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Context of '12:00 p.m. September 11, 2001: Defense Intelligence Agency Director Says Al-Qaeda Responsible for Attacks'

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The specially modified C-135 nicknamed ‘Speckled Trout.’The specially modified C-135 nicknamed ‘Speckled Trout.’ [Source: United States Air Force]General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, takes off to fly to Europe for a NATO conference, and will therefore be away from the US when the 9/11 terrorist attacks occur. [Giesemann, 2008, pp. 20, 22; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 430-433] Shelton is scheduled to attend a meeting of the Military Committee—NATO’s highest military authority—in Budapest, Hungary, on September 12, to discuss the situation in the Balkans, the European Security and Defense Identity, and NATO’s new force structure. On his return journey, he is set to stop in London, Britain, to be knighted by the Queen. [North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 9/10/2001; North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 9/11/2001; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 430] Shelton takes off from Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, DC, on a specially modified C-135 (the military version of a Boeing 707) nicknamed “Speckled Trout.” Normally he flies on a VIP Boeing 757 often used by the vice president, but that aircraft is presently unavailable, so he is flying instead on the C-135, which is usually reserved for the Air Force chief of staff. Those accompanying Shelton on the flight include his wife, Carolyn; his executive assistant, Colonel Doug Lute; his aides, Master Sergeant Mark Jones and Lieutenant Commander Suzanne Giesemann; and his personal security agent, Chief Warrant Officer Marshall McCants. [Giesemann, 2008, pp. 20-22; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 431, 434] When Shelton is out of the country, General Richard Myers, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is designated by law as acting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in his place. Shelton will later recall, “Until I crossed back into United States airspace, all the decisions would be [Myers’s] to make, in conjunction with Secretary [of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld and the president.” [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 10; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 432] After learning of the attacks in New York, Shelton will give the order for his plane to return to the US (see (8:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Giesemann, 2008, pp. 22-23; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 431] However, the plane will repeatedly be denied permission to enter US airspace (see (After 9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and will only land back in the US at 4:40 p.m. (see 4:40 p.m. September 11, 2001). Shelton will only arrive at the National Military Command Center at the Pentagon an hour after that (see 5:40 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001 pdf file; Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 159; Air Force Magazine, 9/2011 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Douglas E. Lute, Carolyn Shelton, Richard B. Myers, Suzanne Giesemann, Henry Hugh Shelton, Mark Jones, Marshall McCants

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Doug Lute.Doug Lute. [Source: Joint Chiefs of Staff]General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, learns of the terrorist attacks in New York and at the Pentagon while flying to Europe, but his plane is then initially denied permission to return to the US. Shelton’s plane took off from Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington, DC, at 7:15 a.m. to transport the chairman to Hungary for a NATO conference (see 7:15 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002, pp. G-1; Giesemann, 2008, pp. 20, 22-23; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 430-432]
Shelton Learns of First Crash - About an hour and a half into the flight, while the plane is over the Atlantic Ocean, a member of the flight crew approaches Colonel Doug Lute, Shelton’s executive assistant, and tells him a small aircraft has crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. Lute says, “That doesn’t sound good.” He goes to the chairman’s cabin at the rear of the aircraft and tells Shelton, “Sir, just to advise you, the pilot has received word that a civilian aircraft has just struck the World Trade Center.” Shelton is reminded of a speech he recently gave, in which he warned of the possibility of a terrorist attack on US soil (see (Shortly Before September 11, 2001)), and says to his wife, Carolyn, who is with him in the cabin, “I sure hope that is not a terrorist attack.” He will later recall, “This had the potential to play out exactly as I had warned.”
Shelton Learns of Second Crash - About 10 minutes after Lute returns to his seat, the member of the flight crew comes out again and reports that a second plane has crashed into the WTC. Lieutenant Commander Suzanne Giesemann, one of Shelton’s aides, says to Lute, “That can’t be an accident.” Lute goes again to Shelton’s cabin and tells the chairman, “Sir, it’s a second plane and it’s hit the other tower of the World Trade Center.” Shelton exclaims: “Doug, that’s no coincidence. Have them turn us around, we’re going back. Then I want General Myers on the line.” (General Richard Myers is the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.) After Lute returns to his seat, he and Giesemann put on headsets and make calls to the Pentagon. Giesemann talks to Kris Cicio, Shelton’s personal assistant, who tells her that the WTC towers were hit not by small planes, but by jetliners full of innocent passengers. Giesemann then loses her connection with Cicio, and so listens instead to BBC news reports through her headset and passes on what she learns to the other members of Shelton’s staff on the flight. Lute talks with someone in the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon. After the call, he heads to Shelton’s cabin. [Giesemann, 2008, pp. 22-23; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 431]
Controllers Deny Request to Enter US Airspace - Having learned of the attack on the Pentagon (which takes place at 9:37 a.m.), Lute tells Shelton that there has been “some type of big explosion at the Pentagon.” He also tells the chairman that air traffic controllers have refused their request to fly into Washington. Lute says: “[W]e’ve been denied permission to return. All US airspace has been shut down” (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). But Shelton retorts: “Doug, tell the pilot we’ll ask for forgiveness instead of permission, so have him turn us around. We’re going home.” Shelton will later recall, “I knew there was no way they were going to shoot down a 707 with UNITED STATES AIR FORCE emblazoned along the side.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002, pp. G-1; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 432]
Shelton's Plane Supposedly Cleared to Fly into Washington - After Lute returns from Shelton’s cabin, he nods to Giesemann and says, “We’re going back.” Giesemann will recall that she then heads into the cockpit and orders the pilot, “Major, take us back to Andrews.” The pilot replies, “Yes, ma’am.” [Giesemann, 2008, pp. 23] According to an FAA report, “minutes” after the initial denial of permission to return to the US, Shelton’s plane is granted clearance. [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002, pp. G-1] The pilot turns the plane around and heads back toward Washington, according to Shelton. [Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 432] 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). [Air Force Magazine, 9/2011 pdf file] The plane will consequently only land at Andrews Air Force Base 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 and McConnell, 2009, pp. 159]

Entity Tags: Douglas E. Lute, Carolyn Shelton, Kris Cicio, Suzanne Giesemann, Henry Hugh Shelton, Rob Pedersen

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The plane that has been flying General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, over the Atlantic Ocean has to spend two hours in a “holding pattern” near Greenland and then more time in a holding pattern over Canada before it is cleared to fly back into the United States. [Air Force Magazine, 9/2011 pdf file] Shelton was flying toward Europe for a NATO conference (see 7:15 a.m. September 11, 2001), but, after he learned of the attacks on the World Trade Center, ordered that his plane turn around and return to the US (see (8:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, air traffic controllers have denied the request to do so because US airspace has been shut down (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002, pp. G-1; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 430-432]
Plane Has to Fly in a Holding Pattern near Greenland - Therefore, although Shelton’s plane, nicknamed “Speckled Trout,” does turn around, it doesn’t initially fly back to the United States. For a couple of hours, since its crew doesn’t have clearance to return to the US and it doesn’t have a destination, the plane goes into a “holding pattern” near Greenland. Captain Rob Pedersen, the flight navigator, comes up with a list of alternative landing sites, which include Thule Air Base in Greenland and Naval Air Station Keflavik in Iceland. Although the crew decides to head back to the US, Pedersen will later recall, it is still difficult to get a security clearance, even for such a high-profile passenger as Shelton.
Plane Goes into Another Holding Pattern over Canada - Speckled Trout eventually reaches Canada, but the plane is still refused entry into US airspace and so it goes into a holding pattern again. “In the beginning we had a few problems convincing [the air traffic controller] to allow us back into the country, [even though] we were ordered at a significantly high level to come back,” Pedersen will recall. “You can’t say over the radio who you are carrying because they don’t have secure communications at the FAA.… We had to tell them over an open line that we had a DV Code 2, which is a ranking that a lot of DVs [distinguished visitors] fall under.” Eventually, the crew receives permission to fly into the US, although the time when this occurs is unstated. “It took a little bit of time, and I’m sure there were a lot of phone calls made, before they let us back in,” Pedersen will say. [Air Force Magazine, 9/2011 pdf file] Shelton, however, will contradict this account and claim his plane is cleared to enter US airspace significantly earlier. He will recall that those on the plane are told they have permission to enter US airspace 10 minutes after he talks on the phone with General Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (see (Shortly After 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001), which would mean they receive clearance possibly as early as around 10:15 a.m. [Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 432-433]
Myers Takes Shelton's Place as Chairman While Shelton Is outside the US - After flying over New York, Speckled Trout will land at Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, DC, at 4:40 p.m. (see 4:40 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001 pdf file; UNC-TV, 1/27/2013] While the plane is being denied permission to enter US airspace, Myers remains as the acting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Shelton’s place. This is “how the law reads whenever the chairman is out of the country,” Shelton will write. “Until I crossed back into United States airspace, all the decisions would be Dick’s to make, in conjunction with Secretary [of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld and the president.” [Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 432]

Entity Tags: Rob Pedersen, Henry Hugh Shelton

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Current Actions Center.The Current Actions Center. [Source: Federation of American Scientists]General Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrives at the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon and starts participating in the conference call being conducted from there. [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 38; Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 151-152] Myers recently arrived at the Pentagon following a meeting on Capitol Hill (see (Shortly Before 9:58 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; American Forces Press Service, 9/8/2006] He joined Colonel Matthew Klimow, his executive assistant, at the River Entrance and the two men then headed to the NMCC. [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 151; George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012] The NMCC is the US military’s “worldwide monitoring, crisis response center,” according to Myers. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004 pdf file] It is “a communications hub, a switchboard connecting the Pentagon, the civilian government, and the combatant commanders,” he will later write. Klimow will call it “the nerve center of the Pentagon.” It includes the large Current Actions Center (CAC), which is filled with computer cubicles.
Myers Goes to the Deputy Director's Office - When Myers and Klimow arrive at the NMCC, they find “soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines” sitting at “their consoles, their telephones, and their computers, manning communication links around the world.” They head to the deputy director for operations’ office, located at one end of the CAC. This small, windowless room, also known as the “DDO shack,” has several desks, a conference table, and lots of telephones. It is where the 24-hour watch takes place and is “the heart of the NMCC,” according to Klimow. In it, Captain Charles Leidig, the acting deputy director for operations, is participating in a conference call. [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 151-152; George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012] This conference call commenced at 9:29 a.m. as a “significant event conference” (see 9:29 a.m.-9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001) but was upgraded to an “air threat conference” at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m.-9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 37] It links the NMCC to NORAD, the White House, and other agencies. [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file; Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 152]
Myers Is Concerned about What Could Happen Next - After arriving in the NMCC, Myers wants to gain “situational awareness.” His first thought is, “What’s next?” [9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004 pdf file; American Forces Press Service, 9/8/2006] One of his priorities is “looking ahead and giving strategic guidance to make sure we were prepared to handle whatever came next,” he will recall. “We didn’t know at that time if we were in the middle of a several-day long attack, what kind of attacks could come next, or who and what might be targeted,” he will add. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004 pdf file]
Myers Discusses Evacuating the Sears Tower - The exact time when Myers reaches the NMCC is unclear. He will estimate that he arrives there between 10:00 a.m. and 10:10 a.m. when he is interviewed by the 9/11 Commission in 2004. [9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004 pdf file] However, the 9/11 Commission will conclude that he joins the air threat conference being run from there shortly before 10:00 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 38] And evidence will indicate that he in fact reaches the NMCC at around 9:58 a.m. or shortly before then. Leidig will tell the 9/11 Commission that he is “certain that the vice chairman was in the room” when the “Sears Tower issue” was discussed over the air threat conference. He will say he recalls telling Myers there is a recommendation to evacuate the Sears Tower, and Myers saying in response that this is a good idea and the military supports it. [9/11 Commission, 4/29/2004 pdf file] The discussion Leidig will be referring to is apparently one that occurs at 9:58 a.m. At that time, he is recorded saying over the air threat conference, “The vice chairman recommends evacuating [the] Chicago Tower [i.e. the Sears Tower in Chicago] based on the flight plan of one of the possible hijacked aircraft.” [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file; US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file] However, after spending only a short time in the NMCC, Myers will leave there in order to search for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (see (9:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 152]

Entity Tags: Richard B. Myers, Charles Leidig, Matthew S. Klimow, National Military Command Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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). [Air Force Magazine, 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 and McConnell, 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 (9:58 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 38]

Entity Tags: Rob Pedersen, Henry Hugh Shelton, Richard B. Myers

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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.

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, National Military Command Center, Montague Winfield

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Joint Chiefs of Staff conference room.The Joint Chiefs of Staff conference room. [Source: Federation of American Scientists]Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, General Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and several more senior officials at the Pentagon participate in a secure video teleconference with other government agencies in which the rules of engagement for fighter jets responding to the terrorist attacks are discussed. [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 155; George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012] Myers has been in the office of the deputy director for operations (DDO) within the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon since around 9:58 a.m. (see (9:58 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and Rumsfeld has been with him there since around 10:30 a.m. (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 43-44; George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012] Vice Admiral Edmund Giambastiani Jr., Rumsfeld’s senior military assistant, announced earlier on that a secure video teleconference with the White House was going to take place at 11:00 a.m. [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 4/9/2003 pdf file] Rumsfeld, Myers, and Colonel Matthew Klimow, Myers’s executive assistant, now leave the DDO’s office to participate in this. [George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012] The teleconference takes place in the Joint Chiefs of Staff conference room, which is more commonly known as “the tank.” [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 4/9/2003 pdf file] This is the “NMCC facility for secure teleconferences” and is “a tiny room with a thick, airtight door” that is “severely cramped,” according to Myers. Klimow will later describe it as “a small soundproof room just big enough for six or seven people.” Along with Myers, Rumsfeld, and Klimow, other officials in the room for the teleconference include Giambastiani; Stephen Cambone, Rumsfeld’s closest aide; William Haynes, the general counsel of the Department of Defense; and Victoria Clarke, the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz participates in the teleconference after arriving at the alternate military command center inside Raven Rock Mountain on the Pennsylvania-Maryland border (see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and can be seen by his colleagues at the Pentagon in a small box in the top right corner of their screen. The identities of the other participants will be unstated. The purpose of the teleconference is to link the Department of Defense’s civilian and military leadership with the rest of the government, and the main issue discussed is the rules of engagement for NORAD to follow should more hijackings occur, according to Myers. Further details of what the participants talk about will be unstated. [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 155; George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012] It is unclear how long the teleconference lasts. Joseph Wassel, assistant to the secretary of defense for communications, who waits outside the room while it is taking place, will recall only that it “went on for quite a while.” [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 4/9/2003 pdf file] As the teleconference progresses, its participants in the Joint Chiefs of Staff conference room will start feeling sick due to the deteriorating air quality. [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 155; George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, Edmund Giambastiani, Joseph M. Wassel, William J. Haynes, Paul Wolfowitz, Stephen A. Cambone, Richard B. Myers, White House, Matthew S. Klimow, Victoria (“Torie”) Clarke

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asks officers at the Pentagon what else they think the terrorists might do and General Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, suggests they could conduct an attack using weapons of mass destruction. [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 156; George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012; Graff, 2019, pp. 302] Myers has been in the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon since around 9:58 a.m. (see (9:58 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and Rumsfeld has been there since around 10:30 a.m. (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 38, 43-44] Since 11:00 a.m., the two men were with other senior officials in the Joint Chiefs of Staff conference room within the NMCC, participating in a teleconference with other government agencies (see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 4/9/2003 pdf file; Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 155] That meeting has now been adjourned and they start making their way back to the deputy director for operations’ office within the NMCC along with Colonel Matthew Klimow, Myers’s executive assistant. Suddenly Rumsfeld stops Myers and Klimow in their tracks. Then, in a command voice, he calls out to the dozen or so officers in the room: “What haven’t we thought of yet? What else can the enemy do?” He “was thinking ahead, engaging in [his] well-known outside-the-box speculation,” Myers will later comment. “He was always challenging his staff to think out of the box,” Klimow will say. Immediately, Myers replies, “NBC,” meaning a nuclear, biological, or chemical attack. Apparently as a result of this interaction, Myers orders that special response units be positioned outside Washington, DC, and New York, presumably in case a nuclear, biological, or chemical attack should occur in one of these cities. It is unclear exactly when the interaction occurs. However, in his 2009 memoir, Myers will place it before midday, when Vice Admiral Tom Wilson, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, confirms to him and his colleagues in the NMCC that today’s attacks have undoubtedly been committed by al-Qaeda (see 12:00 p.m. September 11, 2001). Klimow will explain why he considers Rumsfeld’s question about what else the terrorists might do to have been “significant in terms of lessons learned.” Rumsfeld was simply saying words to the effect of: “Wake up! Wake up! What else can happen?” But, Klimow will comment, “Somebody needed to do it and they needed to do it right at that moment.” [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 156; George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012; Graff, 2019, pp. 302]

Entity Tags: Richard B. Myers, Donald Rumsfeld, Matthew S. Klimow

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The director of the Defense Intelligence Agency informs military leaders in the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon that al-Qaeda is responsible for the morning’s attacks. General Richard Myers, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will later describe: “At noon, Vice Admiral Tom Wilson, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, confirmed what everybody at the conference table had already surmised: The attacks had undoubtedly come from al-Qaeda.” [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 156] Later in the day, Wilson will inform General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, of a single piece of intelligence that had suggested a terrorist attack may have been imminent (see 5:40 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 159]

Entity Tags: Richard B. Myers, Al-Qaeda, Thomas Wilson

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Victor Renuart.Victor Renuart. [Source: Gail Braymen / US Army]General Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, instructs Colonel Matthew Klimow, his executive assistant, to call General Tommy Franks, commander in chief of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), and tell him to promptly return to his headquarters and start considering how to respond to today’s terrorist attacks. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004 pdf file; Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 156] Myers and Klimow have been in the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon since around 9:58 a.m. (see (9:58 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004 pdf file; George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012]
Myers Wants a 'Fairly Big Response' to the Attacks - Around midday, Vice Admiral Tom Wilson, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, confirmed to them and others in the NMCC that today’s attacks were undoubtedly committed by al-Qaeda (see 12:00 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 156] This prompts Myers and his colleagues to immediately start considering “some sort of response.” The one thing they “knew for certain,” Myers will later recall, considering that al-Qaeda had “attacked us on our soil” and thousands of Americans had been killed, was that “this response had to be proportionate, meaning a fairly big response.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] Myers notes that Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda leadership are in Afghanistan. However, he will comment, “If the president and the secretary [of defense] ordered us to go to war in Afghanistan, we were going to have to do it before winter and that didn’t leave us a lot of time in the foothills of the Hindu Kush.”
CENTCOM Commander Is Away in Europe - Afghanistan is in the area of responsibility of CENTCOM, the military command that controls US operations in the Middle East. However, Franks, the commander of CENTCOM, is currently overseas, on the Greek island of Crete. Myers therefore instructs Klimow to contact him and ask him to return to CENTCOM headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, as soon as possible. Additionally, Myers says, “I want General Franks to start looking at options for al-Qaeda.” [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 156]
CENTCOM Commander Immediately Starts Preparing a Military Response - Throughout the evening, Franks starts preparing the US military’s response to today’s attacks from his hotel in Crete. CENTCOM has already tried to identify al-Qaeda training camps, barracks, command and control facilities, communications centers, and support complexes in Afghanistan. It has also built target sets for key Taliban installations, air defense sites, and early warning radars in the country. “The time had come when that effort would pay off,” Franks will comment in his 2004 memoir. He talks to Major General Victor Renuart, CENTCOM director of operations, who is at CENTCOM headquarters, and tells him to begin strike targeting for Afghanistan. He also directs his staff to coordinate with Vice Admiral Charles Moore, CENTCOM’s naval component commander, to ensure that American ships in the Afghanistan area cancel all port calls and immediately set out to sea. [Franks and McConnell, 2004, pp. 243] On the morning of September 12, Franks’s flight crew will receive permission from Greek air traffic control to take off from Crete and Franks will then head back to the United States. His plane will land at MacDill Air Force Base at 3:00 p.m. that afternoon. [Franks and McConnell, 2004, pp. 247-248]

Entity Tags: Matthew S. Klimow, Al-Qaeda, Richard B. Myers, Charles Moore, US Central Command, Victor Renuart, Thomas Franks, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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; Air Force Magazine, 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). [Air Force Magazine, 9/2011 pdf file] It was escorted by F-16 fighter jets as it flew into the US airspace. [Sanger Herald, 10/17/2013] After flying over New York, Speckled Trout lands at Andrews Air Force Base. [Air Force Magazine, 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 and McConnell, 2009, pp. 159]

Entity Tags: Henry Hugh Shelton

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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 and McConnell, 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; Air Force Magazine, 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]

Entity Tags: National Military Command Center, Richard B. Myers, Tom Wilson, Henry Hugh Shelton, Lowell E. Jacoby

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Deputies Committee of the National Security Council holds a secure video teleconference in which its members discuss how the US should respond to today’s terrorist attacks. [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 160-161] The Deputies Committee is the senior sub-Cabinet interagency forum for consideration of policy issues that affect the national security interests of the United States. It is convened and chaired by the deputy national security adviser. [White House, 1/28/2017 pdf file] The secure video teleconference is intended to prepare for a meeting of the National Security Council that will be held in the White House Situation Room tomorrow. Its participants include General Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the Pentagon; Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, at the White House; Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, at the State Department; and several representatives of the intelligence community, speaking from their offices. [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 160]
Committee Confirms that Decontamination Units Have Been Deployed - Earlier today, Myers ordered that special decontamination units be positioned outside Washington, DC, and New York (see (Before 12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012] Now, during the teleconference, it is “verified that counter-NBC [nuclear, biological, or chemical] decontamination units had been called out and deployed, standing by in case al-Qaeda decided to follow up with [weapons of mass destruction] attacks on our cities,” Myers will later recall.
Potential Targets Are Considered - Then, since President Bush has given the order to find and destroy those responsible for today’s attacks, the teleconference participants discuss potential targets to strike when the US retaliates. “We did not want a repeat of August 1998 after the al-Qaeda bombing of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania” (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), Myers will comment. [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 160] On that occasion, America responded to the bombings by firing cruise missiles at suspected terrorist camps in Afghanistan and a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan that US intelligence had identified as a chemical weapons facility (see August 20, 1998). [Washington Post, 8/21/1998; Newsweek, 8/30/1998] This response “had done little significant damage and obviously nothing to deter the terrorists,” Myers will note. The response to today’s attacks, therefore, “had to be more proportionate and, most important, more effective.”
Deputy Defense Secretary Calls Attacks 'an Act of War' - Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz offers his opinion on today’s attacks. “This is an act of war,” he says. Talking slowly and emphasizing each word, he adds, “And… we… are… at… war.” CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin then talks about how America should respond. “After today, we need to see clearly who is with us and who is not with us,” he says. What he means, Myers will explain, is that “Afghanistan, al-Qaeda’s home base, would not be an easy target,” since the “landlocked country had vast deserts and high, trackless mountains bisected by steep gorges.” The committee’s discussion “swirled around potential allies and enemies in the region, and how the attacks on our soil had changed the calculus of these relationships,” Myers will describe. Wolfowitz then opines, “We should be thinking whether we should declare war and then against whom?” Armitage asks, “Well, what should our declaratory policy be?”
Draft Presidential Directive Is Discussed - The Deputies Committee then discusses the draft National Security Presidential Directive on combating terrorism that was presented on September 4 (see September 4, 2001). [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 160-161] The committee worked on this throughout the summer. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326] The “principal objective” of the draft directive, according to Myers, is “to eliminate the al-Qaeda network, using all elements of our national power to do so—diplomatic, military, economic, intelligence, information, and law enforcement.” The teleconference participants agree that “these concepts would have to be focused more sharply against both al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.” [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 161]
Aide Will Note How Quickly the Committee Made Sense of the Attacks - Larry Di Rita, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s special assistant, who is with Wolfowitz at the alternate military command center outside Washington (see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001), will be struck by how quickly the Deputies Committee members have determined who is behind today’s attacks and what the US needs to do in response. “When I look at the notes of the video teleconference, it is remarkable to me how much they started to piece together in so short a period of time what it was and what the likely responses needed to be,” he will say. The attitude of committee members, he will note, is “not so much, ‘We’ve got to go to war in Afghanistan,’” but instead, “This is very likely al-Qaeda.” He will find it “quite impressive, the degree to which these decision makers/policy makers had a sense of it.” He will also be struck by the resolve of the teleconference participants. “Everybody was operating with a clear sense that we had to respond in a very dramatic way, that this was not something that could be handled any other way,” he will comment. [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 6/27/2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: John E. McLaughlin, Al-Qaeda, National Security Council Deputies Committee, Larry Di Rita, Richard B. Myers, Paul Wolfowitz, Stephen J. Hadley, Richard Armitage

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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. [Government Executive, 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]

Entity Tags: Carl Levin, Henry Hugh Shelton, Donald Rumsfeld, Thomas E. White, John W. Warner, Victoria (“Torie”) Clarke

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

President Bush (below television screen) meeting with the National Security Council in a bunker below the White House. In the far row from left to right, are Attorney General Ashcroft, President Bush, Chief of Staff Card, CIA Director Tenet, and counterterrorism “tsar” Ckarke. In the near row, Secretary of State Powell can be seen waving his hand, and National Security Advisor Rice sits to his right.President Bush (below television screen) meeting with the National Security Council in a bunker below the White House. In the far row from left to right, are Attorney General Ashcroft, President Bush, Chief of Staff Card, CIA Director Tenet, and counterterrorism “tsar” Ckarke. In the near row, Secretary of State Powell can be seen waving his hand, and National Security Advisor Rice sits to his right. [Source: Eric Draper/ White House]President Bush meets with his full National Security Council. According to journalist Bob Woodward, this meeting turns out to be “unwieldy.” So at 9:30 p.m., Bush follows it with a meeting with a smaller group of his most senior principal national security advisers in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) beneath the White House. Bush and his advisers have already decided bin Laden is behind the attacks. As the president later recalls, in these meetings, “That’s when we first got the indication… we’ve identified, we think it’s al-Qaeda.” He says the FBI now thinks that “it’s al-Qaeda, and we start to develop our plans to get them. I mean, there wasn’t any hesitation. We’re starting the process of coalition-building and how to get ‘em.” (According to other accounts, though, the CIA had informed Bush hours earlier that it was virtually certain al-Qaeda was to blame for the attacks (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001).) CIA Director George Tenet says that al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan are essentially one and the same. Tenet says, “Tell the Taliban we’re finished with them.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 133; Woodward, 2002, pp. 31-33; Washington Post, 1/27/2002] The president says, “I want you all to understand that we are at war and we will stay at war until this is done. Nothing else matters. Everything is available for the pursuit of this war. Any barriers in your way, they’re gone. Any money you need, you have it. This is our only agenda.” When, later in the discussion, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld points out that international law only allows force to prevent future attacks and not for retribution, Bush yells, “No. I don’t care what the international lawyers say, we are going to kick some ass.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 23-24] Bush will subsequently announce a new US doctrine of preemptive attack the following June (see June 1, 2002). [Time, 6/23/2002] During the meeting, the president refers to the present political situation as a “great opportunity” (see (Between 9:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). By the time the meeting ends, it is after 10 p.m. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 133]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Taliban, National Security Council, Richard A. Clarke, George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Al-Qaeda, George J. Tenet, Condoleezza Rice

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

During a National Security Council meeting, FBI Director Robert Mueller begins to describe the investigation under way to identify the 9/11 hijackers. According to journalist Bob Woodward, “He said it was essential not to taint any evidence so that if accomplices were arrested, they could be convicted.” But Attorney General John Ashcroft interrupts. Woodward will paraphrase Ashcroft saying, “The chief mission of US law enforcement… is to stop another attack and apprehend any accomplices or terrorists before they hit us again. If we can’t bring them to trial, so be it.” Woodward will comment, “Now, Ashcroft was saying, the focus of the FBI and the Justice Department should change from prosecution to prevention, a radical shift in priorities.” President Bush is at the meeting and apparently does not challenge Ashcroft’s suggestion. [Woodward, 2002, pp. 42-43]

Entity Tags: Robert S. Mueller III, John Ashcroft, Bob Woodward, National Security Council, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline

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