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Context of 'Between 1998 and 2001: Pentagon Official Concerned about Plane Being Used as a Weapon'

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Joseph Eash.Joseph Eash. [Source: Department of Defense]A Defense Department official expresses concern about the possibility of an aircraft being used as a weapon to cause massive damage. At some point during his tenure as commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR), Major General Larry Arnold briefs Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Advanced Technology Joseph Eash about proposed cruise missile defense initiatives. Arnold suggests to Eash the scenario of a cruise missile with a weapon of mass destruction being launched into the US. But Eash is concerned about an attack carried out using a plane that takes off within the US. As Arnold will later recount, Eash tells him, “I’m worried about someone taking an airplane off from within the US and using it as a weapon of mass destruction.” Arnold will comment, “I don’t think he envisioned someone hijacking an airliner and crashing it into the World Trade Center, but I think he envisioned a light airplane or business jet that had been stolen, either to drop some chemicals or biological agents, or maybe even to crash it.” (Filson 2002)

Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the 1st Air Force whose mission includes the protection of the continental US against air attacks, tells the Associated Press that he is deeply worried by the possibility of an airborne terrorist attack. He says: “I lie awake worrying. It is one thing to put a truck inside the twin trade towers and blow it up. It is quite another to be able to fly a weapon across our borders. That is an attack, a direct attack, an unambiguous attack from outside our country.” In 1999, a study commissioned by Arnold emphasized the continued importance of the Air Force’s air sovereignty mission and the threat of terrorism (see 1999). (Kaczor 2/1/2000; Kaczor 8/2/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 92) As one of the top commanders of NORAD, Arnold will play a pivotal role on the morning of 9/11 (see (8:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (10:08 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Code One Magazine 1/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20, 42)

Colonel Robert Marr, the battle commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), speaks over the phone with Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR), about the day’s training exercise. Marr is in the battle cab at NEADS, in Rome, New York, while Arnold is at the CONR headquarters at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. (9/11 Commission 1/23/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 2/2/2004 pdf file) All of NORAD, including NEADS, is currently participating in the major annual exercise, Vigilant Guardian. (Northeast Air Defense Sector 8/23/2001; Arkin 2005, pp. 545; Doscher 9/8/2011) Marr has just been in a staff meeting, and now checks in with Arnold to make sure their communication lines are up and ready for the exercise. (Grant 2004, pp. 19) Marr tells Arnold that the personnel on the NEADS operations floor are ready to begin the exercise. Marr will tell the 9/11 Commission that his “primary communication” on this day “is to higher headquarters,” presumably meaning Arnold. However, the two men are not on a continual open line. (9/11 Commission 1/23/2004 pdf file) Arnold will tell the Commission that he and Marr “did not stay on the line continually, but spoke when information needed to be passed,” throughout the day. (9/11 Commission 2/3/2004 pdf file)

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