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Context of '(6:54 p.m.) September 11, 2001: Secret Service Emergency Response Team Told to Pull Back When President’s Helicopter Lands at the White House'

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It is reported that the US Secret Service is using an “air surveillance system” called Tigerwall. This serves to “ensure enhanced physical security at a high-value asset location by providing early warning of airborne threats.” Tigerwall “provides the Secret Service with a geographic display of aircraft activity and provides security personnel long-range camera systems to classify and identify aircraft. Sensor data from several sources are fused to provide a unified sensor display.” [US Department of Defense, 2000; US Department of the Navy, 9/2000, pp. 28 pdf file] Among its responsibilities, the Secret Service protects America’s highest elected officials, including the president and vice president, and also provides security for the White House complex. [US Congress, 5/1/2003] Its largest field office with over 200 employees is in New York, in Building 7 of the World Trade Center. [Tech TV, 7/23/2002] Whether the Secret Service, in New York or Washington, will make use of Tigerwall on 9/11 is unknown. Furthermore, in New York the Secret Service has a Stinger missile secretly stored in the WTC, to be used to protect the president if the city were attacked when he visited. Presumably it keeps this is in Building 7, where its field office is. [Weiss, 2003, pp. 379] As well as Tigerwall, the Secret Service appears to have other air surveillance capabilities. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will describe that on 9/11, the Secret Service had “a system that allowed them to see what FAA’s radar was seeing.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 7] Barbara Riggs, a future deputy director of the Secret Service who is in its Washington, DC headquarters on 9/11, will describe the Secret Service “monitoring radar” during the attacks. [PCCW Newsletter, 3/2006; Star-Gazette (Elmira), 6/5/2006] Furthermore, since 1974 the Secret Service operations center has possessed a special communications line from the control tower of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. This hotline allows air traffic controllers monitoring local radar to inform agents at the White House of any planes that are off course or appear to be on a “threatening vector.” [Time, 9/26/1994]

Entity Tags: US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Secret Service executives implement an “emergency call-up” of all their agency’s personnel at some time after 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon was hit, according to US News and World Report. The reason why the Secret Service did not call up all its personnel earlier on is unstated, as is the reason it decides to do so now. [US News and World Report, 12/1/2002] The Secret Service is responsible for protecting the nation’s “most visible targets,” including the president, the vice president, and the White House complex. [US Department of the Treasury, 5/8/2001; Office of Management and Budget, 7/2001, pp. 82 pdf file] Brian Stafford, the agency’s director, realized the US was under attack after the second plane hit the World Trade Center at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), and then activated the Director’s Crisis Center at Secret Service headquarters to manage the agency’s response (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001; Peter Schnall, 10/24/2004] And since around 9:18 a.m., a meeting has been taking place in the office of Carl Truscott, the special agent in charge of the presidential protective division, during which Truscott and three other senior Secret Service agents have discussed security enhancements at the White House (see (9:18 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001]

Entity Tags: US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Secret Service emergency response team officers patrolling the South Lawn of the White House.Secret Service emergency response team officers patrolling the South Lawn of the White House. [Source: Associated Press]Laura Bush, the president’s wife, is escorted out of the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, DC, by members of the Secret Service with their guns drawn, to be driven away to a secure location. [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 200] People began evacuating from the Russell Senate Office Building and the nearby Capitol building at 9:48 a.m., apparently due to concerns that a plane was heading toward Capitol Hill (see 9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Associated Press, 8/21/2002; CNN, 9/11/2006] While Bush and her staff were waiting for the Secret Service emergency response team to arrive and take them away from the Russell Office Building, they stayed in the office of Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) (see (9:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Emergency Response Team Arrives with Guns Drawn - Secret Service agents collect the first lady from Gregg’s office at “[s]ometime after 10:00 a.m.,” Bush will later recall. [Bush, 2010, pp. 200] Bush usually travels with four Secret Service agents. [Kessler, 2006, pp. 136; Kessler, 2009, pp. 181] But her usual agents are now joined by “an additional Secret Service detail and an emergency response team, dressed in black tactical clothing like a SWAT force and moving with guns drawn.” As Bush is being hurried through the hallways, past panicked staffers leaving their offices, members of the emergency response team escorting her shout, “Get back!” and cover her every move with their guns. [Bush, 2010, pp. 200]
First Lady Escorted to Her Limousine - Noelia Rodriguez, the first lady’s press secretary, will recall that she and several other members of Bush’s staff reach Bush’s limousine before the first lady does. While they are waiting there, they chat excitedly, asking each other: “What could this be? Where are we going? What’s next?” But the driver instructs them to be quiet, saying, “Ladies, this is a time to pay attention.” “Just then,” Rodriguez will say, “what seemed like two dozen of these ninja guys surrounded the car—Secret Service agents all dressed in black. Mrs. Bush then got in the car.” [National Journal, 8/31/2002] Bush will describe, “We reached the underground entrance; the doors on the motorcade slammed shut, and we sped off.” [Bush, 2010, pp. 200]
Motorcade Delayed before Leaving Capitol Hill - However, Bush and those accompanying her reportedly face a delay as they are about to drive off. Ashleigh Adams, the first lady’s deputy press secretary, will describe, “At one point, we were all going to leave, and then Mrs. Bush got out of the motorcade and they [presumably members of the Secret Service] told us to stay in the staff van.” At this point, Adams will say, “Everyone was distraught” and they “didn’t know what was going on.” She will add: “We knew something was going on in DC, because we could see people running around. A lot of us were under the impression that there were car bombs going off throughout the city.” Bush and those accompanying her leave Capitol Hill at 10:10 a.m., according to Rodriguez. [National Journal, 8/31/2002] Bush’s Secret Service agents say they are going to take everyone to a secure location. This turns out to be the Secret Service headquarters in Washington (see (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Kessler, 2006, pp. 136]

Entity Tags: Laura Bush, Noelia Rodriguez, Ashleigh Adams, US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Members of the Secret Service emergency response team (ERT) are ordered to pull back out of camera range when President Bush’s helicopter arrives at the White House, which means they are too far from the president to respond effectively should something bad happen. ERT officers are waiting on the South Lawn of the White House when Marine One, the president’s helicopter, lands there with Bush on board (see (6:54 p.m.) September 11, 2001). However, senior Secret Service officials who are also present order them to “pull back so that the television cameras would not capture images of the heavily armed sharpshooters and alarm the public,” according to US News and World Report. Several ERT officers will later report that they are therefore “too far away from the president when he stepped out of Marine One to be effective if something had happened.” ERT members are the Secret Service’s “sharpshooters assigned to respond to any terrorist strike,” according to US News and World Report. [US News and World Report, 12/1/2002; Melanson, 2005, pp. 331] They are “[d]edicated to protecting the president and securing the White House grounds,” according to the Daily Mail, and are “skilled, unobtrusive, and absolutely lethal when called upon.” [Daily Mail, 12/16/2010]

Entity Tags: US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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