said repeatedly to the reservations office employees: “Pray for us. Pray for us.” (ABC News 7/18/2002) Gonzalez will say in an interview later today that Ong’s final words, before the call ends, were, “Oh my God, the flight, it’s going down, it’s going down.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001, pp. 1-8) But in a subsequent interview, she will say that before the call ends, Ong “started to cry” and then her final words were, “Oh God, oh God, what is going on?” (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001, pp. 69-71) The reservations office employees have lost communication with Ong by 8:44 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission Report. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 6) But according to a summary of phone calls from the hijacked flights presented at the 2006 trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the call from Ong began at 8:18 a.m. and 47 seconds, and lasts exactly 27 minutes, meaning it ends at 8:45 a.m. and 47 seconds. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006) Flight 11 will crash into the World Trade Center less than a minute after that, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 7)

Amy Sweeney, a flight attendant on Flight 11, gives updates over the phone to Michael Woodward, an American Airlines flight services manager at Logan International Airport in Boston, as her plane approaches the World Trade Center, and then, after she reports that the plane is flying “very, very low,” the line goes dead. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/13/2001, pp. 1-2; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 6-7) Sweeney has been on the phone with the American Airlines flight services office at Logan Airport since 8:32 a.m., describing to Woodward the trouble on her plane (see (8:32 a.m.-8:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 11)
Sweeney Says Plane Is 'in a Rapid Descent' - She now tells Woodward: “Something is wrong. We are in a rapid descent.” She says her plane is flying “all over the place.” (9/11 Commission 1/25/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 14) Around this time, Woodward tells Nancy Wyatt, another employee in the flight services office, that Sweeney has “started screaming that there’s something wrong with the airplane.” He adds: “In other words… [the original pilot is] not flying the airplane. They’re not flying the airplane.” (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 34-41)
Sweeney Says Plane Is Flying 'Very Low' - Woodward asks Sweeney to look out of the window to see if she can determine where her plane is. (9/11 Commission 1/25/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 14) In an interview with the FBI a couple of days later, Woodward will say that Sweeney tells him: “I see water. I see buildings. We’re very, very low. Oh my God.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/13/2001, pp. 1-2) In 2004, he will give a slightly different account, telling the 9/11 Commission that Sweeney says: “We are flying low. We are flying very, very low. We are flying way too low.” Seconds later she says, “Oh my God, we are way too low.” (9/11 Commission 1/25/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 14) Sweeney says “Oh my God” after taking “a very slow, deep breath,” Woodward will tell ABC News. She says these final words “[v]ery slowly, very calmly, very quietly. It wasn’t in panic,” Woodward will say.
Call Suddenly Cut Off - Woodward then hears what he will describe as “very, very loud static on the other end” of the line. (ABC News 7/18/2002) After a short time, the line goes dead. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/13/2001, pp. 1-2) Woodward looks up from the phone and tells everyone else in the office that the line has died. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/13/2001, pp. 3-4) Wyatt is on the phone with Ray Howland, an employee at the American Airlines System Operations Control center in Fort Worth, Texas, and has been passing on to him the information that Sweeney was providing to Woodward (see 8:40 a.m.-8:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). She now informs Howland, “Okay, we just lost connection” with Sweeney. (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 34-41; et al. 9/7/2011, pp. 14 pdf file)
Flight Services Office Personnel Learn of Crash at WTC - Shortly after Sweeney’s call is cut off, Woodward’s operational manager, Craig Kopetz, will enter the flight services office and say that a plane has just crashed into the WTC. Woodward will not initially connect this news with the crisis he has been dealing with. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/13/2001, pp. 1-2; ABC News 7/18/2002) Those in the flight services office will then go to their command center. “Approximately 15 minutes later,” according to Elizabeth Williams, one of Woodward’s colleagues, the group will realize that “Flight 11 was the same flight which crashed into the WTC.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/13/2001, pp. 3-4) The call between Sweeney and Woodward lasts “approximately 12 minutes” and ends at around 8:44 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission. (9/11 Commission 2004, pp. 4; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 11, 14) But according to a summary of phone calls from the hijacked flights presented at the 2006 trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the call began at 8:32 a.m. and 39 seconds, and lasts 13 minutes and 13 seconds, meaning it ends at 8:45 a.m. and 52 seconds. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006) Flight 11 crashes into the WTC less than a minute later, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 7)

The US Strategic Command command center.The US Strategic Command command center. [Source: US Strategic Command]At the time the attacks in New York occur, a small group of business leaders are having breakfast at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska, where the US Strategic Command (Stratcom) is headquartered. With them is Admiral Richard Mies, the commander in chief of Stratcom. They are in town for an annual charity fundraiser event due to take place later in the day, hosted by the multi-billionaire Warren Buffett. Along with other visitors who have come for the fundraiser, they are scheduled to tour the Stratcom underground command center, located 60 feet below Offutt, and receive an unclassified mission briefing. According to the Omaha World-Herald, staff members have left the command center in advance of their visit. It is only after the second attack occurs, at 9:03, that Admiral Mies excuses himself from the breakfast and the battle staff reconvenes in the center. (Leuty 2/1/2002; Dejka 2/27/2002) It is unclear what effect the absence of Mies and the members of the battle staff have upon the military’s ability to respond effectively to the first attacks. However, the command center does have significant capabilities that would, presumably, be of much use under such a crisis. Stratcom is the military command responsible for the readiness of America’s nuclear forces. (Arkin 2005, pp. 59) The Lincoln Journal Star describes its underground command center as “a military nerve center that collects and assesses information from high-tech ‘eyes and ears’ across—and above—the globe.” (Walton 10/25/2000) The cavernous room has eight giant video screens and complex communications systems. (Ruff 2/21/2002; Dejka 2/27/2002) Stratcom itself states that the senior controller in the command center “has a direct line to the National Military Command Center in Washington, DC, and to the other major command headquarters.” This system, called the Joint Chiefs of Staff Alerting Network, allows the commander in chief of Stratcom to make “prompt contact with the president, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other unified commanders.” Furthermore, “Through satellites and radio networks (VLF, LF, UHF and HF), the command center can communicate with aircraft in flight over any part of the world. A principal purpose of these networks is to pass National Command Authority [i.e. the president and secretary of defense] orders to the alert forces.” While only the president can order nuclear strikes, the commander in chief of Stratcom “can launch aircraft for survival.” (United States Strategic Command 6/22/2001) With the command center’s sophisticated capabilities, after Mies returns to it from his breakfast, the eight video screens there are “loaded up with data,” providing him with “the latest information on the unfolding drama.” (Dejka 2/27/2002) And at the time President Bush arrives at Offutt, later in the day (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001), the battle staff in the center will reportedly be “watching the skies over the United States” and “tracking a commercial airliner on its way from Spain to the United States.” (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002; Kohn 9/11/2002)

The hole caused by the Flight 11 crash.The hole caused by the Flight 11 crash. [Source: Reuters]Flight 11 slams into the WTC North Tower (Building 1). Hijackers Mohamed Atta Waleed Alshehri, Wail Alshehri, Abdulaziz Alomari, and Satam Al Suqami presumably are killed instantly, and many more in the tower will die over the next few hours. Seismic records pinpoint the crash at 26 seconds after 8:46 a.m. (CNN 9/12/2001; New York Times 9/12/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; Cauchon 12/20/2001; Federal Emergency Management Agency 5/1/2002, pp. 1-10; Dwyer et al. 5/26/2002; Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002; Associated Press 8/21/2002; Adcock 9/10/2002) The NIST report states the crash time to be 8:46:30. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 19) The 9/11 Commission Report states the crash time to be 8:46:40. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 7) Investigators believe the plane still has about 10,000 gallons of fuel (see 8:57 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Dwyer et al. 5/26/2002) The plane strikes the 93rd through 99th floors in the 110-story building. No one above the crash line survives; approximately 1,360 people die. Below the crash line, approximately 72 die and more than 4,000 survive. Both towers are slightly less than half full at the time of the attack, with between 5,000 to 7,000 people in each tower. This number is lower than expected. Many office workers have not yet shown up to work, and tourists to the observation deck opening at 9:30 A.M. have yet to arrive. (Cauchon 12/20/2001; National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 20-22) The impact severs some columns on the north side of the North Tower. Each tower is designed as a “tube-in-tube” structure and the steel columns which support its weight are arranged around the perimeter and in the core. The plane, which weighs 283,600 lb and is traveling at an estimated speed of around 430 mph (see October 2002-October 2005), severs 35 of the building’s 236 perimeter columns and damages another two. The damage to the South Tower’s perimeter will be similar (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 5-9, 20, 22) The perimeter columns bear about half of the tower’s weight, so this damage reduces its ability to bear gravity loads by about 7.5 percent. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 6) The actual damage to the 47 core columns is not known, as there are no photographs or videos of it, but there will be much speculation about this after 9/11. It will be suggested that some parts of the aircraft may have damaged the core even after crashing through the exterior wall. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST): “Moving at 500 mph, an engine broke any exterior column it hit. If the engine missed the floor slab, the majority of the engine core remained intact and had enough residual momentum to sever a core column upon direct impact.” (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 107) According to NIST’s base case computer model, three of the core columns are severed and another ten suffer some damage. (National Institute of Standards & Technology 9/2005, pp. 189 pdf file) If this is accurate, it means that the impact damage to the core reduces the Tower’s strength by another approximately 7.5 percent, meaning that the building loses about 15 percent of its strength in total. This damage will be cited after 9/11 by NIST and others researchers as an event contributing to the building’s collapse (see October 23, 2002 and October 19, 2004). In addition, some of the fireproofing on the steel columns and trusses may be dislodged. The original fireproofing on the fire floors was mostly Blazeshield DC/F, but some of the fireproofing on the flooring has recently been upgraded to Blazeshield II, which is about 20 percent denser and 20 percent more adhesive. (National Institute of Standards & Technology 9/2005, pp. xxxvi, 83 pdf file) Photographs and videos of the towers will not show the state of fireproofing inside the buildings, but NIST will estimate the damage to it using a computer model. Its severe case model (see (October 2002-October 2005)) will predict that 43 of the 47 core columns are stripped of their fireproofing on one or more floors and that fireproofing is stripped from trusses covering 60,000 ft2 of floor area, the equivalent of about one and a half floors. NIST will say that the loss of fireproofing is a major cause of the collapse (see April 5, 2005), but only performs 15 tests on fireproofing samples (see October 26, 2005). (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 23) According to NIST, more fireproofing is stripped from the South Tower (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Bruce Baughman.Bruce Baughman. [Source: Elise Moore / FEMA]Bruce Baughman, director of the planning and readiness division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), takes charge at FEMA headquarters in Washington, DC, because more senior FEMA officials, including the agency’s director, are away from the capital. FEMA Director Joseph Allbaugh and Lacy Suiter, FEMA’s assistant director of readiness, response, and recovery, are in Big Sky, Montana, attending the annual conference of the National Emergency Management Association (see September 8-11, 2001 and After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). Baughman, who led FEMA’s response to the Oklahoma City bombing in April 1995 (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), therefore has to take charge of FEMA’s response to today’s terrorist attacks. In this capacity, he is responsible for activating FEMA’s emergency operations center, dispatching disaster medical personnel to the scenes of the attacks, and establishing emergency communications for New York. After the Twin Towers come down (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001), he calls up the first FEMA urban search and rescue teams, which specialize in rescuing people from collapsed structures. (Block and Cooper 2006, pp. 73-75) He will subsequently personally brief President Bush on three days while response operations are underway. (9/11 Commission 11/17/2003 pdf file)
FEMA Will Help Local Agencies Respond to the Attacks - In May, Bush put FEMA in charge of responding to terrorist attacks in the United States (see May 8, 2001). (White House 5/8/2001; Gerstenzang 5/9/2001) The agency therefore plays a key role in the government’s response to today’s attacks. The emergency response team at its headquarters is activated today, along with all 10 of its regional operations centers. It also activates its federal response plan, which, it states, “brings together 28 federal agencies and the American Red Cross to assist local and state governments in response to national emergencies and disasters.” It deploys eight urban search and rescue teams to New York to search for victims in the debris from the collapsed World Trade Center buildings, and four urban search and rescue teams to the Pentagon to assist the response there. These teams consist mainly of local emergency services personnel, and are trained and equipped to handle structural collapses. (Federal Emergency Management Agency 9/11/2001; Federal Emergency Management Agency 9/11/2001; US National Response Team 2014, pp. 2 pdf file) In the days and weeks following the attacks, it will work with state and city officials to carry out the task of removing the debris from the WTC site. (Block and Cooper 2006, pp. 75)

Within the headquarters of the National Security Agency (NSA) in Fort Meade, Maryland is a little-known unit called the Defense Special Missile and Astronautics Center (DEFSMAC). According to author James Bamford, who is an expert on the NSA, the center’s purpose is “to serve as the nation’s chief warning bell for a planned attack on America. It serves as the focal point for ‘all-source’ intelligence—listening posts, early-warning satellites, human agents, and seismic detectors.” According to one former NSA official, DEFSMAC “has all the inputs from all the assets, and is a warning activity. They probably have a better feel for any worldwide threat to this country from missiles, aircraft, or overt military activities, better and more timely, at instant fingertip availability, than any group in the United States.” If they received indications that an attack was imminent, DEFSMAC officials could “immediately send out near-real-time and in-depth, all-source intelligence alerts to almost 200 ‘customers,’ including the White House Situation Room, the National Military Command Center at the Pentagon, the [Defense Intelligence Agency] Alert Center, and listening posts around the world.” Its analysts could be “closely monitoring all intercepts flooding in; examining the latest overhead photography; and analyzing data from early-warning satellites 22,300 miles above the equator. DEFSMAC would then flash the intelligence to the US Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, NORAD at Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado, and other emergency command centers.” But on this morning, as Bamford will conclude, “DEFSMAC learned of the massive airborne attacks after the fact—not from America’s multibillion-dollar spy satellites or its worldwide network of advanced listening posts, or its army of human spies, but from a dusty, off-the-shelf TV set.” (Bamford 2004, pp. 33-35) The NSA had in fact intercepted numerous calls between some of the hijackers in the US and an al-Qaeda communications hub in Yemen, beginning in early 2000 and ending just weeks before 9/11 (see Early 2000-Summer 2001). (Myers 7/21/2004) It also intercepted two messages in Arabic on September 10, stating, “The match is about to begin,” and “Tomorrow is zero hour,” but these are supposedly not translated until September 12 (see September 10, 2001). (Pincus and Priest 6/20/2002) The NSA even intercepted a series of communications between 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) and lead 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta beginning in the summer of 2001 (see Summer 2001), continuing to a message where KSM gives Atta the final go-ahead for the attacks on September 10, 2001 (see September 10, 2001). Michael Hayden, the director of the NSA, will later claim that the “NSA had no [indications] that al-Qaeda was specifically targeting New York and Washington… or even that it was planning an attack on US soil” (see October 17, 2002). (Harris 6/19/2006)

Michael Rolince.Michael Rolince. [Source: US Army]FBI Director Robert Mueller is alerted to the crash at the World Trade Center during his daily briefing with his senior staff, but he does not initially realize the incident is a terrorist attack. Every morning since Mueller took over as FBI director, just one week ago (see September 4, 2001), the bureau’s leaders have gathered to bring him up to date on their most important investigations. (New Yorker 9/24/2001; Graff 2011, pp. 314-315) The briefing today is taking place in the Strategic Information and Operations Center (SIOC), on the fifth floor of the FBI’s headquarters in Washington, DC. (9/11 Commission 1/21/2004 pdf file) All of the bureau’s assistant directors are in attendance. (New Yorker 9/24/2001) This morning, the counterterrorism team, headed by Michael Rolince, is giving a presentation on the investigation of the bombing of the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen, in October 2000 (see October 12, 2000). (Graff 2011, pp. 314-315) Meanwhile, FBI Deputy Director Thomas Pickard, who is in his office at the headquarters, is alerted to what happened in New York by his secretary, who comes in and tells him a plane has just hit the WTC. He turns on the television and sees the coverage of the incident. He then calls Mueller’s secretary and instructs them to get the director out of the SIOC so Mueller can join him in his office. (9/11 Commission 1/21/2004 pdf file) Someone, presumably the secretary, therefore interrupts the briefing in the SIOC and tells its participants about the crash in New York. Mueller apparently does not initially realize a terrorist attack has occurred. “How could a plane not see the tower? It’s so clear out today,” he says. (Graff 2011, pp. 315) He heads to Pickard’s office and enters it at around 9:00 a.m. (9/11 Commission 1/21/2004 pdf file) Some of the other officials at the briefing will subsequently also head to Pickard’s office and they will see the second crash on television there (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (New Yorker 9/24/2001; Graff 2011, pp. 315)

A Longboat Key resident has a strange encounter with some Middle Eastern men. He is standing on the Sarasota bay front, waiting for President Bush’s motorcade to go by on its way to the Booker Elementary School. He sees a dilapidated van passing by, with two Middle Eastern men “screaming out the windows, ‘Down with Bush’ and raising their fists in the air.” This would be around the time when reports of the first WTC crash are first being broadcast (see 8:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). The man will later report this incident to the police and then be questioned by the FBI about it. Several hours earlier, some Middle Eastern men had pulled up in a van at the resort where Bush was staying, falsely claiming to have an interview with him (see (Before 6:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). It is unknown whether these were the same men as were seen on the Sarasota bay front. (Sullivan 9/26/2001)

A typical F-15.A typical F-15. [Source: US Air Force]Radar data will show that the two F-15s scrambled from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, are airborne by this time. (Graham 9/15/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20) It is now eight minutes since the mission crew commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) ordered that the jets be launched (see 8:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Bronner 8/1/2006) It is 40 minutes since air traffic controllers had their last communication with Flight 11 (see 8:13 a.m. September 11, 2001), and 28 minutes since they became certain that the aircraft was hijacked (see (8:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center seven minutes ago (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 7, 19 and 459)
Commander Wants Fighters Sent to New York - In Rome, New York, NEADS has just received news of the plane hitting the WTC (see 8:51 a.m. September 11, 2001). Major Kevin Nasypany, the facility’s mission crew commander, is asked what to do with the Otis fighters. He responds: “Send ‘em to New York City still. Continue! Go! This is what I got. Possible news that a 737 just hit the World Trade Center. This is a real-world.… Continue taking the fighters down to the New York City area, JFK [International Airport] area, if you can. Make sure that the FAA clears it—your route all the way through.… Let’s press with this.” (Bronner 8/1/2006) Yet there will be conflicting reports of the fighters’ destination (see (8:53 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001), with some accounts saying they are directed toward military-controlled airspace off the Long Island coast. (Filson 2003, pp. 56-59; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004)

An air traffic controller at the FAA’s Boston Center directs the two fighter jets that took off from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to the hijacked Flight 11 toward a new heading, based on instructions he has just received from NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS).
NEADS Gave New Heading for Fighters - The Boston Center controller, who is working at the Cape Sector radar position, has just been contacted by someone from NEADS. The caller from NEADS, referring to the two fighters from Otis Air Base, said, “The heading that we gave him on, I guess, is a bad heading.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 2004) (The original flight strip for the fighters gave a destination of New York’s JFK International Airport. (9/11 Commission 9/22/2003 pdf file) ) The caller said the fighters’ target was “now south of JFK,” and added, “Can you direct the Panta flight [i.e. the two Otis fighters] towards that now?” The controller replied: “If I’m talking to him, I don’t know where that target [is]. I don’t even see the target at all.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001) The “target,” Flight 11, crashed into the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 7) However, the caller explained that NEADS had just talked to Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the Boston Center, and Scoggins said the target was “south of JFK now.” The caller therefore reiterated, “We want to get [the Otis fighters] headed in that direction.” The controller confirmed, “I’ll do that.”
Controller Passes on New Heading to Pilot - Seconds later, Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, one of the pilots of the two fighters out of Otis Air Base, checks in with the Boston Center controller. Duffy says, “Boston Center, Panta 45 with you out of 13-5 for 290.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 2004) (“Panta 45” is Duffy’s call sign. (Spencer 2008, pp. 113) ) The controller tells Duffy, “Panta 45, roger, fly heading of 260.” Duffy confirms the new heading. The controller then instructs, “Maintain block 290.” Duffy confirms, “Six zero on the heading, climbing to flight level [of] 290.” The controller will then tell Duffy that Flight 11 has crashed into the WTC (see 8:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001)

One of the two fighter pilots who took off in response to the hijacked Flight 11 is told by air traffic control that Flight 11 has crashed into the World Trade Center, and yet both pilots will later claim they are unaware of this crash until after 9:03 a.m., when Flight 175 hits the WTC. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; Dennehy 8/21/2002; ABC News 9/11/2002; Nash 10/2/2002; Duffy 10/22/2002; 9/11 Commission 2004) Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy and Major Daniel Nash took off in their F-15s from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), but were unaware that at the same time, Flight 11 was crashing into the WTC (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 57; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20)
Controller Tells Pilot that Flight 11 Crashed into WTC - Duffy has just checked in with the air traffic controller at the FAA’s Boston Center who is working at the Cape Sector radar position, and the controller has given him a new heading to fly toward (see 8:54 a.m.-8:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). The controller now asks Duffy, “I understand you’re going out to look for American 11, is that correct?” Duffy replies, “Affirmative.” The controller then tells Duffy that Flight 11 has crashed. He says, “Okay, I just got information that the aircraft has been, uh, crashed into the World Trade Center, so I’m not quite sure what your intentions are, if you’re still going to head that way or you may want to talk to your operations.” Duffy responds, “Okay, we’re going to go over and talk to Huntress right now.” (“Huntress” is the call sign for NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector, NEADS.) (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 2004) Although Duffy contacts NEADS (see (8:56 a.m.-8:57 a.m.) September 11, 2001), it is unclear whether he talks about the crash, as he indicates he is going to, since, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, “there are no NEADS recordings available of the NEADS senior weapons director and weapons director technician position responsible for controlling the Otis [Air National Guard Base] scramble” (see (8:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 1/7/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 459) It is also unclear whether Duffy passes on the information about Flight 11 hitting the WTC to Nash. But in later interviews, both pilots will claim they were unaware of Flight 11 hitting the WTC until they were informed that a second aircraft had hit the WTC, shortly after that second crash occurred (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:06 a.m.-9:07 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2004; Spencer 2008, pp. 84)
Pilots Deny Learning of First Crash - The Cape Cod Times will report that Nash “doesn’t even recall hearing that the first plane hit.” (Dennehy 8/21/2002) Nash will tell author Leslie Filson that when he and Duffy are informed of the second plane hitting the WTC, they are “still under [the] impression [that] American 11 was still airborne” and are “shocked, because we didn’t know the first one had even hit.” (Nash 10/2/2002) And Nash will tell the 9/11 Commission that he “does not remember at which point during the morning of 9/11 he heard of the first crash at the WTC.” He will say he does “remember that the FAA controller he communicated with during flight told him of the second crash,” but add that “this was strange to hear at the time, since he had not been told of the first.” (9/11 Commission 10/14/2003 pdf file) Duffy will tell ABC News that when he is informed of the second crash, “I thought we were still chasing American 11.” (ABC News 9/11/2002) He will tell Filson that when he learns of this second crash, “I didn’t know [the] first one hit” the WTC. (Duffy 10/22/2002) And he will tell the 9/11 Commission that when he “received word that a second aircraft had hit the WTC,” he “still thought they were responding to a hijacked American [Airlines] airliner.” (9/11 Commission 1/7/2004 pdf file)

Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, one of the two fighter pilots who took off in response to the hijacked Flight 11, contacts NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) to request information on his target, but apparently neither Duffy nor the person he speaks with at NEADS mention that Flight 11 has already hit the World Trade Center during the call, even though both men should already be aware of the crash. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; Duffy 10/22/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 60; 9/11 Commission 1/7/2004 pdf file) Duffy and another pilot, Major Daniel Nash, took off from Otis Air National Guard Base at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), but they were unaware that at the same time, Flight 11 was crashing into the WTC (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 57; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20) Duffy has just spoken to an air traffic controller at the FAA’s Boston Center (see 8:54 a.m.-8:55 a.m. September 11, 2001) and ended the call saying he would talk to NEADS “right now.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001) Duffy will later recall that he contacts NEADS at about 8:56 a.m. or 8:57 a.m. (9/11 Commission 1/7/2004 pdf file)
Duffy Told His Target Is over JFK Airport - Duffy presumably talks with Steve Hedrick at NEADS, since Hedrick is responsible for controlling the two Otis fighters. (9/11 Commission 10/27/2003 pdf file) As soon as he has checked in with NEADS, Duffy will recall, “I authenticate to make sure I’ve got the right person.” He then asks for “bogey dope,” meaning information on his target—Flight 11—“to try to find out where the contact is.” (Duffy 10/22/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 60) Duffy is told, incorrectly, that his target is over New York’s JFK International Airport. Duffy replies, “Okay, I know where that is,” and then, he will recall, “we started heading right down to Long Island.” (Scott 6/3/2002; ABC News 9/11/2002)
WTC Crash Apparently Not Discussed - However, it appears that neither Duffy nor the person he speaks with at NEADS mention the plane crash at the WTC during their conversation. Duffy will say that when he is subsequently informed that a second plane has hit the WTC (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:06 a.m.-9:07 a.m. September 11, 2001), he is unaware that Flight 11 has already hit the WTC. (ABC News 9/11/2002; Duffy 10/22/2002; 9/11 Commission 1/7/2004 pdf file) And yet Duffy and personnel at NEADS have already been informed of that first crash.
Pilot and NEADS Previously Notified of Crash - Duffy has just been told of the crash during his conversation with the Boston Center controller (see 8:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001) NEADS personnel learned of it at 8:51 a.m. (see 8:51 a.m. September 11, 2001), although there is now some confusion on the NEADS operations floor over whether the plane that crashed was indeed Flight 11 (see 8:55 a.m.-8:57 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20; Bronner 8/1/2006) It will later be impossible to ascertain exactly what is said in the current conversation between Duffy and NEADS. Although tape recorders should be recording every radio channel at NEADS, because of a “technical issue,” the positions of Hedrick and his weapons director technician, Bradley Gardner, are supposedly not recorded (see (8:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 5/25/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 459; Bronner 8/1/2006)
Duffy Searches for Flight 11 on Radar Scope - Duffy will recall that following the call with NEADS, he is looking at his radar scope “to try and find a radar contact over the Kennedy sector with the hijacked aircraft.” Duffy will again contact NEADS to request “bogey dope” a few minutes later, and during that call is informed of the second plane hitting the WTC. (Filson 2003, pp. 60; 9/11 Commission 1/7/2004 pdf file)

The jet fuel that spilled from Flight 11 when it hit the North Tower (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) has mostly burned up by this time. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which investigates the collapses, will say “The initial jet fuel fires themselves lasted at most a few minutes.” (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 183) Engineering professor Forman Williams will say the jet fuel “burned for maybe 10 minutes.” (Chertoff et al. 3/2005) Flight 11, a Boeing 767, had a fuel capacity of 23,980 gallons, but was only carrying about 10,000 gallons when it hit the WTC. NIST will estimate that less than 1,500 gallons were consumed in a fireball inside the tower and a comparable amount was consumed in the fireballs outside the building. Therefore, approximately 7,000 gallons splashed onto the office furnishings and started fires on various floors. However, after the jet fuel is used up, office fires burn until the building collapses. NIST will calculate that there were about four pounds per square foot of combustibles in the office space, or about 60 tons per floor. Offices in the WTC actually have fewer combustibles than some other similar spaces due to the small number of interior walls and limited bookshelf space. NIST will later find that only three of sixteen perimeter columns it recovers reached a temperature of 250°C and neither of the two core columns it retrieves reached this temperature. NIST will also find that none of the samples it acquires reaches a temperature above 600°C (see August 27, 2003). Although steel does not melt until its temperature is about 1,600°C, it may begin to lose significant strength at over 500°C. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 20, 29, 24, 77) The jet fuel will also burn up in the South Tower about 10 minutes after it is hit (see 9:13 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Admiral Richard Mies.
Admiral Richard Mies. [Source: Public domain]Offutt Air Force Base, near Omaha, Nebraska, appears to be the headquarters of the US Strategic Command (Stratcom) exercise Global Guardian that is “in full swing” when the 9/11 attacks begin (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). At least the director of the exercise, Admiral Richard Mies, commander in chief of Stratcom, is at Offutt this morning. Because of Global Guardian, bombers, missile crews, and submarines around America are all being directed from Stratcom’s command center, a steel and concrete reinforced bunker below Offutt. (Arkin 11/12/1997; Ruff 2/21/2002; Dejka 2/27/2002; BBC 9/1/2002; Buttry 9/10/2002) This bunker is staffed with top personnel and they are at a heightened security mode because of the exercise. (Ruff 2/21/2002; Bjorkman 7/2002 pdf file)
'Doomsday' Planes Airborne for Exercise - Because of Global Guardian, three special military command aircraft with sophisticated communications equipment, based at Offutt, are up in the air this morning (see (9:27 a.m.) September 11, 2001, Shortly After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001, and (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). These E-4B National Airborne Operations Center planes—nicknamed “Doomsday” planes during the Cold War—are intended to control nuclear forces from the air in times of crisis. They are capable of acting as alternative command posts for top government officials from where they can direct US forces, execute war orders, and coordinate the actions of civil authorities in times of national emergency. The federal advisory committee, whose chairman is retired Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft, is aboard one of these Doomsday planes, being brought to Offutt to observe the exercise (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Global Guardian will reportedly be put on pause at 9:11 a.m. (see 9:11 a.m. September 11, 2001), but not formally terminated until 10:44 a.m. (see (10:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and the battle staff at Offutt will switch to “real-world mode” once the attacks are apparent. However, even after Global Guardian is called off, the three E-4Bs will remain airborne. Also this morning, a small group of business leaders are at Offutt because of a charity fundraiser event due to take place later in the day, hosted by the multi-billionaire Warren Buffett (see (8:45 a.m.-9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Dejka 2/27/2002; Bjorkman 7/2002 pdf file; BBC 9/1/2002; Dejka 9/8/2002; Bombardier 9/8/2006 pdf file)

Timothy Keating.Timothy Keating. [Source: Department of Defense]Admiral Timothy Keating, the Navy’s director of operations in the Pentagon, is back in his fourth-floor office for a 9:00 a.m. meeting with Edmund James Hull, the US ambassador-designate to Yemen. Keating has just returned from the Navy Command Center on the Pentagon’s first floor, where he’d received his daily briefing, and where he’d seen the television reports of the first crash at the World Trade Center (see (8:48 a.m.-9:02 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Despite seeing the second plane hitting the WTC on television, Keating and Hull reportedly do not question their own safety at the Pentagon. Though it is now obvious that the US is under attack, they start discussing the upcoming first anniversary of the terrorist attack on the USS Cole (see October 12, 2000). In 2002, Keating will recall, “We were discussing the fact that the Cole attack was coming up on a year’s anniversary—those were almost our exact words at the moment the plane impacted [the Pentagon],” which happens at 9:37 a.m. But in 2006, Keating will give a different account, telling Washington Post Radio that, after seeing the second crash on TV, he understands this is an attack. In response, he will claim, he makes some phone calls and is on his way back to the Navy Command Center when the Pentagon is hit. (Peterson 1/2002; Hull 10/2005; Goldberg 9/2006 pdf file; Garamone 9/11/2006) The Command Center will be mostly destroyed in the attack, and 42 of the 50 people working in it will be killed. (Leiby 1/20/2002; Kennedy 6/2003)

An announcement is made over the public address system in the South Tower of the World Trade Center, advising workers that they can begin an orderly evacuation of the building if conditions warrant it. (Dwyer 5/17/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 289) A previous announcement over the public address system instructed people in the South Tower to stay in, or return to, their offices, rather than evacuate (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 287-288; Dwyer and Flynn 2005, pp. 72) The new announcement begins: “May I have your attention, please. Repeating this message: the situation occurred in Building 1 [i.e. the North Tower].” The announcer then says, “If the conditions warrant on your floor, you may wish to start an orderly evacuation.” (Dwyer 5/17/2004) The announcement is presumably made by Philip Hayes, the deputy fire safety director on duty at the fire command desk in the lobby of the South Tower. A button at the desk enables fire safety directors to deliver announcements over the public address system. (Dwyer and Flynn 2005, pp. 26)
Identity of Person Who Ordered Evacuation Unclear - The new advice, for tenants to evacuate, does “not correspond to any prewritten emergency instruction,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 289) It is unclear who told Hayes to make the announcement giving this advice. George Tabeek, the Port Authority’s security manager for the WTC, contacted the fire command desks in the Twin Towers immediately after Flight 11 hit the North Tower, with instructions about what to do. His orders for Hayes, however, were to “keep people inside the South Tower” (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Grant 9/6/2011)
Police Commander Called for Evacuation of WTC - Captain Anthony Whitaker, the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) commanding officer at the WTC, called for the evacuation of the WTC at 9:00 a.m. (see 8:59 a.m.-9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001). However, his instruction was given over PAPD radio channel W, “which could not be heard by the deputy fire safety director in the South Tower,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report. (Murphy 2002, pp. 184-185; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 293; National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 201) Furthermore, according to the Port Authority, deputy fire safety directors do not generally take direct orders from the PAPD under the regular chain of command. Therefore, the 9/11 Commission Report will state, it is “not known if [Hayes] received the order by the PAPD to evacuate the complex.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 544)
Fire Department Responsible for Ordering Evacuations - According to New York Times reporters Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn, “The authority to order an evacuation during a fire normally rests with the fire department.” (Dwyer and Flynn 2005, pp. 79) In a phone call with his counterpart in the North Tower, at 8:49 a.m., Hayes in fact said he would wait to hear from “the boss from the fire department or somebody” before ordering an evacuation of the South Tower (see 8:49 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Port Authority of New York and New Jersey 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 287; Dwyer and Flynn 2005, pp. 27) But whether someone from the fire department told Hayes to order an evacuation is unknown. It is also unclear how long announcements, advising an evacuation, continue for. Hayes and his counterpart in the North Tower are “making announcements that the situation was serious and that occupants should evacuate immediately” for “[a]s long as the [fire alarm system] was still operational,” according to Fire Engineering magazine. (Murphy 11/1/2002) However, the 9/11 Commission Report will state, “Evidence suggests that the public address system [in the South Tower] did not continue to function after the building was hit.” This would mean no announcements go out after 9:03 a.m., when Flight 175 hits the tower (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 295) By the time the South Tower collapses (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001), out of around 8,540 people who were originally in the building, 7,940 (93 percent) have made it out and will survive, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005)

The NORAD headquarters building at Peterson Air Force Base.The NORAD headquarters building at Peterson Air Force Base. [Source: US Air Force]General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD, realizes the US is under attack after he sees Flight 175 crashing into the World Trade Center on television and then considers whether he should go to NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC). Eberhart was at his home in Colorado when he learned about the hijacking of Flight 11 and then went to his office at NORAD’s headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs (see (8:45 a.m.-9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). In his office, he sees the second hijacked plane, Flight 175, crashing into the WTC live on television at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). He is unaware that a second aircraft has been hijacked, but realizes immediately that a coordinated terrorist attack is taking place. Right away, he tries to contact General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but is unable to do so, because Shelton is currently airborne, being flown to Hungary for a NATO conference (see 7:15 a.m. September 11, 2001). Eberhart then tries contacting General Richard Myers, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and is able to reach him on Capitol Hill, where he has been meeting Senator Max Cleland (D-GA) (see (9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Eberhart then focuses his attention on determining whether he should stay at NORAD headquarters or go to the CMOC, which is about 30 minutes’ drive away from Peterson Air Force Base. He initially decides to stay in his office. This, he will say, is because the CMOC is already well manned and also because there are “dead spots” in which he would be out of phone coverage for five to 10 minutes at a time during the drive to the operations center. However, Eberhart subsequently decides to go to the CMOC. He will tell the 9/11 Commission that he leaves his office to head there at approximately 9:30 a.m., during a lull in transmissions on a teleconference, which he is presumably listening to. (9/11 Commission 3/1/2004; 9/11 Commission 3/1/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 3/1/2004; 9/11 Commission 3/1/2004) He will experience problems receiving phone calls while he is traveling to the CMOC (see (Between 9:35 a.m. and 10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Zubeck 6/16/2006; Finley 7/28/2006)

Mark Loizeaux.Mark Loizeaux. [Source: Dan Gross / Washington Technology]Immediately after seeing the attacks on the the World Trade Center on television, Mark Loizeaux, the president of leading building demolition firm Controlled Demolition Inc (CDI), tries to contact government officials to warn them that the Twin Towers will probably collapse. (Satchell 6/22/2003; Else 7/24/2004) Loizeaux will later recall his initial reaction to the crashes in New York. After the first tower is hit, he will say, “I told Doug [Loizeaux, his brother] immediately that the tower was coming down, and when the second tower was hit, that it would follow.” According to US News and World Report, “Horrified, the Loizeaux brothers watched first responders streaming into the doomed towers and tried frantically, and unsuccessfully, to phone in warnings.” (Satchell 6/22/2003) Mark Loizeaux will recall, “I still had some cell phone numbers, so when the second plane hit I said, ‘Start calling all the cell phones, tell them that the building is going to come down.’” However: “It was frenetic, nobody could get through even with speed dialling.… Of course, building number 7, where the emergency management headquarters was, was on fire. I’d been in that office two months before.” Loizeaux then phones a couple of people on the National Research Council committee involved in assessing the impact of explosives. They ask him, “What do you think this is, that they’re going to fail, that they’re both going to fail?” Loizeaux will recall: “The expression around was they’re going to pancake down, almost vertically. And they did. It was the only way they could fail. It was inevitable.” (Else 7/24/2004) Soon after the attacks, Loizeaux, as a recognized expert, will be called upon to comment on the fall of the WTC towers. (Post and Winston 9/13/2001) In addition, his firm will be involved with the clearing of Ground Zero. (It was also tasked with bringing down the remnants of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City after its partial destruction in 1995 (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and 7:01 a.m. May 23, 1995).) (Post and Rubin 10/1/2001)

Logo of the 552nd Air Control Wing.Logo of the 552nd Air Control Wing. [Source: US Air Force]An Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) plane on a training mission in the Washington, DC, area is instructed to return to its base in Oklahoma, even though its advanced communications and surveillance capabilities would significantly benefit the military’s air defense efforts in response to the terrorist attacks. The AWACS belongs to the 552nd Air Control Wing, located at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. (US Air Force 4/1/2000; GlobalSecurity (.org) 4/16/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 265) It has been flying a training mission somewhere near Washington (see Before 9:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Code One Magazine 1/2002)
AWACS Sent Back to Oklahoma - According to author Lynn Spencer, the AWACS is directed to return to Tinker Air Force Base “in the immediate confusion after the attacks.” The exact time the plane’s crew receives this order, and the identity of the person or organization that gives the order, are unstated. NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) will contact the AWACS later on, and instruct it to turn around and head to Washington, to provide radio and radar coverage over the capital (see (11:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 265-266)
AWACS Has Advanced Surveillance and Communication Capabilities - The AWACS, also called the E-3 Sentry, is a modified Boeing 707 that provides surveillance, command, control, and communications to military commanders. (Schmitt 9/23/1995; GlobalSecurity (.org) 4/16/2006; US Air Force 9/22/2015) According to a US Air Force manual, the plane’s “advanced surveillance radar provides long-range, low-level detection of aircraft targets over all types of terrain.” (US Air Force 4/1/2000) It can track friendly and enemy aircraft over a 300-mile radius. (Schmitt 9/23/1995) Mark Rosenker, the director of the White House Military Office, will say that AWACS planes “give you the big picture in the sky. They’re able to identify what’s a friend, what’s a foe.” (White House 8/29/2002)
AWACS Would Help NEADS Contact Fighters - These planes are particularly important to NEADS. (9/11 Commission 10/30/2003 pdf file) Spencer will describe: “The NEADS radio transmitter, like all radio transmitters, operates by line of sight. This means that the radio signals, which travel in a straight line, require an unobstructed path between the transmitter and the [fighter] jets” that NEADS is trying to communicate with this morning. Due to the curvature of the earth and the distance between NEADS, in Rome, New York, and Washington, the fighters’ launched to protect the capital (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001) will be unable to pick up the NEADS signal on their radio receivers when they descend below 20,000 feet, after arriving over Washington (see (Between 9:49 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (11:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). “What’s needed,” Spencer will write, “is an AWACS plane, which has the capability to provide both radar and radio coverage over a citywide area.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 265)

Andrew Card speaks to President Bush and tells him of the second World Trade Center crash.Andrew Card speaks to President Bush and tells him of the second World Trade Center crash. [Source: Agence France-Presse]Andrew Card, President Bush’s chief of staff, enters the classroom where Bush is participating in a reading demonstration, and tells him about the second crash at the World Trade Center and that America is under attack. (ABC News 9/11/2002; Yurdakul 9/10/2009; BBC 9/9/2011) Bush learned about the first hijacked plane crashing into the WTC when he arrived at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, shortly before 9:00 a.m. (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Associated Press 11/26/2001; Rove 2010, pp. 249-250) He decided, though, to continue with the scheduled event at the school (see (9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Associated Press 8/25/2002) Card was told about the second crash at the WTC by Deborah Loewer, director of the White House Situation Room, while he was in the “staff hold,” a room adjacent to the classroom where the reading demonstration is taking place (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). (McGinn 3/16/2013; Priess 2016, pp. 240-241) He decided that he needed to tell the president what had happened and went to pass on the news to Bush. (Yurdakul 9/10/2009; BBC 9/9/2011)
Bush Is Told, 'America Is under Attack' - In the classroom, the children have just finished a spelling and pronunciation drill, and are reaching for their textbooks for the second part of the reading demonstration. Card, who was waiting at the door, takes advantage of the lull. He walks across the room toward Bush, leans down, and whispers in the president’s ear: “A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack.” He then takes a couple of steps back so the president is unable to ask him any questions. (Sammon 10/7/2002; Paltrow 3/22/2004 pdf file; Bohn 2015, pp. 214; Graff 9/9/2016) “There was no time for discussion or anything,” Bush will later comment. Card then takes up a position at the side of the room, next to Florida Lieutenant Governor Frank Brogan. (Sammon 2002, pp. 83-84) Card will explain why he gives such a brief message to Bush about the second crash, saying: “I knew that this was not the place to stand and have a conversation with the president. I just wanted to convey the situation to the president in stark reality and inviting him, then, to find the best chance to excuse himself from the classroom.” (Card 8/12/2002)
Bush Feels 'Outrage' but Continues with the Event - Bush will recall how he feels after hearing Card’s message, writing: “My first reaction was outrage. Someone had dared attack America. They were going to pay.” (Bush 2010, pp. 127) “An expression of grim sobriety spread across the president’s face” after Card speaks to him, journalist and author Bill Sammon will describe. “He raised his chin and nodded almost imperceptibly to signal that he got the message. His eyes darted nervously around the room, as if he didn’t know quite where to focus them.” (Sammon 2002, pp. 84) However, even though it is now clear that America is under attack, the Secret Service takes no action to get Bush out of the classroom. “[N]o agents were there to surround the president and remove him instantly,” author Philip Melanson will note. (Melanson 2005, pp. 330-331) Instead, perhaps 15 or 30 seconds after Card speaks to him, Bush picks up his copy of the textbook and continues listening to the children reading. (Barrs 9/1/2002)
Bush Will Be Criticized for Continuing with the Event - Intelligence expert and author James Bamford will criticize Bush for his lack of response to Card’s devastating information, writing: “[H]aving just been told that the country was under attack, the commander in chief appeared uninterested in further details. He never asked if there had been any additional threats, where the attacks were coming from, how to best protect the country from further attacks, or what was the current status of NORAD or the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Nor did he call for an immediate return to Washington. Instead, in the middle of a modern-day Pearl Harbor, he simply turned back to the matter at hand: the day’s photo op.” (Bamford 2002, pp. 633) Bush, though, will explain his lack of response to the 9/11 Commission, telling it that “his instinct was to project calm, not to have the country see an excited reaction at a moment of crisis.” He will say that he “felt he should project strength and calm until he could better understand what was happening.”
Bush Remains in the Classroom for Several More Minutes - Card tells Bush about the second crash at 9:05 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission Report. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 38) But ABC News reporter Ann Compton, who is in the classroom watching the reading demonstration, recognizes that something serious has happened when she sees Card interrupting the event and makes a note of the time, which her watch shows as 9:07 a.m. (ABC News 9/11/2002) Bush will stay in the classroom for at least seven minutes after Card informs him of the second crash (see (9:08 a.m.-9:13 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:13 a.m.-9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Paltrow 3/22/2004 pdf file)

NEADS commander Robert Marr.NEADS commander Robert Marr. [Source: Dick Blume]Numerous reports incorrectly claiming that aircraft have been hijacked are received while the terrorist attacks are taking place and into the afternoon. (Code One Magazine 1/2002; Baker 3/31/2005; Graff 9/9/2016) There are “multiple erroneous reports of hijacked aircraft” during the morning, according to the 9/11 Commission Report. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28) At around 9:09 a.m., the FAA Command Center reports that 11 aircraft are either not communicating with FAA facilities or flying unexpected routes. (Scott 6/3/2002) Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region, will later claim that during the “four-hour ordeal” of the attacks, a total of 21 planes are identified as possible hijackings. (Filson 2002; Code One Magazine 1/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 71) Colonel Robert Marr, the battle commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), will say, “At one time I was told that across the nation there were some 29 different reports of hijackings.” (Baker 3/31/2005) Secret Service agent Dave Wilkinson, who travels with President Bush on Air Force One after it leaves Sarasota, Florida (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001), will recall that by the time the plane reaches Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, at 2:50 p.m. (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001), “there were like 15 to 20 planes still unaccounted for” nationwide. “For everything we knew, they were all hijacked,” he will say. (Graff 9/9/2016) Officials will claim that these false reports cause considerable confusion. Arnold will recall that particularly during the time between the Pentagon being hit at, 9:37 a.m., and Flight 93 going down, at around 10:03 a.m., “a number of aircraft are being called possibly hijacked.… There was a lot of confusion, as you can imagine.” (Filson 2003, pp. 71-73) He will say: “We were receiving many reports of hijacked aircraft. When we received those calls, we might not know from where the aircraft had departed. We also didn’t know the location of the airplane.” (Code One Magazine 1/2002) Marr will comment: “There were a number of false reports out there. What was valid? What was a guess? We just didn’t know.” (Filson 2003, pp. 73) Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Victoria Clarke, who is in the Pentagon during the attacks and for most of the rest of the day, will recall: “There were lots of false signals out there. There were false hijack squawks, and a great part of the challenge was sorting through what was a legitimate threat and what wasn’t.” (CNN 6/17/2004; Clarke 2006, pp. 215-231)

The FAA Command Center in Herndon, Virginia.The FAA Command Center in Herndon, Virginia. [Source: Federal Aviation Administration]Ben Sliney, the national operations manager at the FAA’s Herndon Command Center, puts the word out that he wants all air traffic control facilities around the US to inform him of anything unusual that occurs with the flights they are handling. In response, news of suspicious activity quickly starts coming in to the Command Center. (Spencer 2008, pp. 125-126)
Command Center Calls Field Facilities - Sliney wants air traffic control facilities to notify him of anything out of the ordinary, such as a radar target disappearing from the radar scope, loss of communication with an aircraft, or an aircraft making an unauthorized change of course. He also wants to know immediately of any glitches that occur, even if these are common, everyday problems, such as a flight deviating from its course, missing a frequency change, overlooking a radio call, or getting a transponder code wrong. The center’s controllers at each regional desk therefore start calling their field facilities, and ask them to report any unusual occurrences. (9/11 Commission 7/22/2003 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 125) The Command Center has telecommunications lines to all the major air traffic control facilities in the US, which enables it to reach out to those facilities and establish the big picture about aircraft activity. (Freni 2003, pp. 64)
'More and More' Responses Received - Following the call for information, numerous reports of suspicious activity are received from the air traffic control facilities. (Spencer 2008, pp. 125-126) Linda Schuessler, the deputy director of system operations at the Command Center, will later recall, “[W]e started getting more and more calls about bomb threats, about aircraft that we had lost communication or radar identification with.” (Bond 12/17/2001)
Center Lists Suspect Aircraft - Sliney wants a list compiled of the reportedly suspicious aircraft. A dry-erase board is set up in the middle of the room. On it a manager keeps track of the reports that are coming in, writing down where each suspect aircraft was last seen, who was working it, where the flight originated, and where it is going. Another person contacts the field facilities to follow up on the reports. (9/11 Commission 7/22/2003 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 126)
Two Dozen Suspicious Flights - Author Pamela Freni will later describe, “[F]or the next several hours the call signs and status” of every suspicious aircraft will be recorded. Command Center personnel call “airline operations centers, trying to determine any crises on each flight. Only when each plane landed or was found safe did its identification information disappear from the board. Upward to two dozen were listed at one time, but ultimately the number was whittled to 11 highly suspicious cases” (see (9:09 a.m. and After) September 11, 2001). “Nine of those airplanes would land safely. Two of them—AA 77 and UA 93—would not.” (Freni 2003, pp. 64-65)

The US Strategic Command (Stratcom) orders that its Global Guardian exercise be put on pause at this time, according to a 2006 article in The Bombardier, the newspaper for Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. (Bombardier 9/8/2006 pdf file) Global Guardian is an annual exercise sponsored by Stratcom, which has its headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. The exercise tests Stratcom’s ability to fight a nuclear war (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Dejka 2/27/2002; GlobalSecurity (.org) 4/27/2005) Many aircraft and personnel at Barksdale, as well as other military bases, are involved in it (see 8:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Villafuerte 9/8/2002) Global Guardian will be formally terminated at 10:44 a.m., according to The Bombardier (see (10:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001), although other reports will say it is canceled earlier on, possibly after the second World Trade Center tower is hit at 9:03 a.m. (Dejka 2/27/2002; Dejka 9/8/2002; Bombardier 9/8/2006 pdf file)

The jet fuel that spilled from Flight 175 when it hit the South Tower (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001) has mostly burned up by this time. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which later investigates the collapses, will say the “initial jet fuel fires themselves lasted at most a few minutes.” (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 183) Engineering professor Forman Williams will say the jet fuel “burned for maybe 10 minutes.” (Chertoff et al. 3/2005) Flight 175, a Boeing 767, had a capacity of 23,980 gallons, but was only carrying about 9,100 gallons of fuel when it hit the WTC. NIST will estimate that less than 1,500 gallons were consumed in a fireball inside the tower and 910 to 2,275 gallons were consumed in the fireballs outside the building. Approximately 6,100 gallons therefore splashed onto the office furnishings and started fires on various floors. However, after the jet fuel is used up, office fires burn until the building collapses. NIST will calculate that there were about four pounds per square foot of combustibles in the office space, or about 60 tons per floor. Offices in the WTC actually had fewer combustibles than other similar spaces due to the small number of interior walls and limited bookshelf space. NIST will later find that only three of sixteen perimeter columns it recovers reached a temperature of 250°C and neither of the two core columns it retrieves reached this temperature. NIST will also find that none of the samples it acquires reached a temperature above 600°C (see August 27, 2003). While steel does not melt until its temperature is about 1,600°C, it may begin to lose significant strength at over 500°C. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 29, 38, 42, 77) The jet fuel also burned up in the North Tower about 10 minutes after it was hit (see 8:57 a.m. September 11, 2001). When a group of firefighters reach the bottom impact floor in the South Tower just before collapse, they only find two isolated fires (see 9:52 a.m. September 11, 2001).

The FAA’s New England regional office calls the FAA’s Herndon Command Center, and asks it to tell Cleveland Center to contact Delta Air Lines Flight 1989 and advise it to use extra cockpit security. The reason the New England regional office makes this request is unclear. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 10) As the 9/11 Commission will describe, apparently in response to the request, “[A]t 9:19 the FAA… Command Center in Herndon ordered controllers to send a cockpit warning to Delta 1989 because, like American 11 and United 175, it was a transcontinental flight departing Boston’s Logan Airport.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 455) Minutes earlier, the FAA’s Boston Center asked the Command Center to contact the nation’s FAA centers and instruct them to tell all airborne aircraft to increase their cockpit security (see (9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The Command Center’s instruction to air traffic controllers about Delta 1989 is apparently an exception, as the 9/11 Commission will say it found “no evidence to suggest that the Command Center acted on this request.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 23; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 25-26) Delta 1989 will subsequently be mistakenly reported as having been hijacked (see (9:28 a.m.-9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002; Bronner 8/1/2006)

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta. 
Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta. [Source: US Department of Transportation]Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta arrives at the White House bunker—the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC)—containing Vice President Dick Cheney and others. Mineta will tell NBC News that he arrives there at “probably about 9:27,” though he later says to the 9/11 Commission that he arrives at “about 9:20 a.m.” He also later recalls that Cheney is already there when he arrives. (Mineta 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission 5/23/2003; Martin 7/4/2004; Mineta 6/3/2006) This supports accounts of Cheney reaching the bunker not long after the second WTC crash (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Questioned about this in 2007 by an activist group, Mineta will confirm that Cheney was “absolutely… already there” in the PEOC when he arrived, and that “This was before American Airlines [Flight 77] went into the Pentagon,” which happens at 9:37. Yet, while admitting there is “conflicting evidence about when the vice president arrived” in the PEOC, the 9/11 Commission will conclude that the “vice president arrived in the room shortly before 10:00, perhaps at 9:58.” Mineta also later claims that when he arrives in the PEOC, Mrs. Lynne Cheney, the wife of the vice president, is already there. Yet the 9/11 Commission will claim she only arrives at the White House at 9:52 (see (9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 40; Mineta 6/26/2007) Once in the PEOC, Mineta establishes open phone lines with his office at the Department of Transportation and with the FAA Operations Center. (Mineta 6/3/2006)

According to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS is contacted by the FAA’s Boston Center. Colin Scoggins, Boston Center’s military liaison, tells it: “I just had a report that American 11 is still in the air, and it’s on its way towards—heading towards Washington.… That was another—it was evidently another aircraft that hit the tower. That’s the latest report we have.… I’m going to try to confirm an ID for you, but I would assume he’s somewhere over, uh, either New Jersey or somewhere further south.” The NEADS official asks: “He—American 11 is a hijack?… And he’s heading into Washington?” Scoggins answers yes both times and adds, “This could be a third aircraft.” Somehow Boston Center has been told by FAA headquarters that Flight 11 is still airborne, but the 9/11 Commission will say it hasn’t been able to find where this mistaken information came from.
Scoggins Makes Error - Vanity Fair magazine will later add, “In Boston, it is Colin Scoggins who has made the mistaken call.” Scoggins will explain why he believes he made this error: “With American Airlines, we could never confirm if [Flight 11] was down or not, so that left doubt in our minds.” He says he was monitoring a conference call between FAA centers (see 8:28 a.m. September 11, 2001), “when the word came across—from whom or where isn’t clear—that American 11 was thought to be headed for Washington.” However, Boston Center was never tracking Flight 11 on radar after losing sight of it near Manhattan: “The plane’s course, had it continued south past New York in the direction it was flying before it dipped below radar coverage, would have had it headed on a straight course toward DC. This was all controllers were going on.” Scoggins says, “After talking to a supervisor, I made the call and said [American 11] is still in the air.” (Northeast Air Defense Sector 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004; Bronner 8/1/2006)
Myers Refers to Mistaken Report - In the hours following the attacks, acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers will apparently refer to this erroneous report that Flight 11 is still airborne and heading toward Washington, telling the Associated Press that “prior to the crash into the Pentagon, military officials had been notified that another hijacked plane had been heading from the New York area to Washington.” Myers will say “he assumed that hijacked plane was the one that hit the Pentagon, though he couldn’t be sure.” (Fournier 9/11/2001)

Major Brad Derrig.Major Brad Derrig. [Source: ABC]At Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, the pilots of three F-16s receive the order to scramble (i.e. take off immediately). A Klaxon horn sounds and the status lights in the hangars change from yellow to green, notifying them of the order. (Longman 2002, pp. 65; Filson 2003, pp. 63; Spencer 2008, pp. 141) The fighter jets belong to the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 119th Fighter Wing. The wing has a small detachment at Langley that serves as one of NORAD’s seven “alert” sites around the US, responsible for defending the nation against attack. (Spencer 2008, pp. 114) The jets are already at “battle stations,” with the pilots in the cockpits but the engines off (see (9:09 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 55; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 24; Spencer 2008, pp. 117-119) The scramble order has just been issued by NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 16)
Third Pilot Launched - The unit at Langley keeps two F-16s on “alert”—armed, fueled, and ready to take off within minutes if called upon. (Hebert 2/2002; Kelly 12/5/2003; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 17) But NEADS has instructed it to launch as many aircraft as it can (see (Between 9:10 a.m. and 9:23 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and so the unit’s operations manager Captain Craig Borgstrom is also preparing to take off in a third jet. (Spencer 2008, pp. 118-119) Major Dean Eckmann calls the other two pilots, saying, “Quit check,” indicating a radio check. Major Brad Derrig responds, “Two.” Borgstrom replies: “Three. I’m going with you!” This is news to Derrig. According to author Lynn Spencer, Derrig is “stunned.… [N]ot much surprises him, but this does.” Borgstrom joining them as a pilot will mean that, in the middle of this unprecedented crisis, their unit will be left without a commanding officer. (Spencer 2008, pp. 142)
Only Two Jets Fully Armed - The two jets that are kept on alert are fully armed. As Eckmann will later recall, “We can carry M9 heat seekers, Sidewinders for the M7 Sparrow, plus we have an internal 20 mm Vulcan cannon, and we were pretty much armed with all that.” (BBC 9/1/2002) However, Borgstrom’s jet has guns only, and though the six-barrel 20 mm gun can fire 6,000 rounds per minute, it requires close range.
Pilot Unqualified to Lead Three Jets - As the three aircraft taxi out to the runway, Eckmann is concerned that he has not yet qualified as a mission commander—a “four-ship”—and is therefore not authorized to lead more than one fighter jet. He calls the other pilots, saying, “Hey, I’m only a two-ship!” But Derrig, who is a full-time instructor pilot for the Air National Guard, urges him not to worry. He responds: “Press! I’m an instructor,” giving his approval for the flight to operate as a “three-ship” under Eckmann’s lead. (Spencer 2008, pp. 142) The three jets will take off and be airborne by 9:30 a.m. (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 16)

According to his own account, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, started a video teleconference from the White House’s Secure Video Conferencing Center, next to the Situation Room, at around 9:10 a.m.(see (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, the 9/11 Commission says that logs indicate this conference beginning 15 minutes later than this. Included in the conference are the FBI, the CIA, the FAA, the departments of State, Justice, and Defense, and the White House shelter. The FAA and CIA join at 9:40 a.m. The 9/11 Commission says, “It is not clear to us that the video teleconference was fully under way before 9:37, when the Pentagon was struck.” Furthermore, it states: “We do not know who from Defense participated, but we know that in the first hour none of the personnel involved in managing the crisis did. And none of the information conveyed in the White House video teleconference, at least in the first hour, was being passed to the NMCC [in the Pentagon].” Clarke’s video teleconference is not connected into the area of the NMCC from where the crisis is being managed. Consequently, “the director of the operations team-who was on the phone with NORAD-did not have the benefit of information being shared on the video teleconference.” And, “when the Secretary [of Defense Rumsfeld] and Vice Chairman [of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Myers] later participated in the White House video teleconference, they were necessarily absent from the NMCC and unable to provide guidance to the operations team.” Clarke, however, gives a specific recollection of Myers speaking over video at 9:28, which is seemingly at odds with the 9/11 Commission’s account (see 9:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). One witness later recalls: “[It] was almost like there were parallel decision-making processes going on; one was a voice conference orchestrated by the NMCC… and then there was the [White House video teleconference].… [I]n my mind they were competing venues for command and control and decision-making.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004)

Brent Scowcroft.Brent Scowcroft. [Source: Publicity photo]An E-4B National Airborne Operations Center (NAOC) takes off from Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, DC. The E-4B is a militarized version of a Boeing 747. Its purpose is to provide the president, vice president, and Joint Chiefs of Staff with an airborne command center that could be used to execute war plans and coordinate government operations during a national emergency. The E-4B taking off from Andrews, which has the call sign “Word 31,” is carrying civilian and military officials, and is launched in order to participate in a previously scheduled military exercise, according to journalist and author Dan Verton. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001 pdf file; Verton 2003, pp. 143-144; 9/11 Commission 2/17/2004; NET Nebraska 9/2/2011) This exercise would be Global Guardian, which is being conducted by the US Strategic Command (Stratcom) to test its ability to fight a nuclear war (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). Two other E-4Bs are also participating in Global Guardian today (see Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Dejka 2/27/2002)
Plane Ends Participation in Exercise after Taking Off - The E-4B taking off from Andrews Air Force Base is supposed to be using and testing its sophisticated technology and communications equipment for the exercise. It has “only just taken off” at the time the Pentagon is hit—9:37 a.m.—according to Verton. (Verton 2003, pp. 144) But the flight tracking strip from Andrews will record it as having taken off at 9:27 a.m., 10 minutes before the Pentagon is hit. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 2/17/2004) The crew will later be informed that after the plane launches, it flies “right over the top of the aircraft that eventually impacted the Pentagon.” (Kieschnick 9/7/2012 pdf file) After taking off, the E-4B is “immediately ordered to cease the military exercise it was conducting and prepare to become the actual National Airborne Operations Center,” Verton will write. (Verton 2003, pp. 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) ) The plane then converts “on the fly from exercise status to real-world crisis management.” (Verton 2003, pp. 150)
Plane Flies Former National Security Adviser to Base in Nebraska - Former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and his staff are on the E-4B, which will fly them to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Kieschnick 9/7/2012 pdf file) The original plan had been for the aircraft to take them to Offutt to observe the Global Guardian exercise today. (Dejka 2/27/2002) After reaching the base, the E-4B will take off again and resume its airborne operations. (Kieschnick 9/7/2012 pdf file) Minutes after the Pentagon is attacked, 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 suggest this is an E-4B, so it is possible it is “Word 31.” (CNN 9/12/2007) Another E-4B, with the call sign “Venus 77,” will take off from Andrews Air Force Base at around 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 2/17/2004; Farmer 2009, pp. 206)

According to his own account, during a video conference with top officials that he is directing, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke asks acting Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers, “I assume NORAD has scrambled fighters and AWACS. How many? Where?” Myers, who is at the Pentagon, replies, “Not a pretty picture, Dick. We are in the middle of Vigilant Warrior, a NORAD exercise, but… Otis has launched two birds toward New York. Langley is trying to get two up now [toward Washington]. The AWACS are at Tinker and not on alert.” Vigilant Warrior may be a mistaken reference to either the on-going war game Vigilant Guardian, or perhaps another exercise called Amalgam Warrior (see 9:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). Otis Air National Guard Base is in Massachusetts, 188 miles east of New York City; Langley is in Virginia, 129 miles south of Washington; Tinker Air Force Base is in Oklahoma. Clarke asks, “Okay, how long to CAP [combat air patrol] over DC?” Myers replies, “Fast as we can. Fifteen minutes?” (Clarke 2004, pp. 5) The first fighters don’t reach Washington until perhaps more than 30 minutes later (see (Between 9:49 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, this account—or at least the time Clarke alleges the conversation occurs—is contradicted by Myers himself and Senator Max Cleland (D-GA). Myers claims he has been at a meeting on Capitol Hill with Cleland since about 9:00 a.m., and does not arrive back at the Pentagon until after it is hit, which is at 9:37 a.m. (Rhem 10/23/2001; Myers 9/11/2002; CNN 4/15/2003; Garamone 9/8/2006) Cleland confirms the existence of this meeting, and claims that Myers is with him until around the time of the Pentagon attack. (CNN 11/20/2001; Baxter and Galloway 6/16/2003) (There are, though, some inconsistencies in Myers and Cleland’s accounts of this period—see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, who is in the White House Situation Room, instructs that US embassies overseas be closed and that US military bases raise their alert level. According to his own recollection, just after he has spoken to the acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers (see 9:28 a.m. September 11, 2001), Clarke is thinking about the simultaneous attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). As he describes, “There was the possibility now of multiple simultaneous attacks in several countries.” He therefore issues instructions to the State Department and the Department of Defense: “We have to assume there will be simultaneous attacks on us overseas. We need to close the embassies. Move [Department of Defense] bases to combat Threatcon.” (Clarke 2004, pp. 5-6) (“Threatcon” is short for “terrorist threat condition.” (Suellentrop 9/12/2001) ) According to CNN, all US military forces will be ordered to the highest alert level at 10:10 a.m. (see (Between 10:10 a.m. and 10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (CNN 9/4/2002) But the 9/11 Commission Report will state that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld only orders the US armed forces to Defcon 3, an increased state of readiness, at 10:43 a.m. (see (10:43 a.m.-10:52 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 326 and 554) The State Department will tell US embassies to make the decision whether to close based on their own local security requirements. Around 50 US embassies or consulates around the world will therefore close, though at what time they do so is unstated. (US Department of State 9/12/2001)

Route of the Langley Air Base fighters to Washington.Route of the Langley Air Base fighters to Washington. [Source: Yvonne Vermillion/ MagicGraphix.com]The three F-16s that took off from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) head east, out over the Atlantic Ocean, instead of north toward the Baltimore area, as NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) instructed when it issued the scramble order (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Sack 11/15/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27)
Three Reasons Jets Head East - The 9/11 Commission will give three reasons why the Langley jets go east instead of north: “First, unlike a normal scramble order, this order did not include a distance to the target or the target’s location. Second, a ‘generic’ flight plan—prepared to get the aircraft airborne and out of local airspace quickly—incorrectly led the Langley fighters to believe they were ordered to fly due east (090) for 60 miles. Third, the lead pilot and local FAA controller incorrectly assumed the flight plan instruction to go ‘090 for 60’ superseded the original scramble order.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27)
NORAD Commander Blames 'Peacetime Rules' - In his testimony before the 9/11 Commission in May 2003, Larry Arnold, the commanding general of NORAD’s Continental US Region, will address the question of why the Langley jets head out over the sea. He says, “When we scramble an aircraft… the aircraft take off and they have a predetermined departure route.” According to Arnold, NORAD is “looking outward,” and so “our mission, unlike law enforcement’s mission, is to protect things coming towards the United States.” He concludes, “So our peacetime procedures, to de-conflict with civil aviation’s, so as to not have endanger[ed] civil aviation in any particular way.” Arnold will also suggest that “peacetime rules” might be partly to blame for the Langley jets heading in the wrong direction. He says, “[I]f we were operating under something other than peacetime rules… they could have turned immediately toward Washington, DC.” (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003) According to the Wall Street Journal, the “peacetime rules” Arnold refers to are “noise restrictions requiring that [the Langley jets] fly more slowly than supersonic speed and take off over water, pointed away from Washington.” (Paltrow 3/22/2004 pdf file) One of the Langley pilots, Captain Craig Borgstrom, will later recall that, shortly after the jets take off, NEADS “gave us max-subsonic,” which is “as fast as you can go without breaking the sound barrier.” (Filson 2003, pp. 65)
Risk of Midair Collision - NORAD official Major General Craig McKinley will tell the 9/11 Commission that “another reason why” the Langley jets are “vectored east originally” is that “the air traffic over the Northeast corridor is so complex that to just launch fighters… into that air traffic system can cause potential damage or midair collision. So we rely on the FAA to de-conflict those corridors.” (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003)
Jets Far Away from Pentagon - When the Pentagon is hit at 9:37 a.m., the Langley jets have flown nearly 60 miles out over the ocean and are 150 miles from Washington (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27; Spencer 2008, pp. 151)

President Bush trying to use a cell phone as his motorcade nears the Sarasota airport.President Bush trying to use a cell phone as his motorcade nears the Sarasota airport. [Source: Associated Press]President Bush has difficulty communicating with colleagues in Washington, DC, while he is being driven to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/10/2006) Bush left the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, at around 9:35 a.m. to be driven to Air Force One (see (9:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Langley 12/16/2001; Bloomberg 6/17/2004) While he is in his limousine, he tries calling colleagues at the White House over a secure telephone line, but all the secure lines are down. He ends up trying to call Washington using a borrowed cell phone. Even this doesn’t work, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/10/2006) However, he talks with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice around this time, which means he is able to make at least one call (see (Between 9:38 a.m. and 9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Bush 2010, pp. 128) Dave Wilkinson, assistant special agent in charge of the presidential protection division, will later comment on the difficulties Bush and his entourage have communicating with Washington today, saying, “Every kind of communication… was challenged” and the “communications network did not hold up.” (Graff 9/9/2016) Lee Hamilton, vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission, will claim that Bush had difficulty communicating with Washington while he was being driven to the airport because members of his entourage all tried calling the capital at the same time after leaving the school, thereby causing a “communication jam.” However, the communication problems will continue after Bush takes off from Sarasota on Air Force One (see (9:54 a.m.-2:50 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/10/2006) The president’s difficulty reaching his colleagues in Washington during the drive to the airport is particularly notable since, just a few months ago, Bush instructed Joseph Hagin, his deputy chief of staff for operations, to promptly ensure that he is always able to make phone calls, after he had trouble making a call from his limousine (see Spring 2001). Hagin has apparently not yet fixed the problem. (Ambinder 4/11/2011)

In the middle of the 9/11 attacks, General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD, drives from his NORAD headquarters office at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado to the NORAD operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, about a dozen miles away. The journey reportedly takes him 45 minutes and en route he loses a cell phone call with Vice President Cheney. The reason he makes this journey is unknown, though it is reported that there are superior communications capabilities available at Cheyenne Mountain. (Zubeck 6/16/2006; Finley 7/28/2006; Reid 7/29/2006) The exact times when Eberhart departs Peterson AFB and arrives at Cheyenne Mountain are unclear. General Richard Myers says that Eberhart phones him from Peterson either just before or just after the Pentagon is hit, which suggests that Eberhart heads out some time between 9:35 a.m. and 9:40 a.m. (Armed Forces Radio And Television Service 10/17/2001; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) Eberhart tells the 9/11 Commission that when he arrives at the NORAD operations center, the order to shoot down hijacked aircraft has already been passed down NORAD’s chain of command. According to the commission’s timeline, this would indicate he arrives after 10:31 a.m. (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 42) Yet other reports state that the massive blast doors to Cheyenne Mountain are shut at around 10:15 a.m. (see (10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001), which suggests that Eberhart arrives earlier.

Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, calls NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) to report a low-flying airliner he has spotted six miles southeast of the White House. He can offer no details regarding its identity. The plane is reportedly Flight 77, but as it has its transponder turned off, no one realizes this at the time. The news of the plane “sets off a frenzy.” Major Kevin Nasypany orders Major James Fox, head of the NEADS weapons team, “Get your fighters there as soon as possible!” Staff Sergeant William Huckabone says, “Ma’am, we are going AFIO [emergency military control of the fighters] right now with Quit 2-5 [the Langley Air Force Base fighters]” (see 9:36 a.m. September 11, 2001), and adds, “They are going direct Washington.” (Bronner 8/1/2006) The Langley fighters will arrive over Washington some time around 10 a.m. (see (Between 9:49 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

At some time after the second attack in New York, Richard Myers, the acting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, receives a call from NORAD Commander Ralph Eberhart. According to his own account, Myers is on Capitol Hill, where he has been meeting with Senator Max Cleland (D-GA). Apparently soon after he leaves this meeting, his military aide, Army Captain Chris Donahue, hands him a cell phone on which Eberhart is calling. Myers will later comment, “In this emergency, I had to forgo the luxury of a secure encrypted red switch phone and use Donahue’s cell.” Myers will recall that Eberhart “said, you know, we’ve got several hijack codes, meaning that the transponders in the aircraft are talking to the ground, and they’re saying we’re under, we’re being hijacked, several hijack codes in the system, and we’re responding with, with fighter aircraft.” (Rhem 10/23/2001; Myers 9/11/2002; Myers 2009, pp. 8-9) (However, none of the pilots of the four hijacked flights this morning keyed the emergency four-digit code that would indicate a hijacking into their plane’s transponder (see (8:13 a.m.-9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (CNN 9/11/2001) It is therefore unclear what “hijack codes” Eberhart is referring to.) Eberhart also tells Myers, “The decision I’m going to make is, we’re going to land everybody, and we’ll sort it out when we get them on the ground.” (Myers 6/29/2006) He is presumably referring to a plan called SCATANA, which clears the skies and gives the military control over US airspace. However, Eberhart does not implement this until around 11:00 a.m. (see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) It is unclear exactly when this call takes place, but it appears to be just before the time the Pentagon is hit, or just before Myers is informed of the Pentagon attack. (Myers 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004; Myers 6/29/2006; Garamone 9/8/2006) In his 2009 memoirs, Myers will place it after he is informed of the second attack on the World Trade Center (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but not give a specific time. (Myers 2009, pp. 8-9) Cleland will confirm that Myers meets with him on this morning, and is with him up to the time of the Pentagon attack, or shortly before. (US Congress 9/13/2001; CNN 11/20/2001; Baxter and Galloway 6/16/2003) However, according to counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, Myers is back at the Pentagon speaking over a video conference around 10 minutes before the Pentagon is struck (see 9:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Clarke 2004, pp. 5)

According to his own account, acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers was in a meeting on Capitol Hill with Senator Max Cleland (D-GA) since just before 9:00 a.m. (see Shortly Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Myers 9/11/2002) It is unclear exactly when this meeting ended. But Myers says he first learns of the Pentagon attack (which occurs at 9:37) around the time he is leaving the building for the drive back to the Pentagon. In an early interview, he says he hears somebody say the Pentagon has been hit just after he comes out of his meeting with Cleland. (Armed Forces Radio And Television Service 10/17/2001) In some accounts, he says he hears that the Pentagon has been hit just as he is leaving Capitol Hill. (Myers 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004 pdf file) In a meeting in 2006, he says, “my security guy got the call the Pentagon had been hit,” as he is making his way out of the building. (Myers 6/29/2006) Myers says that, as his car crosses the 14th Street Bridge across the Potomac River, he can see all the black smoke rising up out of the Pentagon. (Myers 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 463; Garamone 9/8/2006) Max Cleland later confirms that Myers meets with him on this morning, and is with him until the time of the Pentagon attack, or slightly before. (US Congress 9/13/2001; CNN 11/20/2001; Baxter and Galloway 6/16/2003) However, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke gives a contradictory account. He claims that Myers is back at the Pentagon, speaking to him over a video conference, around ten minutes before the Pentagon is struck (see 9:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Clarke 2004, pp. 5)

Stacia Rountree.Stacia Rountree. [Source: Vanity Fair]Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, contacts NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) and incorrectly notifies it that another aircraft, Delta Air Lines Flight 1989, is a possible hijacking. (9/11 Commission 2004; Bronner 8/1/2006) Boston Center previously called NEADS at 9:27 and said that Delta 1989 was missing (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001). (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 5/23/2003)
NEADS Technicians Respond - At NEADS, Stacia Rountree, the ID technician who takes Scoggins’s call, announces to her colleagues: “Delta ‘89, that’s the hijack. They think it’s possible hijack.… South of Cleveland.” The plane’s transponder is still on, and she adds, “We have a code on him now.” Rountree’s team leader, Master Sergeant Maureen Dooley, instructs: “Pick it up! Find it!” The NEADS technicians quickly locate Delta 1989 on their radar screens, just south of Toledo, Ohio, and start alerting other FAA centers to it. (Bronner 8/1/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 177) NEADS mission crew commander Major Kevin Nasypany will be notified by his staff of the suspected hijacking at about 9:41 or 9:42 a.m. (9/11 Commission 1/22/2004 pdf file) NEADS never loses track of Delta 1989. It will follow it on radar as it reverses course over Toledo, heads east, and then lands in Cleveland (see (10:18 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28) It will order Air National Guard fighter jets from Selfridge and Toledo to intercept the flight (see (9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 10:01 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 178-179) But it will soon learn that Delta 1989 is not in fact hijacked. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28)
Cleveland Center, Not Boston, Handling Delta 1989 - Although Boston Center notifies NEADS of the suspected hijacking, Delta 1989 is in fact being handled by the FAA’s Cleveland Center. (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 10-12) Cleveland Center air traffic controllers suspected that Delta 1989 had been hijacked at around 9:30 a.m. (see (9:28 a.m.-9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but apparently only informed the FAA’s Command Center, and not NEADS, of this. (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002) To explain why Boston Center alerts NEADS to the flight, the 9/11 Commission will later comment that, “Remembering the ‘we have some planes’ remark” (see 8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), the Boston Center simply “guessed that Delta 1989 might also be hijacked.”
Similar to First Two Hijacked Planes - Like Flights 11 and 175, the two aircraft that have crashed into the World Trade Center (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), Delta 1989 took off from Boston’s Logan Airport. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27-28) According to the New York Times, it left there at about the same time as Flights 11 and 175 did, meaning around 8:00 to 8:15 a.m. (Wald and van Natta 10/18/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 32) Like those two aircraft, it is a Boeing 767. (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27-28) But, unlike those flights, its transponder has not been turned off, and so it is still transmitting a beacon code. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28; Bronner 8/1/2006) It is unclear what Delta 1989’s intended destination is. According to some accounts, like Flights 11 and 175 were, it is bound for Los Angeles. (Singer 9/11/2001; Wald and van Natta 10/18/2001; Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002; Velez 9/24/2007; Spencer 2008, pp. 167) Other accounts will say that its destination is Las Vegas. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28; Bronner 8/1/2006) Personnel at NEADS are apparently informed that Las Vegas is the intended destination. Around this time, one member of staff there tells her colleagues that the flight is “supposed to go to Vegas.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001)
One of Numerous Incorrect Reports - The 9/11 Commission will comment: “During the course of the morning, there were multiple erroneous reports of hijacked aircraft (see (9:09 a.m. and After) September 11, 2001). The report of American 11 heading south was the first (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001); Delta 1989 was the second.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28)

NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) issues coordinates to the three F-16 fighter jets launched from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), sending them to Washington. However, the fighters head off in the wrong direction, reportedly because NEADS has accidentally given them incorrect coordinates. (Spencer 2008, pp. 180-181)
Communications Problems - The Langley AFB jets have already mistakenly been sent east over the ocean (see 9:30 a.m.-9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). At 9:36 a.m., the NEADS mission crew commander ordered that they be directed toward the White House (see 9:36 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27) However, weapons director Master Sergeant Steve Citino has been having difficulty communicating with the jets. According to author Lynn Spencer, “NEADS radio coverage east of Washington is poor, and the noise level on the [NEADS] operations floor has only been exacerbating the problem.”
NEADS Issues Wrong Coordinates - Citino now forwards coordinates to the Langley jets, telling them to establish a combat air patrol over Washington. (Spencer 2008, pp. 180) Apparently, it is Tech. Sgt. Ronald Belluscio, a senior weapons director technician, who contacts the jets at this time, although he will claim he orders them specifically toward the Pentagon. He will say: “I jumped on a frequency, per the senior director, and was told to ask the Langley birds to vector over the Pentagon. I didn’t know it had been hit.” (Filson 2003, pp. 65) However, Citino has apparently given out the wrong coordinates. According to Spencer, “He inadvertently transposed two of the coordinates, and the F-16s turned onto a flight path that would take them 60 miles southwest of Washington.”
Aircraft Instrument Malfunctioning - What is more, as soon as the Langley jets turn onto their new heading, lead pilot Major Dean Eckmann has a problem with his aircraft. The bearing pointer on its horizontal situation indicator (HSI)—the instrument that shows a plane’s position relative to its intended destination—freezes. Eckmann therefore has to get the heading from one of the other Langley pilots, Captain Craig Borgstrom. Shortly after sending the three jets in the wrong direction, Citino will contact them again with the correct coordinates (see (Between 9:41 a.m. and 9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 180-181)

Anna Perez.Anna Perez. [Source: Paul Drinkwater / NBC Universal]Government officials in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House are frustrated at technical problems they have with the televisions in the center, which mean they are unable to get audio from both the TV broadcast channels and the videoconferencing system at the same time. (Rice 11/1/2001; Thomas 12/30/2001) Two large television screens are built into a wall of the PEOC conference room, and, according to journalist and author Stephen Hayes, for most of the day one of them is tuned to CNN and the other to the Fox News Channel. Hayes will write, “Watching the uninterrupted news coverage not only provided new and timely information; it also allowed officials in the shelter [i.e. the PEOC] to understand, as they designed their public response, what exactly the American people were seeing.” (Hayes 2007, pp. 337, 342)
Officials Have Problems with Television and Video Conference Audio - But, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice will later recall, the “only frustration” among those in the PEOC is “that we kept having trouble getting the TV to work.… [W]e were having trouble with the, some of the video link.” Therefore, “if you were trying to do the video conference, you had trouble doing TV.” (Rice 11/1/2001) The “video conference” Rice refers to is presumably the White House video teleconference being conducted by counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke (see (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 36) Anna Perez, Rice’s communications counselor, will add, “[Y]ou couldn’t do the SVTS [secure video teleconference system] at the same time you could do the CNN.” (Rice 11/1/2001) Eric Edelman, a member of Vice President Dick Cheney’s staff, will recall: “[T]he video conference that Dick Clarke was chairing was going on.… [W]e could see that, so that was on the screen, we could follow that. Not always with audio… sometimes with audio, sometimes not.” (Edelman 10/25/2001) According to Hayes, however, the problem is in fact that “[a]lthough the two televisions on the wall could be tuned to different channels, they could get audio from only one.” Consequently, “On several occasions, the officials could see notices of ‘breaking news’ without being able to hear the details of those updates.” (Hayes 2007, pp. 342)
'Everybody' in PEOC Frustrated by TV Problem - Rice will recall that the problem with the televisions is “kind of frustrating to everybody.” (Rice 11/1/2001) One unnamed official will recall that Cheney, who is in the PEOC for much of the day, is “cranked up” about the problem and repeatedly demands that it be fixed. (Hayes 2007, pp. 342) Mary Matalin, a counselor to Cheney, will recall, “You can have sound on one or the other [i.e. the TV broadcasts or the video teleconference], and [Cheney] found that technically imperfect.” (CNN 9/11/2002; CNN 9/14/2002) According to Newsweek, this is the only thing that causes Cheney’s composure to break and leads to him showing any irritation while he is in the PEOC. (Thomas 12/30/2001)
Accounts Conflict over Whether Problem Is Fixed - It is unclear whether this technical problem with the televisions gets fixed. According to Perez, PEOC personnel are able to fix it. “It took them a little while, but they did get it together. They got it right,” she will say. (Rice 11/1/2001) But according to Hayes, the problem remains unfixed. (Hayes 2007, pp. 342) Clarke will later give a different account of the problem with getting audio from television broadcasts and the video conference simultaneously. He will write that when he goes down to the PEOC sometime around midday (see (Shortly Before 12:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001), Army Major Mike Fenzel complains to him, “I can’t hear the crisis conference because Mrs. Cheney [Lynne Cheney, the wife of the vice president] keeps turning down the volume on you so she can hear CNN.” (Clarke 2004, pp. 18)

An F-16C Fighting Falcon of the 148th Fighter Wing.An F-16C Fighting Falcon of the 148th Fighter Wing. [Source: Brett R. Ewald / US Air Force]NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) tries to get fighter jets from a military unit in Duluth, Minnesota, sent after Delta Air Lines Flight 1989, but the unit is unable to respond. (9/11 Commission 1/22/2004 pdf file) NEADS has been contacted by the FAA’s Boston Center and incorrectly told that Delta 1989 is a possible hijacking (see 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). The aircraft is just south of Toledo, Ohio, and Colonel Robert Marr and Major Kevin Nasypany order the troops at NEADS to call Air National Guard bases in that area to see if any of them can launch fighters. (9/11 Commission 2004; Bronner 8/1/2006)
NEADS Calls Duluth - The staff attempts to get a unit in Duluth to send jets toward the Delta flight. (9/11 Commission 1/22/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 1/23/2004 pdf file) Presumably the unit they call is the 148th Fighter Wing of the Minnesota Air National Guard, which is located at the Duluth International Airport and flies the F-16 Fighting Falcon. (GlobalSecurity (.org) 8/21/2005) Unlike Otis Air National Guard Base and Langley Air Force Base, the 148th FW at Duluth is not one of NORAD’s seven “alert” sites around the US. However, its mission does include “air superiority and air defense functions.” (McKenna 12/1999; US Air Force 2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 17)
Duluth Has 'Nobody Available' - The Duluth unit is unable to respond to NEADS’s request for help. (9/11 Commission 1/22/2004 pdf file) The reason for this is unclear. At 9:46 a.m., a member of staff on the NEADS operations floor will report that “Duluth has night flying, so there’s nobody available.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001; Donaldson and Johnson 6/2008, pp. 47 pdf file) Marr will subsequently instruct NEADS personnel to contact every Air National Guard unit in the Northeast US with instructions to get their fighters airborne (see (Between 9:50 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). NEADS will also order Air National Guard jets from Selfridge and Toledo to intercept Delta 1989 (see (9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 10:01 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28; Spencer 2008, pp. 178-180)

Bush boards Air Force One in Sarasota, Florida, waving to people below as if the day were like any other.Bush boards Air Force One in Sarasota, Florida, waving to people below as if the day were like any other. [Source: Agence France-Presse]President Bush and his entourage arrive at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, where Air Force One is waiting, and Bush hurriedly gets onto his plane. (BBC 9/1/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 39) Bush left the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, at around 9:35 a.m. to be driven to Air Force One (see (9:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Langley 12/16/2001; Bloomberg 6/17/2004)
Limousine Stops Right by Air Force One - His limousine now speeds past the airport’s main entrance, goes north, and veers down a tiny road leading to the airport, ignoring a sign that states, “No Airport Access.” It then passes through a small, unmarked gate in a chain-link fence and races across the tarmac toward Air Force One. It swings around the plane’s tail and stops behind the left wing. (Sammon 2002, pp. 98-99) The motorcade arrives at the airport between 9:42 a.m. and 9:45 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission Report. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 39) According to journalist and author Bill Sammon, Bush’s limousine reaches the airport at 9:43 a.m. (Sammon 2002, pp. 99; Sammon 10/8/2002)
Plane's Engines Are Already Running - Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, started two of the plane’s four engines while Bush was on his way to the airport. White House chief of staff Andrew Card will later comment that he is “struck that the engines on Air Force One [are] running” when the motorcade reaches the airport, since this is “normally a protocol no-no.” (Tillman 9/11/2011; Graff 9/9/2016) “Usually you don’t start the engine until the president is already on the plane,” he will say. (BBC 9/9/2011)
President Usually Takes His Time Saying Goodbye - Normally, when his motorcade arrives at Air Force One, the president “emerges from the limo, waves to the crowd behind barricades, thanks hosts who have accompanied him, and shakes hands with the airport personnel and guests who’ve come to see him off,” Karl Rove, Bush’s senior adviser, will write. The president then “walks alone up the steps to Air Force One at a leisurely pace, stopping to wave again to the people on the tarmac.” The other people in the motorcade usually only start to get on board once he is on the plane. (Rove 2010, pp. 252)
Bush Hurries up the Stairs onto Air Force One - Today, though, the Secret Service wants to get the president onto Air Force One as quickly as possible. (Graff 9/9/2016) Bush therefore walks briskly up the long mobile staircase behind the left wing. (Sammon 2002, pp. 99; Walsh 2003, pp. 207) He is “just trucking up the stairs” without his usual “Texas swagger,” Tillman will describe. (Graff 9/9/2016) He does find time, however, to pause at the doorway to wave to photographers before entering the plane. (Martin 7/4/2004) Once he is on board, he goes to his private cabin near the front of the aircraft. A Secret Service agent tells him, “Mr. President, we need you to get seated as soon as possible.” Bush then straps himself in, ready for takeoff. (Woodward 2002, pp. 16)
Chief of Staff Is Frustrated by the Passengers Delaying Takeoff - Meanwhile, everyone who is traveling on Air Force One apart from Bush and his senior staff boards the plane through its back stairs. But before doing so they are subjected to a strict security check (see (9:45 a.m.-9:53 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sammon 2002, pp. 99; Graff 9/9/2016) Card becomes frustrated that takeoff is being delayed due to the time it takes to get so many passengers onto the plane. (Card 8/16/2002; Adair and Hegarty 9/8/2002) Air Force One will take off unusually quickly once all the passengers are on board. (Keil 9/2004; Graff 9/9/2016) It usually takes another 15 minutes after everyone has boarded for the passengers to get seated, the doors to be closed, and the engines to power up, according to Rove. (Rove 2010, pp. 252) But today Air Force One will take off about 10 minutes after Bush’s motorcade reaches the airport, at around 9:55 a.m. (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 39)

Donald Cook.Donald Cook. [Source: US Air Force]Lieutenant General Donald Cook, acting commander of the Air Combat Command (ACC), receives a call in which he is told the White House wants to know how quickly the Predator drone, a remotely controlled, unmanned plane, can be deployed over Afghanistan. Cook, who is currently at ACC headquarters at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, receives the call “less than one hour after” the first hijacked plane crashed into the World Trade Center (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), according to journalist and author Richard Whittle, which means the call is made before around 9:45 a.m. The caller, Whittle will write, says that the “White House [wants] to know how soon the Air Force could get three Predators over Afghanistan—with missiles under their wings.” The identity of the caller is unstated. Later this morning, Cook will talk to Colonel Ed Boyle, director of intelligence for the ACC, who is away in Arizona, and pass on this information to him (see (After 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Whittle 2014, pp. 236; Whittle 3/2015) The first Predator mission over Afghanistan will take place on September 18 and on October 7, the first day of the war in Afghanistan, the first armed Predator mission will be flown (see September 18-October 7, 2001 and October 7, 2001). (9/11 Commission 3/24/2004 pdf file; Grimes 2014, pp. 335)

At some point after the White House is ordered to evacuate and while Air Force One is preparing to take off in Florida, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke activates the Continuity of Government (COG) plan. The coordinator for Continuity of Government has joined Clarke in the White House Situation Room. Clarke asks, “How do I activate COG?” Recalling this conversation, he will later comment, “In the exercises we had done, the person playing the president had always given that order.” But the coordinator replies, “You tell me to do it.” Soon after, Clarke instructs him, “Go.” (Clarke 2004, pp. 8)
First Time COG Plan Activated - The Continuity of Government plan, which dates back to the Reagan administration, had originally prepared to set up a new leadership for the US in the event of a nuclear war. This is apparently the first time it has ever been put into effect. Clarke will recall, “Every federal agency was ordered… to activate an alternative command post, an alternative headquarters outside of Washington, DC, and to staff it as soon as possible.” Cabinet officers are dispatched around the country, and people in Congress are taken to alternative locations.
Clarke Regularly Particiated in COG Exercises - Since the 1980s, Clarke has in fact been a regular participant in secret COG exercises that rehearsed this plan (see (1984-2004)). (Kurtz 4/7/2004; ABC News 4/25/2004) Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld also participated (see 1981-1992). (Mann 3/2004) Kenneth Duberstein, formerly President Reagan’s White House chief of staff, who took part in the exercises as well, will recall: “I said to myself, as we proceeded through the day [of 9/11], ‘It’s working.’ All those days of patriotic duty were coming back and they were working.” According to ABC News, “If executive branch leaders and large numbers of congressmen had been killed in an attack on the United States, the plan could have gone further, officials suggest, perhaps even with non-elected leaders of the United States taking control and declaring martial law.” (ABC News 4/25/2004) According to a White House timeline of the events of 9/11, it is in fact Cheney that “orders implementation of Continuity of Government and Continuity of Operations procedures,” at 9:55 a.m., although, according to the Washington Post, Cheney only “officially implemented the emergency Continuity of Government orders,” rather than activating the plan. (White House 2001; Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002)

Don Evans.Don Evans. [Source: US Department of Commerce]Authorities fail to evacuate Secretary of Commerce Don Evans from his office at the Commerce Department in Washington, DC, in line with “Continuity of Government” (COG) plans and so Evans eventually decides to go home of his own accord. (Arkin 2013, pp. 173-174) The COG plan was apparently activated by White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke shortly after 9:45 a.m. (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Clarke 2004, pp. 8) Whereas, earlier in the day, “executive agents and protective details all across the government had been operating in precautionary mode,” military expert and author William Arkin will later describe, “now everything was official, mandatory, and automatic.” And yet no one comes to move Evans to an alternate location, even though he is 10th in line for the presidency. The commerce secretary therefore stays in his office all morning, waiting for someone to contact him and tell him what to do. (Arkin 2013, pp. 173-174; Arkin and Windrem 9/11/2016) Furthermore, while other government departments are evacuated, no one takes the initiative to evacuate the Commerce Department, where 5,000 people work (see Before 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Draper 2007, pp. 143) Apparently, “those in charge had completely forgotten about [Evans] and his department,” Arkin will comment. Eventually, Evans arranges for an aide to drive him to his home in McLean, Virginia, where he spends the rest of the day watching television. Arkin will criticize authorities for their failure to move Evans to an alternate location, writing, “After almost 50 years of preparations and practice, after constructing an elaborate and foolproof edifice, the executive agents had overlooked a major branch of the executive office, or were too busy—or had their own plans.” (Arkin 2013, pp. 174; Arkin and Windrem 9/11/2016)

A man who is on the 105th floor of the South Tower calls emergency 9-1-1 to report that floors below his location, “in the 90-something floor,” have collapsed. The 9-1-1 operator types a record of this call into the Special Police Radio Inquiry Network (SPRINT) data link, which will be passed on to the New York fire department’s Emergency Medical Service (EMS). It isn’t known when the call is made exactly, but the EMS Dispatch computer apparently receives the call record at this time. However, because it is classified as a “supplement message,” it is not yet read by anyone. The police dispatcher dealing with the area around the WTC also receives the call record, but misinterprets it as meaning that the floor the person is on has collapsed. EMS dispatchers are dealing with an enormous volume of calls as well as performing many other tasks under extreme pressure during the crisis, so a report later concludes that the EMS operators didn’t have the time to review the information before the collapse of the South Tower at 9:59 (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001), and the fire chiefs never received the information. (New York City Fire Department 8/19/2002)

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. (Zuckman 9/12/2001; Mitchell and Seelye 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. (Lancaster and Dewar 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)

A fighter and helicopter both fly directly above the Pentagon on 9/11 on the morning of 9/11. Exact time is unknown.A fighter and helicopter both fly directly above the Pentagon on 9/11 on the morning of 9/11. Exact time is unknown. [Source: Agence France-Presse]The three F-16s scrambled from Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, at 9:30 a.m. finally reach Washington and the burning Pentagon. The 129 mile distance could theoretically have been covered by the fighters in six minutes, but they’ve taken a wide detour over the ocean (see 9:30 a.m.-9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). The exact time they arrive is unclear. An early timeline laid out to CNN by senior Defense Department officials will claim they arrive as early as 9:49 a.m., but the 9/11 Commission later claims they only establish “a combat air patrol (CAP) over Washington” at “approximately 10:00 a.m.” (CBS News 9/14/2001; CNN 9/17/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 34)
Conflicting Press Accounts - Press accounts of when the first fighters reach Washington are highly contradictory. Early news accounts describe fighters arriving from Andrews Air Force Base, not Langley, “within minutes,” “a few moments,” or “just moments” after the Pentagon crash. (McAllister 9/11/2001; Wastell and Jacobson 9/16/2001; ABC News 9/11/2002) Other newspaper accounts inaccurately deny that fighters from Andrews are deployed (Weisman 9/16/2001) , and some deny Andrews even has fighters available. (Stone 9/16/2001) Defense officials will initially claim, “There were no military planes in the skies over Washington until 15 to 20 minutes after the Pentagon was hit”—in other words, 9:53 a.m. to 9:58 a.m. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer 9/14/2001) But an ABC News report will suggest that by around 10:00 a.m., “Dozens of fighters are buzzing in the sky” over Washington. (ABC News 9/11/2002)
Fighter Jets Don't Arrive until Later? - In contrast, the New York Times reports: “In the White House Situation Room and at the Pentagon, the response seemed agonizingly slow. One military official recalls hearing words to the effect of, ‘Where are the planes?’” The Pentagon will insist it had air cover over its own building by 10 a.m. However, numerous witnesses on the ground, including a reporter for the New York Times who is headed toward the building, will say they did not see any fighters until around 10:40 a.m., or “closer to 11” (see (10:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sanger and van Natta 9/16/2001; Creed and Newman 2008, pp. 130-131) According to some accounts, the plane that flies over the Pentagon at that time is Major Billy Hutchison’s F-16, launched from Andrews Air Force Base. (Filson 2003, pp. 81-82; Spencer 2008, pp. 235-236) NORAD will initially claim the Langley fighters were about 105 miles from the Pentagon when it was hit at 9:37, and the 9/11 Commission will later claim they were 150 miles away (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27)

Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL), who is third in line for the presidency, is evacuated from the US Capitol building and flown to a secret underground bunker in Virginia, where he remains until late in the afternoon. (Yang 9/11/2001; ABC News 9/15/2002) Around 9:48, the Capitol building had begun evacuating (see 9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). At that time, Hastert was on the House floor. Two members of his security detail now enter the chamber and tell him, “We’re going to evacuate the Capitol, and you’re going to a secure location.” They take him out of the building and drive him hurriedly to Andrews Air Force Base, ten miles southeast of Washington. After he arrives there, Hastert is finally able to communicate with Vice President Dick Cheney, who is at the White House. (Hastert had been trying to contact Cheney earlier on, but without success (see (9:04 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001.) Cheney tells Hastert: “There’s a real danger. I want you to go to a secure location.” (Hastert 2004, pp. 8-9) Hastert gets on a helicopter and is flown to the secret underground bunker at Mount Weather in Bluemont, Virginia, 48 miles outside Washington—about 20 minutes journey by air. (Schwartz 11/2001; ABC News 9/15/2002; Bamford 2004, pp. 81) In the following hours, other top members of the House and Senate leaderships will join him there (see (Between Late Morning and Early Afternoon) September 11, 2001). (Yang 9/11/2001; Hastert 2004, pp. 10) Hastert remains at the secure facility for several hours, and will return to Washington late in the afternoon (see (Between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (Hastert 9/11/2002) Hastert’s evacuation to Mount Weather is the result of “Continuity of Government” (COG) orders, which provide for evacuating the third and fourth in the line of presidential succession during a national emergency, in order to protect the nation’s constitutional leadership. (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002) Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke activated the COG plan shortly before 10:00 a.m. this morning (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Clarke 2004, pp. 8)

Ronald Bucca.
Ronald Bucca. [Source: Public domain]Two firefighters climbing up the South Tower, Orio Palmer and Ronald Bucca, have reached its 78th floor, the lower end of the impact zone where Flight 175 hit. (Dwyer and Fessenden 8/4/2002) They are just two floors below the level where, minutes later, its collapse initiates. (Federal Emergency Management Agency 5/1/2002, pp. 2-34) Over radio, Palmer tells firefighter Joseph Leavey, “We’ve got two isolated pockets of fire. We should be able to knock it down with two lines.” (Dwyer and Flynn 2005, pp. 206) The fact that they reached so high up the tower only comes to light almost a year later, when a tape of radio communications from 9/11 is made public (see August 4, 2002). The New York Times will report “[N]owhere on the tape is there any indication that firefighters had the slightest indication that the tower had become unstable or that it could fall.” (Dwyer and Flynn 11/9/2002) Palmer’s communication appears to contradict claims that “extreme fires” contributed to the tower’s collapse. (Barter 9/13/2001; Lipton 10/20/2004) Ronald Bucca, a Special Forces veteran, had actually conducted his own private research into Islamic militancy following the 1993 WTC bombing. He’d even taken time, in 1996, to attend the beginning of the trial of Ramzi Yousef, a mastermind of the bombing (see September 5, 1996). (Lance 2003, pp. 180-183, 333-334)

A radio transmitter carried by aircraft that is designed to go off automatically if a plane crashes is activated in the vicinity of the city of Ann Arbor in southeast Michigan, although the distress signal is presumably a false alarm. Details of the distress signal will be described when an unidentified individual calls the FAA’s Cleveland Center at around 10:19 a.m. and tells an air traffic controller there, “I’ve got an ELT reported over Ann Arbor.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration 10/14/2003) An “ELT” is an emergency locator transmitter, a device carried on most general aviation aircraft in the US that is designed to automatically begin transmitting a distress signal if a plane should crash, so as to help search and rescue efforts in locating the downed aircraft. (Federal Aviation Administration 3/23/1990; Federal Aviation Administration 7/12/2001; Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association 1/22/2009) The caller will not say who reported the ELT signal to him. But he will say the signal “started at 13:53” Zulu time, which is 9:53 a.m. Eastern time. Presumably realizing the signal was therefore activated over 25 minutes earlier, the caller will add, “Wait a minute, that don’t make any sense.” But the Cleveland Center controller will tell him: “Yeah, it does. It might have been late to be…” The caller will then say, “Okay, well I’ve got an ELT reported over Ann Arbor,” before the call ends. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001) Further details of the ELT signal and what might have caused it are unknown. Flight 93 will crash in rural Pennsylvania about 10 minutes after the signal over Ann Arbor is activated (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 30) However, apparently no ELT signal will go off when it crashes (see 10:07 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001) According to Major Allan Knox, who works at the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, most ELT signals are false alarms. (9/11 Commission 10/6/2003 pdf file)

President Bush on the phone during the flight from Sarasota to Barksdale Air Force Base.President Bush on the phone during the flight from Sarasota to Barksdale Air Force Base. [Source: White House]President Bush and his staff have difficulty communicating with colleagues in Washington, DC, while they are traveling on Air Force One, after the plane takes off from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Donnelly 9/22/2002; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/10/2006; Graff 9/9/2016) Bush had problems calling his colleagues at the White House while he was being driven to the airport, after leaving the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, at around 9:35 a.m. (see (9:34 a.m.-9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/10/2006)
Air Force One Should Have 'Outstanding Communications' - He ought to have more success after he boards Air Force One, at around 9:45 a.m. (see (9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001), since the plane has state-of-the-art communications systems. (Inside the White House 9/1998; Hardesty 2003, pp. 167) Its capabilities are “just as good as the communications from the Oval Office in terms of [the president] being able to call, in a secure way, the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, the generals that might have to fight a war, or the vice president or… the national security adviser,” White House chief of staff Andrew Card will later comment. The plane has the “capacity to have… outstanding communications,” he will say. (Card 8/12/2002)
Communications Systems Are 'All Jammed' - However, Bush and his staff have great difficulty sending and receiving information about the day’s events while they are on Air Force One. (Donnelly 9/22/2002) The “multiple [communications] systems—commercial and terrestrial systems” on the plane are “all jammed,” according to Master Sergeant Dana Lark, superintendent of communications. Lark actually wonders, “Did someone sabotage our comms?” (Graff 9/9/2016)
Bush Has Problems Communicating with Vice President Cheney - Bush finds that his calls are successful only intermittently. (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/10/2006) Attempts are made to establish an open line with Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who are at the White House, but the line keeps dropping. (Bush 2010, pp. 131) “It was absolutely stunning, standing next to the president as he was talking to the vice president, then holding the phone off his ear because it cut off,” White House press secretary Ari Fleischer will comment. (Graff 9/9/2016) At one point, Bush pounds his desk in frustration and shouts: “This is inexcusable. Get me the vice president.” (Kohn 9/11/2002) He also has difficulty reaching his wife, Laura, since the line keeps dropping when he tries to call her. He eventually talks to her shortly before 11:45 a.m., when Air Force One is approaching Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana (see (Shortly Before 11:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Bush 2010, pp. 132)
Officials in Washington Are Unable to Call the Plane - Some key individuals in Washington are unsuccessful when they try calling Air Force One. Scott Heyer, a communications officer in the White House Situation Room, is unable to contact the plane while it is flying from Sarasota to Barksdale Air Force Base, even when he tries calling its satellite phone (see 9:54 a.m.-11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 3/16/2004) And White House counselor Karen Hughes is unable to reach the president when she tries calling him while he is airborne (see (Between 10:31 a.m. and 11:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002; NBC 4/4/2004)
Bush Has His First Teleconference Hours after Leaving Sarasota - As a result of his problems communicating from the plane, Bush will hold his first teleconference with his principal advisers at around 3:15 p.m. (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001)—more than five hours after he takes off from Sarasota—after he arrives at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, where there is sophisticated communications equipment (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001). (Donnelly 9/22/2002; Weisul 11/4/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 326) By that time, the communication problems will apparently have started to ease. Lark will recall that as Air Force One is flying to Offutt, “some of the commercial systems finally began to become available” and she actually receives a call from her chief. (Graff 9/9/2016)
Good Communications Are 'Critical' for the President - Bush’s communication problems may have a significant impact on the government’s ability to respond to the terrorist attacks. Thomas Kean, the chairman of the 9/11 Commission, will explain why the president’s ability to communicate during a crisis is so important, saying, “In the case of any kind of attack in the United States, what you’re supposed to do is get the president off the ground and Air Force One then becomes the command center.” Once he is airborne, the president is “commanding the forces of the United States from the air,” Kean will say. (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/10/2006) “The president literally can’t function in his constitutional role unless he can communicate, so [good communications are] absolutely critical,” Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Herman, a senior presidential communications officer, will similarly comment. (Bates 10/2002) The president “is the only one who can give certain orders that need to be given,” Kean will note. (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/10/2006) However, Mark Rosenker, director of the White House Military Office, will claim that the communication problems have only a limited impact. “[F]or the most part I believe the president had the ability to do what was necessary to be in control and have command of his forces, and talk with his national security structure,” he will say. (White House 8/29/2002)
Communications Systems Are Supposedly 'Saturated' - Lark will learn at a later date that the communication problems occur because, she will say, “the commercial systems were all just saturated.” (Graff 9/9/2016) Rosenker will similarly suggest that the problems may be partly due to the fact that communications from Air Force One “have to get through a regular telephone network,” and when there is a crisis, the increased volume of communications “jam and overuse the structure.” (White House 8/29/2002) On top of their problems making and receiving calls, Bush and his staffers have difficulty monitoring the television coverage of the attacks while they are airborne, because the reception on the plane is poor and intermittent (see (9:54 a.m.-6:54 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (Kohn 9/11/2002; Donnelly 9/22/2002; Graff 9/9/2016)

Acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers enters the National Military Command Center (NMCC) within the Pentagon, though exactly when this happens remains unclear. According to his own statements, he was on Capitol Hill, in the offices of Senator Max Cleland (D-GA), from just before 9:00 a.m. until around the time the Pentagon was hit. He’d then headed back to the Pentagon (see Shortly Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Armed Forces Radio And Television Service 10/17/2001; Myers 9/11/2002; Myers 6/29/2006) According to the 9/11 Commission, Myers joins the air threat conference call from the NMCC at “shortly before 10:00.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 38) But the American Forces Press Service reports that he arrives at the NMCC “about 15 minutes” before Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (who arrives around 10:30), meaning at about 10:15 a.m. (Garamone 9/8/2006) Rumsfeld claims that, as he enters the NMCC, Myers has “just returned from Capitol Hill.” (9/11 Commission 3/23/2004) Cleland verifies that Myers was with him on Capitol Hill until around the time of the Pentagon attack. (CNN 11/20/2001; Baxter and Galloway 6/16/2003) But counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke claims that Myers has been taking part in a video conference since shortly after the second attack on the WTC, and has been visible on the Pentagon screen (see (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:28 a.m. September 11, 2001), thereby implying Myers has been at the Pentagon all along. (Clarke 2004, pp. 3 and 5) Myers tells the 9/11 Commission, “After I reached the National Military Command Center (NMCC), I asked questions to determine where Secretary Rumsfeld was, how the FAA was handling airborne flights, and the status of fighters prepared to intercept any hijacked aircraft inbound to Washington.” (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004 pdf file)

Members of New York Police Department’s elite Emergency Service Unit (ESU) are given an order that means they have to get out of the World Trade Center or delay entering it and consequently many of them will avoid being killed when the South Tower collapses, at 9:59 a.m. (Keegan and Davis 2006, pp. 101-102; Appel 2009, pp. 112-113) The ESU is a highly trained organization comprised of first response rescuers. (City of New York 6/29/2002) Its members respond to situations that require the most specialized training, such as hostage taking and water rescue, and use the most advanced equipment. (Keegan and Davis 2006, pp. 101)
Officers Are Ordered to Come Down from the WTC - Inspector Ronald Wasson, commanding officer of the ESU, earlier on divided his officers into four teams of five or six men and then sent two teams into each of the Twin Towers to assist the rescue operation. (McPhee and O'Shaughnessy 11/11/2001) But now, ESU commanders give the order for the unit’s members to “go tactical.” This means the officers in the towers have to come out of the buildings and go to the unit’s SWAT (special weapons and tactics) vans; put on their BDU (battle dress uniform) suits, flak jackets, and Kevlar helmets; and arm themselves with heavy weapons and assault rifles.
Commander Thinks Terrorists Might Attack the First Responders - The decision to order ESU officers to go tactical is made by Wasson, according to a book by Lieutenant William Keegan of the Port Authority Police Department. (Keegan and Davis 2006, pp. 101-102) Wasson is currently assembled with a number of other ESU officers outside the Twin Towers, at the corner of West and Vesey Streets. (Appel 2009, pp. 68) He decides that ESU officers should go tactical due to his concern that armed terrorists might attack the first responders at the WTC. He is “worried that with all his personnel inside the buildings, he [has] no way to protect the cops, firefighters, or civilians from the kind of low-intensity warfare—snipers, automatic weapons, car bombs, hostage situations—he [is] sure [will] follow the attack,” Keegan will write. He believes it is the responsibility of the New York Fire Department to deal with the fires in the Twin Towers, while the Police Department should be preparing for what might happen next. Many ESU members will come out of the towers after receiving the order to go tactical, according to Keegan. (Keegan and Davis 2006, pp. 101-102)
Order Is Given after an Officer Hears of the Pentagon Attack - However, according to author Anthea Appel, the order to go tactical is made by Sergeant Tom Sullivan, another ESU officer. Sullivan is currently at the corner of West and Vesey Streets along with Wasson, getting ready to take two teams into the WTC. At 9:56 a.m., after hearing over his radio about the attack on the Pentagon, which occurred at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001), he exclaims, “Screw rescue!” He then pulls his men back and announces that all ESU teams will be “going in tactical,” according to Appel. “I want heavy vests, helmets, rifles, and machine guns,” he says. In response to his announcement, ESU officers start taking off their rescue gear and putting on combat gear. They take off their safety helmets and replace them with ballistic helmets. They take off their air tanks, unbuckle their Roco harnesses, and put on more body armor over their bulletproof vests. They also unlock their gun bins and take out shotguns, submachine guns, and assault rifles. Some officers grumble under their breath, annoyed at being held back. “They didn’t like wasting time fiddling around with equipment,” Appel will comment, “and this sudden switch interrupted their adrenaline momentum.” They will be in the middle of changing into their combat gear when the South Tower collapses (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Appel 2009, pp. 112-113)
Order Is Wrong but Saves Lives - The order to go tactical will turn out to be mistaken as there are no attacks by armed terrorists on the first responders at the WTC. However, as a result of it being issued, numerous ESU members will be outside the Twin Towers instead of inside the buildings when the South Tower comes down and many of them will therefore avoid being killed in the collapse. While 14 ESU members will die in the WTC collapses, a far greater number will survive, Keegan will write, “because Wasson’s order pulled them out of the towers and saved their lives.” (Keegan and Davis 2006, pp. 102) One ESU member, Detective Frank DeMasi, will conclude that Sullivan “definitely saved his life when he made that last-minute decision to switch from rescue to tactical mode,” according to Appel, since the delay while they changed into their combat gear “kept DeMasi and his teammates from walking into the South Tower before it collapsed.” (Appel 2009, pp. 265-266)

Two F-16s belonging to the 147th Fighter Wing.Two F-16s belonging to the 147th Fighter Wing. [Source: Gonda Moncada / Texas Military Forces]Four armed F-16 fighter jets belonging to the Texas Air National Guard are directed toward Air Force One in order to escort the president’s plane. (BBC 9/1/2002; Kohn 9/11/2002; Bombardier 9/8/2006 pdf file; Rosenfeld and Gross 2007, pp. 40)
SEADS Sends Fighters toward Air Force One - Air Force One has taken off from Sarasota, Florida (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001), and the White House has requested a fighter escort for it (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Martin 7/4/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 38) NORAD’s Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS) orders jets that belong to the 147th Fighter Wing of the Texas Air National Guard toward the president’s plane. (Hehs 4/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 87; Rosenfeld and Gross 2007, pp. 40) Major General Larry Arnold, the commanding general of NORAD’s Continental US Region, will later recall: “We were not told where Air Force One was going. We were told just to follow the president.” (Code One Magazine 1/2002)
Ellington Field an 'Alert' Site - The 147th Fighter Wing is based at Ellington Field, a joint civil and military use airport about 15 miles south of Houston. (Rendon 12/9/2003; GlobalSecurity (.org) 8/21/2005; GlobalSecurity (.org) 1/21/2006) Ellington Field is one of NORAD’s seven “alert” sites around the US, which all have a pair of armed fighters ready to take off immediately if called upon. (McKenna 12/1999; Hebert 2/2002)
Pilots Not Told What Their Target Is - Two of the F-16s sent toward Air Force One are on the ground at Ellington Field and have been placed on “battle stations,” with the pilots sitting in the cockpits, when the scramble order is received. (Hehs 4/2002) The other two have been flying a training mission (see After 9:55 a.m. September 11, 2001), and are pulled off it to escort Air Force One. (Arnold 12/2001 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 255) Among the four pilots are Shane Brotherton and Randy Roberts. Their new mission is so secret that their commander does not tell them where they are going. When they ask what their target is, the commander says, “You’ll know when you see it.” Brotherton will later recall, “I didn’t have any idea what we were going up [for] until that point.” (Kohn 9/11/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 255)
Jets First to Reach Air Force One - At least two of the 147th Fighter Wing F-16s will be seen from Air Force One at around 11:30 a.m., although an official will tell reporters on board that fighters are escorting the plane about 15 minutes before that time (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). They are the first fighters to reach Air Force One after it left Sarasota, according to most accounts. (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001; Kohn 9/11/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 87; Martin 7/4/2004; Rosenfeld and Gross 2007, pp. 40; Spencer 2008, pp. 255) However, a few accounts will indicate the first jets to reach it belong to a unit of the Florida Air National Guard located at Jacksonville International Airport (see (10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (US Department of Defense 9/2001; Langley 12/16/2001) The 147th Fighter Wing F-16s will accompany Air Force One all the way to Washington, DC. (Filson 2003, pp. 87-88; Cousins 7/9/2005)

James Nieckarz.James Nieckarz. [Source: Maryknoll Mission Archives]Police officers order members of the public to get away from the World Trade Center, telling them the Twin Towers are in danger of collapsing. Shanthy Nambiar, a reporter for BridgeNews in New York, is standing on Vesey Street, beneath Building 7 of the WTC. She hears someone shout, “You guys shouldn’t be in this area.” She will later recall, “Police officers ordered people to start fleeing the area, saying the towers were in danger of collapse.” She runs north one block and then sees the South Tower coming down (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Casey 2001, pp. 156) Priest Father James Nieckarz is also standing outside Building 7 around this time. He will recall that a couple of police officers come along, shouting out to everyone on the street: “Everyone run to the north. The tower is shaking and may come down.” Nieckarz goes around Building 7 and then, as he is walking north, hears “a loud rumbling roar” behind him as the South Tower collapses. (Milisic 9/12/2001; United States Conference of Catholic Bishops 9/2003, pp. 15) Why the police officers encountered by Nambiar and Nieckarz believe the Twin Towers are in danger of collapsing is unclear. Although a New York City Police Department (NYPD) helicopter has reported “large pieces” falling from the South Tower (see (9:49 a.m.) September 11, 2001), the 9/11 Commission Report will state, “Prior to 9:59, no NYPD helicopter pilot predicted that either tower would collapse.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 304)

The South Tower of the World Trade Center collapses.The South Tower of the World Trade Center collapses. [Source: Associated Press]The South Tower of the World Trade Center tilts to the southeast and then collapses. It was hit by Flight 175 at 9:03 a.m., 56 minutes earlier (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Washington Post 9/12/2001; New York Times 9/12/2001; MSNBC 9/22/2001; Cauchon 12/20/2001; Associated Press 8/21/2002; ABC News 9/11/2002; National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 44) The first sign of the collapse is visible on floor 82. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 87) The angle of the tilt will be disputed after 9/11 (see September-November 2005), as will the time it takes the towers to fall to the ground (see September 12, 2001-September 2005). (Ashley 10/9/2001; Eagar and Musso 12/2001; PBS Nova 5/2002; National Institute of Standards and Technology 8/30/2006)

Twenty minutes after the 9/11 attacks in New York (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001) and Washington (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001), a bomb truck is stationed in downtown Oklahoma City, in preparation for any potential bombing related to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Additionally, an Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Department command post is activated where convicted bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see September 5, 2001) is being held. (The Oklahoman 4/2009)

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