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Context of '6:30 p.m. September 11, 2001: Deputies Committee Holds a Teleconference to Discuss the US Response to the Attacks'

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Bombings of the Nairobi, Kenya, US embassy (left), and the Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, US embassy (right).Bombings of the Nairobi, Kenya, US embassy (left), and the Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, US embassy (right). [Source: Associated Press]Two US embassies in Africa are bombed within minutes of each other. At 10:35 a.m., local time, a suicide car bomb attack in Nairobi, Kenya, kills 213 people, including 12 US nationals, and injures more than 4,500. Mohamed al-Owhali and someone known only as Azzam are the suicide bombers, but al-Owhali runs away at the last minute and survives. Four minutes later, a suicide car bomb attack in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, kills 11 and injures 85. Hamden Khalif Allah Awad is the suicide bomber there. The attacks will be blamed on al-Qaeda. [PBS Frontline, 2001; United States of America v. Usama Bin Laden, et al., Day 38, 5/2/2001] The Tanzania death toll is low because, remarkably, the attack takes place on a national holiday so the US embassy there is closed. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 195] The attack shows al-Qaeda has a capability for simultaneous attacks. The Tanzania bombing appears to have been a late addition, as one of the arrested bombers will allegedly tell US agents that it was added to the plot only about 10 days in advance. [United State of America v. Usama bin Laden, et al., Day 14, 3/7/2001] A third attack against the US embassy in Uganda does not take place due to a last-minute delay (see August 7, 1998). [Associated Press, 9/25/1998] August 7, 1998, is the eighth anniversary of the arrival of US troops in Saudi Arabia and some people will speculate that this is the reason for the date of the bombings. [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. 46] In the 2002 book The Cell, reporters John Miller, Michael Stone, and Chris Mitchell will write: “What has become clear with time is that facets of the East Africa plot had been known beforehand to the FBI, the CIA, the State Department, and to Israeli and Kenyan intelligence services.… [N]o one can seriously argue that the horrors of August 7, 1998, couldn’t have been prevented.” They will also comment, “Inexplicable as the intelligence failure was, more baffling still was that al-Qaeda correctly presumed that a major attack could be carried out by a cell that US agents had already uncovered.” [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 195, 206] After 9/11, it will come to light that three of the alleged hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi, and Salem Alhazmi, had some involvement in the bombings (see October 4, 2001, Late 1999, and 1993-1999) and that the US intelligence community was aware of this involvement by late 1999 (see December 15-31, 1999), if not before.

Entity Tags: Salem Alhazmi, Nawaf Alhazmi, Mohamed al-Owhali, Hamden Khalif Allah Awad, Khalid Almihdhar, Al-Qaeda, Azzam

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

El Shifa Plant in Sudan.El Shifa Plant in Sudan. [Source: US government]The US fires 66 missiles at six al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and 13 missiles at a pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum, Sudan, in retaliation for the US embassy bombings. [Washington Post, 10/3/2001] The US insists the attacks are aimed at terrorists “not supported by any state,” despite obvious evidence to the contrary. The Sudanese Al Shifa factory is hit in the middle of the night when it is unoccupied. Intelligence will later suggest that the factory had no links to bin Laden (see September 23, 1998). Between six and 30 people are killed in the Afghanistan attacks. But no important al-Qaeda figures die. [Observer, 8/23/1998; New Yorker, 1/24/2000; Wright, 2006, pp. 285] At least one of the missiles accidentally landed inside Pakistan and Pakistan may have been able to build their own cruise missile from examining the remains. There are additional reports that bin Laden was able to sell unexploded missiles to China for more than $10 million. [Wright, 2006, pp. 285] President Clinton is soon widely accused of using the missile strike to distract the US public from a personal sex scandal (see August 17-Late August 1998).

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, Clinton administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

President Bush’s cabinet-rank advisers discuss terrorism for the second of only two times before 9/11. [Washington Post, 5/17/2002] National Security Adviser Rice chairs the meeting; neither President Bush nor Vice President Cheney attends. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke later says that in this meeting, he and CIA Director Tenet speak passionately about the al-Qaeda threat. No one disagrees that the threat is serious. Secretary of State Powell outlines a plan to put pressure on Pakistan to stop supporting al-Qaeda. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld appears to be more interested in Iraq. The only debate is over whether to fly the armed Predator drone over Afghanistan to attack al-Qaeda (see September 4, 2001). [Clarke, 2004, pp. 237-38] Clarke’s earlier plans to “roll back” al-Qaeda first submitted on January 25, 2001 (see January 25, 2001) have been discussed and honed in many meetings and are now presented as a formal National Security Presidential Directive. The directive is “apparently” approved, though the process of turning it into official policy is still not done. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004] There is later disagreement over just how different the directive presented is from Clarke’s earlier plans. For instance, some claim the directive aims not just to “roll back” al-Qaeda, but also to “eliminate” it altogether. [Time, 8/12/2002] However, Clarke notes that even though he wanted to use the word “eliminate,” the approved directive merely aims to “significantly erode” al-Qaeda. The word “eliminate” is only added after 9/11. [Washington Post, 3/25/2004] Clarke will later say that the plan adopted “on Sept. 4 is basically… what I proposed on Jan. 25. And so the time in between was wasted.” [ABC News, 4/8/2004] The Washington Post will similarly note that the directive approved on this day “did not differ substantially from Clinton’s policy.” [Washington Post, 3/27/2004] Time magazine later comments, “The fight against terrorism was one of the casualties of the transition, as Washington spent eight months going over and over a document whose outline had long been clear.” [Time, 8/12/2002] The primary change from Clarke’s original draft is that the approved plan calls for more direct financial and logistical support to the Northern Alliance and other anti-Taliban groups. The plan also calls for drafting plans for possible US military involvement, “but those differences were largely theoretical; administration officials told the [9/11 Commission’s] investigators that the plan’s overall timeline was at least three years, and it did not include firm deadlines, military plans, or significant funding at the time of the September 11, 2001, attacks.” [Washington Post, 3/27/2004; Reuters, 4/2/2004]

Entity Tags: Taliban, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Al-Qaeda, Northern Alliance, Donald Rumsfeld, George J. Tenet, Central Intelligence Agency, George W. Bush, Colin Powell, Richard A. Clarke, Condoleezza Rice

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz leaves the Pentagon and relocates to the alternate military command center outside Washington, DC. Wolfowitz evacuated from his office to an area in front of the Pentagon after the building was hit, but then went back inside and joined Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others in the National Military Command Center (NMCC). [Vanity Fair, 5/9/2003] With smoke seeping into the center, Wolfowitz advises Rumsfeld to leave the NMCC (see (10:40 a.m.-11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). But instead Rumsfeld orders Wolfowitz to leave and fly to Site R, the alternate command center, which is located inside Raven Rock Mountain, about six miles north of Camp David, on the Pennsylvania-Maryland border. [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 11/2001; Vogel, 2007, pp. 441] Wolfowitz will later recall that he “was not happy about” receiving this order. [Vanity Fair, 5/9/2003] Minutes later, a helicopter lands outside the Pentagon, and carries Wolfowitz and several others off to the alternate command center. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 132] Site R was designed as a duplicate of the NMCC, and if the NMCC were ever destroyed in an attack or needs to be evacuated, it would serve as the Pentagon’s primary command center. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 174] It has “more than 700,000 square feet of floor space, sophisticated computer and communications equipment, and room for more than 3,000 people.” [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 11/2001] Others who will relocate to Site R on this day include Army Secretary Thomas White and personnel from the office of the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, though White will return to the Pentagon later on (see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 1/9/2002; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 135] According to journalist and author James Mann, Rumsfeld’s decision to order Wolfowitz to leave Washington has its roots in a top secret program Rumsfeld was involved in during the 1980s, which serves to ensure the “Continuity of Government” (COG) in the event of an attack on the US (see 1981-1992). [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]

Entity Tags: Paul Wolfowitz, Site R, Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline, Civil Liberties

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 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

General Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, conducts a meeting of the senior directors of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon. [George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012] Earlier this evening, Myers participated in a secure video teleconference with other members of the Deputies Committee of the National Security Council in which the US’s response to today’s terrorist attacks was discussed (see 6:30 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 160-161] He now holds a “war council” with the senior directors of the Joint Staff. Details of what is discussed at the meeting will be unstated. However, Colonel Matthew Klimow, his executive assistant, will later determine that the meeting is “where we made the switch from thinking of the events of 9/11 that day to [beginning] planning for future action.” [George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012] The Joint Staff assists the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in achieving his various responsibilities. It is composed of roughly equal numbers of officers from the Army, the Navy and the Marine Corps, and the Air Force. [Joint Chiefs of Staff, 2/20/2010]

Entity Tags: Joint Staff, Matthew S. Klimow, Richard B. Myers

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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