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

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General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talks over the phone with General Richard Myers, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who is at the Pentagon, and is given information about the Pentagon attack and the military’s response to the terrorist attacks. Shelton took off at 7:15 a.m. to fly to Europe for a NATO conference (see 7:15 a.m. September 11, 2001). He learned of the attacks in New York while his plane was over the Atlantic Ocean, and has just been told of a “big explosion at the Pentagon” (see (8:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
First Report Is of a Hand Grenade Going Off at Pentagon - Shelton heads to the communications console just behind the plane’s cockpit. From there, he talks over a secure, encrypted phone line with Myers, who is in the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon. Myers updates Shelton on what is known about the explosion at the Pentagon. He says the first report is that a hand grenade went off in the Pentagon parking lot.
Myers Updates Shelton on Military Response to Attacks - Myers then gives Shelton a complete status report. He says: “We’ve transitioned the SIEC [significant event conference] into an air threat conference call, which is in progress as we speak (see 9:29 a.m.-9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:37 a.m.-9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). FAA has requested that NORAD take over control of US airspace. Fighters have scrambled to escort Air Force One (see (After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and we’re sending AWACS up to provide further monitoring (see Before 9:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). We’ve escalated to Threatcon Delta and are about to launch the NAOC [National Airborne Operations Center plane]. Bases around the world are locked tight, [Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul] Wolfowitz has been relocated to Site R (see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001), plus, [Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen] Hadley has requested we implement full ‘Continuity of Government measures’ (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001), and we are proceeding along those lines.”
Myers Says Plane Hit the Pentagon - Myers is then interrupted by some commotion in the background. When he returns to the line, he tells Shelton, “Okay, we just got the word: the prior report was incorrect; it was not a hand grenade that exploded, it was another commercial airline that struck the Pentagon.” He then continues with his status report, saying, “[P]er the president, we’ve gone weapons free in the event of a hijacked aircraft or one that threatens the White House.” (Giesemann 2008, pp. 20, 22-24; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell 2010, pp. 430-433)
Shelton Wants to Return to Washington - Myers will tell the 9/11 Commission that after he arrives at the NMCC—presumably referring to the time of this phone call—he “recommended General Shelton return to Washington, DC.” (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004 pdf file) But Shelton will recall that he tells Myers, “I need you to call Ed Eberhart [General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD] at NORAD and let him know that we’re coming back [to Washington] on Speckled Trout [the nickname of the plane he is on], and tell him that I would consider it a personal favor if he would see to it that the chairman and his crew are not shot down on their way back to Andrews.” Myers confirms, “Will do.” According to Shelton, his plane is called back 10 minutes later “with confirmation that we had been officially cleared to fly through the shutdown airspace.” (Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell 2010, pp. 433) But according to Captain Rob Pedersen, the flight navigator on Shelton’s plane, it is several hours before the plane is cleared to enter the US airspace (see (After 9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (McCullough 9/2011 pdf file) The plane will therefore only land at Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington, at 4:40 p.m. (see 4:40 p.m. September 11, 2001) and Shelton will only arrive at the NMCC an hour after that (see 5:40 p.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001 pdf file; Myers 2009, pp. 159) The exact time of the call between Shelton and Myers is unclear, though it would be at some time after about 10:00 a.m., when Myers arrives at the NMCC (see (Between 9:55 a.m. and 10:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2/17/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 38)

The NORAD representative on the Pentagon’s air threat conference call reports that General Ralph Eberhart, the commander in chief of NORAD, has declared “concern” for the crisis that is taking place. At around 9:39 a.m., the NORAD representative said over the conference call that “[n]o assessment for the overall air situation” had been given by NORAD at that point (see (9:39 a.m.) September 11, 2001). But now he says an assessment has been issued. He reports over the conference call: “At this time, CINC [commander in chief] NORAD”—meaning Eberhart—“has declared an assessment of concern for the air events does hold. I say again, an assessment of concern does hold for the air events.” (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001; US Department of Defense 9/11/2001 pdf file) Eberhart will tell the 9/11 Commission that at NORAD, he alone would be responsible for making an assessment of concern. He will say that at around 9:40 a.m. to 9:45 a.m., he received a lot of pressure from personnel at NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center to say that “yes,” he did assess concern. If he makes an assessment of concern, Eberhart will comment, it triggers a “Defcon surge.” What he means by a “Defcon surge” is unclear. (9/11 Commission 3/1/2004) (The military’s defense readiness condition (Defcon) will in fact be raised to Defcon 3, on the orders of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, at 10:52 a.m. (see (10:43 a.m.-10:52 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 326; Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 131) ) Eberhart will also say that an assessment of concern is “tied basically to a foreign attack” and making it triggers a number of consequences that, among other things, would impact Russia. (9/11 Commission 3/1/2004)

Paula Pluta, a resident of Stonycreek Township, Pennsylvania, sees Flight 93 crashing behind some trees about 1,500 yards from her home and then calls 9-1-1, becoming the first person to call the emergency services to report the crash. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 9/12/2001; East Bay Times 9/10/2005) Pluta is at her home, watching television, unaware of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and at the Pentagon. Everything has been quiet and normal. Suddenly, though, her house starts to vibrate, and things in it start rattling and shaking. She hears a roar coming from the skies above her that gets louder and louder. “I heard this noise like a dive bomber; you know, one of those planes they use in war,” she will later recall. When she looks out the living room window, though, she sees nothing unusual outside. She then goes out onto the front porch. From there, she sees a “silver streak” plummeting toward the ground at an angle of about 45 degrees. “It looked like a silver bullet,” she will describe. (Braun and Zitner 9/12/2001; McMillan 2014, pp. 106; Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial 3/17/2016) Flight 93 crashes into the ground at 10:03 a.m. (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Seelye 9/9/2011; National Park Service 5/2013, pp. 13 pdf file) Pluta is unable to see the impact, since the plane disappears behind a line of trees before hitting the ground, but she feels the ground shaking when the plane crashes. “It hit so hard that it almost took my feet out from underneath me,” she will recall. (Braun and Zitner 9/12/2001; McMillan 2014, pp. 106; Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial 3/17/2016) She also sees a huge fireball about 150 feet up in the air and a plume of smoke coming from behind the trees. (Keller and Yates 9/12/2001; National Park Service 3/2017, pp. 15 pdf file) The explosion damages the outside of her home. Pluta notices that a garage door has buckled and a latched window has been sucked open. She immediately calls 9-1-1 to report the incident. “Oh my God!” she tells the operator. “There was an airplane crash here!” She is the first of about 20 local residents to report the crash of Flight 93 to the authorities. She will promptly head to the site where the crash occurred and be surprised at the lack of wreckage there (see (After 10:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 9/12/2001; McMillan 2014, pp. 106-107; Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial 3/17/2016)

In response to the terrorist attacks in the United States, the Russian military cancels a major training exercise it has been holding, turning back its bomber aircraft and calling off planned missile testing. (Simmie 12/9/2001; Doscher 9/8/2011) The Russian Air Force began the exercise—which was being conducted over the North Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans—on September 10 (see September 10, 2001), and had planned for it to continue until September 14. NORAD has deployed fighter jets to Alaska and Northern Canada to monitor the exercise (see September 9, 2001).
Russians Cancel Exercise to Avoid Confusion - The Russians now call off their exercise, “to avoid misunderstandings, since US defenses were now on high alert in case of further possible terrorist attacks,” according to BBC correspondent Bridget Kendall. (BBC 2001, pp. 161; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/9/2001; Gertz 9/11/2001) “The Russians knew NORAD would have its hands full,” the Toronto Star will report. Lieutenant Colonel William Glover, the commander of NORAD’s Air Warning Center, will say the Russians stop their exercise “because they understood the magnitude of what had happened to us in the United States. They didn’t want any questions; they didn’t want us worrying about what they would be doing or entering our Air Defense Identification Zone.”
Russia Tells US about Canceling Exercise - The Russians notify the US of their actions. Captain Michael Jellinek, the director of plans, requirements, and readiness at NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center in Colorado, will later recall: “They sent the message to the State Department clearly and unambiguously: ‘Don’t worry about our movements, we’re going to stay down for a while.’”
Russia's Actions Are 'Very Helpful' to US - It is unclear when exactly the Russians call off their exercise. According to the Toronto Star, they “immediately” cancel it “on seeing the attacks in New York and Washington.” Glover will say the Russians notify the US that they are stopping their exercise “after the United Flight 93 went into Shanksville” (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Jellinek will call the Russians’ actions in canceling their exercise “[v]ery, very useful. Very helpful.” Glover will comment, “[T]hat was amazing to me, personally, the fact that they stopped their exercise and… that they told us that they were going to stop the exercise.” (Simmie 12/9/2001; Doscher 9/8/2011) Russian President Vladimir Putin will contact the White House and inform National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice that the Russians are voluntarily canceling their exercise (see Between 10:32 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002)

Shortly after 9/11, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) will say the nearest fighter jets to Flight 93 at the time it crashes are the F-16s from Langley Air Force Base that are flying a combat air patrol over Washington, DC (see (Between 9:49 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 34) Other accounts will conflict over whether or not there are any fighter jets near Flight 93 when it goes down:
bullet Two days after the attacks, it will be reported that an unnamed New England air traffic controller has ignored a ban on controllers speaking to the media, and this controller claims “that an F-16 fighter closely pursued Flight 93.… [T]he F-16 made 360-degree turns to remain close to the commercial jet.” The controller adds that the fighter pilot “must’ve seen the whole thing.” He reportedly learned this from speaking to controllers who were closer to the crash. (McKeon 9/12/2001; Associated Press 9/13/2001)
bullet Five days after the attacks, on September 16, CBS News will report that two F-16s are tailing Flight 93 and are within 60 miles of it when it goes down. (CBS News 9/16/2001; Carlin 8/13/2002)
bullet But, also on September 16, Major General Paul Weaver, the director of the Air National Guard, will say that no military planes were sent after Flight 93. (Seattle Times 9/16/2001)
bullet In April 2002, Anthony Kuczynski will tell the University of St. Thomas’s weekly newspaper that he had flown toward Pittsburgh alongside two F-16s on 9/11. He says he was piloting an E-3 Sentry AWACS plane, which has advanced radar and surveillance equipment that can be used to direct fighter jets to their targets. He was just about to intercept Flight 93 when it crashed. He says, “I was given direct orders to shoot down an airliner.” (E-3s are unarmed, so, if this account is accurate, the order presumably applied to the fighters Kuczynski was accompanying.) (Forster 4/12/2002; US Air Force 9/22/2015)
bullet A year after the attacks, ABC News will report that the “closest fighters” to Flight 93 when it crashes “are two F-16 pilots on a training mission from Selfridge Air National Guard Base” near Detroit, Michigan. These are ordered after Flight 93, according to some accounts, even though they are unarmed. (Raddatz 8/30/2002; ABC News 9/11/2002) However, other accounts will state that these jets are in fact ordered to intercept another aircraft, Delta 1989, or are simply told to return to their base (see (9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:56 a.m.-10:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28; Casey 9/6/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 178)
bullet Stacey Taylor, an air traffic controller at the FAA’s Cleveland Center, will claim not to have seen any fighter jets on radar around the area of the crash. (MSNBC 9/11/2002)
bullet Five years after 9/11, Bill Keaton, a Cleveland Center controller who tracked Flight 93 as it flew eastward (see (9:41 a.m.-10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001), will be asked whether there were fighter jets in the vicinity of the plane when it crashed. He will reply, “[T]hat goes beyond the scope of what I can comment on.” (Air traffic controllers reportedly can lose their security clearances if they discuss the movements of military aircraft.) (Renner 9/6/2006)

Flight 93 crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside. Resue vehicles arrive in the distance.Flight 93 crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside. Resue vehicles arrive in the distance. [Source: Keith Srakocic/ Associated Press]Flight 93 crashes into an empty field just north of the Somerset County Airport, about 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, 124 miles or 15 minutes from Washington, D.C. Presumably, hijackers Ziad Jarrah, Ahmed Alhaznawi, Ahmed Alnami, Saeed Alghamdi, and all the plane’s passengers are killed instantly. (CNN 9/12/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; Ellison 10/17/2001; Hillston 10/28/2001; Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002; Associated Press 8/21/2002; MSNBC 9/3/2002) The point of impact is a reclaimed coal mine, known locally as the Diamond T Mine, that was reportedly abandoned in 1996. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 9/12/2001; Zapinski 9/12/2001; Frederick 9/11/2002) Being “reclaimed” means the earth had been excavated down to the coal seam, the coal removed, and then the earth replaced and planted over. (Kashurba 2002, pp. 121) A US Army authorized seismic study times the crash at five seconds after 10:06 a.m. (Kim and Baum 2002 pdf file; Perlman 12/9/2002) As mentioned previously, the timing of this crash is disputed and it may well occur at 10:03 a.m., 10:07 a.m., or 10:10 a.m.

A helicopter flying above the burning World Trade Center.A helicopter flying above the burning World Trade Center. [Source: History Channel]Minutes after the collapse of the south WTC tower, police helicopters fly near the North Tower to check on its condition. The pilot of one helicopter radios, “About 15 floors down from the top, it looks like its glowing red,” and adds, “It’s inevitable.” Seconds later, another helicopter pilot reports, “I don’t think this has too much longer to go. I would evacuate all people within the area of that second building.” While these warnings are relayed to police officers, fire and rescue personnel do not hear them, as they operate on a different radio system. (Dwyer, Flynn, and Fessenden 7/7/2002; Fisher 8/25/2005; National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 224) The North Tower will collapse 21 minutes later (see 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001).

US military installations are placed on the highest state of alert, known as Force Protection Condition Delta (FPCON Delta), in response to the terrorist attacks in New York and at the Pentagon. The raised threat level applies to every US military installation across the country and around the world, and every member of the US armed forces. (Associated Press 9/11/2001; US Department of Defense 9/11/2001; Shanker and Schmitt 9/12/2001) Measures that are taken once FPCON Delta has been declared include placing more guards on duty at installations, having all vehicles on installations identified, and having all personnel positively identified. Additionally, all suitcases, briefcases, and packages brought into an installation must be searched. (Suellentrop 9/12/2001)
Rumsfeld and Myers Decide to Raise FPCON - The decision to raise the force protection condition is apparently made by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and/or acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers. Rumsfeld will tell the 9/11 Commission that after he arrives at the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center (NMCC) (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he and Myers “discussed, and I recommended… increasing the force protection level.” (9/11 Commission 3/23/2004) Myers will later write that after he arrives at the NMCC (see (Between 9:55 a.m. and 10:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he “recommended that all American military commands and units worldwide go to [FPCON] Delta.” He will add: “Terrorists had staged major attacks in New York and Washington. Although we did not yet have reliable intelligence on when and where they would strike next, it seemed likely that they would.” (Myers 2009, pp. 153) But White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke will write that he gave the instruction to raise the force protection condition, at around 9:30 a.m. (see (9:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Clarke 2004, pp. 5-6)
Conflicting Times Given for Raising of FPCON - The exact time at which the force protection condition is raised is unclear. CNN’s Barbara Starr will report that “all US military forces [are] ordered to Condition Delta” at 10:10 a.m. (CNN 9/4/2002) However, other evidence indicates the force protection condition is raised at a later time, around 10:35 a.m. Rumsfeld only enters the NMCC at about 10:30 a.m., indicating it is raised after that time. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 43-44) And at 10:38 a.m., after Vice President Dick Cheney asks him on the air threat conference call if US forces are on “heightened alert,” Rumsfeld will reply, “Yes,” and say they are at FPCON Delta. (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001 pdf file)
Some Areas Already at FPCON Delta - Although the entire US military is now under the same FPCON level, usually, different locations can have different FPCON levels. (Suellentrop 9/12/2001) US forces in some parts of the world, particularly the Middle East and the Persian Gulf region, are in fact already at FPCON Delta. (Shanker and Schmitt 9/12/2001) (The force protection condition was raised in those areas in late June, after intelligence reports suggested that terrorists might attack American military or civilian targets in the region (see June 21, 2001). (Richter 6/23/2001; National Public Radio 5/23/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 257) ) Shortly after the force protection condition is raised, Rumsfeld will order that the defense readiness condition also be raised (see (10:43 a.m.-10:52 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 326, 554)
Five Possible Force Protection Conditions - The force protection condition is a “chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff-approved standard for identification of, and recommended responses to, terrorist threats against US personnel and facilities,” according to the Department of Defense. (US Department of Defense 11/8/2011 pdf file) It was created in June 2001 and replaced the “terrorist threat condition,” or “Threatcon.” (Arkin 1/22/2002) There are five possible force protection conditions. The lowest, FPCON Normal, means no threat of terrorist activity is present. The other conditions are Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, up to the highest, FPCON Delta, which means a terrorist attack has occurred or intelligence has been received indicating that action against a specific location is likely. (Associated Press 9/11/2001; Suellentrop 9/12/2001)

Someone from the 174th Fighter Wing, which is based at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base near Syracuse, NY, calls NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) and speaks with Major Kevin Nasypany, the mission crew commander there. (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001) Earlier on, shortly after seeing the second plane hitting the World Trade Center at 9:03, a commander of the 174th Fighter Wing called NEADS to offer fighter jets to help (see (After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). They’d said: “Give me ten [minutes] and I can give you hot guns. Give me 30 [minutes] and I’ll have heat-seeker [missiles]. Give me an hour and I can give you slammers.” (Scott 6/3/2002; Carey 9/12/2006) Yet, now, more than an hour after the second attack, these fighters have still not been launched. Syracuse tells Nasypany, “I’ve got guys that’ll be launching in about 15 minutes.” Despite the earlier promise to have heat-seekers and slammers on the planes, Syracuse says: “We’ve got hot guns. That’s all I’ve got.” Nasypany says: “I’ve got another possible aircraft with a bomb on board. It’s in Pennsylvania, York, approximate area.” He adds that there is “another one, that’s possibly at Cleveland area.” These aircraft, he says, are United Airlines Flight 93 and Delta ‘89, respectively. (Although Flight 93 has already crashed, NEADS apparently does not learn of this until 10:15 (see 10:15 a.m. September 11, 2001).) NEADS was alerted to Delta Flight 1989 at 9:41, and mistakenly suspects it has been hijacked (see 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). Syracuse says: “I’ve got two jets right now. Do you need more than two?” After NEADS requests another two, Syracuse replies, “Get four set up, yep.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001) According to the Syracuse Post-Standard, the first fighters to launch from Hancock Field are two F-16s that take off at 10:42 a.m. A further three take off at about 1:30 p.m., and two more launch around 3:55 p.m. (see 10:42 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Wasilewski 9/12/2001)

Michael Irwin.Michael Irwin. [Source: Publicity photo]Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gould, a military aide who is accompanying President Bush on his visit to Florida, makes a call requesting a fighter escort and other assets to support Air Force One as it flies away from Sarasota. Gould, who has tactical control of all the military assets that support the president, including presidential aircraft, was with Bush on Air Force One when the plane took off from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). He has talked with Colonel Mark Tillman, Air Force One’s pilot, about the plane’s ability to evade other aircraft. “At this point we don’t know the scope of this attack and what’s in front of us,” Gould will later recall. Gould will say that because he “thought there was a threat,” he makes a phone call and asks for three things: fighter jets to escort Air Force One, a refueling plane, and an AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System plane) to provide the ability to “see” around the president’s plane.
Request Relayed over Conference Call - Gould will say, in 2011, that he calls the Pentagon to make this request. (Scully 9/11/2011; Wallace 9/11/2011) However, other evidence indicates that he contacts the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House with the request, and the request is then passed on to the Pentagon over the air threat conference call. A transcript of the air threat conference call shows that at 10:14 a.m., Colonel Michael Irwin, the director of operations for the White House Military Office, who is in the PEOC, says he has “just talked to [the] mil aide” on Air Force One, and then adds: “We’d like AWACS over Louisiana. We’d like fighter escort.” (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001 pdf file)
Fighters and AWACS Later Accompany Air Force One - An AWACS on a training mission off the coast of Florida is directed toward Air Force One and will accompany it all the way to Washington, DC (see Before 9:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Code One Magazine 1/2002) Fighters will also arrive to escort the president’s plane. However, it will be over an hour before they reach it (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001) It is unclear if and when a refueling plane reaches Air Force One.

Blast doors at NORAD’s operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado.Blast doors at NORAD’s operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado. [Source: Eugene Chavez]The massive doors leading to NORAD’s operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, designed to protect the center from a nuclear blast, are closed for the first time ever in a real-world, non-exercise event, though the reason for this is unclear. (Simmie 12/9/2001; Scott 6/3/2002; BBC 9/1/2002; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/9/2011) The two steel blast doors, one third of a mile inside the mountain, guard the heart of NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC) and are intended to seal the complex to protect it from a nuclear strike. The doors are three feet thick, more than 10 feet high, and each weigh 25 tons. During an attack, they can swing shut in 30 to 40 seconds. (McKenna 1/1996; Astore 5/5/2008; Colorado Springs Gazette 5/10/2008)
Doors Are Shut for the First Time, except for Exercises - Air Force officer William Astore will later recall that when he worked inside Cheyenne Mountain between 1985 and 1988, the blast doors were kept open, “except, of course, during ‘exercises,’ when the mountain ‘buttoned up’ its self-contained world.” (Astore 5/5/2008) Now is the first time since the CMOC opened in 1966 that the blast doors have been shut because of a real-world, non-exercise event. Lieutenant Colonel Steven Armstrong, NORAD’s chief of plans and forces, who is in the CMOC on this day, will later comment, “The fact that we closed the blast doors… was a significant event.” (Simmie 12/9/2001; Zubeck 6/14/2004; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/9/2011)
Accounts Conflict over Why the Doors Are Closed - The reason the blast doors are shut is unclear. According to the Toronto Star, they are closed because “no one yet knew who was behind the attack—or what else might be en route.” (Simmie 12/9/2001) But Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine will report that “NORAD commanders ordered [the] massive steel doors be closed” after “someone—possibly President Bush—ordered the military to a Force Protection Condition Delta wartime posture” (see (Between 10:10 a.m. and 10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Scott 6/3/2002) Other reports will say the doors are shut due to a report the CMOC received about an aircraft that is incorrectly suspected of being hijacked and targeting Cheyenne Mountain (see (10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (BBC 9/1/2002; Grant 2004, pp. 26; Zubeck 6/14/2004; Reid 7/29/2006) A NORAD representative on the Pentagon’s air threat conference call will report over the conference call that the blast doors are in fact shut in response to information received at the CMOC about a number of suspicious trucks that are supposedly heading toward the CMOC (see (Shortly After 1:05 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001)
Doors Are Re-Opened Four Hours Later - The blast doors will be re-opened four hours after they are shut, “when officials learned the threat was bogus,” according to the Colorado Springs Gazette. (Zubeck 6/14/2004)

F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft at the 180th Fighter Wing.F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft at the 180th Fighter Wing. [Source: Jodi Joice / US Air Force]Two F-16 fighter jets take off from a military unit in Toledo, Ohio, in response to the morning’s attacks, but accounts will conflict over what their mission is and who the pilots are. (Sallah and Mahr 12/9/2001; Filson 2003, pp. 71; WTOL 9/11/2006) The 180th Fighter Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard is based at Toledo Express Airport. Although the unit is not one of NORAD’s seven alert facilities around the US, it has recently received a call from NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), requesting that it launch two of its fighters (see 10:01 a.m. September 11, 2001). (McKenna 12/1999; Sallah and Mahr 12/9/2001; WTOL 9/11/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 178-179) The 180th Maintenance Squadron, which is responsible for maintaining the unit’s aircraft and equipment, was also contacted, and has loaded the F-16s’ guns with 500 rounds of 20-caliber ammunition. (180th Fighter Wing 9/19/2001; WTOL 9/11/2006)
Jets Head East - The two F-16s, which were being set up for training missions, now take off and head east. (Sallah and Mahr 12/9/2001) According to author Lynn Spencer, they are piloted by Scott Reed and Ed Rinke. (Spencer 2008, pp. 179) However, a local television station will report that the pilots are Scott Reed and Keith Newell. (WTOL 9/11/2006)
Mission Unclear - It is unclear what role the two jets play in defending the nation. Toledo Air National Guard officials will later refuse to talk about this morning’s events, even in the general terms permitted by the military. (Sallah and Mahr 12/9/2001) According to Spencer, NEADS wanted the 180th FW jets to respond to Delta Air Lines Flight 1989, which is incorrectly thought to have been hijacked and will land in Cleveland at around 10:18 (see (10:18 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The 9/11 Commission will similarly say the Toledo jets are ordered to intercept Delta 1989. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/16/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27-28; Spencer 2008, pp. 177-178) But Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region, will say the 180th FW was contacted “because we thought [Flight] 93 or Delta Flight 1989 might be headed toward Chicago.” (Filson 2003, pp. 71) NEADS battle commander Colonel Robert Marr will say the two F-16s “never had a track close enough that they were directed to engage. [But] if a valid direction had come from the appropriate level to engage a target, or shoot down a target at some time, they could have done that.”
Response Is 'Very Quick' - Marr will describe the 180th FW’s response to NEADS’s request for assistance as “very, very, very quick.” (Sallah and Mahr 12/9/2001) However, the fourth hijacked aircraft, Flight 93, has already crashed by the time the two jets take off (see (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 30)

An aircraft at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.An aircraft at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. [Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer]Delta Air Lines Flight 1989, a Boeing 767 out of Boston that is wrongly suspected of being hijacked (see 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 9:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001), lands at Cleveland Hopkins Airport in Ohio, and is directed to a remote area of the airport. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/16/2001; Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27-28; O'Mara 9/11/2006)
Plane Flies Long Path toward Airport - Delta Air Lines had been concerned about Flight 1989, and ordered it to land as soon as possible in Cleveland (see (9:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 167; Levin 9/11/2008) As it was heading in to land, air traffic controllers instructed Delta 1989 to follow a trajectory that initially took it far past Cleveland Airport. Unknown to the plane’s pilots, the controllers incorrectly believe the flight has been hijacked and contains a bomb, and they were therefore making time to evacuate the airport before the plane landed (see (9:50 a.m. and After) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 191)
Plane Directed to Remote Area - Once Delta 1989 is on the ground, the Cleveland Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) informs the FAA’s Cleveland Center that Delta 1989 is “on the ground at 1418,” where “1418” means 10:18 a.m. Cleveland Center asks, “Very safely too, I hope?” The TRACON responds that the plane is being taken to the bomb area to check. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/16/2001) Delta 1989 is directed to “taxi left onto taxiway Bravo and wait there.” This taxiway leads to a remote part of the airport that is far away from the terminal. The pilot does as instructed. (Spencer 2008, pp. 229)
Passengers Not Allowed Off - The pilots radio the airport’s air traffic control tower and say: “Just to make sure we don’t have any misunderstandings here, our flaps are up, we are landing only as a precaution at the company’s request. You understand that?” They ask if they are going to get to their gate soon, but the controller responds that city authorities are in charge and he believes people will be coming to search the aircraft. The controller advises that city authorities have said to keep the plane’s passengers on the aircraft for now. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/16/2001) The passengers and crew will have to remain on board for perhaps a couple of hours, until FBI agents allow them off (see 11:28 a.m.-12:23 p.m. September 11, 2001). (O'Mara 9/11/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 270-271)
Conflicting Reports of Landing Time - Subsequent accounts will give conflicting times for when Delta 1989 lands at Cleveland Airport. According to a detailed timeline provided by the airport’s control tower, the aircraft is “on the ground” at 10:18 a.m. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/16/2001) Several accounts will give similar landing times of between 10:05 a.m. and 10:10 a.m. (Federal Aviation Administration 1/2/2002; Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002) But a NORAD official will tell the 9/11 Commission that Delta 1989 landed at 9:47 a.m. (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003) Other accounts will say it lands at between 10:33 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. (Singer 9/11/2001; Singer 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file)

President Bush’s travels on 9/11.President Bush’s travels on 9/11. [Source: Yvonne Vermillion / MagicGrapix.com]Air Force One begins heading for Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana after the base is identified as a suitable interim destination for the president’s plane. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 325) Washington, DC, was the plane’s original destination. (White House 8/29/2002; Scully 9/11/2011) But after taking off from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport in Florida without a fixed destination (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001), Air Force One changed course at around 10:10 a.m. and headed west (see (10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). This was because it had been determined that Washington was too unsafe for President Bush to return there (see (9:55 a.m.-10:04 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 39, 325) At that time, the plane’s new destination was undecided.
Military Base Sought for President to Make a Statement - Andrew Card, Bush’s chief of staff, who is with the president on Air Force One, will later recall, “And so we started looking at potential Air Force bases or Navy bases where we could land the plane.” (Card 8/16/2002) Mark Rosenker, the director of the White House Military Office, will recall that Card comes up to him in the communications area of the plane and says, “We need to find a facility, a base that we can get to in a relatively short period of time so that the president can make a statement.” (White House 8/29/2002)
Secret Service Told of Bush's Desire to Land - Card will recall: “I had a goal of landing the plane within an hour and a half. It was somewhat arbitrary, but I wanted to get the president down.” (Card 8/16/2002) Card similarly tells Edward Marinzel, the head of the president’s Secret Service detail, that Bush wants to land so he can make a statement to the press. It is also noted “that the stop would provide an opportunity for the airplane to be refueled and those on board to effect necessary communication,” Marinzel will say. (United States Secret Service 2001)
Offutt Air Base Rejected as Destination - Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gould, Bush’s military aide, quickly researches the possibilities. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 325) The first plan that is considered, according to Rosenker, is to fly all the way out to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, but this idea is dismissed because it would take too long to get there, and it is “very important to the president to address the nation and make sure that the people could see that he was safe and in total control of the situation.” (White House 8/29/2002) (Air Force One will in fact head to Offutt later in the day, landing there at 2:50 p.m. (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001).)
Barksdale Makes 'the Greatest Sense' - Instead, at around 10:20 a.m., Gould identifies Barksdale Air Force Base as “an appropriate interim destination,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 325-326) Rosenker will recall: “Barksdale made the greatest sense to us. It was a highly secure Air Force base, had B-52s there; they had the capability to do what was necessary to secure Air Force One and to make sure that the president was safe, and make sure that we could provide the appropriate communications facility so the president could make his statement.” (White House 8/29/2002)
Bush Agrees with Decision to Head to Barksdale - The final decision to head to Barksdale Air Base is made by Card, “after talking to the military and the Secret Service,” according to White House press secretary Ari Fleischer. (Fleischer 2005, pp. 142) Bush agrees with the decision and Barksdale becomes his plane’s new destination. (Bush 2010, pp. 130; Rove 2010, pp. 255) Air Force One will land at Barksdale Air Force Base at around 11:45 a.m. (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 325)

Personnel at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, New York, learn that Air Force One is airborne, around half an hour after it took off from Florida, and are told the plane is heading toward Washington, DC. (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 325)
NEADS Learns President's Plane Is Airborne - Major Kevin Nasypany, the mission crew commander at NEADS, is briefed by a colleague that “Air Force One is airborne out of Florida, heading to Washington.” This is apparently the first time NEADS knows that the president’s plane is in the air. (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001) But Air Force One took off from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport in Florida about half an hour ago (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 325) And while some later accounts will state that the plane is indeed heading north, toward Washington, at this time (see (10:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001), according to other accounts, including the 9/11 Commission Report, it has turned west (see (10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and is now flying toward Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001; Sammon 2002, pp. 108; Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 325)
Commander Told Fighters Will Escort Air Force One - Nasypany’s colleague continues: “We’ve got those four F-15s coming out of Langley. They’re done rolling.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001) He is presumably referring to F-15 fighter jets belonging to the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. (Langley Air Force Base 11/2003; Airman 9/2005) He says, “Two of [the F-15s] will be diverted to escort [Air Force One] at the appropriate time.” Nasypany says, “We need a plane out of the Air Force One.” He then asks his colleague, “Is he airborne now?” The colleague says yes.
Commander Told SEADS Is Providing Fighter Escort - Nasypany then says, “We’ve identified [Air Force One] as a special one.” His colleague replies: “We haven’t got him. Southeast does,” meaning NORAD’s Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS) at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. Referring to SEADS, Nasypany asks, “So they’ll have fighters on him?” His colleague says yes. (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001) However, fighters will only be noticed escorting Air Force One by those on the plane more than an hour later (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001)
Commander Passes on News about Air Force One - Nasypany then passes on the information about Air Force One to another colleague. He tells them: “Air Force One is airborne out of Florida, going to Washington. There should be F-15s on them by the time they hit our AOR [area of responsibility].” Nasypany restates that the president’s plane is “going to Washington. This is what I was just passed.” He says, “SEADS should be putting fighters on it,” but adds that “we’ll have to take over [in providing a fighter escort for Air Force One] once they hit our AOR.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001)

United Airlines contacts American Airlines and notifies it of the crash of Flight 93. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 47) Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania shortly after 10:00 a.m. (see (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). United Airlines received confirmation of this by 10:15 (see (10:07 a.m.-10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

The North Tower collapses in a matter of seconds.The North Tower collapses in a matter of seconds. [Source: Ray Stubblebine/ Reuters/ Landov] (click image to enlarge)The North Tower of the World Trade Center tilts to the south and then collapses. Its north side was hit by Flight 11 at 8:46, 102 minutes earlier. (CNN 9/12/2001; New York Times 9/12/2001; MSNBC 9/22/2001; Kim and Baum 2002 pdf file; Associated Press 8/21/2002; National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 33) After the antenna starts to move (see (10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001)), the next sign that the top section of the building is moving downward is on floor 98, at the top of the impact zone. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 22, 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) The death toll could have been much worse—an estimated 15,000 people made it out of the WTC to safety after 8:46 a.m. (St. Petersburg Times 9/8/2002)

FBI agents in New York quickly set up a temporary field office in an FBI parking garage, where they will be based for the next few weeks, after the attacks on the World Trade Center rendered their original office unusable. The New York office is the FBI’s largest field office, comprising some 1,100 special agents. It is located at 26 Federal Plaza, just a few blocks away from the WTC site. However, the collapses of the Twin Towers (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001) disabled its telephone service, thereby rendering it useless. Officials are also concerned that 26 Federal Plaza might be the target of another terrorist attack.
New Facility Is Set Up in 24 Hours - Therefore, “Almost immediately” after the Twin Towers came down, according to the New York Times, the FBI starts relocating to a garage in Manhattan. The block-long, multilevel garage at 26th Street and the West Side Highway is usually used by the FBI to store and repair its fleet of vehicles. But within 24 hours of the attacks on the WTC, a temporary field office is up and running there. The facility is equipped with about 100 laptop computers. Three hundred phone lines are installed, with phones hooked up to a satellite truck positioned outside the garage.
Investigation Is Coordinated from the Temporary Facility - Officials from over two dozen federal, state, and local agencies are then based at the makeshift facility. Barry Mawn, director of the FBI’s New York office, and key federal prosecutors, including Mary Jo White, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, coordinate the work of almost 2,000 investigators from there. The garage will serve as the command center for the first four weeks of the FBI’s investigation of the terrorist attacks. (Rashbaum 9/24/2001; Thompson 10/20/2001; Kessler 2002, pp. 5, 424; Garcia 3/2002 pdf file) It will be “New York’s nerve center for information about the attacks,” according to the Associated Press. (Associated Press 9/27/2001) Agents will move back to their original field office at 26 Federal Plaza early in October. (Thompson 10/20/2001)

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, missing for at least 30 minutes, finally enters the NMCC, where the military’s response to the 9/11 attacks is being coordinated. (CNN 9/4/2002; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) Rumsfeld later claims that he only started to gain a situational awareness of what was happening after arriving at the NMCC. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) Rumsfeld was in his office only 200 feet away from the NMCC until the Pentagon crash at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). His activities during this period are unclear. He went outside to the Flight 77 crash site and then stayed somewhere else in the Pentagon until his arrival at the NMCC. Brigadier General Montague Winfield later says, “For 30 minutes we couldn’t find him. And just as we began to worry, he walked into the door of the [NMCC].” (ABC News 9/11/2002) Winfield himself apparently only shows up at the NMCC around 10:30 a.m. as well.

Personnel in the White House Situation Room learn of a plane supposedly flying toward the United States from Europe that appears to be hijacked, but it is subsequently determined that the alleged flight does not exist. Those in the Situation Room receive word confirming that a suspicious Northwest Airlines flight from Portugal to Philadelphia is heading toward Washington, DC. The plane is not responding to radio calls and its transponder is squawking the code for a hijacking. White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke gives orders for someone to find out more about the flight and what assets the US military has available to intercept it at the coast. Meanwhile, the FAA searches its data for information about the flight and officials try to contact Northwest Airlines to find out more. Those participating in Clarke’s video teleconference (see (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:25 a.m. September 11, 2001) grow increasingly anxious, since no action can be taken until more details about the flight are found. Then Timothy Flanigan, the deputy White House counsel, who is in the Situation Room, has an idea. He leaves the room and finds an unsecure computer. On this, he searches travel websites for details of the suspicious flight, but finds nothing. He then checks on the Northwest Airlines website and again finds no reference to the flight. He quickly jots down everything he can find about Northwest Airlines flights from Europe and then goes to pass on his findings. After taking a seat at the conference table, he addresses Clarke, who is still searching for information about the plane. “I’ve checked and there’s no such flight,” he says. Astonished at this news, Clarke asks, “How did you check?” “I looked on their website,” Flanigan replies. Clarke then passes on the news to the other participants in the video teleconference. “I have information that there is no such flight,” he says and adds, “Check that again.” (Eichenwald 2012, pp. 36-37) The 9/11 Commission Report will later note that there are “multiple erroneous reports of hijacked aircraft” this morning (see (9:09 a.m. and After) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28)

Will Chandler.Will Chandler. [Source: National Geographic]Vice President Dick Cheney phones President Bush and tells him the White House has received a credible threat against Air Force One. (Sammon 2002, pp. 106-107; Woodward 2002, pp. 18; Kohn 9/11/2002) The White House has just received an anonymous phone call in which the caller said the president’s plane would be the next terrorist target (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Woodward 2002, pp. 18; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 554) The caller referred to the plane as “Angel,” which is the Secret Service’s code name for Air Force One. (Fleischer 2005, pp. 141-142) Details of the call were passed on to government officials, including Cheney, in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House. (Cheney 11/19/2001; Thomas 12/30/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 554)
Cheney Tells Bush about a 'Credible' Threat - Cheney now tells Bush: “We’re getting reports of a threat against you. It appears credible,” Major Robert Darling of the White House Military Office, who is with Cheney in the PEOC, will later recall. Cheney says, “We’re scrambling fighter escorts and the Secret Service is taking internal precautions on board Air Force One.” (Darling 2010, pp. 61) Bush turns to Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gould, his military aide, and passes on the news, saying, “A call came into the White House switchboard saying, ‘Angel is next.’” Bush then continues talking with Cheney and says, “We’re at war, Dick, and we’re going to find out who did this and we’re going to kick their ass.” (Sammon 2002, pp. 107; Fleischer 2005, pp. 141-142)
Pilot Is Told of the Threat and Asks for a Guard at the Cockpit Door - Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, is told about the threat. (Kohn 9/11/2002) Noting that “Angel” is “a classified call sign of Air Force One,” Tillman will comment that “the only people that knew that call sign was us, [the] Secret Service, and the staff.” Therefore, he will say, “for somebody [to] call into the White House and say that Angel was next, that was just incredible.” (Tillman 2/29/2012 pdf file) “It was serious before that, but now… no longer is it a time to get the president home,” Tillman will comment. “We actually have to consider everything we say. Everything we do could be intercepted and we have to make sure that no one knows what our position is.” Tillman asks to have an armed guard at his cockpit door. Will Chandler, the chief of security, is therefore summoned to the front of the plane and stands watch at the base of the stairs leading to the cockpit. No one is then allowed up these stairs. Secret Service agents double-check the identity of everyone on the plane, while the crew reviews the emergency evacuation plan. (Kohn 9/11/2002; Graff 9/9/2016)
Threat Influences the Decision to Fly to Nebraska - White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who is on Air Force One with Bush, will say the threat against the president’s plane is what leads to the decision to take Bush to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001) and is also one of the reasons why Bush does not head back to Washington, DC, right away. (White House 9/12/2001) However, during the afternoon, the Secret Service will determine that the reported threat was unfounded. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 554) Shortly after Bush learns about the threat, Tillman will be informed that an aircraft that may have been hijacked is heading toward Air Force One (see (10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Kohn 9/11/2002; Knoller 1/17/2009) White House chief of staff Andrew Card will say he in fact learned a threat had been made against Air Force One almost an hour earlier, while he was being driven with Bush to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (see (Between 9:35 a.m. and 9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Card 8/12/2002; Card 8/16/2002; Card 8/16/2002)

Mike Morell, President Bush’s CIA briefer, speaks to Cofer Black, the director of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, who can provide him with little more information about the attacks on the US than is generally known. Morell, who is with the president on Air Force One, has just spoken to Bush, who asked him to call CIA Director George Tenet and tell him to inform the president immediately when the CIA has any definitive information about the perpetrators of today’s attacks (see (10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Morell now sits down in the staff section of the plane, picks up the phone by his seat, and calls Tenet’s office at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. However, the headquarters is currently being evacuated (see (9:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and so Tenet and his staff are in the process of relocating to a secure site. The secretary who answers Morell’s call says Tenet is unavailable and Morell instead has to talk to Black, the nearest senior official, after the secretary passes the phone to him. During their conversation, Black tells Morell what the CIA currently knows about the attacks on the US, which, Morell will later comment, “was little beyond what the rest of the world knew.” Morell then passes on the president’s request to be informed right away as soon as the CIA has information about who is responsible for the attacks and asks Black to share the request with Tenet. As he hangs up the phone, however, Morell is doubtful that his message will be passed on. “I was not confident [Tenet] would get the word, given the evacuation and given everything that would be asked of Black over the next few hours,” he will recall. (Morell 9/2006 pdf file; Morell and Harlow 2015, pp. 52-53) Tenet will inform Bush, for the first time, that the CIA has linked al-Qaeda to the attacks during a video teleconference at around 3:15 p.m. this afternoon (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (Woodward 2002, pp. 26-27; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 326)

Mark Rosenker.Mark Rosenker. [Source: National Transportation Safety Board]The FAA’s Jacksonville Center informs the pilot of Air Force One that an unidentified aircraft is heading toward his plane, and this aircraft is out of radio contact, has its transponder off, and might be another hijacking. Air Force One is currently flying toward Gainesville in northern Florida. (Kohn 9/11/2002; Knoller 1/17/2009; Peter Schnall 1/25/2009) Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, has just been informed that President Bush, who is on the plane, has been called by Vice President Dick Cheney, and Cheney told the president that an anonymous threat has been phoned into the White House, stating that Air Force One is the next target (see (10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sammon 2002, pp. 106-107; Kohn 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 554)
Suspicious Plane Descending toward Air Force One - Tillman is now notified of the suspicious aircraft by the Jacksonville Center. He will later recall that the Jacksonville Center air traffic controller says there is “an aircraft coming at us, descending… and… its transponder was not on, and they had no idea who it was. It could have been another hijacked airliner. They weren’t sure.” The controller tells Tillman the aircraft is “behind you 10 miles, descending at least, flight level 3-5-0, looks to be holding there.” He adds: “Apparently we’ve lost radio contact with them. Are you aware of them?” Tillman replies, “Affirmative.” (Peter Schnall 1/25/2009) The FAA reports this suspicious aircraft over the Pentagon’s air threat conference call at 10:39 a.m., saying the Jacksonville Center “is not working the aircraft. He’s not under [air traffic control] control.” (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001 pdf file) Major Robert Darling of the White House Military Office, who is in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, will later recall that around this time, those in the PEOC receive word “of an unaccounted-for airliner last seen in the Atlanta, Georgia, area headed southeast toward Florida.” It is unclear if this is the aircraft that Tillman is warned about. (Darling 2010, pp. 61)
Pilot Tells Others on Air Force One of Suspect Plane - Tillman informs others onboard Air Force One of the suspicious plane. Mark Rosenker, the director of the White House Military Office, will recall that Tillman “indicated to us that something was coming at us, it was not squawking [i.e. its transponder was off], it was not turning, and we had a feeling that we were going to be able to get away from it. But for a moment you ask the question, ‘What could it be?’” A CBS interviewer will point out to Rosenker that since this “unidentified aircraft… had its transponder off and wasn’t communicating,” it is apparently following “the MO [modus operandi] of all the other aircraft that attacked that day,” and suggest, “That must have made everybody a little nervous.” Rosenker will reply, “Well, it did.” However, he will add, “[W]e are clearly on probably the finest airplane in the world, so we were comforted by knowing that we had the ability to out-run and out-climb anything that was going to get near us.” (White House 8/29/2002)
Air Force One Heads toward Gulf of Mexico for Safety - Tillman turns Air Force One and heads out to the Gulf of Mexico. He will recall: “We weren’t sure who was hijacked and who wasn’t, so I went out into the Gulf of Mexico. There’s basically fighters all over the Gulf that have the capability to make sure that no one comes into the Gulf, penetrates the United States. So I knew I’d be safe out into the Gulf of Mexico.” He will say he heads to the Gulf “to regroup and figure out where we could bring the president to keep him safe.”
Suspicious Plane a False Alarm - The concern about the suspicious aircraft turns out to be a false alarm. According to Tillman, “In reality, just his transponder was off [and] he hadn’t checked in with the controller right afterwards.” (Knoller 1/17/2009; Peter Schnall 1/25/2009)

President Bush, who is on Air Force One, is informed that his wife, Laura Bush, and his daughters, Jenna and Barbara, have been moved to safe locations. When he got on Air Force One in Sarasota, Florida, Bush was concerned about the safety of his wife and daughters, and requested additional protection for them (see (9:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). At that time, the first lady was on Capitol Hill, in Washington, DC (see 9:16 a.m.-9:40 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:41 a.m. September 11, 2001). Barbara and Jenna Bush are students at Yale and the University of Texas, respectively. (Lemann 9/25/2001; Sammon 2002, pp. 100, 108)
President Told Wife and Daughters Are Safe - Edward Marinzel, the head of Bush’s Secret Service detail, who is with the president on Air Force One, has been contacted by Secret Service Director Brian Stafford, and told that the first lady and the president’s daughters have all been safely relocated. (United States Secret Service 2001) This news is now passed on to the president by Andrew Card, Bush’s chief of staff. Card tells Bush that the first lady is “in a secure location with the Secret Service and that his daughters had been removed to safer locations,” Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward will later write. (Woodward 2002, pp. 18) The first lady is taken to the Secret Service headquarters, in Washington (see (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Bush 2010, pp. 200-201) Barbara and Jenna Bush are taken to the Secret Service office in New Haven, Connecticut, and the Driskill Hotel in Austin, Texas, respectively (see 10:51 a.m.-10:57 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Woodward 2002, pp. 17)
President Given Phone Number for First Lady - Bush then asks Card, jokingly, about Barney, his Scottish terrier. Card replies, “He’s nipping at the heels of Osama bin Laden now.” (Lemann 9/25/2001; Sammon 2002, pp. 108) Bush also requests, and is provided with, a direct contact telephone number for the first lady. (United States Secret Service 2001) But according to the president’s senior adviser, Karl Rove, who is on Air Force One at this time, the news that his wife and daughters have been secured “reassured the president and allowed him to put off calling Laura until later in the morning, when events provided a brief window to do so.” (Rove 2010, pp. 258) It will be nearly 11:45 a.m. before Bush is able to talk to the first lady (see (Shortly Before 11:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Bush 2010, pp. 132)

Billy Hutchison.Billy Hutchison. [Source: Family photo]The first fighter jet to launch from Andrews Air Force Base, 10 miles southeast of Washington, takes off in response to the attacks. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004; GlobalSecurity (.org) 1/21/2006) The F-16 belongs to the 121st Fighter Squadron, which is part of the 113th Wing of the District of Columbia Air National Guard, and is piloted by Major Billy Hutchison. It is one of three F-16s that were flying on a training mission in North Carolina, over 200 miles from Andrews (see 8:36 a.m. September 11, 2001), and which have finally been recalled to the base (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Scott 9/9/2002; Miles 5/12/2005) Although the three jets met with a refueling plane, they did not fill their tanks up completely. (Spencer 2008, pp. 216-217) Hutchison’s aircraft is the only one of them with enough fuel remaining to take off again immediately, though he only has 2,800 pounds, which is equivalent to one-eighth of a tank in a car. His jet has no missiles, and only training ammunition.
Pilot Takes Off, Instructed to Protect Washington - Immediately after landing at Andrews at 10:36 a.m., Hutchison takes off again at the instruction of Brigadier General David Wherley, the commander of the DC Air National Guard. He is instructed “to intercept an aircraft coming toward DC and prevent it from reaching DC,” he will later recall. (Vogel 4/8/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 79-81; 9/11 Commission 2/17/2004) According to author Lynn Spencer, Lieutenant Colonel Phil Thompson, the supervisor of flying (SOF) at Andrews, tells Hutchison to “use whatever force is necessary to prevent [the aircraft] from getting to DC.” Thompson adds: “You are weapons free. Do you understand?” “Weapons free” means the decision to shoot at a target now rests solely with Hutchison. (Spencer 2008, pp. 219) However, according to the 9/11 Commission, the “weapons free” instruction goes out to other pilots that launch from Andrews at 10:42 and after, but apparently not to Hutchison. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 44) Thompson will tell Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine simply that he instructs Hutchison “to ‘do exactly what [air traffic control] asks you to do.’ Primarily, he was to go ID [identify] that unknown [aircraft] that everybody was so excited about” (see (10:30 a.m.-10:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Scott 9/9/2002) Hutchison takes off “without afterburner to conserve fuel, go across the White House over the Georgetown area and continue northwest up the Potomac,” he will recall (see 10:39 a.m.-10:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 81)
Conflicting Timelines - Conflicting times will later be given for when Hutchison takes off from Andrews. The pilots with the 121st Fighter Squadron will admit that their own recollection of the morning’s timeline “is fuzzy.” (Scott 9/9/2002) According to 113th Wing operations desk records, Hutchison takes off at 10:33 a.m. (Filson 2003, pp. 81, 89) Based on an interview with David Wherley, the 9/11 Commission states he is airborne at 10:38 a.m. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 44, 465) Recordings of air traffic controller transmissions confirm this time. (9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 2/17/2004) But in her 2008 book Touching History, Lynn Spencer will claim Hutchison took off significantly earlier, some time after 9:50 but before Flight 93 crashed (which was just after 10:00 a.m.). (Spencer 2008, pp. 216-220) (However, she will later amend her claim, saying instead, “Radio data indicates that Hutchison’s flight did not depart from Andrews… until just after 10:35.” (Lynn Spencer 2008) ) Two more fighters will take off from Andrews at 10:42 a.m. (see 10:42 a.m. September 11, 2001) and another two take off at 11:11 a.m. (see 11:11 a.m. September 11, 2001). Due to his plane’s limited fuel, Hutchison will only be airborne for about 10 minutes, and he lands back at Andrews at 10:47 a.m. (see 10:47 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/28/2003; 9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 2/17/2004; Vogel 2007, pp. 446)
One Jet Landed Already - The first of the three F-16s to return from the training mission over North Carolina landed at Andrews at 10:14 a.m., but did not take off again to defend Washington (see 10:14 a.m. September 11, 2001). The other F-16, piloted by Lou Campbell, landed with Hutchison’s jet at 10:36 a.m. (9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 2/17/2004; 9/11 Commission 2/27/2004) The 113th Wing is not part of NORAD’s air sovereignty force and, according to the 1st Air Force’s book about 9/11, does not have an alert mission. (Filson 2003, pp. 76) According to Phil Thompson, “We’ve never been an air defense unit,” but “We practice scrambles, we know how to do intercepts and other things.” (Scott 9/9/2002)

Having taken off after returning from a training mission, a pilot with the District of Columbia Air National Guard (DCANG) flies two loops up the Potomac River, reversing course near Georgetown and the Pentagon, but is unable to locate a suspicious approaching aircraft, and heads back to base less than 10 minutes after launching. (Scott 9/9/2002; 9/11 Commission 2/17/2004; 9/11 Commission 2/27/2004; 9/11 Commission 3/11/2004 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 219-221)
No Rules of Engagement - Major Billy Hutchison, a pilot with the 121st Fighter Squadron of the DCANG, had landed back at Andrews Air Force Base, 10 miles from Washington, but was ordered to take off again immediately (see (10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Scott 9/9/2002) His plane has no missiles, and only training ammunition, and he has been given no specific rules of engagement other than being told to identify an aircraft that is coming down the river. (Vogel 4/8/2002; 9/11 Commission 3/11/2004 pdf file; Vogel 2007, pp. 446) Because the DCANG is not in the communication and command loops of NORAD or its Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), Hutchison is unaware that three fighter jets NEADS ordered into the air from Langley Air Force Base (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001) are also flying over Washington, albeit at a much higher altitude than he is. (Vogel 4/8/2002; Scott 9/9/2002; 9/11 Commission 2/27/2004)
Controller Directs Hutchison - Hutchison calls the Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) at Washington’s Reagan National Airport. He says, “Bully 1 [his call sign] is looking for a contact.” Victor Padgett, the operations supervisor at the TRACON, replies, “We have an intercept for you northwest of here and coming down the Potomac.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 219) Hutchison knows he is meant to be searching for a civilian aircraft, and will later recall that he is told it is coming from Pennsylvania. (9/11 Commission 2/27/2004) In order to conserve fuel and gain airspeed, he flies low over the White House and Georgetown, reportedly staying between 500 and 1,000 feet above ground level. (Scott 9/9/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 219) After Padgett gives him details of the approaching aircraft’s location, Hutchison spots it on his jet’s radar screen, but it quickly disappears. The aircraft reappears a minute later, but then both Hutchison and Padgett lose sight of it.
Aircraft Claimed to Be Flight 93 - Some accounts will suggest the approaching aircraft is thought to be Flight 93 (see (10:30 a.m.-10:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001), even though that plane has already crashed (see (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Vogel 4/8/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 219-221) Hutchison will later recall that the TRACON at Reagan Airport is “frantic with what they seem to think are aircraft coming their way.… There is another aircraft, and it’s United Flight 93. They… apparently have been given information that it’s coming their way.” (Filson 2003, pp. 81) Major David McNulty, the senior intelligence officer of the DCANG, will recall, “[I]t wasn’t until later that they realized the plane [coming down the river] might be UAL 93.” (9/11 Commission 3/11/2004 pdf file) However, John Farmer, John Azzarello, and Miles Kara, who are all staff members of the 9/11 Commission, subsequently rebut this claim. They will write: “[R]adar records of the day [of 9/11] indicate that Major Hutchison did not take off until more than a half-hour after United 93 had crashed near Shanksville, PA, and a good 20 minutes after the wreckage had been located. He could not have seen United 93 on his scope, and could not have intercepted it.” (Farmer, Azzarello, and Kara 9/13/2008)
Told to Investigate Other Aircraft - After the aircraft disappears off Hutchison’s radar screen, Dan Creedon, an air traffic controller at the TRACON at Reagan Airport, is concerned about planes and helicopters that are taking off and landing across Washington, and tells Hutchison, “We have more contacts!” Hutchison confirms that he will investigate the targets Creedon alerts him to, but he keeps losing them among the ground clutter on his radar screen. According to author Lynn Spencer, “The flights are too close to the surface and, from what he can see, appear to be mostly helicopters flying medevac from the Pentagon.”
Flies over the Pentagon - Hutchison, who’d noticed the burning Pentagon before he landed at Andrews Air Force Base (see (9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001), then decides he should investigate it. He descends and flies a steep turn over the Pentagon. (Spencer 2008, pp. 234-235) He will later recall: “I circled at a couple of hundred feet at the most just to, one, investigate, and two, give the people on the ground some semblance of security of an American fighter coming by. And apparently it changed the mood for a lot of people when they saw that” (see (10:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Running out of Fuel - By now, Hutchison is almost out of fuel. He will recall, “After that point, I’m emergency fuel, the lowest I’ve ever been in an F-16, and tell [the FAA’s] Washington Center I must leave, and they say I’m cleared to return to base and that two more aircraft are coming out of Andrews.” (Filson 2003, pp. 81-82) Hutchison will land at Andrews at 10:47 a.m. (see 10:47 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 2/17/2004)

Mike Walter.Mike Walter. [Source: CNN]According to a number of witnesses on the ground, a US Air Force F-16 flies low over the Pentagon at this time; apparently becoming the first fighter to arrive over the scene of the third attack. (Garamone 10/11/2001; Creed and Newman 2008, pp. 130-131) Firefighters and other emergency responders at the Pentagon recently evacuated away from the crash site, due to reports of another supposedly hijacked aircraft flying toward Washington (see (10:15 a.m.-10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (US Department of Health and Human Services 7/2002, pp. A30 pdf file)
bullet Steve Carter, the assistant building manager, is in the Pentagon’s center courtyard, expecting this plane to hit the building. He then sees an F-16 zoom “low and fast over the courtyard.” (Creed and Newman 2008, pp. 130)
bullet On Washington Boulevard, where many fire and rescue personnel relocated during the evacuation, cheers go up when the F-16 flies over. Firefighter Mike Smith shouts out: “Thank God that guy’s there! Where has he been?” (Creed and Newman 2008, pp. 130-131)
bullet Lieutenant Commander Dale Rielage will recall that an “arriving combat air patrol F-16 thundered overhead” after the alleged second hijacked plane was said to be approaching the Pentagon. (Rielage 11/1/2002)
bullet John Jester, the chief of the Defense Protective Service, which guards the Pentagon, says that, following the evacuation, “It wasn’t until an F-15 fighter jet crossed in the sky that we realized the danger had passed.” (Murphy 2002, pp. 246-247)
bullet USA Today reporter Mike Walter, who has been at the Pentagon since the attack there, recalls that, after the evacuation, an “F-16 came screaming by the Pentagon, and people cheered.” (People 9/24/2001)
bullet Staff Sergeant Edwin Rotger Jr. will also describe seeing fighters arriving over the Pentagon at this time. However, he says there are two of them, not one. (Office of Medical History 9/2004, pp. 49)
bullet According to the New York Times, “witnesses, including a reporter for the New York Times who was headed toward the building, did not see any [fighter jets over the Pentagon] until closer to 11 [o’clock].” (Sanger and van Natta 9/16/2001)
According to some accounts, the fighter that flies over the Pentagon at this time is Major Billy Hutchison’s F-16 from Andrews Air Force Base (see (10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 235) Hutchison will recall, “I circled at a couple of hundred feet at the most just to, one, investigate, and two, give the people on the ground some semblance of security of an American fighter coming by” (see 10:39 a.m.-10:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 81-82) However, some accounts contradict this. Major Dean Eckmann, from Langley Air Force Base, suggests his F-16 is the first to fly over the Pentagon, and this was at some time shortly after 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He will say: “I heard stories that people went back in [the Pentagon] after seeing me fly over to help others out.… Now they knew they were safe.” (Filson 2003, pp. 66) Other accounts similarly suggest that the first fighter jet (or jets) arrived over the Pentagon significantly earlier than is described by the witnesses on the ground, between 9:49 and 10:00 a.m. (see (Between 9:49 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (CNN 9/17/2001; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 34)

Vice President Dick Cheney calls President Bush, who is on Air Force One, and urges him not to return to Washington, DC. (Sanger and van Natta 9/16/2001; Sammon 2002, pp. 108-109; Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002) Cheney, who is in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, wants Bush to instead go to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, according to the New York Times. This is because Cheney “knew from his days as secretary of defense” that Offutt has “an extraordinarily sophisticated Strategic Command communications center.” (Sanger and van Natta 9/16/2001) According to journalist and author Bill Sammon, Cheney tells Bush that he and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice both think Washington is “no longer safe enough for his return.” (Sammon 2002, pp. 108-109) Cheney says, “There’s still a threat to Washington.” Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward will describe: “Signals intelligence and all kinds of reports were flooding in. Given what had happened—four hijackings—it wasn’t prudent to come back.” Cheney says he is worried that “the terrorists might be trying to decapitate the government, to kill its leaders,” and Bush agrees with him. Cheney says they have “a responsibility to preserve the government, its continuity of leadership.” (Woodward 2002, pp. 18; Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002) White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who is with the president on Air Force One, will recall that around this time—presumably just after the call from Cheney—Bush tells others on the plane “that the vice president didn’t think it was safe for us to return to Washington until we could get a handle on how many hijacked planes there were. All planes flying in the continental United States had been ordered to land, but it wasn’t clear that all had done so.” (Fleischer 2005, pp. 142) According to some reports, Air Force One is traveling north toward Washington at the time of Cheney’s call, and shortly afterwards it changes course and heads west toward Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana (see (10:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sammon 2002, pp. 108-109; Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002) However, other accounts, including the 9/11 Commission Report, will state that Air Force One turned west at around 10:10 a.m. (see (10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and began heading toward Barksdale about 10 minutes later (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 325)

Heather Penney Garcia.Heather Penney Garcia. [Source: Johnathon Orrell]Two F-16 fighter jets belonging to the District of Columbia Air National Guard (DCANG) take off from Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington, but they have no missiles and only training bullets for their guns. The pilots are Lieutenant Colonel Marc Sasseville and Lieutenant Heather Penney Garcia. (Filson 2003, pp. 82; 9/11 Commission 2004; Vogel 2007, pp. 446)
Possibly Given Shootdown Authorization - Before they headed to their jets, Sasseville and Penney Garcia were given a short briefing by Brigadier General David Wherley, the commander of the DC Air National Guard. Wherley will later recall telling Sasseville that he has “weapons free flight-lead control,” meaning he is responsible for deciding whether to fire on hostile aircraft (see (Between 9:40 a.m. and 10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 82; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 44; Vogel 2007, pp. 446) But Sasseville will say he does not recall receiving any such rules of engagement until after he has taken off. (9/11 Commission 3/8/2004 pdf file)
Jets Only Have Training Ammunition - The two pilots run out to their jets and climb into the cockpits. But their F-16s are armed only with “hot” guns and 511 rounds of non-explosive training practice (TP) ammunition. According to Sasseville: “They had two airplanes ready to go, and were putting missiles on numbers three and four. Maintenance wanted us to take the ones with missiles, but we didn’t have time to wait on those.”
Rookie Pilot 'Never Scrambled Before' - Penney Garcia, who is a rookie pilot, will later say: “I’d never scrambled before, I’d never done this. I was screaming to the maintainers to pull the chocks, and the guys were pulling the pins to arm the guns. We were going without INS [inertial navigation system].” Sasseville and Penney Garcia are airborne about six minutes after reaching their jets. They are unaware that fighters launched from Langley Air Force Base are also flying over Washington, at around 20,000 feet (see (Between 9:49 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Scott 9/9/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 82)
Told to Look for Hijacked Plane - Over their radios, Sasseville and Penney Garcia receive instructions from their squadron to look for a hijacked aircraft approaching from the northwest and heading toward Georgetown (see (10:30 a.m.-10:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). But, Sasseville will later recall, “We didn’t know what we were looking for—how high he was coming, or low, or where he was going.” (Vogel 2007, pp. 446) He will say, “I don’t have the whole picture, but have word from Washington National Approach that something is coming.”
Pilot 'Making Things Up on the Fly' - The two jets will fly over Washington at low altitudes, around 5,000 or 6,000 feet. Sasseville will later say, “I didn’t want to get too low for a good radar angle, and not too high, so we could get somewhere fast.” He will admit that he is “making things up on the fly,” as he has no precedent to draw upon. (Scott 9/9/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 82) Another DCANG pilot, Billy Hutchison, launched from Andrews four minutes before Sasseville and Penney Garcia take off, but he is airborne for less than 10 minutes (see (10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 10:47 a.m. September 11, 2001). The next DCANG jets to take off, which will be armed with missiles, launch at 11:11 a.m. (see 11:11 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 2/17/2004; Vogel 2007, pp. 446)

The US military’s defense readiness condition is raised from Defcon 5, the lowest possible level, to Defcon 3, an intermediate level that requires a heightened alert status for US armed forces worldwide, and which is the highest the defense readiness condition has been for 28 years. (Giambastiani 7/18/2002 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 326, 554; Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 131; Rumsfeld 2011, pp. 338)
Rumsfeld Recommends Raising Defcon - The decision to go to Defcon 3 is reportedly made by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. (Rumsfeld 8/12/2002) Rumsfeld will later recall that after he arrives at the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center (NMCC) (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he talks with General Richard Myers, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and “[w]e discussed and I recommended raising the defense condition level from five to three.” (9/11 Commission 3/23/2004)
Teleconference Participants Told to 'Hold Off' on Defcon 3 - Rumsfeld directs that the US military go to Defcon 3. At 10:43 a.m., it is announced on the air threat conference call that the secretary of defense “has directed that we go to Defcon 3 and be prepared to go to [Defcon] 2.” However, a minute later, Rumsfeld talks to Vice President Dick Cheney on the conference call, and Cheney says he will have to run the decision to go to Defcon 3 by the president, “and let him make the call.” Therefore, at 10:45 a.m., those on the conference call are told to “hold off on Defcon 3.”
Order to Raise Defcon Reinstated - But Rumsfeld believes raising the defense readiness condition is urgent. (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 326, 554) There is therefore a “historical discussion about how the move to Defcon 3 went during previous crises, Cuba specifically [i.e. the Cuban missile crisis in 1962],” Captain Charles Leidig, who is also in the NMCC, will later recall. With their reference being “a book on the shelf,” according to Leidig, Myers is shown that he has “approval authority to go to Defcon 3.” (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file) After consulting Defense Department directives, Rumsfeld concludes that he has the authority to issue the order to raise the defense readiness condition. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 554) Therefore, at 10:46 a.m., those on the air threat conference call are told: “Override last instructions. The vice chairman [i.e. Myers] is directing we go to Defcon 3.” A few minutes later, an announcement is made on the conference call, “Emergency action message released at 14:52 [Zulu time, i.e. 10:52 a.m. Eastern time], re: Defcon 3.” (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 2004)
Raising Defcon Is a 'Huge Move' - Rumsfeld will later agree with an interviewer that raising the defense readiness condition is “a very serious step for the nation.” (Rumsfeld 8/12/2002) It was last raised to Defcon 3 during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, when Rumsfeld had been the United States ambassador to NATO. Regarding the decision to raise it, Myers tells Rumsfeld, “It’s a huge move, but it’s appropriate.” (Rumsfeld 1/9/2002; Paltrow 3/22/2004 pdf file; Rumsfeld 2011, pp. 338)
President Later Told of Decision - The decision to go to Defcon 3 will soon be communicated within NORAD (see 11:03 a.m.-11:12 a.m. September11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 6/17/2003; 9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 2/3/2004 pdf file) Rumsfeld will brief President Bush on the decision (see (11:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 554; Bush 2010, pp. 133) Apparently around the time the defense readiness condition is raised, Rumsfeld and/or Myers also decide to raise the force protection condition of US military installations (see (Between 10:10 a.m. and 10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 3/23/2004; Myers 2009, pp. 153)
Defcon 3 Intended for Cold War - Some individuals will later be critical of the decision to raise the defense readiness condition at this time. John Farmer, the senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission, will write that Defcon 3 is in fact “a Cold War-era designation, devised to respond to a nuclear threat.” (Farmer 2009, pp. 235) According to Farmer and other 9/11 Commission staffers, it is “suited more to a Cold War conflict than to al-Qaeda’s attack.” (et al. 9/7/2011 pdf file) General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD, will similarly say that Defcon 3 is “not intended for [events like] the attacks of 9/11 and thus could have complicated the response to the attacks.” He will say he does not think that raising the condition would have “done anything for us” within the continental United States. (9/11 Commission 3/1/2004 pdf file)
Defcons Are Phased Increases in Combat Readiness - The defense readiness condition is a “uniform system of progressive alert postures for use between the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the commanders of unified and specified commands, and for use by the [armed] services,” according to the Department of Defense. (US Department of Defense 11/8/2011 pdf file) Defcons are phased increases in combat readiness and are graduated to match situations of varying military severity. They are numbered, from Defcon 5, which means “normal peacetime readiness,” down to Defcon 1, which means “maximum force readiness.” The current level, Defcon 3, represents an “increase in force readiness above normal readiness.” (Federation of American Scientists 4/29/1998) The defense readiness condition will remain at Defcon 3 until three days later, when it will be reduced one notch, to Defcon 4 (see September 14, 2001). (Balz and Woodward 1/30/2002)

The US Strategic Command (Stratcom) formally terminates its Global Guardian exercise at this time, according to a 2006 article in The Bombardier, the newspaper for Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. Global Guardian was put on pause just over 90 minutes earlier, according to the same article (see 9:11 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Bombardier 9/8/2006 pdf file) However, other reports will suggest that Global Guardian was canceled significantly earlier than 10:44 a.m. One article in the Omaha World-Herald will state, “When the second World Trade Center tower was hit,” at 9:03 a.m., “the exercise was canceled, and the battle staff [at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska] moved to the real-world crisis.” (Dejka 9/8/2002) But an earlier article in the World-Herald will say that military authorities canceled Global Guardian “after the attacks on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon,” suggesting some time after 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon was hit. (Dejka 2/27/2002) An E-4B National Airborne Operations Center aircraft that was involved in Global Guardian was reportedly only told to pull out of the exercise just after the Pentagon was hit (see (9:27 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Verton 2003, pp. 143-144) Even after Global Guardian is canceled, this plane and two other E-4Bs that are involved in the exercise will remain airborne. (Dejka 2/27/2002) The annual Global Guardian 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)

Air Force One, with President Bush on board, changes course and heads west toward Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana around this time, according to some reports, significantly later than is claimed in other accounts, such as the 9/11 Commission Report. (Sammon 2002, pp. 108-109; Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 325) The president’s plane is currently flying off the coast of South Carolina and is about half way through its 900-mile journey from Sarasota, Florida (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001), to Washington, DC, according to journalist and author Bill Sammon. (Sammon 2002, pp. 109) At 10:41 a.m., Vice President Dick Cheney called Bush from the White House and urged him not to come back to Washington, because, Cheney told Bush, the capital was still too unsafe for him to return there (see 10:41 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Sanger and van Natta 9/16/2001; Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002)
Air Force One Turns West - According to the 9/11 Commission Report, Air Force One changed course and headed west at around 10:10 a.m. (see (10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and it began flying toward Barksdale Air Force Base at about 10:20 a.m. (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 325) However, Sammon will write that Bush gives the order to divert his plane after receiving the 10:41 a.m. call from Cheney. (Sammon 2002, pp. 108-109) “Within minutes” of Cheney calling Bush, according to the Washington Post, “those on board the president’s plane could feel it bank suddenly and sharply to the left, its course now westerly toward Barksdale Air Force Base.” (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002) Barksdale is about 800 miles away, according to Sammon. (Sammon 2002, pp. 109) Representative Dan Miller (R-FL), who is on Air Force One, will support the claim that the plane changes course at this time, around 10:45 a.m. According to the St. Petersburg Times, Miller thought Air Force One “flew due north for about 45 minutes. Then it turned west.” (Martin 7/4/2004) Miller will tell the National Journal, “I would say 10:45, maybe 10:30 or so, the plane changed course.” (National Journal 8/31/2002)
Other Evidence Indicates Plane Is Already Flying West - However, in addition to the 9/11 Commission Report, several other accounts will indicate that Air Force One turned west and headed toward Barksdale Air Force Base significantly earlier than this. A reporter who is on Air Force One will write that the plane “suddenly veered west” within “perhaps 20 minutes of takeoff,” meaning before 10:15 a.m. (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001) And Ann Compton, another reporter on Air Force One, writes in her notebook that at 10:29 a.m., “We were not en route to Washington.” (Gilbert et al. 2002, pp. 131-132) Furthermore, at 10:42 a.m., an ID technician at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) received a call about Air Force One, in which they were told, “It looks like he’s going westbound now.” The caller, someone at NORAD’s Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS), added that the plane was “west of Tallahassee,” which is in north Florida, and said, “We called [the FAA’s Jacksonville Center] to see if he was deviating and they said he, it’s unknown where he’s going at this time.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001)

The first fighter jet that launched from Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, in response to the morning’s attacks lands at its base less than 10 minutes after taking off. (9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 2/17/2004) The F-16, which is piloted by Major Billy Hutchison, was ordered to take off immediately after arriving back at Andrews from a training mission in North Carolina (see (10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Hutchison has made two loops up the Potomac River, and flown over the burning Pentagon (see 10:39 a.m.-10:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Scott 9/9/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 235) His aircraft had only 2,800 pounds of fuel—equivalent to one-eighth of a tank in a car—remaining when he took off, and he’d subsequently noticed his fuel gauge pegged at the lowest level it can indicate, 400 pounds. He announced to the air traffic controller he was communicating with, “I’ve got to go.” (Filson 2003, pp. 79; Spencer 2008, pp. 248) Hutchison will later recall that his plane is “on vapors” when he lands. (9/11 Commission 2/27/2004) By now, two more F-16s have taken off from Andrews (see 10:42 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 82; Vogel 2007, pp. 446) Hutchison’s jet is refueled and loaded with weapons, and he will then take off again to defend Washington. (9/11 Commission 2/27/2004; Spencer 2008, pp. 249)

Pilot Mark Tillman in the cockpit of Air Force One.Pilot Mark Tillman in the cockpit of Air Force One. [Source: CBS News]Reporters accompanying President Bush on Air Force One notice their plane significantly increasing its altitude. (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001; Tapper 9/12/2001; Gilbert et al. 2002, pp. 148) According to Ann Compton of ABC Radio, who is on Air Force One, there is “a noticeable increase in the plane’s altitude” at this time. (Sylvester and Huffman 2002, pp. 136) At 11:14 a.m., the reporters on the plane will be informed that they are flying at around 40,000 feet. (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001) Compton will later recall that around the time it increases its altitude, Air Force One is heading west, instead of flying toward Washington, DC. A Secret Service agent shakes his head and whispers to her, “We aren’t going home.” (Gilbert et al. 2002, pp. 148; Sylvester and Huffman 2002, pp. 136) It is unclear if there is a specific reason for Air Force One’s increase in altitude. Around 20 minutes earlier, Colonel Mark Tillman, the plane’s pilot, was notified of a threat received by the White House indicating that Air Force One is a target (see (10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and shortly afterwards, air traffic control alerted him to a suspicious aircraft that was flying toward his plane (see (10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sammon 2002, pp. 106-107; Kohn 9/11/2002; Knoller 1/17/2009)

A member of staff at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) tells someone he is talking to on the phone to keep quiet about the location of Air Force One and the fact that the plane is airborne. (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001) Air Force One took off from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport in Florida with President Bush on board at around 9:54 a.m. (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 39) Personnel at NEADS, however, only learned it was airborne about half an hour later (see 10:26 a.m. September 11, 2001). (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001) A member of staff at NEADS, whose identity is unstated, is on the phone with someone whose identity is also unstated. He tells them, “If anybody calls, you get a phone call, anything, you pass [on] no information as to where Air Force One is and [the fact] that it’s airborne.” The person on the phone acknowledges the instruction, saying, “Copy.” A second member of staff at NEADS jokes, “I don’t know where he [i.e. Air Force One] is anyway” and laughs. The person on the phone then says he “didn’t know he [i.e. Air Force One] was airborne until you told me.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001) It is unclear why the NEADS staffer wants details about Air Force One kept quiet. Some NEADS personnel have already discussed the plane and the need to provide fighter jets to escort it among themselves. (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001) And an ID technician at NEADS talked about the location of the plane and its possible destination over the phone with someone at NORAD’s Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS) (see (10:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001) A few minutes later, the member of staff at NEADS will again assert the need to keep quiet about what is happening this morning. At around 11:01 a.m., they will tell someone they are talking to on the phone, apparently the same person as before, “If you get phone calls from anybody on anything that’s going on, don’t forget: you direct them to public affairs or the MCC.” (The MCC is Major Kevin Nasypany, the NEADS mission crew commander.) The person on the phone will acknowledge the instruction, saying, “Copy.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001)

Two pages from Moussaoui’s notebooks mentioning Ahad Sabet (Ramzi bin al-Shibh’s alias), plus phone number and mention of his residence in Germany.Two pages from Moussaoui’s notebooks mentioning Ahad Sabet (Ramzi bin al-Shibh’s alias), plus phone number and mention of his residence in Germany. [Source: FBI]Within an hour of the 9/11 attacks, the Minnesota FBI uses a memo written to FBI headquarters shortly after Zacarias Moussaoui’s arrest to ask permission from a judge for the search warrant they have been desperately seeking. After the World Trade Center is hit for the first time at 8:46 a.m., Mike Maltbie of the Radical Fundamentalist Unit (RFU) at FBI headquarters calls the Minneapolis field office and talks to FBI agent Coleen Rowley. When Rowley says it is essential they get a warrant to search Moussaoui’s belongings, Maltbie instructs her to take no action, because it could have an impact on matters of which she is not aware. Rowley replies that it would have to be the “hugest coincidence” if Moussaoui were not related to the attack. She will recall that Maltbie replies that coincidence is the right word. Maltbie will later say he does not recall using the word “coincidence” in the conversation. Maltbie then consults Tom Ainora, an attorney at the FBI’s national security law unit, who says Minneapolis should seek the warrant. While Rowley is waiting for Maltbie to call back, one of her colleagues, Chris Briese, talks to RFU chief Dave Frasca. According to Briese, Frasca initially says there is not enough evidence for a criminal warrant, but when they find out the Pentagon has been hit Frasca consents. Frasca will say that he consents immediately. (Time 5/21/2002; US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 178-9 pdf file) Briese later tells Samit that Frasca also initially claims it is just “a coincidence.” (Gordon 6/4/2006) A federal judge approves a criminal search warrant this afternoon. (Hersh 9/30/2002; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 3/9/2006) The Radical Fundamentalist Unit at FBI headquarters had previously blocked requests for criminal and intelligence search warrants (see August 21, 2001 and August 28, 2001). Rowley will note that this very memo was previously deemed insufficient by FBI headquarters to get a search warrant, and the fact that they are immediately granted one when finally allowed to ask shows “the missing piece of probable cause was only the [FBI headquarters’] failure to appreciate that such an event could occur.” (Time 5/21/2002) After the warrant is granted, Moussaoui’s belongings are then rushed to an evidence response team, which discovers documents linking Moussaoui to 11 of the hijackers (see August 16, 2001). Rowley later suggests that if they had received the search warrant sooner, “There is at least some chance that… may have limited the September 11th attacks and resulting loss of life.” (Ratnesar and Weisskopf 5/27/2002)

The North Portal entrance to the Cheyenne Mountain Complex in Colorado.The North Portal entrance to the Cheyenne Mountain Complex in Colorado. [Source: NORAD]The message goes out within NORAD that the military’s defense readiness condition has been raised to Defcon 3. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2003; 9/11 Commission 2004) Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld directed that the defense readiness condition be raised from Defcon 5—the lowest level—to Defcon 3 at around 10:45 a.m. (see (10:43 a.m.-10:52 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 326, 554; Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 131) At 10:52 a.m., an emergency action message about the increased defense readiness condition was issued. (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 2004)
NORAD Personnel Learn of Defcon Change - Word of the change is then communicated within NORAD. At 11:03 a.m., NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) is ordered to Defcon 3. Four minutes later, at 11:07 a.m., Lieutenant Colonel Steve Usher, the director of combat operations at the headquarters of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR) in Florida, announces that Defcon 3 has been ordered. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2003) And a military log will state that “NORAD has directed Defcon change” at 11:12 a.m. (9/11 Commission 2004) Staff Sergeant Brent Lanier, an emergency action controller in NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC) in Colorado, is tasked with sending out a message about the change to the defense readiness condition. He will later recall: “I’d sent out false Defcon messages during exercises, but I never thought I’d have to send out an actual Defcon change message—but I did. It was frightening.” (Tudor 3/2002)
NORAD Officers Discuss Defcon Change - Major General Larry Arnold, the CONR commander, will tell the 9/11 Commission that he hears of the change to the defense readiness condition either from Major General Rick Findley, the director of operations at the CMOC, or from one of NORAD’s computer chat logs. (9/11 Commission 2/3/2004 pdf file) Usher will tell the 9/11 Commission that the instruction to raise the defense readiness condition comes either from the CONR Regional Air Operations Center or from Arnold. He will add that there is an emergency action message confirming the transition. (9/11 Commission 2/4/2004 pdf file) Arnold will recall that, at some unspecified time, he calls General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD, about the change to the defense readiness condition, with the intention of informing Eberhart “of what was ongoing.” (9/11 Commission 2/3/2004 pdf file)
Change in Defcon Affects Who Can Declare a Target Hostile - Steve Hedrick, an air weapons officer at NEADS, will tell the 9/11 Commission that “any change in Defcon is authenticated immediately” with the fighter jets under NORAD control. He will also say that “the main change when a Defcon level changes is in who has the authority to declare a target hostile.” Hedrick will note that the order from Vice President Dick Cheney, that NORAD fighters were “cleared… to intercept tracks of interest and shoot them down if they do not respond” (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001), is “distinct and different from the transition in Defcon levels.” (9/11 Commission 10/27/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 42)

Weapons load crew members from the District of Columbia Air National Guard arming an F-16 on September 11.Weapons load crew members from the District of Columbia Air National Guard arming an F-16 on September 11. [Source: Corensa Brooks / District of Columbia Air National Guard] (click image to enlarge)Two District of Columbia Air National Guard (DCANG) fighter jets take off from Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington, to defend the capital, the first DCANG planes to launch armed with missiles as well as bullets. (Scott 9/9/2002; 9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 2/17/2004; 9/11 Commission 3/11/2004 pdf file) The two F-16s are piloted by Captain Brandon Rasmussen and Major Daniel Caine. (Scott 9/9/2002) Although Caine was his unit’s supervisor of flying (SOF) this morning, he decided earlier on that he was going to get airborne, and so Lieutenant Colonel Phil Thompson has taken his place as SOF (see (Shortly After 9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 76; Spencer 2008, pp. 184)
Commander Supposedly Gave Shootdown Authority - As Caine and Rasmussen were passing the SOF area on the way to their fighters, they were quickly briefed by Brigadier General David Wherley, the commander of the DC Air National Guard. Wherley had by then received instructions from the Secret Service for his fighter jets to follow (see (10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Between 10:16 a.m. and 10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to author Lynn Spencer, he told the two pilots: “You need to establish a CAP [combat air patrol] over Washington. Intercept any incoming aircraft 60 miles out and use whatever force necessary to keep it from targeting buildings downtown.” Wherley said, “You will be weapons free,” which means the decision whether to fire on a hostile aircraft rests with the lead pilot, and added, “Just be careful.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 44; Spencer 2008, pp. 238) However, Rasmussen will contradict this account, saying that once he is airborne, “we still haven’t been told, ‘You are clear to engage anybody.’ They just said, ‘Get airborne as quick as you can.’” But while the two pilots were getting suited up ready to fly, Caine, who will be the flight lead, had reassured Rasmussen that he would take responsibility for firing on any hostile planes. He’d said: “Whatever you do, don’t be the first one to shoot.… Let me be the first one to shoot, if it comes to that, and then do what I do.” (Rasmussen 9/18/2003)
Fighters Loaded with Missiles - Three DCANG jets took off from Andrews earlier on, but none of them were armed with missiles (see (10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 10:42 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Vogel 2007, pp. 446) Missiles were loaded onto Caine and Rasmussen’s F-16s while they were sitting in the cockpits. (Scott 9/9/2002) Rasmussen will later recall that “we were probably 20 to 30 minutes behind” the previous two jets to launch, “because they were loading heat-seeking missiles on the aircraft.… Once they armed us up, we just rolled right down the runway and blasted off.” The jets take off with hot guns and two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles each. According to Rasmussen, this is the first time he has flown with live missiles. He will say, “I had never flown with real missiles and had never so much as seen them on the jet.”
Communicate with FAA Controllers - After taking off, Caine and Rasmussen communicate with the FAA’s Washington Center, “primarily to control us and give us an idea of the air picture,” according to Rasmussen. The Washington Center normally controls all of the air traffic in the area. However, its controllers are not trained as weapons controllers. Rasmussen will say: “[W]e’re used to working with AWACS [Airborne Warning and Control System] weapons controllers or GCI [ground control intercept].” GCI is “a ground-based radar facility with weapons controllers who will give you the tactical air picture; control and coordinate who is targeting what aircraft; and run the air war that way.” (Filson 2003, pp. 84; Rasmussen 9/18/2003)
Airborne for 3-4 Hours - DCANG pilot Marc Sasseville, who took off at 10:42 a.m., was initially the CAP commander, but Caine takes over this responsibility from him once he is in the air. (9/11 Commission 3/8/2004 pdf file; Vogel 2007, pp. 446) Caine and Rasmussen will remain airborne for three or four hours, which is at least twice as long as the usual maximum duration for an air-to-ground sortie, of about an hour and a half. (Rasmussen 9/18/2003)

Logo of the 192nd Fighter Wing.Logo of the 192nd Fighter Wing. [Source: Air National Guard]More fighter jets arrive over Washington, DC. These include F-16s from Richmond, Virginia, and Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Scott 9/9/2002) The Atlantic City jets belong to the 177th Fighter Wing (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and the Richmond jets belong to the 192nd Fighter Wing. (GlobalSecurity (.org.) 10/21/2001; Vocale 10/2002) Fighters from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia (see (Between 9:49 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington (see 10:42 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 11:11 a.m. September 11, 2001), are already flying over the capital. Captain Brandon Rasmussen, who took off from Andrews at 11:11 a.m., actually flies out to intercept the fighters from Richmond, apparently not realizing who they are. He will later recall: “I ended up running an intercept out of a two-ship out of Richmond, two-ship F-16 out of Richmond that just came flying north. In essence, we would find whatever we could on the radar, ask [the FAA’s] Washington Center if they knew who it was, and if they didn’t, we would run an intercept on them to visual identify who they were.” (Rasmussen 9/18/2003) According to Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine, with jets from different units arriving over Washington, “The air picture was confused, at best, and radio frequencies were alive with chatter.” (Scott 9/9/2002)

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld speaks with President Bush, and they discuss the rules of engagement for fighter pilots and Rumsfeld’s decision to raise the defense readiness condition to Defcon 3. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 465, 554) Rumsfeld is in the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon and Bush is on board Air Force One, flying toward Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. (9/11 Commission 3/23/2004; Martin 7/4/2004) After Rumsfeld entered the NMCC at around 10:30 a.m. (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he had been concerned with ensuring that fighter pilots defending US airspace have a clear understanding of their rules of engagement, so they know “what they could and could not do” (see (10:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 3/23/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 43-44) He also directed that the nation’s armed forces go to Defcon 3, an increased state of military readiness (see (10:43 a.m.-10:52 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 326; Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 131)
President Approves Decision to Raise Defcon - Rumsfeld now speaks with Bush and, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, tells him that the Department of Defense is “working on refining the rules of engagement, so pilots would have a better understanding of the circumstances under which an aircraft could be shot down.” Also at this time, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, Rumsfeld briefs Bush on his decision to raise the defense readiness condition to Defcon 3. When Rumsfeld ordered that the condition be raised, Vice President Dick Cheney told him to run the issue by the president; Rumsfeld replied that he would “call him shortly.” (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 465, 554) Bush gives Rumsfeld his approval for having raised the defense readiness condition. (Milbank and Allen 9/12/2001; Bush 2010, pp. 133)
Defense Readiness Condition Possibly Discussed at Later Time - Although the 9/11 Commission Report will say Rumsfeld and Bush’s discussion of the defense readiness condition occurs at 11:15 a.m., in his 2010 book Decision Points, Bush will write that he approves Rumsfeld’s decision when he speaks to Rumsfeld from the office of Lieutenant General Thomas Keck at Barksdale Air Force Base. (Bush 2010, pp. 133) If correct, this would mean the relevant phone call takes place sometime after 12:11 p.m., when Bush goes to Keck’s office (see (12:11 p.m.-1:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sammon 2002, pp. 112-113; Freeman 10/2006 pdf file)

Russian President Vladimir Putin phones President Bush while he is aboard Air Force One. Putin is the first foreign leader to call Bush following the attacks. He earlier called the White House to speak with the president, but had to speak with Condoleezza Rice instead (see Between 10:32 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). Putin tells Bush he recognizes that the US has put troops on alert, and makes it clear that he will stand down Russian troops. US forces were ordered to high alert some time between 10:10 and 10:46 a.m. (see (Between 10:10 a.m. and 10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001) Bush later describes, “In the past… had the President put the—raised the DEF CON levels of our troops, Russia would have responded accordingly. There would have been inevitable tension.” Bush therefore describes this phone call as “a moment where it clearly said to me, [President Putin] understands the Cold War is over.” (US President 10/1/2001; US President 11/19/2001; Dougherty 9/10/2002) Putin also sends a telegram to Bush today, stating: “The series of barbaric terrorist acts, directed against innocent people, has evoked our anger and indignation.… The whole international community must rally in the fight against terrorism.” (Russian Embassy 9/17/2001)

United Airlines issues a press release confirming that Flight 93 has crashed. Flight 93 went down in Pennsylvania shortly after 10:00 a.m. (see (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The release states: “United Airlines has confirmed one of its flights has crashed near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. United Flight 93, a Boeing 757 aircraft, is the flight number involved. The flight originated in Newark and was bound for San Francisco.” The release adds, “United is deeply concerned about a further flight, United Flight 175, a Boeing 767, which was bound from Boston to Los Angeles.” (United Airlines 9/11/2001) Although Flight 175 hit the World Trade Center at 9:03 (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), United Airlines will not publicly confirm it has crashed until 11:53 a.m. (see 11:53 a.m. September 11, 2001).

American Airlines issues a statement confirming that it has lost two of its aircraft in “tragic incidents this morning.” The statement identifies the aircraft as “Flight 11, a Boeing 767 en route from Boston to Los Angeles,” and “Flight 77, a Boeing 757 operating from Washington Dulles to Los Angeles.” The statement adds, “Because of the heightened security due to the nature of today’s events, American said it is working closely with US government authorities and will not release more information at this time.” (Associated Press 2001 pdf file; Associated Press 9/11/2001; CNN 9/12/2001) Flight 11 hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) and Flight 77 hit the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004)

An E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft from Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma.An E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft from Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma. [Source: John K. McDowell / US Air Force]An Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) plane that is on its way back to its base in Oklahoma is called by NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) and instructed to head to Washington, DC, in order to provide radar and radio coverage, and help NEADS to communicate with fighter jets that are in the airspace over the capital.
Poor Communications over Washington - NEADS is having trouble communicating with fighters that have arrived over Washington (see (Between 9:49 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (11:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and the radio reception is nonexistent when those aircraft go below 20,000 feet. As Major General Larry Arnold, the commanding general of NORAD’s Continental US Region, will later recall, NORAD’s “picture over DC was pretty poor. And the communication was poor.” As a result, “the aircrews themselves” of the fighters over Washington “coordinated the refueling and the combat air patrols.”
NEADS Contacts AWACS Heading toward Oklahoma - NEADS weapons controller Trey Murphy therefore gets on the radio to an AWACS belonging to the 552nd Air Control Wing, based at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. (Code One Magazine 1/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 265-266) An AWACS is a modified Boeing 707 equipped with long-range radar and sophisticated communications equipment, which can track aircraft within a radius of several hundred miles. (Schmitt 9/23/1995; Asia Times 1/27/2000) The AWACS Murphy contacts had been flying a training mission earlier in the morning, somewhere near Washington (see Before 9:55 a.m. September 11, 2001), but was directed to return to Tinker, supposedly as a result of the “immediate confusion after the attacks” (see (Between 9:05 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
AWACS Told to Head to Washington - Murphy instructs the pilot of the AWACS to turn around and head back toward Washington. He says: “Here’s the deal. We need you to cover the NCA [national capital area].” The pilot responds, “Roger that,” and asks, “Where do you want us?” Murphy replies: “No, no. You’re the one with the big jet with the rotor-dome on it. You tell me where you need to go to get me a surface to infinity look at that area.” As author Lynn Spencer will later describe, with Murphy’s request, “The problem of radar and radio coverage over DC has been solved.” After it arrives over the Washington area, according to Arnold, “The AWACS could talk to the Northeast [Air Defense] Sector and provide a better picture to them.” (Code One Magazine 1/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 265-266)

One of the FAA’s Cessna Citation V jet planes.One of the FAA’s Cessna Citation V jet planes. [Source: Unknown]Although it was recently redirected toward Richmond, Virginia, the plane carrying Attorney General John Ashcroft tries again to head to Washington, DC, and a military fighter jet arrives to escort it into the capital. (Eggen 9/28/2001; Federal Aviation Administration 3/21/2002; Ashcroft 2006, pp. 118) Ashcroft’s plane, a small government Cessna jet, has been trying to return to Washington after an engagement in Milwaukee was aborted due to the terrorist attacks (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). Ashcroft has ignored requests to land, and so his plane has been threatened with being shot down by the military and diverted to Richmond (see 11:11 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Thomas and Hosenball 9/24/2001; Brill 3/10/2003; Spencer 2008, pp. 257-258)
Pilot Persuaded to Head toward Washington - However, Ashcroft still wants to reach Washington. He therefore calls the Justice Department command center for assistance. Then, according to author Lynn Spencer, “With some high-level coordination,” one of the protective agents on Ashcroft’s plane “convinced the pilot to try once again to enter the city.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 272) The pilot, David Clemmer, negotiates to have fighter jets escort the plane into Washington. (Thomas and Hosenball 9/24/2001; Eggen 9/28/2001)
Controller Requests Fighter Escort - The FAA’s Washington Center consequently calls the Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) at Washington’s Reagan National Airport. The Washington Center controller says: “Hey, we’ve got November 4 out here. He wants to land at [Reagan Airport]. There’s some concern and they want a fighter escort.” TRACON controller Dan Creedon recognizes the plane’s N-number (specifically, N4) as belonging to one of the FAA’s jet aircraft, and confirms, “Yeah, November 4 is based out of Washington.” He then calls District of Columbia Air National Guard (DCANG) pilot Major Daniel Caine, who recently launched from Andrews Air Force Base to defend Washington (see 11:11 a.m. September 11, 2001), and tells him of the plane requesting a fighter escort. When Caine asks who is on it, Creedon replies: “I don’t know. My assumption is FAA-1 or DOT-1,” meaning FAA Administrator Jane Garvey or Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta.
DCANG Pilot Gets Langley Jets to Provide Escort - Caine says the jets launched from Langley Air Force Base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) that are defending Washington (see (Between 9:49 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001) will handle this. He forwards Creedon’s request to Major Dean Eckmann, the lead pilot from Langley. Eckmann responds that the inbound plane “can have one” of his fighters. He then directs his wingman, Major Brad Derrig, to intercept it. (9/11 Commission 12/1/2003; 9/11 Commission 12/1/2003; Spencer 2008, pp. 272-273) While Ashcroft’s plane is waiting for Derrig’s fighter to arrive, it is put in a holding pattern outside of Washington. (9/11 Commission 12/17/2003 pdf file) Ashcroft’s plane will be escorted to Reagan Airport, but the time it lands at is unclear (see (12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (Thomas and Hosenball 9/24/2001; Federal Aviation Administration 3/21/2002; Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002; Vogel 2007, pp. 453)

Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, is informed that unidentified fast-moving aircraft are heading toward his plane, and he becomes concerned that these may be armed fighter jets flown by foreign nationals. While Air Force One is heading out over the Gulf of Mexico, Tillman receives a call from an air traffic controller at the FAA’s Houston Center who tells him, “Air Force One, you have fast movers coming up at your 7 o’clock,” which means they are behind and to the left of his plane. Tillman thinks these aircraft could be fighters that are coming to escort Air Force One. He suggests this to Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gould, a military aide who is accompanying President Bush on the plane. But Gould says: “I haven’t’ asked for fighters yet. We haven’t had the chance to do it yet.” (Tillman 7/19/2012; McMillin 11/13/2012; KFDI 12/11/2012) (However, a transcript of the Pentagon’s air threat conference call will show that Gould in fact requested fighters to escort Air Force One at around 10:13 a.m. (see (10:13 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001 pdf file) )
Pilot Told about Foreigners Flying Training Missions in the Gulf - Tillman asks the Houston Center controller, “Who are they?” The controller replies: “We don’t know. They just popped up on radar.” (Tillman 2/29/2012 pdf file) He says the suspicious aircraft have “come somewhere out of Texas, we think, or somewhere out of the Gulf.” Around this time, Gould tells Tillman that the Air Force has informed him there are “foreign nationals in the Gulf of Mexico” who are out training in American F-16 fighters that are “heavily armed.” Tillman asks the Houston Center controller how fast the suspicious aircraft are flying and is told, “They’re supersonic.”
Aircraft Are Fighters Sent to Escort Air Force One - But then Tillman is called over radio by the pilot of one of the unidentified aircraft, who says, “Air Force One, Cowry 4-5, flight of two, we are your cover.” (Tillman 7/19/2012; KFDI 12/11/2012) The pilot says his estimated time of arrival with Air Force One is in three minutes. (Tillman 2/29/2012 pdf file) The aircraft are in fact two F-16s belonging to the Texas Air National Guard that launched from Ellington Field, an airport about 15 miles south of Houston, in order to escort Air Force One (see (After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (BBC 9/1/2002; Cenciotti 9/9/2011) Tillman will later describe this communication as the “coolest radio call I’ve ever heard in my life.” The reason, he will say, is that even though he can tell the pilots are “Texans, and they had an accent, it was not a foreign accent. So I knew: good people.” (KFDI 12/11/2012) The F-16s “joined up on us, fighter on each wing, and they protected us for the rest of the day,” Tillman will recall. (Tillman 7/19/2012) Passengers on Air Force One will first notice fighters escorting their plane at around 11:29 a.m. (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001; Brook 9/7/2011)

President Bush (center, bending) and others look out  the windows of Air Force One as their fighter escort arrives.President Bush (center, bending) and others look out the windows of Air Force One as their fighter escort arrives. [Source: White House]President Bush, his entourage, and reporters accompanying them on board Air Force One notice fighter jets escorting their plane for the first time. Air Force One is currently flying westward over Mississippi, toward Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001; Sammon 2002, pp. 109; Kohn 9/11/2002) The White House requested a fighter escort for it (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001) and the Secret Service asked Major General Larry Arnold, the commanding general of NORAD’s Continental US Region, to provide that escort. (Code One Magazine 1/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 38; Spencer 2008, pp. 255)
Passengers Notice Fighters - Now, air traffic control radios Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, and notifies him, “[Y]ou’ve got two F-16s at about your—say, your 10 o’clock position.” (Kohn 9/11/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 255) Reporters on board notice a fighter flying alongside the plane’s right wing, and then spot another one alongside its left wing. (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001) According to a photographer on the plane, these jets are “so close that we could see the pilot’s head.” (BBC 9/1/2002) Bush also notices the fighters. (Sammon 2002, pp. 109) White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett will later recall: “The staff, and the president and us, were filed out along the outside hallway of his presidential cabin there and looking out the windows. And the president gives them a signal of salute, and the pilot kind of tips his wing, and fades off and backs into formation.” (Kohn 9/11/2002)
Fighters Maybe Arrived Earlier, but Remained out of Sight - According to most accounts, the jets alongside Air Force One belong to the 147th Fighter Wing of the Texas Air National Guard. (Kohn 9/11/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 87; Martin 7/4/2004; Rosenfeld and Gross 2007, pp. 40; Spencer 2008, pp. 255) But a few accounts will indicate they belong to a unit of the Florida Air National Guard in Jacksonville (see (10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (US Department of Defense 9/2001; Langley 12/16/2001) Four 147th Fighter Wing jets have been directed toward the president’s plane to accompany it (see (After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 87; Rosenfeld and Gross 2007, pp. 40) But according to Sarasota Magazine, Air Force One is “currently being escorted by six jet fighters.” (Plunket 11/2001) Fifteen minutes earlier, at 11:14 a.m., an official, whose identity is unstated but who is not a member of the White House staff, told the reporters on Air Force One that the plane already had plenty of military escort, but the fighters were not visible at that time, presumably meaning they were escorting the plane from a distance. (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001)
Jets Protecting '80-Mile Bubble' around Air Force One - The two jets seen by the passengers on Air Force One are reportedly being flown by pilots Shane Brotherton and Randy Roberts of the 147th Fighter Wing. Roberts will later recall, “We were trying to keep an 80-mile bubble… around Air Force One, and we’d investigate anything that was within 80 miles.” (Kohn 9/11/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 255) The 147th Fighter Wing jets will accompany Air Force One to Barksdale Air Force Base, then on to Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, and finally to Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington, DC. (Filson 2003, pp. 87-88; Cousins 7/9/2005)

At around 8:00 p.m., Afghanistan time (11:30 a.m., New York time), Taliban leader Mullah Omar allegedly says, “Things have gone much further than expected.” This is according to what the New Yorker will describe as “Afghan intelligence sources” who monitor the call. (It is unclear what “Afghan intelligence sources” means, since the Taliban control nearly all of Afghanistan at this time, but it could be a reference to Northern Alliance forces; the CIA gave them equipment to monitor the Taliban (see Winter 1999-March 2000).) Omar’s comment takes place over an hour after one of the World Trade Center towers collapsed, which means thousands have been killed in the attacks, not hundreds (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001). An Afghan intelligence official will later say: “They were expecting a reaction. But they thought it would be a Clinton-type reaction. They didn’t anticipate the kind of revenge that occurred.” (Anderson 6/10/2002) The “Clinton-type reaction” presumably is a reference to the August 1998 missile strikes on Sudan and Afghanistan during the Clinton administration (see August 20, 1998).

Ann Compton.Ann Compton. [Source: Harvard University]Reporters on Air Force One are told that President Bush is being evacuated, but they currently have no idea where the plane is heading. (Tapper 9/12/2001; BBC 9/1/2002; Graff 9/9/2016) Thirteen reporters are gathered in a small cabin at the back of the president’s plane. (Cosgrove-Mather 8/19/2002; Fleischer 2005, pp. 145) White House press secretary Ari Fleischer comes in and tells them, “This is off the record, but the president is being evacuated.” He says Bush is being evacuated “for his safety and the safety of the country.” Ann Compton of ABC Radio responds: “You can’t put that off the record. That’s a historic and chilling fact. That has to be on the record.” (ABC News 9/11/2002; Graff 9/9/2016) “I’ve covered the White House for more than 25 years,” she will later reflect, adding, “I have never heard of a president being evacuated.” (BBC 9/1/2002) Fleischer’s statement “sent chills down my spine,” she will say. (Graff 9/9/2016) Air Force One is currently heading for Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 325) But the reporters on board are unaware of the plane’s destination. When they have inquired where they were going, the people they asked said they didn’t know. (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001; Tapper 9/12/2001; Keil 9/2004)

President Bush and his wife, Laura Bush, finally talk over the phone after their previous attempts at calling each other this morning have been unsuccessful. Bush is on Air Force One, which is descending toward Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, while the first lady is at the Secret Service headquarters in Washington, DC, where she has been taken for her own safety. (Kessler 2006, pp. 136; Bush 2010, pp. 132; Bush 2010, pp. 202-203)
First Lady Reassures President, Says Daughters Are Fine - Bush and the first lady talk over a secure phone line. (McCaleb 9/12/2001) After she hears her husband’s voice, the first lady says to the president, referring to the day’s catastrophic events: “How horrible. How terrible.” She then reassures him that she is okay. (Burleigh 10/15/2001; Andersen 2002, pp. 6) She says she has been taken by the Secret Service to a safe location. Bush is “very relieved,” he will later recall, when the first lady then tells him she has spoken to their daughters, Barbara and Jenna, and says both of them are fine (see (Between 11:00 a.m. and 11:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The first lady asks the president when he is coming back to Washington. He tells her “that everyone was urging me not to return, but that I would be there soon,” he will recall. “I had no idea whether that was true, but I sure hoped so,” he will comment. (Bush 2010, pp. 132) (Bush will in fact arrive back at the White House many hours later, at 6:54 p.m. (see (6:54 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (CNN 9/12/2001; Sammon 2002, pp. 128) ) Later reflecting on this call, the president will say his wife “couldn’t have been more calm, resolved, almost placid” during it, which, he will say, “was a very reassuring thing.” (Fineman and Brant 12/3/2001) The first lady will describe the call, saying, “From the way [Bush] spoke, I could hear how starkly his presidency had been transformed.”
Previous Call Attempts Have Been Unsuccessful - Bush and the first lady have been trying to call each other throughout the morning, but until now have been unsuccessful in their attempts. (Bush 2010, pp. 202-203) Bush was provided with a direct contact phone number for the first lady earlier in the morning (see (10:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (United States Secret Service 2001) But before they made contact, he had “placed several calls,” he will recall, but “the line kept dropping.” Bush will comment, “I couldn’t believe that the president of the United States couldn’t reach his wife.” (Bush 2010, pp. 132) The first lady had similarly been trying to call the president, but also without success. After she arrived at the Secret Service headquarters (see (10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001), she “tried to reach [the president], but my calls could not get through,” she will write. John Meyers, her advance man, promised he would keep trying to contact the president for her. The first lady will comment, “It is stunning now to think that our ‘state-of-the-art’ communications would not allow him to complete a phone call to Secret Service headquarters, or me to reach him on Air Force One.” (Bush 2010, pp. 202-203)

Air Force One at Barksdale Air Force Base.Air Force One at Barksdale Air Force Base. [Source: Win McNamee / Reuters]Air Force One, with President Bush on board, lands at Barksdale Air Force Base—the home of the B-52 bomber—near Shreveport, Louisiana. (Sanger and van Natta 9/16/2001; Langley 12/16/2001; BBC 9/1/2002) The president’s plane was escorted by fighter jets from the 147th Fighter Wing of the Texas Air National Guard as it came in to land (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Gibbs 9/14/2001; Filson 2003, pp. 87; Bush 2010, pp. 132) Two of those fighters now land at Barksdale with Air Force One while the other two remain airborne, flying a combat air patrol over Shreveport and Bossier City. Aircraft and personnel at Barksdale were participating in the major training exercise Global Guardian this morning, before the terrorist attacks began (see 8:48 a.m. September 11, 2001), and after touching down, Air Force One taxies past 40 fully loaded B-52s. (Villafuerte 9/8/2002; Bombardier 9/8/2006 pdf file; Draper 2007, pp. 141) Air Force personnel dressed in full combat gear and brandishing M-16s then set up a perimeter around the plane. (Gibbs 9/14/2001) Bush initially remains on board, gathering more intelligence. There is no mobile gangway on the tarmac and so he is unable to get off through his usual door in the top half of Air Force One. Instead, the flight crew opens a hatch near the belly of the plane and lowers a set of retractable stairs while Bush continues working the phones. The president finally gets off the plane just before noon and is then escorted away from it amid tight security (see (11:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sammon 2002, pp. 111-112) The Daily Telegraph will later comment, “The official reason for landing at Barksdale was that Mr. Bush felt it necessary to make a further statement (see 12:36 p.m. September 11, 2001), but it isn’t unreasonable to assume that—as there was no agreement as to what the president’s movements should be—it was felt he might as well be on the ground as in the air.” (Langley 12/16/2001) Bush will remain at Barksdale Air Force Base for almost two hours before taking off again on Air Force One (see 1:37 p.m. September 11, 2001). (Tapper 9/12/2001; 2d Bomb Wing 6/30/2002 pdf file)

Two A-10 aircraft from Barksdale Air Force Base.Two A-10 aircraft from Barksdale Air Force Base. [Source: Greg Steele / US Air Force]Because no fighter jets are available at Barksdale Air Force Base, the Air Force Reserve places two A-10 jets, which are intended for close air support of ground forces, on alert in order to defend the base and the president’s plane, Air Force One, which landed at Barksdale at 11:45 a.m. (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). Lieutenant General Thomas Keck, the commander of the 8th Air Force, is responsible for protecting President Bush and Air Force One from any attack while they are at his base, and he realizes something needs to be done to provide cover for Barksdale. He therefore calls Brigadier General Jack Ihle, the commander of the 917th Wing of the Air Force Reserve at Barksdale, and requests help. When Keck asks Ihle if he can provide “any kind of defense,” Ihle immediately answers, “You got it!” The Air Force Reserve at Barksdale has no fighters, but it does have A-10 Warthogs, which are twin-engine jet aircraft known as “tank killers,” because they can deliver heavy firepower against tanks and ground forces. Despite the plane’s relatively slow speed, the A-10’s “gun is deadly,” according to Keck. Two A-10s are therefore parked at the end of the base’s runway on cockpit alert, with crews ready to take off immediately if required. Keck will later recall, “We felt better having them there, and then NORAD sent over a couple of F-16s before long.” (Freeman 10/2006 pdf file; GlobalSecurity (.org) 7/7/2011) (Keck is presumably referring to the fighters launched by the Louisiana Air National Guard’s 159th Fighter Wing to follow Air Force One after it leaves Barksdale (see (1:45 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 87; Associated Press 12/30/2007) ) Two of the four F-16 fighters from the 147th Fighter Wing of the Texas Air National Guard that escorted Air Force One as it came in to land at Barksdale fly a combat air patrol overhead, while the other two are on the ground with Air Force One while the president is at the base, according to the Bombardier, the newspaper for Barksdale Air Force Base. (Bombardier 9/8/2006 pdf file)

United Airlines finally issues a press release confirming that Flight 175 has crashed, nearly three hours after this aircraft hit the World Trade Center (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). The release states, “United Airlines has now confirmed that two of its aircraft have crashed.” These include “United Flight 175, a Boeing 767 aircraft, [that] departed from Boston at 7:58 a.m. local time, bound for Los Angeles, with 56 passengers onboard, two pilots and seven flight attendants.” (United Airlines 9/11/2001) United Airlines previously issued a press release, at 11:17, confirming the crash of Flight 93 (see 11:17 a.m. September 11, 2001), but this had stated that the airline was, at that time, only “deeply concerned” about Flight 175. (United Airlines 9/11/2001) However, at 9:22, the United Airlines System Operations Control manager had issued an advisory to all the airline’s facilities, stating that Flight 175 had been in an accident in New York (see 9:22 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 26) And Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, will later claim that United confirmed to the center that Flight 175 was down, “within two or three minutes” (see (9:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Bronner 8/1/2006)

President Bush at Barksdale Air Force Base, accompanied by Lieutenant General Thomas Keck.
President Bush at Barksdale Air Force Base, accompanied by Lieutenant General Thomas Keck. [Source: White House]President Bush is provided with a high level of security when he gets off Air Force One at Barksdale Air Force Base, near Shreveport, Louisiana, and is promptly driven to a conference center on the base from where he makes a brief phone call. (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001; Newseum et al. 2002, pp. 164; Rove 2010, pp. 258-259) Air Force One landed at Barksdale at 11:45 a.m. and was immediately surrounded by Air Force personnel in full combat gear, with their rifles drawn (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001; Martin 7/4/2004) Bush remained on board while a retractable set of stairs was lowered for him to leave the plane by.
Reporters Updated on President's Actions - A dark blue Dodge Caravan now pulls up next to these stairs, and a Secret Service agent and two Air Force officers take positions at the bottom of the stairs. The Dodge then pulls away, perhaps 40 feet back from the plane, and is swept inside and outside with dogs. Some members of the president’s staff come down the stairs from the plane. White House press secretary Ari Fleischer approaches the pool of reporters who have been traveling on Air Force One and who are waiting under the plane’s left wing for the president to disembark. Fleischer gives them a brief update on the president’s actions during the flight and adds: “You will see [the president] disembark here shortly. He will head inside and that’s all I’m going to indicate at this moment. You will have additional information shortly.” Fleischer then answers several questions from the reporters.
President Gets off Plane and into Minivan - Bush then descends from Air Force One. (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001; Sammon 2002, pp. 111) The Shreveport Secret Service office has been mobilized to oversee security arrangements while the president is at Barksdale. However, there is no presidential limousine waiting to drive Bush away from the plane. (Rove 2010, pp. 258) Normally the president’s armored limousine would be flown in ahead of time on a military transport plane, but there has been no time to get it to Barksdale. (Sammon 2002, pp. 112) Bush instead gets into the Dodge Caravan, which is being guarded by a Humvee with a .50-caliber machine gun on top. (Rove 2010, pp. 258) White House chief of staff Andrew Card gets in with him. The media and some of Bush’s staff, including his senior adviser, Karl Rove, and his communications director, Dan Bartlett, get into an Air Force minibus. (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001; Sammon 2002, pp. 112)
Bush Taken to Conference Center on Base - The Dodge then drives off at high speed. Bush will later recall that it “blasted off down the runway at what felt like 80 miles an hour. When the man behind the wheel started taking turns at that speed, I yelled, ‘Slow down, son, there are no terrorists on this base!’” (Bush 2010, pp. 132) The Humvee pulls out behind the Dodge, and the airman manning the machine gun on top cocks his weapon and puts a live round in the chamber. The minibus carrying the reporters follows moments later. (Rove 2010, pp. 258-259) The small motorcade drives to the Dougherty Conference Center, a two-story building on the base. At the stroke of noon, Bush and his aides enter the building. A car blocks the driveway and several armed soldiers stand guard while the president is inside. (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001; Sammon 2002, pp. 112)
Bush Speaks to Vice President - Bush and his aides are met by Colonel Curtis Bedke, the commander of the 2nd Bomb Wing, and Lieutenant General Thomas Keck, the commander of the 8th Air Force, apparently as they are entering the conference center. (2d Bomb Wing 6/30/2002 pdf file; Freeman 10/2006 pdf file) Inside, Bush picks up a telephone and speaks briefly with Vice President Dick Cheney, who is at the White House. (Sammon 2002, pp. 112) Bush tells Keck he needs to get to a secure phone. Keck says there is one in his office, but this is in a different building on the base. (Freeman 10/2006 pdf file) The pool of reporters waits in the parking lot outside the conference center for about 10 minutes while the president is inside. Bush and his staff finally come out at 12:11 p.m., to be taken to the 8th Air Force headquarters building (see (12:11 p.m.-1:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001; Sammon 2002, pp. 112)

Mount Weather.Mount Weather. [Source: Department of Homeland Security]Congressional leaders are evacuated from Washington and flown to Mount Weather, a secret and secure bunker in Virginia, where they remain until late in the afternoon. (Chen and Schrader 9/12/2001; Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002; ABC News 9/15/2002) The Capitol building was evacuated shortly after the Pentagon was hit (see 9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). Most of the leadership teams of both parties subsequently assemble at the Capitol Police building. (Daschle and D'Orso 2003, pp. 112) Around late morning or early afternoon, orders are given to take them to a secure location outside Washington. The Congressional leaders return to outside the Capitol building, and from there are flown by military helicopter to Mount Weather. (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002) Each is allowed to bring one staff member with them. (Daschle and D'Orso 2003, pp. 114) The Mount Weather Emergency Operations Facility in Bluemont, Virginia, is located 48 miles—about 20 minutes journey by air—from Washington. (Schwartz 11/2001; ABC News 9/15/2002) It was originally built to serve as the new seat of government if there was a nuclear war. (Yang 9/11/2001) The underground complex contains about 600,000 square feet of floor space, and can accommodate several thousand people. (Schwartz 11/2001) It has extensive communication systems linking it to the nationwide network of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) bunkers, relocation sites, and the White House Situation Room. (Center for Land Use Interpretation Newsletter 3/2002) Members of Congress taken to the facility include House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX), House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX), House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-MO), House Minority Whip David Bonior (D-MI), Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS), Assistant Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and Senate Minority Whip Don Nickles (R-OK). (Hastert 2004, pp. 10) Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL) was taken there earlier on (see (9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Bamford 2004, pp. 80-81) The Congressional leaders will remain at Mount Weather until later in the afternoon, and then return to the Capitol around 6:00 p.m. (see (Between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (ABC News 9/15/2002; Daschle and D'Orso 2003, pp. 116; Hastert 2004, pp. 10) The decision to send them outside Washington on this day has its roots in a top secret program dating back to the cold war, which serves to ensure the “Continuity of Government” (COG) in the event of an attack on the US (see 1981-1992). (United Press International 9/11/2001; CNN 9/11/2002; Mann 2004, pp. 138-139) 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)

Doug Lomheim.Doug Lomheim. [Source: US Air Force]An Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) plane takes off from Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma and subsequently accompanies Air Force One as it makes its way back to Washington, DC, after leaving Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. (Air Force Print News 9/9/2011; Kennedy et al. 2012, pp. 61) An 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) The AWACS that scrambles from Tinker Air Force Base is apparently piloted by Air Force reservists Major Doug Lomheim and Captain Greg Miller. The two men had been preparing for a student training sortie on their E-3 early this morning but then learned of the crashes at the World Trade Center during a delay due to one of the plane’s engines failing to start. After being told they would be assigned to do something in response to the terrorist attacks, they sent their students back to the training squadron and gathered their “NORAD material.” Lomheim and Miller take off from Tinker Air Force Base at around midday and check in with NORAD’s Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS). SEADS instructs them to head to Barksdale Air Force Base, where Air Force One, with President Bush on board, recently landed (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). “We want you to escort [Bush] wherever he goes,” they are told. Their plane goes into an orbit over western Louisiana while Bush is at Barksdale. They then accompany Air Force One after it leaves the base (see 1:37 p.m. September 11, 2001) and orbit overhead after it lands at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001). They continue following the president’s plane after it takes off from Offutt and heads toward Washington (see (4:33 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (Air Force Print News 9/9/2011; Kennedy et al. 2012, pp. 61) An AWACS plane that had been flying a training mission was instructed to accompany Air Force One earlier on, after it took off from Sarasota, Florida (see Before 9:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). Whether that plane is escorting Air Force One while Lomheim and Miller’s plane follows it is unclear. (Filson 2003, pp. 86-87)

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) sends a fax to the White House Situation Room, giving positive identification of the four hijacked aircraft involved in the morning’s attacks. However, two of the four flight numbers it provides are wrong. (Draper 2007, pp. 143) Yet, by late morning, American Airlines and United Airlines had already issued press releases confirming that the four planes that crashed were flights 11, 175, 77, and 93 (see 11:17 a.m. September 11, 2001, (11:18 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and 11:53 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Associated Press 9/11/2001; United Airlines 9/11/2001; United Airlines 9/11/2001) Journalist and author Robert Draper will later comment that, while there is much heroism on September 11, the FAA’s erroneous fax is an example of how the day is also “marred by appalling haplessness.” (Draper 2007, pp. 143)

CIA Director Tenet tells Defense Secretary Rumsfeld about an intercepted phone call from earlier in the day at 9:53 a.m. An al-Qaeda operative talked of a fourth target just before Flight 93 crashed. Rumsfeld’s assistant Stephen Cambone dictates Rumsfeld’s thoughts the time, and the notes taken will later be leaked to CBS News. According to CBS, “Rumsfeld felt it was ‘vague,’ that it ‘might not mean something,’ and that there was ‘no good basis for hanging hat.’ In other words, the evidence was not clear-cut enough to justify military action against bin Laden.” (Roberts 9/4/2002) A couple of hours later, Rumsfeld will use this information to begin arguing that Iraq should be attacked, despite the lack of verified ties between al-Qaeda and Iraq (see (2:40 p.m.) September 11, 2001).

President Bush spends time arguing with his colleagues about where he should go next while he is at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana and is advised to stay away from Washington, DC. (Langley 12/16/2001; Bush 2010, pp. 133) Air Force One landed at Barksdale at 11:45 a.m. (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001) and, about 25 minutes later, Bush was taken to the headquarters of the 8th Air Force at the base (see (12:11 p.m.-1:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sammon 2002, pp. 112; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 325) The media are now asking about his whereabouts and why he has not returned to Washington. Bush is in fact keen to return to the capital. “I was worried people would get the impression that the government was disengaged,” he will later write. “The American people needed to see their president in Washington,” he will comment.
Bush Is Advised to Stay Away from Washington - While he is at the base, Bush debates whether he should return to Washington with the Secret Service and Vice President Dick Cheney, who is at the White House. (Langley 12/16/2001; Bush 2010, pp. 133) These people advise him against going back. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 325) “The Secret Service agents felt it was still too uncertain,” he will recall, adding: “Dick [Cheney] and [National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who is at the White House] agreed. They recommended that I go to the Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. It had secure housing space and reliable communications.” (Bush 2010, pp. 133) Meanwhile, Andrew Card, Bush’s chief of staff, spends time on the phone, seeking opinions from a number of trusted individuals. On the basis of these calls, he advises Bush that it would be reckless to return to Washington. (Langley 12/16/2001)
Secret Service Decides Where the President Goes - Despite Bush’s desire to return to the capital, the Secret Service has the power to determine where the president should go in a crisis, according to Dave Wilkinson, assistant special agent in charge of the presidential protection division. “By federal law, the Secret Service has to protect the president,” he will say, adding: “The wishes of that person that day are secondary to what the law expects of us. Theoretically it’s not his call, it’s our call.” (Graff 9/9/2016) Bush therefore acquiesces and a few minutes before 1:00 p.m., according to the London Daily Telegraph, agrees to fly to Offutt Air Force Base rather than going back to Washington. (Langley 12/16/2001) “I resigned myself to delaying my return once again,” he will comment. (Bush 2010, pp. 133) Bush “fought with us tooth and nail all day to go back to Washington,” Wilkinson will say, but the Secret Service “basically refused to take him back.” (Graff 9/9/2016)
Bush Is Frustrated at Being Unable to Return to the White House - After returning to Air Force One, but before the plane takes off, Bush gets on the phone to Cheney again and expresses his increasing frustration at being unable to return to the capital. He tells the vice president: “I can assure you I’d like to come home now. Tonight would be great.” Then, at 1:25 p.m., he turns to Card and Edward Marinzel, the head of his Secret Service detail, and says: “I want to go back home ASAP. I don’t want whoever this is holding me outside of Washington.” But Marinzel tells him, “Our people say it’s too unsteady still.” Bush replies, “Cheney says it’s not safe yet, as well.” Card then advises, “The right thing is to let the dust settle.” (Sammon 2002, pp. 118-119) Air Force One will take off from Barksdale Air Force Base and head to Offutt Air Force Base at 1:37 p.m. (see 1:37 p.m. September 11, 2001). (Milbank and Allen 9/12/2001)

US airspace is clear of all civilian air traffic, with the exception of a small number of law enforcement and emergency operations aircraft. Otherwise, only military aircraft are airborne. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/18/2001; Federal Aviation Administration 4/15/2002; Levin 8/12/2002) The FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, announces that the airspace has been successfully shut down. (Spencer 2008, pp. 269) At 9:26 a.m., the Command Center ordered a national ground stop that prevented any aircraft from taking off (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and at 9:45 a.m. it ordered FAA facilities to instruct all aircraft to land at the nearest airport (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Since then, about 4,500 commercial and general aviation aircraft have landed without incident. This is the first time ever that all civilian aircraft in the United States have been grounded. (US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure 9/21/2001; Federal Aviation Administration 3/21/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 29) Author Pamela Freni will later comment that this clearing of the skies was “a tremendous feat accomplished by a huge team that had never even practiced this part of the game before.” Frank Hatfield, the air traffic division manager for the FAA’s eastern region, will comment: “What we did on September 11 was done amazingly well. It was almost like World War II, the way the airplanes were handled.” (Freni 2003, pp. 69) At 12:30 p.m., the FAA will report that there are 50 flights in US airspace, but none of them are reporting any problems. (CNN 9/12/2001)

Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, who is in the White House Situation Room, is informed that Vice President Dick Cheney wants him to come down to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), located below the East Wing of the White House. Clarke heads down and, after being admitted by Cheney’s security detail, enters the PEOC. In addition to the vice president and his wife Lynne Cheney, the PEOC contains National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, political adviser Mary Matalin, Cheney’s chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, deputy White House chief of staff Josh Bolten, and White House counselor Karen Hughes. Clarke can see the White House Situation on a screen. But Army Major Mike Fenzel, who is also in the PEOC, complains to him, “I can’t hear the crisis conference [that Clarke has been leading] because Mrs. Cheney keeps turning down the volume on you so she can hear CNN… and the vice president keeps hanging up the open line to you.” Clarke later describes that Lynne Cheney is, like her husband, “a right-wing ideologue,” and is offering her advice and opinions while in the PEOC. When Clarke asks the vice president if he needs anything, Cheney replies, “The [communications] in this place are terrible.” His calls to President Bush keep getting broken off. By the time Clarke heads back upstairs to the Situation Room, it is 12:30 p.m. (Clarke 2004, pp. 17-19)

I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, wonders if the recent assassination of Ahmed Shah Massoud, the leader of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, was carried out as part of the preparations for today’s terrorist attacks on the United States and Cheney agrees when he suggests this possibility. (Eichenwald 2012, pp. 41-42) Libby is in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center below the White House with Cheney and other senior government officials. (Libby 11/14/2001; Clarke 2004, pp. 18) While thinking about today’s attacks on the US, his mind turns to Massoud. (Eichenwald 2012, pp. 41-42) Massoud was the commander of the Northern Alliance, the resistance group fighting Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban and the al-Qaeda terrorist network they shelter. He was killed on September 9 by a bomb hidden in a video camera carried by two men who claimed they were journalists who wanted to interview him (see September 9, 2001). (Elliott 8/12/2002; Martin 9/9/2002) In light of this, it occurs to Libby that the “strongest fighting force battling al-Qaeda and the Taliban had lost its most important leader” just two days before America was attacked. “The United States had been deprived of an ally who could have been counted on to join in any military operation against [Osama] bin Laden and his cohort,” journalist and author Kurt Eichenwald will later note. Libby wonders if Massoud’s murder was an “unlikely coincidence or perhaps more proof that bin Laden’s hand was behind the hijackings,” according to Eichenwald. He puts his thoughts down on a piece of paper, writing, “Did Massoud’s assassination pave the way for the attack in the United States?” and passes the note to Cheney. Cheney reads it, turns to Libby, and nods his head. (Eichenwald 2012, pp. 41-42) The St. Petersburg Times will similarly observe that the assassination meant, “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” that was likely to follow the 9/11 attacks. “As head of the Northern Alliance and an avowed enemy of the Taliban, Massoud would have been a key figure in any attempt by America to oust the regime and the terrorists it harbored,” the St. Petersburg Times will note. (Martin 9/9/2002)

President Bush records a speech at Barksdale Air Force Base.President Bush records a speech at Barksdale Air Force Base. [Source: Win McNamee / Reuters]President Bush delivers a short speech to the nation in a windowless conference room at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, which is recorded and will be broadcast on television about half an hour later. (Gibbs 9/14/2001; Sammon 2002, pp. 113-117) Since arriving at Barksdale (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001), Bush has been spending time in the office of Lieutenant General Thomas Keck, the commander of the 8th Air Force (see (12:11 p.m.-1:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (Freeman 10/2006 pdf file) Bush will later recall that by 12:30 p.m., “it had been almost three hours since I had spoken to the country” (see 9:30 a.m. September 11, 2001) and he is “worried people would get the impression that the government was disengaged.” (Bush 2010, pp. 133)
Bush Taken to Conference Room to Record Statement - A short statement to the nation has therefore been prepared for Bush to deliver. Keck escorts the president from his office to the conference room in the 8th Air Force headquarters building to record it. Bush is also accompanied to the room by his chief of staff, Andrew Card, his senior adviser, Karl Rove, his communications director, Dan Bartlett, his press secretary Ari Fleischer, and several Secret Service agents. (Sammon 2002, pp. 113; Freeman 10/2006 pdf file) A hurried attempt has been made to prepare the room for the president’s speech. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 325) Airmen have arranged three US flags behind the wooden lectern behind which Bush will speak, and have tried to add some lighting to brighten up the dark room. The reporters who have been traveling with the president on Air Force One went to the conference room after entering the 8th Air Force headquarters building, and are assembled there when Bush comes in. (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001; Freeman 10/2006 pdf file)
Tape of Speech Taken to Satellite Truck to Be Broadcast - Bush delivers his 219-word speech in precisely two minutes. (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001; Woodward 2002, pp. 19) After doing so, he leaves the room without acknowledging, or taking any questions from, the reporters in the room. (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001; Newseum et al. 2002, pp. 165) Keck, who stays to watch Bush deliver the speech, then escorts the president back to his office. (Freeman 10/2006 pdf file) Master Sergeant Rich Del Haya, the officer in charge of the 8th Air Force public affairs office, is then called to the 8th Air Force headquarters building to collect the videotape of the speech. He runs out of the building with it, accompanied by a CBS network producer and reporter, and drives toward the base’s far north entrance. Gate officials contact a state trooper outside the base, who escorts the three to a satellite truck of the local CBS affiliate. (Villafuerte 9/8/2002) The recording of the president’s speech will be broadcast from the satellite truck at 1:04 p.m. (see 1:04 p.m. September 11, 2001). (Sammon 2002, pp. 117)

Susan Trento.Susan Trento. [Source: DC Bureau]FBI agents are able to identify the alleged hijackers of Flight 77 surprisingly quickly on video recorded this morning by security cameras at Washington’s Dulles International Airport, from where Flight 77 took off. (Trento and Trento 2006, pp. 36-37; Priska Neely 10/21/2010) FBI agents arrived at Dulles Airport at around 12:40 p.m. (see (12:40 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 9/29/2003 pdf file) The first thing they did there was seize the security video of the west checkpoint in the airport’s main terminal. (Trento and Trento 2006, pp. 36) The five alleged hijackers passed through this checkpoint on their way to boarding Flight 77 (see 7:18 a.m. September 11, 2001, 7:35 a.m. September 11, 2001, and 7:36 a.m. September 11, 2001) and were captured on video as they did so (see 7:15 a.m.-7:36 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/19/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 3)
FBI 'Knew Who the Hijackers Were' - FBI agents now bring Ed Nelson, the supervisor in charge of the west checkpoint, the video recorded at the checkpoint this morning for him to examine. As he watches it with them, he is surprised that they already seem to know who the Flight 77 hijackers were and what they looked like. The agents “went right to the first hijacker on the tape and identified him,” Nelson will later recall. “They would go ‘roll’ and ‘stop it,’ and showed me each of the hijackers,” he will say. He will remark that both of the metal detectors at the checkpoint were open around the time the hijackers were screened and “lots of traffic was moving through.” In light of this, he will say, “picking people out [on a video recording] is hard.” And yet the agents “knew who the hijackers were out of hundreds of people going through the checkpoints.” When an interviewer asks him, “How would they know?” since the “FBI claimed they had no idea who these hijackers were,” Nelson will reply: “Oh, exactly. Yeah, it boggles my mind.” He will comment: “I wanted to know how they had that kind of information. So fast. It didn’t make sense to me.” (Trento and Trento 2006, pp. 36-37; Priska Neely 10/21/2010)
FBI Knew Who the Hijackers Were 'the Day Before,' Journalist Will Suggest - US Customs reportedly provided the FBI with the passenger lists and the names of the probable hijackers for the four hijacked flights within 45 minutes of the terrorist attacks this morning (see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 1/26/2004) Whether this helped the FBI agents at Dulles Airport to identify the hijackers on the security video is unclear. Investigative journalist Susan Trento will comment on their ability to recognize the hijackers so quickly, stating, “What it says to me is… if they knew [the hijackers] that morning, they knew who they were the day before and they should have been able to catch them before they got to the airport.” (Priska Neely 10/21/2010)

Philip Perry.Philip Perry. [Source: Cornell Law School]Liz Cheney, the eldest daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, her husband, and their children arrive at a secure government facility at Mount Weather, Virginia, where they have been taken by the Secret Service. Earlier on, Secret Service Special Agent Michael Seremetis, a member of the vice presidential protective division, instructed some of his colleagues to locate Liz Cheney, and then evacuate her and her children to the facility. By 10:55 a.m., Cheney and her children had made it to their home, and 20 minutes later they were being taken to Mount Weather by the Secret Service. Cheney’s husband, Philip Perry, arrived at the White House at around 11:20 a.m. (United States Secret Service 10/1/2001; United States Secret Service 11/17/2001 pdf file) Perry is the acting associate attorney general, the third-ranking official at the Justice Department. (US Department of Justice 8/17/2001; Woodward 8/23/2001; US Congress. Senate 5/19/2005) By 12:40 p.m., Secret Service agents were transporting him to Mount Weather. Cheney, her children, and the Secret Service agents with them arrive at Mount Weather at 12:45 p.m. Perry and the agents with him arrive there at 1.15 p.m. (United States Secret Service 11/17/2001 pdf file) The facility at Mount Weather is “a massive underground complex originally built to house governmental officials in the event of a full-scale nuclear exchange,” according to The Guardian. (Vanderbilt 8/28/2006) It is located in rural Virginia, 48 miles from Washington, DC. (Gup 12/9/1991) Cheney, Perry, and their children will remain there until 5:30 p.m., when they will be taken to Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland (see 5:30 p.m. September 11, 2001). (United States Secret Service 11/17/2001 pdf file) Congressional leaders are also taken to the facility at Mount Weather throughout the day, after being evacuated from Washington (see (9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Between Late Morning and Early Afternoon) September 11, 2001). (ABC News 9/15/2002; Bamford 2004, pp. 79-81)

Members of President Bush’s staff decide to remove any nonessential passengers traveling with the president on Air Force One when it leaves Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, and determine that they will leave behind some congressmen, numerous White House staffers, and most of the journalists that have been accompanying them. (Plunket 11/2001; Sammon 2002, pp. 118; Fleischer 2005, pp. 145; Rove 2010, pp. 259)
Reporters Traveling with President Reduced to Five - While the president’s staffers are preparing to leave Barksdale, Bush’s chief of staff Andrew Card pulls White House press secretary Ari Fleischer aside and tells him they need to reduce the number of people flying on the president’s plane. Usually, when the president flies, numerous personnel get to his destination ahead of him to prepare for his arrival, but at the present time, Bush’s support team is limited to those already on Air Force One. “Given the heightened sense of security,” Fleischer will later recall, “the Secret Service didn’t want the president to wait for the normal entourage to board the makeshift motorcade that would be assembled upon landing.” Card says the traveling White House staff is going to be reduced and the members of Congress on board will also be left behind at Barksdale, and he tells Fleischer to decrease the number of reporters flying with the president. Card wants the pool of reporters reduced from the current 13 to three, but agrees to Fleischer’s request to make it five. Fleischer decides the reporters that remain with them will be Ann Compton of ABC Radio, Sonya Ross of the Associated Press, Associated Press photographer Doug Mills, and a CBS cameraman and soundman. (Fleischer 2005, pp. 145-146) White House assistant press secretary Gordon Johndroe passes on the bad news to the reporters. While they are waiting on a bus to be driven back to Air Force One, he comes on board and tells them there will only be five seats on the president’s plane for the media. (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001)
Reporters Angry at Being Left Behind - The reporters and nonessential personnel remaining at Barksdale Air Force Base will be standing on the tarmac and watching as Air Force One takes off from there, heading for its next destination (see 1:37 p.m. September 11, 2001). (National Journal 5/3/2011) Some of the reporters will be angry at being left behind. As the president and his entourage are approaching the plane, Reuters correspondent Steve Holland will shout out to Fleischer, “Ari, what about us?” Another angry reporter will call out, “Who’s in charge here, the military or the civilians?” (Fleischer 8/8/2002; Fleischer 2005, pp. 146)
'Skeleton Crew' Remaining on Air Force One - As well as the eight reporters, others removed from the plane include Representatives Adam Putnam (R-FL) and Dan Miller (R-FL), Bush’s senior education adviser Sandy Kress, Bush’s personal aide Blake Gottesman, and several Secret Service agents. (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001; Plunket 11/2001) Fleischer will recall that after the nonessential passengers have been left behind, those who continue on Air Force One are just “a skeleton crew.” (Fleischer 8/8/2002) Those remaining at Barksdale will be escorted to a building and stay there until another plane flies them from the base back to Washington, DC, later in the afternoon (see (3:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (Plunket 11/2001)

FBI agents are apparently unwilling to look into the account of Eric Gill, an employee at Washington’s Dulles International Airport, from where Flight 77 took off this morning, regarding a confrontation he had at the airport yesterday evening with five suspicious Middle Eastern men. (Trento and Trento 2006, pp. 38-39) The confrontation occurred sometime between 8:00 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. on September 10 while Gill was supervising the west checkpoint in Dulles Airport’s main terminal. Gill became suspicious of the men as they tried to get to a secure area of the airport (see (Between 8:00 p.m. and 8:45 p.m.) September 10, 2001).
Employee Reported the Suspicious Incident to His Supervisor - He reported the incident after coming into work at around 1:00 p.m. today and hearing about the hijacking of Flight 77. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/14/2002; 9/11 Commission 1/19/2004 pdf file; Trento and Trento 2006, pp. 1-6) Thinking the men he’d confronted might be involved, he went to his supervisor, Chandresh Patel, and let him know what happened. He also let Patel know that his colleague, Nicholas DeSilva, was at the checkpoint when the incident occurred. Patel therefore arranged for him and DeSilva to be interviewed immediately by FBI agents who had come to the airport to investigate the hijacking (see (12:40 p.m.) September 11, 2001).
Employee Isn't Shown Video of the Hijackers - Gill is interviewed for about two hours by two agents. The agents seem to consider his confrontation with the Middle Eastern men to be significant. DeSilva, meanwhile, is able to confirm in his interview with the FBI that the confrontation took place. However, the two agents never show Gill video the FBI has taken possession of that shows the alleged hijackers passing through the west checkpoint on their way to boarding Flight 77 this morning, to determine if any of the hijackers were among the men he encountered. (Trento and Trento 2006, pp. 38-39) And yet the FBI shows the video to every employee who works on the security checkpoints at Dulles Airport apart from Gill and DeSilva, according to Ed Nelson, a security manager at the airport. (Trento and Trento 2006, pp. 43)
Employee Will Be Visited at Home by the FBI - The FBI will subsequently visit Gill at his home to show him some photos and ask if any of the Middle Eastern men he encountered are on them. Gill will later give conflicting accounts of this visit. In 2004, he will tell the 9/11 Commission that a young female agent visited him at his home a few days after the attacks and showed him about five photos, but he did not recognize the men he’d encountered in them. 9/11 Commission staffers will determine, however, that the men in the photos did not include any of the alleged 9/11 hijackers. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/14/2002; 9/11 Commission 1/19/2004 pdf file) A couple of years later, Gill will tell investigative journalists Joseph Trento and Susan Trento that FBI agents visited him and showed him some photos a couple of days after the attacks. The agents said they were in a hurry to find out what actually happened, and so the images they had were just photocopies and of poor quality. All the same, he recognized two of the men he’d encountered in them. “The picture was bad… but I told them [one of the men in the pictures] looked like he could be the one who had been dressed in a ramp uniform with the ID card on the night of the 10th,” he will tell the Trentos.
Employee Will Identify Two Men He Encountered as Hijackers - Gill will never hear from the FBI again after this visit. (Trento and Trento 2006, pp. 39-40) However, a superior will subsequently show him the photos of the alleged hijackers that are published on the FBI website, and from looking at these he will identify two of the men he confronted as Flight 77 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi and Flight 175 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi. A source in the FBI will say one reason the bureau did not take Gill’s account seriously was that it had trouble understanding how and why one of the Flight 175 hijackers could have been at Dulles Airport on the evening before he took an early morning flight from Boston. (Trento and Trento 2006, pp. 43-44)

A short pre-recorded statement is broadcast on television, in which President Bush tells the nation that all appropriate security measures are being taken, and he assures people that “the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts.” (CNN 9/12/2001; Sammon 2002, pp. 117) The 219-word statement, lasting two minutes, was recorded about half an hour ago in a conference room at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana (see 12:36 p.m. September 11, 2001). (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001; Woodward 2002, pp. 19)
Bush Says US Will Find and Punish Terrorists - Bush begins: “Freedom itself was attacked this morning by faceless cowards. And freedom will be defended.” He continues: “Make no mistake: The United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts.” He reassures the public that he has been in contact with his colleagues in Washington, DC, and they “have taken all appropriate security precautions to protect the American people. Our military at home and around the world is on high alert status, and we have taken the necessary security precautions to continue the functions of your government.” He says, “[W]e will do whatever is necessary to protect America and Americans.” He concludes his statement, saying: “The resolve of our great nation is being tested. But make no mistake: We will show the world that we will pass this test. God bless.” (CNN 9/11/2001; White House 9/11/2001)
Bush Remains at Base after Speech Is Broadcast - After the president’s statement was recorded, Rich Del Haya, a military public relations officer at Barksdale, brought the videotape of it to a TV satellite truck outside the base. A technician there put the tape into a deck to be broadcast. However, the uplink failed twice. Finally, the third broadcast goes out to American TV screens. TV anchors emphasize that the president’s remarks are recorded, not live. “The implication,” journalist and author Bill Sammon will later write, “was that the White House had purposely delayed the airing of the tape in order to get a head start on the president’s next secret destination.” (Sammon 2002, pp. 117; Villafuerte 9/8/2002) The 9/11 Commission Report will similarly state that “for security reasons,” Bush’s statement “was taped and not broadcast live.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 325) But according to Sammon: “[T]he tape delay had been a function of mere logistics—there were no cables available at Barksdale for a live feed on such short notice. In fact, Bush remained at Barksdale more than half an hour after his taped speech was aired.” (Sammon 2002, pp. 117)
Bush's Delivery of Statement Is 'Not Reassuring' - Some commentators will later be critical of Bush’s performance in delivering his statement. Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward will write: “The president’s eyes were red-rimmed when he walked in. His performance was not reassuring. He spoke haltingly, mispronouncing several words as he looked down at his notes.” (Woodward 2002, pp. 19) Howard Fineman of Newsweek will call the speech “the low point” in the president’s war on terrorism. (Sammon 2002, pp. 116) Bush will comment that the “sentiment” of his speech “was right, but the setting—a sterile conference room at a military base in Louisiana—did not inspire much confidence.” (Bush 2010, pp. 133)

Logan Walters.Logan Walters. [Source: SCF Partners]While he is at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, President Bush receives an intelligence report from the US Strategic Command (Stratcom), informing him that a high-speed object is heading for his ranch in Crawford, Texas. It is already more than 45 minutes since US airspace had been cleared of all aircraft except military and emergency flights (see 12:16 p.m. September 11, 2001). Bush orders an underling to notify everyone at the ranch about this. (Lemann 9/25/2001; Sammon 2002, pp. 117; Kohn 9/2/2003) In the White House Situation Room, they are also informed of the rogue aircraft. Logan Walters, who is Bush’s personal aide, calls the ranch’s caretaker and tells him, “Get as far away from there as you can.” Senior national security official Franklin Miller then receives a phone call informing him that a combat air patrol (CAP) has been established over the ranch. (Draper 2007, pp. 142) (A CAP is an aircraft patrol with the purpose of intercepting and destroying hostile aircraft before they reach their targets. (US Department of Defense 4/12/2001) ) Miller heads to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House to ask Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley about the CAP. Both men agree that it seems unnecessarily excessive. When Miller returns to the Situation Room, he sets about calling off the CAP, but finds that it wasn’t even established to begin with, and that, furthermore, the report of a rogue aircraft was a false alarm. (Draper 2007, pp. 143) A threat to Air Force One had allegedly been received earlier on (see (10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but this too is later deemed to have been a false alarm. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 554)

A Ryder truck.A Ryder truck. [Source: Ryder]Personnel in NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC) in Colorado are informed that a truck, or a number of trucks, carrying men who appear to be Arabs is heading up the mountain toward the CMOC, but the apparent threat will turn out to be a false alarm. (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001; Scott 6/3/2002; BBC 9/1/2002) A NORAD representative describes what CMOC personnel are told over the Pentagon’s air threat conference call, saying, “We just received some intel that eight Ryder vans may be en route to the Cheyenne Mountain complex.” (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001) According to some accounts, though, only one vehicle—not eight—is reportedly heading toward the CMOC and this is carrying a number of Arab-looking men. CMOC personnel receive “an input that there [is] a yellow transport truck coming up the hill with seven Islamic folks in the front cab,” Lieutenant Colonel William Glover, the commander of NORAD’s Air Warning Center, will later recall. (BBC 9/1/2002) According to Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine, there is a “rumor” going around the CMOC about a “Ryder rental truck full of explosives,” driven by “Arab-looking men,” that is “targeting the mountain.” (Scott 6/3/2002) The source of the information about the truck, or trucks, supposedly approaching the CMOC is unstated.
Blast Doors Are Reportedly Shut due to the Threat - The massive blast doors leading to the CMOC are closed in response to this apparent threat, according to the NORAD representative on the air threat conference call (see (10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He says over the conference call, “Cheyenne Mountain is closing [the] blast doors in response to [a] possible threat of eight Ryder trucks en route from downtown to the Cheyenne Mountain complex.”
Threat Is a False Alarm - The supposed threat will turn out to be a false alarm. The NORAD representative will later report over the conference call: “I previously briefed [about a] possible eight Ryder trucks en route to Cheyenne Mountain. That threat has been negated. That is no longer a threat.” He will be asked if the report about the trucks was “an accurate assessment” or if someone had to “neutralize the force,” presumably meaning military action had to be taken against the trucks. The NORAD representative will answer simply, “We have no more details at this time.” It is unclear when CMOC personnel are alerted to the truck, or trucks, that is supposedly heading their way. The NORAD representative on the air threat conference call first mentions the trucks shortly after he reported that an unidentified aircraft had been spotted flying toward President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas. (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001) Bush was told about this aircraft at 1:05 p.m. (see 1:05 p.m. September 11, 2001), which was presumably around the time that NORAD was alerted to it. (Lemann 9/25/2001; Sammon 2002, pp. 117) CMOC personnel presumably therefore learn about the truck, or trucks, supposedly heading their way shortly after 1:05 p.m.

President Bush and Laura Bush with their dogs, Barney and Spot.President Bush and Laura Bush with their dogs, Barney and Spot. [Source: White House]Laura Bush, the president’s wife, is told by her Secret Service agents to be prepared to leave Washington, DC, for several days, and members of her staff then go to the White House to fetch some of her belongings. (National Journal 8/31/2002; Bush 2010, pp. 203) Bush is at the Secret Service headquarters in Washington, where she was brought for her own safety (see (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Kessler 2006, pp. 136) At the headquarters, there is “a debate over what to do with [President Bush] and what to do with me,” the first lady will later recall. Her Secret Service agents tell her “to be prepared to leave Washington for several days at least.” To help her prepare, several members of her staff briefly return to the White House and collect some of her belongings. They are escorted there at about 1:30 p.m., according to Noelia Rodriguez, Bush’s press secretary. Sarah Moss, Bush’s assistant, collects some of the first lady’s clothes. John Meyers, Bush’s advance man, collects the Bush family dogs, Spot and Barney, and the family cat, India. While they are at the White House, the first lady’s staffers also collect their own purses and keys. The Secret Service agent with them instructs them: “Be fast. Run. Get your things.” The staffers then return to the Secret Service headquarters. However, Bush and those with her at the headquarters subsequently learn that the president will be returning to Washington today (see (4:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001 and (4:33 p.m.) September 11, 2001). It will therefore be decided that the first lady can stay in the capital. She will be taken to the White House at 6:30 p.m. (see 6:30 p.m. September 11, 2001). (National Journal 8/31/2002; Bush 2010, pp. 203)

Air Force One departs Barksdale Air Force Base.Air Force One departs Barksdale Air Force Base. [Source: Reuters]Air Force One takes off from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana to fly President Bush to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. While Bush has been at Barksdale, base personnel have refueled Air Force One and restocked it with provisions for its continuing journey, on the basis that it may have to serve as the president’s flying command center for the foreseeable future. (Associated Press 10/2/2001; 2d Bomb Wing 6/30/2002 pdf file; BBC 9/1/2002)
Reduced Number of Passengers on Board - For security reasons, the number of people traveling on Air Force One has been reduced (see (1:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (Fleischer 2005, pp. 145-146) Those continuing with the president include Bush’s chief of staff Andrew Card, his senior adviser Karl Rove, his communications director Dan Bartlett, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, and assistant press secretary Gordon Johndroe. The number of Secret Service agents accompanying the president has been reduced, as has the number of reporters. The five remaining journalists are Ann Compton of ABC Radio, Sonya Ross of the Associated Press, Associated Press photographer Doug Mills, and a CBS cameraman and sound technician. (Tapper 9/12/2001; Ross 9/12/2001)
President Given Thumbs-up by Airmen - Lieutenant General Thomas Keck, the commander of the 8th Air Force, has been at Bush’s side for most of his time at Barksdale, and accompanies the president as he is being driven across the base to Air Force One. The president passes a row of B-52 bombers and is given a thumbs-up by the planes’ crew members. Keck explains to Bush that this means the troops “are trained, they’re ready, and they’ll do whatever you want them to.” Military police salute and other Air Force crew members cheer the president as he passes them. (Freeman 10/2006 pdf file)
Fighter Escort Rejoins Air Force One - Air Force One is being guarded by soldiers with their guns drawn when Bush reaches it, and a pack of military dogs is patrolling the tarmac. (Sammon 2002, pp. 117-118) After the plane takes off, two F-16 fighter jets pull up alongside it to provide an escort. (Freeman 10/2006 pdf file) These are presumably the same fighters, belonging to the 147th Fighter Wing of the Texas Air National Guard, that escorted Air Force One as it came in to land at Barksdale (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 87; Bombardier 9/8/2006 pdf file)
Destination Chosen Due to 'Continuity of Government' Plan - Bush’s destination, Offutt Air Force Base, is home to the US Strategic Command (Stratcom), which controls the nation’s nuclear weapons. (Associated Press 9/11/2001; Woodward 2002, pp. 19) Bush will later say the decision to head there was based on Offutt’s “secure housing space and reliable communications.” (Bush 2010, pp. 133) The base’s secure teleconferencing equipment will allow the president to conduct a meeting of his National Security Council later in the afternoon (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sammon 2002, pp. 119; Woodward 2002, pp. 19, 26) According to the 9/11 Commission Report, Offutt has been chosen as the president’s next destination “because of its elaborate command and control facilities, and because it could accommodate overnight lodging for 50 persons. The Secret Service wanted a place where the president could spend several days, if necessary.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 325) But according to White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke, the decision to head to Offutt instead of back to Washington, DC, was due to a plan called “Continuity of Government.” This program, which dates back to the Reagan administration, originally planned to set up a new leadership for the US in the event of a nuclear war. It was activated for the first time shortly before 10:00 a.m. this morning (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Kurtz 4/7/2004; ABC News 4/25/2004)

An F-15 from the 159th Fighter Wing.An F-15 from the 159th Fighter Wing. [Source: Louisiana National Guard]Fighter jets belonging to the Louisiana Air National Guard’s 159th Fighter Wing are launched in order to accompany Air Force One after it takes off from Barksdale Air Force Base. (Filson 2003, pp. 87; Associated Press 12/30/2007) The 159th Fighter Wing is located at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans, in Belle Chasse, Louisiana. (GlobalSecurity (.org) 1/21/2006)
SEADS Scrambles Fighters - Although the wing is not one of NORAD’s alert units around the US, NORAD’s Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS) scrambles four of its fighters around the time President Bush is leaving Barksdale Air Base on board Air Force One (see 1:37 p.m. September 11, 2001). The fighters had already been loaded with live missiles by the time Air Force One landed at the base (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). According to weapons officer Major Jeff Woelbling, “As we were all watching the news, the wing leadership decided to configure our jets and get ready.”
Military Unaware of Air Force One's Route - At the time Air Force One leaves Barksdale, SEADS is unaware of its next destination. Lieutenant Colonel Randy Riccardi, the commander of the 122nd Fighter Squadron, which is part of the 159th Fighter Wing, will later recall, “When Air Force One took off out of Barksdale, we were scrambled because SEADS didn’t know his route of flight.” Riccardi will add: “We were in a four-ship and turned north toward Barksdale and the president was already airborne. We were 300 miles behind him since SEADS didn’t know where he was going.” The 159th Fighter Wing jets will accompany Air Force One until it is near Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001). They then turn around and return to base. (Filson 2003, pp. 87) When Air Force One landed at Barksdale, it was already being escorted by jets from the 147th Fighter Wing of the Texas Air National Guard (see (After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Those jets will continue escorting the president’s plane until it reaches Washington, DC. (Cousins 7/9/2005; Bombardier 9/8/2006 pdf file)

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer tells reporters traveling with President Bush that the administration received no warnings of the terrorist attacks that occurred this morning. During a press briefing on Air Force One after the plane takes off from Barksdale Air Force Base (see 1:37 p.m. September 11, 2001), a reporter asks if Bush knows “anything more” about who is responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. “That information is still being gathered and analyzed,” Fleischer replies. Fleischer is then asked, “Had there been any warnings that the president knew of?” to which he answers, simply, “No warnings.” He is then asked if Bush is “concerned about the fact that this attack of this severity happened with no warning?” In response, Fleischer changes the subject and fails to answer the question. In the coming days and weeks, senior administration officials, including Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, will similarly say there was “no specific threat” of the kind of attack that happened today. (White House 9/11/2001; van Natta 5/18/2002) The 9/11 Commission Report, however, will note, “Most of the intelligence community recognized in the summer of 2001 that the number and severity of threat reports were unprecedented.” On August 6, Bush in fact received a Presidential Daily Brief that included an article titled, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US” (see August 6, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 260, 262) All the same, Fleischer will say in May 2002 that the answer he gave to reporters today, stating that there were no warnings of the attacks, was appropriate. “Flying on Air Force One, with the destruction of the attacks still visible on the plane’s TV sets, the only way to interpret that question was that it related to the attacks that we were in the midst of,” he will say. (van Natta 5/18/2002) And according to the 9/11 Commission Report, “Despite their large number, the threats received [in the summer of 2001] contained few specifics regarding time, place, method, or target.” The report will state, therefore, that the 9/11 Commission “cannot say for certain whether these reports, as dramatic as they were, related to the 9/11 attacks.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 262-263)

President Bush asks Mike Morell, his CIA briefer, who is responsible for today’s attacks on the US and Morell says he is sure al-Qaeda is to blame. About 15 minutes after Air Force One left Barksdale Air Force Base (see 1:37 p.m. September 11, 2001), White House chief of staff Andrew Card enters the staff section of the plane, where Morell is seated, and tells Morell that the president wants to see him. Morell goes to Bush’s office, where he then sits alone with the president and Card.
CIA Briefer Says He'd Bet Al-Qaeda Was behind the Attacks - Bush wants to know who Morell thinks is responsible for today’s attacks. “Michael, who did this?” he asks. Morell explains that he doesn’t have any intelligence indicating who is to blame, so he will simply provide his personal opinion. “I said that there were two countries capable of carrying out an attack like this, Iran and Iraq, but I believed both would have everything to lose and nothing to gain from the attack,” he will later recall. The culprit was almost certainly a non-state actor, he says, adding that he has no doubt that the trail of evidence will lead to the doorstep of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. “I’d bet my children’s future on that,” he says.
Briefer Is Unsure How Long It Will Take to Determine Who Is Responsible - “When will we know?” Bush asks. Morell replies, “I can’t say for sure,” and then goes over some recent terrorist attacks and says how long it took the CIA to determine, with any certainty, who was responsible. He says that in the case of the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), it took a couple of days; with the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000 (see October 12, 2000), it took a couple of months; but with the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia (see June 25, 1996), it had taken over a year. He says the CIA may know soon who is to blame for today’s attacks, but then again it might take some time. Bush says nothing in response once Morell has finished giving his views on who is responsible for today’s attacks and the men sit in silence for a while. Finally, Morell asks, “Is there anything else, Mr. President?” and Bush replies, “No, Michael, thank you.” Morell then returns to his seat in the staff section of the plane. (Morell 9/2006 pdf file; Morell and Harlow 2015, pp. 55-56; Graff 9/9/2016) Bush will learn that the CIA has linked al-Qaeda to today’s attacks later this afternoon, after Air Force One lands at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001). During a video teleconference, CIA Director George Tenet will tell him that early signs indicate the terrorist group is behind the attacks (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 326; Bowden 2012, pp. 17-18)

After the 9/11 attacks are over, the New York FBI office learns that one of the hijackers was Khalid Almihdhar. One of the FBI agents at the office, Steve Bongardt, had attempted to get permission to search for Almihdhar in late August, but was not allowed to do so. He wrote an e-mail on August 29 (see August 29, 2001) predicting that “someday someone will die… the public will not understand why we were not more effective and throwing every resource we had at certain ‘problems.’” He will later testify that upon seeing Almihdhar’s name on one of the passenger flight manifests, he angrily yells, “This is the same Almihdhar we’ve been talking about for three months!” In an attempt to console him, his boss replies, “We did everything by the book” (see 2:30 p.m. September 11, 2001). Now that Bongardt is allowed to conduct a basic Internet search for Almihdhar that he had been denied permission to conduct before 9/11, he finds the hijacker’s address “within hours.” (Eggen and Priest 9/21/2002; US Congress 12/11/2002 pdf file) The FBI field office in San Diego also was not notified before 9/11 that Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi had been put on a no-fly watch list on August 24, 2001 (see September 4-5, 2001). Bill Gore, the FBI agent running the San Diego office on this day, will make reference to the fact that Alhazmi’s correct phone number and address were listed in the San Diego phone book, and say: “How could [we] have found these people when we didn’t know we were looking for them? The first place we would have looked is the phone book.… I submit to you we would have found them.” (US Congress 12/11/2002 pdf file)

Logo of the International Islamic Relief Organization.Logo of the International Islamic Relief Organization. [Source: International Islamic Relief Organization]A man is questioned by the police after being noticed behaving suspiciously near the Capitol building in Washington, DC, and found to belong to an organization with links to terrorism. Suspicions are raised about the man after he is observed following members of the press around the Capitol building and trying to listen in on their conversations. The man is subsequently held by the Capitol Police and questioned. His name is found to be “Shaykh M. Zacharias,” according to an FAA log. He is a member of the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), is employed by a non-governmental organization in Nairobi, Kenya, and is “somehow connected” to the bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi in August 1998 (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). The police have permission to search his hotel room, according to the FAA log. Further details of what, if anything, inquiries into the man discover are unstated. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001) The IIRO, of which he is a member, is a charity funded by the Saudi Arabian government and private Saudi individuals. (Emerson 2002, pp. 157) Police believe it is a front for financing terrorism. (McDermott 6/24/2002)

No relatives of the Flight 93 passengers are waiting at San Francisco International Airport at the time when the plane is scheduled to have arrived there. A counseling center has been set up at the airport for any relatives that might show up, and dozens of clergy members gave gathered at United Airlines’ VIP lounge to await the families. San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown has arranged to come and meet them. But at 11:15 a.m. Pacific Time (2:15 p.m. Eastern Time), when Flight 93 was scheduled to arrive, no family members have shown up, nor have any arrived by midday (3:00 p.m. ET). Willie Brown cancels his trip to meet the families when it appears none will show up. Knight Ridder will suggest the reason no relatives have come is that United Airlines employees contacted many of them before they left home. (Wong 9/12/2001; Rogers and Fernandez 9/12/2001) Also, United Airlines publicly confirmed that Flight 93 had crashed several hours earlier (see 11:17 a.m. September 11, 2001), so passengers’ relatives may have realized for themselves what has happened by now. (United Airlines 9/11/2001) Another possible factor could be that many of the passengers—at least 16 out of a mere 33—were not originally scheduled to be on Flight 93, and only arranged to be on it at the last minute or switched from another flight (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001-Early Morning September 11, 2001), so their relatives may not initially realize they had been on the plane. (Longman 9/11/2002) In contrast, some relatives of passengers on the other three hijacked planes have gone to Los Angeles International Airport, the destination of those planes: The New York Times will describe “a few grieving relatives” there, and the Associated Press describes, “In Los Angeles, several dozen relatives met grief counselors at an airport hotel.” (Associated Press 9/11/2001; Glaberson 9/12/2001)

Dina Corsi.Dina Corsi. [Source: FBI]A number of FBI agents in New York are told the names of some suspected hijackers during a conference call with FBI headquarters in Washington, DC, and one of the agents, Steve Bongardt, is enraged when he recognizes one of these men, Khalid Almihdhar, as someone the FBI has been investigating. Most agents from the FBI’s New York office have assembled at a temporary field office at 26th Street and the West Side Highway (see After 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). But members of the FBI’s I-49 squad, which is focused on Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda’s central command, have returned to their office at 290 Broadway. Three of them now participate in a conference call with FBI headquarters. Along with Bongardt, Kenneth Maxwell, the agent in charge of counterterrorism in New York, and John Liguori, a supervisor at the New York office, are on the call. Those at headquarters who are on it include Michael Rolince, head of the FBI’s international terrorism operations section, supervisor Rod Middleton, and analyst Dina Corsi. Maxwell begins the discussion, asking: “What do we know? Do we recognize any of the hijacker names?” Corsi says they have some names of suspected hijackers and starts reading these out. When she mentions Almihdhar, Bongardt interrupts her, asking: “Khalid Almihdhar? The same one you told us about? He’s on the list?” (Graff 2011, pp. 313; Soufan 2011, pp. 290-291) “This is the same Almihdhar we’ve been talking about for three months!” he yells angrily. (Eggen and Priest 9/21/2002) “Steve, we did everything by the book,” Middleton explains. “I hope that makes you feel better; tens of thousands are dead!” Bongardt retorts. Maxwell then tries to calm his colleague down. He presses the mute button on the phone and tells Bongardt: “Now is not the time for this. There will be a time, but not now.” (Graff 2011, pp. 313; Soufan 2011, pp. 290-291) Sometime tonight, Bongardt will submit a request to the FBI information center. “Within hours,” he will later recall, the center gets back to him after finding Almihdhar’s address in San Diego, California, simply through searching “public resources.” (US Congress. Senate. Committee on Intelligence 9/20/2002)

Two sections from Rumsfeld’s notes, dictated to Stephen Cambone.Two sections from Rumsfeld’s notes, dictated to Stephen Cambone. [Source: Defense Department]Defense Secretary Rumsfeld aide Stephen Cambone is taking notes on behalf of Rumsfeld in the National Military Command Center. These notes will be leaked to the media nearly a year later. According to the notes, although Rumsfeld has already been given information indicating the 9/11 attacks were done by al-Qaeda (see 12:05 p.m. September 11, 2001) and he has been given no evidence so far indicating any Iraqi involvement, he is more interested in blaming the attacks on Iraq. According to his aide’s notes, Rumsfeld wants the “best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] at same time. Not only UBL [Osama bin Laden].… Need to move swiftly.… Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.” (Roberts 9/4/2002; Bamford 2004, pp. 285) In a 2004 book, author James Moore will write, “Unless Rumsfeld had an inspired moment while the rest of the nation was in shock, the notes are irrefutable proof that the Bush administration had designs on Iraq and Hussein well before the president raised his hand to take the oath of office.” (Moore 3/15/2004, pp. 18)

The Embassy Suites Hotel in Brookfield, Wisconsin.The Embassy Suites Hotel in Brookfield, Wisconsin. [Source: ICE Portal]President Bush talks briefly on the phone with his parents, former President George H. W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush, who are at a hotel in Wisconsin. (White House 9/11/2001; Bush 2010, pp. 136) George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush flew out from Washington, DC, early this morning after spending last night at the White House (see (8:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001), heading for St. Paul, Minnesota, where they were both scheduled to give speeches. However, their plane was instructed to land at the nearest airport after the decision was made to ground all aircraft (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). It therefore landed at Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. From there, the couple was driven to the town of Brookfield, just outside Milwaukee, where they checked in at the Embassy Suites Hotel. (CNN 10/25/2003; Bush 10/27/2003; Phelps and Jones 9/10/2016)
Couple Is Informed that the President Is Safe - At the hotel, George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush spent time following events on television. George H. W. Bush was concerned about the president’s safety. “I had full confidence in his security, but given the coordination of the attacks I did not feel comfortable,” he will later recall. Fortunately, Secret Service agents with the couple have told them what they know about what is transpiring, regarding the terrorist attacks. The agents said that President Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, and their daughters were safe. George H. W. Bush will comment that he felt “pleased that proper security procedures were being followed,” since, “Who knew what might be planned by [the terrorists] as a follow-on attack?”
President Calls His Parents - While they are at the hotel, George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush are able to speak to several of their children over the phone. (Bush 10/27/2003; Bush 11/6/2014) At 2:44 p.m., according to the president’s official daily diary, they are called by President Bush. (White House 9/11/2001; CNN 10/25/2003) Air Force One with the president on board took off from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana at 1:37 p.m. (see 1:37 p.m. September 11, 2001) and is now approaching Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. (Federal Aviation Administration 4/15/2002; Fox News 9/11/2003; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 325-326)
President Is Told It Is Best if He Returns to Washington Soon - The president talks first with his father. George H. W. Bush tells his son he is concerned about the stress he must be feeling. The president tries to put his father’s mind at ease, saying, “I’m just fine.” (Bush 2010, pp. 136) George H. W. Bush also tells his son that “the sooner he got back to Washington, the better.” The president agrees with this assessment. (Bush 11/6/2014) Barbara Bush then speaks with her son. “Where are you?” he asks her. “We’re at a motel in Brookfield, Wisconsin,” she replies. “What in the world are you doing there?” he asks and she retorts, “You grounded our plane!” (Bush 2010, pp. 136) The call lasts two minutes. (White House 9/11/2001) Barbara Bush thinks the president “sounded worried” but “he didn’t sound frantic” during it. He “sounded fine,” she will recall. (CNN 10/25/2003) George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush will subsequently leave their hotel and George H. W. Bush will spend time playing a relaxed game of golf on a nearby course (see (5:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (Bush 10/27/2003; Ryman 12/5/2018)

The entrance to Offutt Air Force Base’s bunker.The entrance to Offutt Air Force Base’s bunker. [Source: CBC]Air Force One, with President Bush on board, lands at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Nebraska, accompanied by two F-16 fighter jets. (Tapper 9/12/2001; Bamford 2004, pp. 89; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 326) Offutt is the home of the US Strategic Command (Stratcom), which controls America’s nuclear weapons. (Associated Press 9/11/2001; Hansen 9/6/2011) The large base is one of the most heavily defended in the US. (Langley 12/16/2001) Personnel there were told earlier in the day that the president might come to Offutt during the crisis but they only received confirmation that he would be landing at the base about 20 to 30 minutes ago. (Dejka 2/27/2002; Dejka 9/8/2002; Liewer 9/9/2016) They have, however, taken the initiative to start preparing for his arrival. “There were pretty wide-scale preparations going on anticipating that the president might come, without knowing for sure, even before we got notice that he was coming,” Admiral Richard Mies, commander in chief of Stratcom, will later recall. “We’d started to evacuate the main quarters that could be used for VIPs and install some of the protection there that’d be needed in case [Bush] needed to spend the night,” Mies will say. (Kelly 12/27/2011; Graff 9/9/2016) Journalists on Air Force One were not told they would be landing at Offutt. However, they learned what was happening when they saw a local television channel showing the plane arriving at the base (see (2:50 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (Gilbert et al. 2002, pp. 198; Sammon 2002, pp. 120-121; Sylvester and Huffman 2002, pp. 138) Bush will get off the plane about 10 minutes after it lands and then be taken to an underground command center (see (3:00 p.m.-3:10 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (Tapper 9/12/2001; Bamford 2004, pp. 89) He will conduct a meeting of the National Security Council in a secure video teleconference while he is at the base (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sammon 10/8/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 326) Personnel at Offutt were the middle of a major training exercise called Global Guardian when America came under attack this morning (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001 and Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001), although the exercise has now been canceled (see (10:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Dejka 9/8/2002; Schmitt and Shanker 2011, pp. 22)

President Bush gets off Air Force One and is taken to a command center several stories underground at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. (Tapper 9/12/2001; Bamford 2004, pp. 89) At 2:50 p.m., the president’s plane landed at Offutt, home of the US Strategic Command (Stratcom), which controls America’s nuclear weapons (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001). (Associated Press 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 326) About 10 minutes later, Bush emerges from the plane. (Tapper 9/12/2001) Admiral Richard Mies, commander in chief of Stratcom, along with a driver and a Secret Service agent, has come in a car to meet Air Force One on the runway. After getting off the plane, Bush gets into the back of the car with Mies. (Sammon 2002, pp. 121; Kelly 12/27/2011; Graff 9/9/2016) His staffers, meanwhile, get onto buses. (Morell 9/2006 pdf file) The vehicles are driven away from the plane and across the large base. (Sammon 2002, pp. 121)
Bush Goes to the Underground Command Center - Bush and his staffers are then taken to Stratcom’s underground command center. (Kohn 9/2/2003) They are taken by Mies through the center’s fire escape in order to reach it. (Kelly 12/27/2011; Liewer 9/9/2016) They are driven to a small, concrete building, resembling a hut, go through a door in it, and then head down a staircase. (Bartlett 8/12/2002; Fleischer 2005, pp. 147-148) “We went down and down and down, pretty far underground,” Brian Montgomery, the White House’s director of advance, will later recall. (Graff 9/9/2016) “It’s a long way down,” Karl Rove, Bush’s senior adviser, will describe, “and then you emerge and go through a series of hallways and special doors, blast doors… and then you enter into a conference center, which is… several stories underground.” (ABC News 9/11/2002)
Exercise Means Extra People Are in the Command Center - The command center, according to author James Bamford, is “a cavernous two-story war room with banks of dark wooden desks curved away from a giant projection screen on which [is] displayed the status of military forces around the world.” (Bamford 2004, pp. 89) Eight giant video screens are loaded with data and numerous military personnel are seated at computer terminals that are hooked into satellites monitoring activities around the world. (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002; Dejka 2/27/2002) Stratcom was in the middle of a major training exercise, called Global Guardian, when the attacks began this morning (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001 and Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001) and consequently many more people are in the command center than would normally be there.
Bush Is Briefed on the Attacks - When Bush enters, Rear Admiral Jay Donnelly, the operations officer in the center, announces, “Ladies and gentlemen, the president.” Everyone comes to attention. Bush then tells them to sit down. Mies gives Bush a briefing in the command center. “The president sat down and I briefed him on what each of [the] screens was displaying,” he will recall, adding, “Gave him, as best I could, an update from [Stratcom’s] perspective of what was happening based on what we knew.” (Dejka 9/8/2002; Kelly 12/27/2011) After being briefed, Bush and Andrew Card, his chief of staff, will be taken to a teleconference center. (Kohn 9/2/2003; Rove 2010, pp. 261) There, Bush will conduct a meeting of the National Security Council in a secure video teleconference (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sammon 10/8/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 326; Kelly 12/27/2011)

President Bush takes part in a video teleconference at Offutt Air Force Base. Chief of Staff Andrew Card sits on his left, and Admiral Richard Mies sits on his left.
President Bush takes part in a video teleconference at Offutt Air Force Base. Chief of Staff Andrew Card sits on his left, and Admiral Richard Mies sits on his left. [Source: White House]At Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, President Bush convenes the first meeting of the National Security Council since the attacks occurred. (Woodward 2002, pp. 26) He begins the video conference call from a bunker beneath the base. He and Chief of Staff Andrew Card visually communicate directly with Vice President Cheney, National Security Adviser Rice, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, CIA Director Tenet, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, and others. (Langley 12/16/2001; ABC News 9/11/2002; Sammon 10/8/2002) According to Clarke, Bush begins the meeting by saying, “I’m coming back to the White House as soon as the plane is fueled. No discussion.” But according to Condoleezza Rice, he begins with the words, “We’re at war.” Clarke leads a quick review of what has already occurred, and issues that need to be quickly addressed. Bush asks CIA Director Tenet who he thinks is responsible for the day’s attacks. Tenet later recalls, “I told him the same thing I had told the vice president several hours earlier: al-Qaeda. The whole operation looked, smelled, and tasted like bin Laden.” Tenet tells Bush that passenger manifests show that three known al-Qaeda operatives had been on Flight 77. According to Tenet, when he tells the president in particular about Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar (two of the alleged Flight 77 hijackers), Bush gives Mike Morell, his CIA briefer, “one of those ‘I thought I was supposed to be the first to know’ looks.” (Other evidence indicates the third al-Qaeda operative whose name is on the passenger manifest would be Salem Alhazmi (see 9:53 p.m. September 11, 2001).) Tenet tells the meeting that al-Qaeda is “the only terrorist organization capable of such spectacular, well-coordinated attacks,” and that “Intelligence monitoring had overheard a number of known bin Laden operatives congratulating each other after the attacks. Information collected days earlier but only now being translated indicated that various known operatives around the world anticipated a big event. None specified the day, time, place or method of attack.” Richard Clarke later corroborates that Tenet had at this time told the president he was certain that al-Qaeda was to blame. Yet only six weeks later, in an October 24, 2001 interview, Rice will claim differently. She will say, “In the first video conference, the assumption that everybody kind of shared was that it was global terrorists.… I don’t believe anybody said this is likely al-Qaeda. I don’t think so.” Tenet also relays a warning the CIA has received from French intelligence, saying another group of terrorists is within US borders and is preparing a second wave of attacks. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld briefs on the status of US forces, and states that about 120 fighters are now above US cities. (Woodward 2002, pp. 26-27; Clarke 2004, pp. 21-22; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 326 and 554; Tenet 2007, pp. 169) The meeting reportedly ends around 4:00-4:15 p.m. (Langley 12/16/2001; Sammon 10/8/2002)

A US Airways airliner.A US Airways airliner. [Source: Public domain]A US Airways plane that is flying to the United States from Madrid, Spain, is incorrectly suspected of being hijacked. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; Rice 10/24/2001) It is stated over an FAA teleconference that the White House has reported this suspicious aircraft, which is heading to Philadelphia International Airport, and the military is scrambling fighter jets in response to it. (Federal Aviation Administration 1/2/2002) NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) was alerted to the plane by US Customs and the FBI, according to a NORAD representative on the Pentagon’s air threat conference call (see 9:37 a.m.-9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). NORAD has been unable to locate the aircraft on radar, according to the NORAD representative. (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001) Accounts conflict over whether the plane is US Airways Flight 930 or Flight 937. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/2001; Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration 1/2/2002)
Plane Is Reportedly Transmitting the Hijack Signal - Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, who is in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, will later recall that when those in the PEOC learn of the suspect flight, “we got word that it was only 30 minutes or so outside of US airspace.” According to Libby, the plane’s transponder is transmitting the code for a hijacking: He will say it is reported that the flight has been “showing hijacking through some electronic signal.” (Libby 11/14/2001) However, according to the NORAD representative on the air threat conference call, the plane’s transponder has not been “squawking” the code for a hijacking. “We do not have squawk indication at this point,” he has said.
Plane Is Reportedly Diverted to Pittsburgh - An FAA representative on the air threat conference call apparently says an e-mail has been sent from the suspicious aircraft, stating that the plane is being diverted to Pittsburgh, although the FAA representative’s communications are distorted and therefore unclear. (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001)
President Says Fighters Can Shoot Down the Plane - President Bush discusses the suspicious US Airways flight with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld over the air threat conference call after landing at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001) and Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR), listens in. (Filson 2003, pp. 87-88) Rumsfeld wants Bush to confirm that fighters are authorized to shoot down the plane if it is considered a threat to a city in the US. “The reason I called… was just to verify that your authorization for the use of force would apply as well in this situation,” he says. Bush replies, “It does, but let us make sure that the fighters and you on the ground get all the facts.” (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001)
Plane Is on the Ground in Spain - After a time, it will be found that the plane is not a threat and is on the ground in Spain. Arnold will be called by Colonel Robert Marr, the battle commander at NEADS, and told, “We just talked to the airline and that aircraft is back on the ground in Madrid.” (Filson 2003, pp. 88) According to Libby, “It turned out that, I think, it was only 35 minutes out of Spanish airspace, not out of our airspace.” (Libby 11/14/2001) Reggie Settles, the FAA representative at NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center in Colorado, will be informed by US Airways that Flight 937 in fact never existed. However, he will be told, there is a US Airways Flight 911, which “took off from Madrid,” but “has turned back and returned to Madrid,” and “is not en route to the United States.” (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001)
President Decides to Leave Offutt after the Concerns Are Resolved - After he learns that the suspicious plane is back in Spain, Arnold will pick up the hot line and tell Bush: “Mr. President, this is the CONR commander.… No problem with Madrid.” According to Arnold, Bush will reply, “Okay, then I’m getting airborne.” (Filson 2003, pp. 88) Bush will take off from Offutt aboard Air Force One at around 4:30 p.m. (see (4:33 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (CNN 9/12/2001) Numerous aircraft are incorrectly suspected of being hijacked on this day (see (9:09 a.m. and After) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28; Baker 3/31/2005) The US Airways flight from Madrid is the last of these, according to Arnold. (Code One Magazine 1/2002)

A Boeing 757 takes off from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, to fly a group of reporters, congressmen, White House staffers, and Secret Service agents to Washington, DC. (Tapper 9/12/2001; Plunket 11/2001; Rove 2010, pp. 259; National Journal 5/3/2011) The group consists of individuals considered nonessential passengers that had been traveling on Air Force One, whom members of President Bush’s staff decided to leave behind when the president’s plane departed from Barksdale (see (1:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). It includes eight reporters, two congressmen, numerous White House staffers, and several Secret Service agents. After Air Force One took off from the base earlier in the afternoon to fly the president to his next destination (see 1:37 p.m. September 11, 2001), these individuals were escorted to a building, where they remained until the plane arrived for them. (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001; Plunket 11/2001; Fleischer 2005, pp. 145) Blake Gottesman, Bush’s personal assistant, who was among those left behind at Barksdale, was given the task of getting the group back to Washington. He has been able to commandeer a Boeing 757 from the Air Force’s Special Missions Fleet. (Rove 2010, pp. 259) This plane was sent from Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, to Barksdale. (Keil 9/2004) It is painted with the “United States of America” label, and has an office, a private cabin, and all-first class seats. It has in fact been used previously as Air Force One. (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001) About two hours after the president and his entourage left Barksdale, the plane takes off from the base with the group of former Air Force One passengers on board. (Newseum et al. 2002, pp. 165) It lands at Andrews Air Force Base around 5:00 p.m. (Plunket 11/2001; National Journal 5/3/2011) Reuters correspondent Arshad Mohammed, who is on the plane, will later comment, “It’s sort of amazing that they got us back to DC that same day when planes were locked down all over the country.” (Newseum et al. 2002, pp. 165)

Brian Stafford.Brian Stafford. [Source: Publicity photo]President Bush reportedly had begun his video conference call with the National Security Council (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001) by announcing, “I’m coming back to the White House as soon as the plane is fueled. No discussion.” (Clarke 2004, pp. 21) Toward the end of this meeting, around 4 p.m., Secret Service Director Brian Stafford tells Bush, “Our position is stay where you are. It’s not safe.” The Secret Service reportedly wants to keep the president where he is, at Offutt Air Force Base, overnight, and—according to some later accounts—indefinitely. To Stafford’s surprise, Bush ignores his advice and tells him, “I’m coming back.” Leaving the meeting, Bush tells his staff, “We’re going home.” (Langley 12/16/2001; Sammon 2002, pp. 123; Woodward 2002, pp. 28) Bush adviser Karl Rove later claims that, around this time, there are concerns that several planes still remain unaccounted for (see (4:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001).

Members of Laura Bush’s staff who are with the first lady at the Secret Service headquarters in Washington, DC, go to the White House and then head home. (National Journal 8/31/2002) Most of Bush’s staffers are with the first lady at the Secret Service headquarters, having been with Bush for her scheduled appearance on Capitol Hill this morning. (Bush’s other staffers stayed behind at the White House.) (ABC 9/18/2001 pdf file) They were brought to the headquarters for their own safety (see (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Kessler 2006, pp. 136) Some of them briefly returned to the White House earlier in the afternoon, to collect some of Bush’s belongings (see (1:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). Members of Bush’s staff now leave the Secret Service headquarters and go to the White House a final time. There, they have to show a Secret Service agent their IDs. “Then,” according to Noelia Rodriguez, the first lady’s press secretary, “it was time to go home.” The first lady will head back to the White House at 6:30 p.m. (see 6:30 p.m. September 11, 2001). (National Journal 8/31/2002; Bush 2010, pp. 203)

Fighter pilots who have been escorting Air Force One as it transports President Bush across the US are not informed that the president’s plane is departing Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, and have to try and catch up with it after they hear it taking off. The pilots belong to the 147th Fighter Wing of the Texas Air National Guard. Four F-16s from the wing have been escorting Air Force One since before it landed at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Pilots Told They Would Be Called When Air Force One Is Leaving - After Air Force One landed at Offutt Air Force Base (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001), the F-16s landed there as well. The fighter pilots then met with Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One. Tillman asked them about the capabilities of the F-16. He also took down their cell phone numbers and said he would call them when Air Force One would be leaving the base. However, he was unable to tell them where Air Force One would be going next, so the fighter pilots could not file a flight plan. The fighter pilots then headed off to get a snack and a drink.
Air Force One Takes Off, Pilots Not Informed - However, they are not informed when Air Force One, with Bush on board, takes off from Offutt (see (4:33 p.m.) September 11, 2001). One of the fighter pilots, Major Shane Brotherton, will later recall: “We were eating our snacks and heard jet noise. It was Air Force One and they’d never called us. We got to the jets and he’s taxiing fast and never stopped. Now we’re taxiing fast and we blast off.” By the time the fighters are airborne, Air Force One is 100 miles ahead of them. Some Iowa Air National Guard fighters from Sioux City are also now airborne to protect the president’s plane, but the 147th Fighter Wing jets continue to follow it. Brotherton will recall: “All across the country we were playing catch up, because [Air Force One] was moving. And we didn’t catch up until we were nearing Washington.” (Filson 2003, pp. 87-88)

The plane with General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on board lands at Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, DC, after repeatedly being denied permission to enter US airspace. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001 pdf file; McCullough 9/2011 pdf file) At the time of the attacks on the World Trade Center, Shelton was flying toward Europe to attend a NATO conference. After he learned of the second attack, he ordered that his plane turn around and head back to the US (see (8:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell 2010, pp. 430-431) However, for a number of hours, the plane, nicknamed “Speckled Trout,” was refused clearance to return because the nation’s airspace had been shut down (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). After flying in a “holding pattern” near Greenland and later flying in another holding pattern over Canada, the plane was finally cleared to fly back into the United States (see (After 9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (McCullough 9/2011 pdf file) It was escorted by F-16 fighter jets as it flew into the US airspace. (Sasaki 10/17/2013) After flying over New York, Speckled Trout lands at Andrews Air Force Base. (McCullough 9/2011 pdf file) It is recorded as having landed at 4:40 p.m. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001 pdf file) “We landed to find the normally bustling Air Force base like a ghost town,” Shelton will later recall. “Like so many government institutions, parts of the base bad been evacuated.” At the base, Shelton is “met by an entourage of three District of Columbia patrol cars and about a dozen motorcycle cops,” which will escort his car, “lights flashing and sirens blaring,” to the Pentagon. (Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell 2010, pp. 433-434; UNC-TV 1/27/2013) He will join other senior officials in the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon at 5:40 p.m. (see 5:40 p.m. September 11, 2001). (Myers 2009, pp. 159)

Charlie Cronk.Charlie Cronk. [Source: WSAW]George H. W. Bush, the former US president and father of President Bush, plays a relaxed game of golf after his plane is forced to land in Wisconsin. (Ryman 12/5/2018) George H. W. Bush and his wife, former First Lady Barbara Bush, were being flown from Washington, DC, to St. Paul, Minnesota, but their plane was diverted to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, after all aircraft were ordered to land at the nearest airport. They were driven to the nearby town of Brookfield, where they checked in at the Embassy Suites Hotel. (Bush 10/27/2003; Phelps and Jones 9/10/2016) From their hotel room, they talked briefly over the phone with President Bush, who called them from Air Force One (see 2:44 p.m. September 11, 2001). (CNN 10/25/2003; Bush 2010, pp. 136) After they had been at the hotel for several hours, they went out and looked around a shopping mall for some walking shoes. After finding some in a sports store, they went for a walk on the Brookfield Hills Golf Course, which is just across the street from their hotel. (Bush 10/27/2003; Phelps and Jones 9/10/2016)
Former President Asks a Golf Course Employee to Play a Round with Him - There, George H. W. Bush ends up playing a round of golf with one of the course’s employees. The employee, Charlie Cronk, recognizes the former first couple as they are walking by, and then goes and shakes hands with the former president. He asks George H. W. Bush if he will sign one of the course’s scorecards. To his surprise, the former president says in response, “I’d be glad to if you can go out and play golf with me.” He explains that he just needs “to get his mind away from everything for a little bit.” Cronk accepts the request and the two men therefore play nine holes together. Linda Stiloski, who owns the golf club, initially thinks Cronk is joking when he calls her shortly after 5:00 p.m. to tell her about their important visitors. All the same, she hurries to the golf course and, once there, sees Cronk and a Secret Service agent in a golf cart, with the former president and first lady walking behind them, accompanied by more Secret Service agents.
Former President Is 'Very Friendly' with Everyone He Encounters - George H. W. Bush makes the effort to interact with everyone he meets on the course. Cronk will later recall: “He would come up to you if you happen to be there. He’d say, ‘Hey, you want me to make that shot for you?’ Or ‘make that putt?’ Or, ‘How’s things going today?’ and all that.” The former president is “very open with you” and “very friendly,” Cronk will comment. (Zahn 9/13/2001; Ryman 12/5/2018) Barbara Bush accompanies her husband for the first couple of holes he plays but is then unable to continue due to a recent back operation she had. She therefore sits on a bench as he finishes the game. “It all seemed so normal,” she will write of her time at the golf course today. (Bush 10/27/2003)
Former President Signs Autographs before Leaving - George H. W. Bush only mentions the day’s terrorist attacks after he and Cronk have finished their game. He asks everyone at the course to say a prayer for the people who have lost their lives. (Ryman 12/5/2018) Before he leaves, he signs autographs and lets people take photos of him with the course’s employees. The former first couple return to the Embassy Suites Hotel where they will spend the night. Shortly after 9:00 a.m. on September 12, they will be flown on a private jet from Milwaukee to Kennebunkport, Maine, where they have a summer home. (Zahn 9/13/2001; Bush 10/27/2003)

An internal FAA memorandum is written, which mentions that Daniel Lewin, a passenger on Flight 11, was shot dead by hijacker Satam Al Suqami, but various agencies and investigations will later determine that the alleged shooting never happened. (Eggen 3/2/2002; General Accounting Office 8/30/2002; 9/11 Commission 2003; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 16-17) The memo, titled “Executive Summary,” is prepared by civil aviation security personnel officials in the aviation command center at FAA headquarters in Washington, DC, and intended for distribution to the office of FAA Administrator Jane Garvey. It is based on information received in the command center from numerous sources throughout the day that was recorded in an official log. (Morrison 2/27/2002; 9/11 Commission 2003; 9/11 Commission 9/11/2003 pdf file) The details of the alleged shooting on Flight 11 come from information entered into the log based on notes made by Janet Riffe, the FAA’s principal security inspector for American Airlines, in which she described a phone conversation she had this morning with Suzanne Clark, a manager of corporate security at American Airlines (see 9:20 a.m. September 11, 2001). (General Accounting Office 8/30/2002; 9/11 Commission 9/11/2003 pdf file)
Memo States that a Flight Attendant Reported a Shooting - The memo states that it is “a summary of the events which have occurred” today and includes brief descriptions of the four hijackings that took place this morning. In its description of the hijacking of Flight 11, it states that at 9:20 a.m., Riffe “was notified by Suzanne Clark of American Airlines corporate headquarters that an onboard flight attendant contacted American Airlines operations center and informed that a passenger located in seat 10B shot and killed a passenger in seat 9B.” The memo names Lewin as the passenger who was killed and Al Suqami as the passenger who shot him. Just one bullet was reported to have been fired, it states. It also states incorrectly that Flight 11 crashed into one of the towers at the World Trade Center at 9:25 a.m. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001) (Flight 11 actually crashed into the North Tower of the WTC at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 7) )
Agencies Will Dismiss the Allegation of a Shooting - Various agencies and investigations will determine that the reported shooting on Flight 11 never occurred. After the memo is leaked to the press in 2002, FAA and FBI officials will say the report of a gun on the plane was a mistake. The FAA will say the memo is just a “first draft” and the final draft omits any claim of a gun being fired. FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown will say the mistaken information was due to “a miscommunication” and add that the memo “was corrected that very evening.” (Morrison 2/27/2002; Eggen 3/2/2002; United Press International 3/6/2002)
GAO Will Find No Corroboration for the Allegation - The General Accounting Office (GAO) will conduct a comprehensive investigation of the alleged shooting in which it interviews FAA personnel and senior managers, and American Airlines personnel. Based on these interviews, it will subsequently state, “American Airlines personnel deny ever reporting a shooting on any of the hijacked flights on September 11, 2001.” The GAO will conclude that “there is no information to corroborate a shooting on American Airlines Flight 11.” (General Accounting Office 8/30/2002)
Accounts of Calls from Flight 11 Will Not Support the Allegation - The 9/11 Commission will subsequently also investigate whether there was a shooting on Flight 11 and determine, “The evidence derived from eyewitness accounts of the events that unfolded on [Flight 11] does not support a conclusion that a shooting on the flight is likely to have occurred.” (9/11 Commission 2003) In explaining how it reached its conclusion, the Commission will point out that “authoritative information about whether a shooting occurred on Flight 11 could have come only from individuals on the aircraft who were reporting events to contacts on the ground.” It will note that two flight attendants on Flight 11—Betty Ong and Amy Sweeney—“placed calls to ground contacts to report what was happening on the aircraft.” But, it will state, in none of the tape recordings of these calls and accounts of witnesses to them “is the presence of a gun or the occurrence of a shooting reported.” In contrast, witnesses to the calls stated that the two flight attendants were “quite specific about the presence of knives, and the stabbing or slashing of two crew members and a passenger.” Furthermore, the victim of the alleged shooting is said in the memo to have been in seat 9B, which was the same seat that “according to several of the witness accounts from the aircraft, was assigned to the passenger who was stabbed.” (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 16-17) (9B was Lewin’s seat. (Leibovitz 9/11/2013) )
FAA and the FBI Will Find No Evidence of a Gun on Flight 11 - Additionally, the Commission will state that the “FAA has no information which confirms the presence of a gun on… Flight 11” and the FBI has similarly advised that it has “no evidence of a gun being used onboard the aircraft.” (9/11 Commission 2003) The Commission will point out that “while investigators have uncovered evidence of numerous knife purchases by the 19 hijackers leading up to September 11, 2001, there was no evidence that they purchased or possessed firearms.” Furthermore, while the four hijacking teams generally used similar tactics, “No evidence has been uncovered to suggest that the hijackers on any of the other flights [besides Flight 11] used firearms.” The Commission will comment that it “seems unlikely that one of the teams would depart from the tactical discipline of the plotters’ mutual strategy.” (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 17)
American Airlines Manager Will Deny that a Shooting Occurred - The Commission will state that in interviews it conducted, while Riffe said the information in the memo was accurate, Clark denied having reported a shooting. The Commission will also mention that around the time the memo was written, someone in the aviation command center contacted American Airlines to verify the account of a shooting and was informed that it was incorrect. American Airlines “reported that it had no information about anyone being shot,” the Commission will state. (9/11 Commission 2003; 9/11 Commission 9/11/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 11/18/2003 pdf file) Most evidence will indicate that, rather than being shot, Lewin had his throat slashed by Al Suqami (see (8:14 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 16-17; Raskin 2013, pp. 218) However, one other incident supports the allegation in the memo of a shooting on Flight 11. At 8:44 a.m., the operations center at FAA headquarters was told that a passenger on the plane had been shot over a conference call with the FAA’s New England Regional Operations Center (see 8:44 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/2001; General Accounting Office 8/30/2002)

Mike Morell, President Bush’s CIA briefer, passes on to Bush all the information the CIA currently has relating to today’s terrorist attacks, which includes a warning the agency received about the possibility that a group of al-Qaeda terrorists is in the United States, preparing for a second wave of attacks. (Tenet 2007, pp. 169; Bush 2010, pp. 136; Graff 9/9/2016) While he was at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, Bush conducted a meeting of the National Security Council in a secure video teleconference (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001). During the meeting, CIA Director George Tenet said the CIA had information linking al-Qaeda to today’s attacks. (Woodward 2002, pp. 26-27; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 326; Priess 2016, pp. 243) Before the meeting ended, Morell slipped out to phone Ted Gistaro, Tenet’s executive assistant, at the CIA’s operations center and asked to have the information Tenet provided to Bush sent to Air Force One. (Tenet 2007, pp. 169; Morell and Harlow 2015, pp. 57)
Fax Includes All of the CIA's Information on the Attacks - A few minutes after Air Force One took off from Offutt, heading for Washington, DC (see (4:33 p.m.) September 11, 2001), Morell received a six-page fax that included all the intelligence the CIA had relating to the attacks. It included the talking points Tenet used to brief Bush during the teleconference, along with a lot of information Tenet was unable to cover in the meeting. Morell read through the material several times and highlighted several passages.
Briefer Goes Over the CIA's Information with Bush - Now, about 30 minutes later, Andrew Card, Bush’s chief of staff, comes to the staff cabin and tells Morell that Bush will see him to go through the information. Morell therefore accompanies Card to the conference room on the plane and the two men meet with Bush there. Morell goes over the material he has been sent with the president, allowing Bush to read as much of it as he wants. (Morell 9/2006 pdf file; Morell and Harlow 2015, pp. 57; Graff 9/9/2016)
Briefer Reports the Possibility of a Second Wave of Attacks - The material includes information provided by French intelligence, explaining that it has detected signs that al-Qaeda has “sleeper cells” in the US that are planning a second wave of attacks. Bush is concerned when he learns this. He will later describe receiving the information as “one of the darkest moments of the day.” “I believed America could overcome the September 11 attacks without further panic,” he will write. “But,” he will add, “a follow-on strike would be very difficult to bear.” (Tenet 2007, pp. 169; Bush 2010, pp. 136; Graff 9/9/2016) After Morell has finished briefing the president, Bush thanks him and he returns to his seat in the staff cabin. This meeting apparently takes place at around 5:20 p.m., since Morell will comment that Building 7 of the World Trade Center collapses while he is briefing the president and this incident occurs at 5:20 p.m. (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (Morell 9/2006 pdf file; National Institute of Standards and Technology 11/2008, pp. 15)

General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, finally arrives at the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon after returning to the US when his flight to Europe was aborted.
Vice Chairman Updates Shelton - After Shelton enters the NMCC, General Richard Myers, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, briefs him. Myers says that Air National Guard and regular Air Force combat air patrols are flying above major US cities under AWACS control, the entire US military is on Threatcon level Delta, and the Joint Forces Command is sending headquarters units to New York and Washington, DC.
Intelligence Director Says Only One 'Hint' Indicated Possible Attack - Shelton then turns to Vice Admiral Tom Wilson, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and Rear Admiral Lowell Jacoby, the director of intelligence for the Joint Staff, and asks them, “Have we had any intel ‘squeaks’ on an attack like this—anything at all?” Wilson replies: “The only possible hint of this coming was several months ago when we got a single intercept requesting jumbo jet training. Since then, there’s been nothing.” Myers will later comment that Wilson is “referring to the vast electronic signals data-mining operations of our intelligence community that targeted known terrorist networks, such as al-Qaeda and their allies.” (Myers 2009, pp. 159)
Shelton Flying to Europe at Time of Attacks - Shelton was flying across the Atlantic Ocean to Hungary for a NATO conference when he learned of the terrorist attacks in the US, and had ordered that his plane return to Washington (see (8:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, the plane was repeatedly denied permission to enter US airspace (see (After 9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and only landed at Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, at 4:40 p.m. (see 4:40 p.m. September 11, 2001). From there, three patrol cars and about a dozen motorcycle cops escorted the chairman and his accompanying staff members as they were driven to the Pentagon. Once at the Pentagon, Shelton initially went to his office and then visited the site of the attack, to see the wreckage there. After returning to the building, he headed to the NMCC. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001 pdf file; Giesemann 2008, pp. 22-32; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell 2010, pp. 430-436; McCullough 9/2011 pdf file)
Chairman in Office for Much of Evening - Shelton will spend much of the evening in his office with staff, preparing for meetings of the National Security Council later this evening and the following day (see (9:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001 and September 12, 2001). At 6:42 p.m., he will join Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John Warner (R-VA) to give a news briefing (see 6:42 p.m. September 11, 2001), and at around 9:00 p.m. he will head to the White House for the National Security Council meeting there. (CNN 9/12/2001; Priest 2003, pp. 37; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell 2010, pp. 436)

An unidentified fast-moving aircraft is noticed flying toward Air Force One as it is bringing President Bush back to Washington, DC, but the aircraft turns out to be just a Learjet, reportedly “in the wrong place at the wrong time.” (Scott 9/9/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 88) Bush announced he would be returning to Washington while he was at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska (see (4:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001), and his plane left the base and headed for the capital shortly after 4:30 p.m. (see (4:33 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sammon 2002, pp. 123; Bush 2010, pp. 135) As Air Force One is approaching Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, fighter jets belonging to the District of Columbia Air National Guard (DCANG) and the 119th Fighter Wing are flying combat air patrols over the capital. They have been joined by a number of other fighters from across the northeast US.
Pilots Told They Will Be Escorting Air Force One - Among the pilots flying over Washington are Lieutenant Colonel Marc Sasseville and Lieutenant Heather Penney of the DCANG, who are flying their second mission of the day. Sasseville and Penney are instructed to contact an Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) plane in their area and “expect special tasking.” When they make contact with the AWACS plane, its controller directs them to fly about 160 miles to the west and says they are going to “escort Air Force One.” Two of the 119th Fighter Wing’s jets offer to accompany Sasseville and Penney, and Sasseville accepts.
Unidentified Aircraft Seen Flying toward Air Force One - A short time later, an AWACS controller reports that a fast-moving unidentified aircraft is flying toward Air Force One. The aircraft is currently about 70 miles southwest of the president’s plane, but is on a “cutoff vector” to Air Force One. The controller reports that the suspicious plane is flying above 40,000 feet, whereas Air Force One is “in the 20,000 feet range.” All the same, Sasseville directs the 119th Fighter Wing’s jets to intercept the aircraft and they quickly do so.
Aircraft Is Not a Threat - The suspicious aircraft turns out to be just a Learjet “that hadn’t yet landed after aircraft nationwide had been ordered out of the air,” according to Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine. (Scott 9/9/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 88) However, the FAA ordered that all airborne aircraft must land at the nearest airport many hours earlier, at around 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure 9/21/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 25) The plane is simply “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” according to author Leslie Filson. (Filson 2003, pp. 88) “There was a Learjet vectored on Air Force One,” Sasseville will tell the 9/11 Commission, “but it was nothing.” (9/11 Commission 3/11/2004 pdf file) The two DCANG fighters and the two 119th Fighter Wing jets will subsequently accompany Air Force One as it flies into Andrews Air Force Base. (Scott 9/9/2002)

Laura Bush, the president’s wife, is driven, by members of the Secret Service, to the White House from the Secret Service headquarters in Washington, DC, and is then escorted down to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House. (Bush 2010, pp. 203-204) Bush was brought to the Secret Service headquarters this morning for her own safety (see (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Woodward 2002, pp. 17; Kessler 2006, pp. 136)
First Lady Reassured that No More Attacks Will Occur - There, she spent much of the afternoon “like most other Americans, glued to the television,” according to Us Weekly magazine. Bush was, however, “perhaps more at ease than the average American because her [Secret Service] agents were receiving news before it was reported on television.” Bush will later recall: “[A]fter some time, we started hearing from our agents that most of the planes [in US airspace] had been accounted for, fairly early in the day, I think, before they really started announcing it on television. So at some point we started feeling reassured that [a terrorist attack] wasn’t going to happen again that day.” After Bush and those with her learned that the president would be returning to Washington today (see (4:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001 and (4:33 p.m.) September 11, 2001), Bush’s Secret Service agents decided that the first lady could go back to the White House.
First Lady Arrives at White House - At 6.30 p.m., she will recall, Bush gets into a Secret Service motorcade and is driven to the White House by Dave Saunders, one of her agents. (CNN 9/11/2001; Burleigh 10/15/2001; Kessler 2006, pp. 136; Bush 2010, pp. 203) It is a short journey, as the Secret Service headquarters is just a few blocks from the White House. (Bamford 8/23/2009) Bush is driven along the deserted streets and then her vehicle goes at full throttle through the gate of the White House. She notices “[h]eavily armed men in black” swarming over the White House grounds. She then gets out of the vehicle, preceded by her Secret Service agents.
First Lady Taken to Underground Conference Room - Bush is “hustled inside” the White House, she will recall, and taken “downstairs through a pair of big steel doors that closed behind me with a loud hiss, forming an airtight seal.” She then walks along the hallway below the White House to the PEOC, and is taken into the conference room adjacent to the PEOC’s “nerve center.” Those already in the room include National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, White House counselor Karen Hughes, and deputy White House chief of staff Josh Bolten. Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne Cheney, are also there. Lynne Cheney comes over and hugs the first lady. She then whispers into the first lady’s ear, “The plane that hit the Pentagon circled the White House first” (see 9:34 a.m.- 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). This information, Bush will comment, causes a “shiver” to “vibrate down [her] spine.” (Bush 2010, pp. 203-204) President Bush will join the first lady in the PEOC at 7:10 p.m., after he arrives at the White House (see 7:10 p.m. September 11, 2001). (Bush 2010, pp. 137-138; Bush 2010, pp. 204-205) Staffers who were with the first lady at the Secret Service headquarters went to the White House and then headed home at around 4:30 p.m. (see (4:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (National Journal 8/31/2002)

Donald Rumsfeld speaking at his 6:42 p.m. news briefing. Behind the secretary of defense, left to right, are Thomas White, Henry Shelton, John Warner, and Carl Levin.Donald Rumsfeld speaking at his 6:42 p.m. news briefing. Behind the secretary of defense, left to right, are Thomas White, Henry Shelton, John Warner, and Carl Levin. [Source: Bob Houlihan/US Navy]Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and four other senior officials give a news briefing at the Pentagon, which is broadcast live around the world, to reassure the public that the US government is still functioning and the nation is strong, and during the briefing Rumsfeld says that, despite the devastating attack there, the Pentagon will reopen the following day. (Peters 9/11/2001; CNN 9/12/2001; Giesemann 2008, pp. 34; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell 2010, pp. 436) Joining Rumsfeld in the Pentagon press room to give the briefing are Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John Warner (R-VA), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the committee’s ranking minority member, respectively; General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who has returned to the US after his flight to Europe was aborted (see (8:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001); and Secretary of the Army Thomas White, who has come to the Pentagon from the alternate command location. (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001; Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 145) Levin and Warner called Rumsfeld earlier in the day, promising him their wholehearted support, and he had suggested they come over to the Pentagon. (Clarke 2006, pp. 228)
Officials Addressing Millions of Americans - As Rumsfeld and the four other men stood outside the press room before the briefing, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Victoria Clarke informed them, “Gentlemen, you are about to address 320 million Americans who have witnessed an unspeakable tragedy today.” (Giesemann 2008, pp. 34)
Pentagon 'Will Be in Business Tomorrow' - Rumsfeld begins the briefing, reading out a statement he has written by hand. He says, “This is a tragic day for our country,” and adds, “We have taken a series of measures to prevent further attacks and to determine who is responsible.” After summarizing some of the Defense Department’s actions throughout the day, Rumsfeld gives reassurance that the Pentagon is still up and running, pointing out that “the briefing here is taking place in the Pentagon. The Pentagon’s functioning,” and, he adds, “It will be in business tomorrow.” Shelton calls the day’s terrorist attacks “an outrageous act of barbaric terrorism carried out by fanatics,” and states, “I have no intentions of discussing today what comes next, but make no mistake about it, your armed forces are ready.”
'No Information' that Military Shot Down Any Aircraft - Rumsfeld takes a number of questions from reporters, but refuses to speculate about any uncertain information. When asked: “What about Osama bin Laden? Do you suspect him as the prime suspect in this?” Rumsfeld answers, “It’s not the time for discussions like that.” One reporter says, “[T]here were rumors earlier in the day that the plane which crashed in Pennsylvania had been brought down by the United States, either shot down or in some other manner,” to which Rumsfeld responds, “We have absolutely no information that any US aircraft shot down any other aircraft today.” (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001; Clarke 2006, pp. 230-231)
Briefing Would Be a 'Powerful Statement' - The briefing has come about because Clarke felt earlier on that Rumsfeld should do a media briefing today and that, despite the objections of others, it should be conducted at the Pentagon, as this would be “the most powerful statement we could deliver that we were open for business.” Rumsfeld agreed with Clarke’s suggestion to hold such a briefing. (Clarke 2006, pp. 229-230) Shelton will later recall that the feedback the briefing generates “by far surpassed any other I have ever received. The nation was obviously shaken and looking for reassurance that their government was still functioning.” (Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell 2010, pp. 436)

President Bush arrives at the White House, after exiting Air Force One at 6:42 p.m. and flying across Washington in a helicopter. (Tapper 9/12/2001; CNN 9/12/2001; Langley 12/16/2001; Associated Press 8/21/2002; ABC News 9/11/2002; Sammon 10/8/2002)

President Bush and Laura Bush talking with Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center.President Bush and Laura Bush talking with Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center. [Source: Eric Draper / White House]President Bush is reunited with his wife, Laura Bush, in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, shortly after arriving back at the White House. (Bush 2010, pp. 137-138; Bush 2010, pp. 204-205) Bush arrived at the White House at 6:54 p.m. (see (6:54 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (CNN 9/12/2001) He headed to the Oval Office, where he read through a draft of the speech he is going to deliver to the nation later in the evening and modified a few lines. He then headed down to the PEOC, where the first lady was waiting for him. (Bush 2010, pp. 137-138) The first lady was taken to the PEOC after she was driven to the White House from the Secret Service headquarters, at around 6:30 p.m. (see 6:30 p.m. September 11, 2001). Bush walks into the PEOC at 7:10 p.m. and hugs his wife. (Bush 2010, pp. 203-205) The first lady will later recall, “We were really glad to see each other, but also the enormity of what had happened in our country had really sunk in by then, and so we just comforted each other.” (Burleigh 10/15/2001) The president will describe: “We didn’t have a lot of time to talk, but we didn’t need to. Her hug was more powerful than any words.” Other senior government officials are in the PEOC, including Vice President Dick Cheney, who is there with his wife, Lynne Cheney. After their reunion, the president and the first lady “talked with the Cheneys a bit,” Laura Bush will recall. The president will subsequently head upstairs, practice his speech, and then go to the Oval Office to deliver it (see 8:30 p.m. September 11, 2001). The first lady will go to the White House residence (the first family’s living quarters). (Bush 2010, pp. 138; Bush 2010, pp. 204-205)

Secretary of State Colin Powell arrives back in Washington, DC. He had been away in Peru at the time of the attacks, and his flight back to the US had only taken off at around 12:30 p.m. EDT. The exact time he arrives in the capital is unclear, though a State Department spokesman said at 7:40 p.m. that he was due to return “within the hour.” Powell will be at the White House in time for a 9:30 p.m. meeting between the president and his key advisers (see (9:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). By then, Bush will already have delivered his speech to the nation declaring, “We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them” (see 8:30 p.m. September 11, 2001). As journalist Bob Woodward will comment, “The president, [National Security Adviser Condoleezza] Rice, [White House counselor Karen] Hughes and the speechwriters had made one of the most significant foreign policy decisions in years, and the secretary of state had not been involved.” (US Department of State 9/11/2001; Woodward 2002, pp. 31-32; Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002) The Daily Telegraph later comments, “In the weeks before September 11 Washington was full of rumors that Powell was out of favor and had been quietly relegated to the sidelines.” (Langley 12/16/2001)

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