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Context of '8:15 a.m. September 11, 2001: President Bush Prolongs Briefing about Planned School Visit'

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At 6:30 p.m., President Bush arrives at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort on Longboat Key, Florida. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 13; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/2002] He is in Florida as part of a weeklong effort to place a national spotlight on education and reading, and visited a school in Jacksonville earlier in the day. [ABC News, 9/10/2001; Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville), 9/10/2001] In preparation for the president’s visit to the resort, all guests have been cleared out of the building “to make way for the invasion of White House staffers, aides, communications technicians—even an antiterrorism unit.” Overnight, snipers and surface-to-air missiles are located on the roof of the Colony and adjacent structures, to protect the president. “The Coast Guard and the Longboat Key Police Department manned boats that patrolled the surf in front of the resort all night. Security trucks with enough men and arms to stop a small army parked right on the beach. An Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) plane circled high overhead in the clear night sky.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 13 and 25; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/2002] Whether this is a typical level of security for a presidential visit, or is increased due to recent terror warnings, is unstated.

Entity Tags: George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Zainelabdeen Ibrahim Omer, a Sudanese man, tells police in Sarasota, Florida, he is concerned that a friend of his may pose a threat to President Bush, who is spending the night on nearby Longboat Key and is due to visit Sarasota today. After he contacts the Sarasota police, Omer is visited by some officers. He tells them that on the previous evening he talked to a friend of his, who he identifies only as “Gandi.” He says Gandi is in Sarasota with two companions, with the intention of getting a friend of theirs out of jail. Omer is apparently concerned that Gandi may be a danger to Bush while he is visiting the area. He says Gandi “has made several remarks in the past that indicated extremely violent thoughts.” He adds that, considering the man’s “past inclinations,” the fact that Gandi is in Sarasota at the time Bush is visiting the area “might not be coincidental.” The Sarasota police officers will contact the Secret Service, whose agents then question Omer about his concerns. Police officers and Secret Service agents will visit an address on 32nd Street in Sarasota, where they find 11 Arab men apparently at morning prayer. One of the men has a card for the Longboat Key Club, which is near the resort where Bush has been spending the night (see September 10, 2001). The men will be questioned, held until Bush has left the area, and then released. It will later be reported that Gandi has links to the guerrilla group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. However, an unnamed law enforcement source will tell authors Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan that there is “nothing to indicate” the 11 Arab men questioned by the police and the Secret Service are linked to the 9/11 plotters. [Sarasota Police Department, 9/11/2001; Sarasota Police Department, 9/11/2001; Summers and Swan, 2011, pp. 457] While Bush is staying on Longboat Key, several Middle Eastern men reportedly arrive at the resort where he is staying and falsely claim they have an interview with him arranged (see (Before 6:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). And at 8:50 a.m. on September 11, a local man will see a van in Sarasota with two Middle Eastern men screaming out the windows, “Down with Bush” (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Longboat Observer, 9/26/2001]

Entity Tags: Sarasota Police Department, US Secret Service, Zainelabdeen Ibrahim Omer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Shay Sullivan.Shay Sullivan. [Source: Longboat Observer]A group of Middle Eastern men pulls up at the resort on Longboat Key, Florida, where President Bush is staying and falsely claims to have an interview scheduled with the president, but the men are turned away from the premises, according to a local fire marshal who later hears about the incident. [Longboat Observer, 9/26/2001] Bush arrived at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort on Longboat Key at 6:30 p.m. on September 10 and then spent the night there (see September 10, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 13; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/2002] Sometime before 6:00 a.m. on September 11, or possibly on the evening of September 10, a van occupied by some Middle Eastern men pulls up at the resort. The men claim to be reporters and say they are there for a “poolside” interview with Bush. They then ask for a particular Secret Service agent by name. Security guards phone the receptionist at the resort and relay the men’s request. The receptionist has not heard of the Secret Service agent named by the men or anything about a planned interview with Bush. She passes the phone to a Secret Service agent, who similarly tells the security guards that no one knows of the agent the men referred to or is aware of any scheduled interview with the president. The Secret Service agent says the men should contact the president’s public relations office in Washington, DC, and has them turned away from the premises. [Longboat Observer, 9/26/2001; Longboat Observer, 9/7/2011]
Incident Resembles Recent Assassination Method - Some people will later note the similarity of this alleged incident to the method used to assassinate General Ahmed Shah Massoud, the leader of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, on September 9. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] Massoud was killed by a bomb hidden in the video camera of two Arab men who said they were journalists who wanted to interview him (see September 9, 2001). [Time, 8/12/2002; St. Petersburg Times, 9/9/2002] “Were the men on Longboat Key planning to kill Bush in similar fashion?” the St. Petersburg Times will ask. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004]
Fire Marshal Learns about Incident - The alleged incident on Longboat Key will come to light after reporter Shay Sullivan hears local Fire Marshal Carroll Mooneyhan describing it to a colleague during a lull in a firefighters’ union meeting and then writes an article about it for the Longboat Observer. Mooneyhan does not witness the incident firsthand, but will learn about it when he is at the front desk at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort at around 6:00 a.m. on September 11. At that time, he will overhear the receptionist and a security guard discussing what happened. It is unclear when exactly the incident they discuss is meant to have occurred. [Longboat Observer, 9/26/2001; Longboat Observer, 9/7/2011] The Secret Service will question Mooneyhan about what he hears. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] Two weeks after 9/11, the FBI will reportedly be looking into the alleged incident. [Longboat Observer, 9/26/2001]
Incident Is Later Denied - The day after the incident is first reported in the Longboat Observer, Mooneyhan “went silent” about it, Sullivan will say. [Longboat Observer, 9/7/2011] In 2004, Mooneyhan will deny telling anyone at the Longboat Observer about the incident. “How did they get that information from me if I didn’t know it?” he will say. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] However, Sullivan will suggest that Mooneyhan may have been “ordered to stop talking about it.” He will note that Secret Service agents visited his newspaper and “suggested we back off the story.” [Longboat Observer, 9/7/2011] Longboat Key Police Chief John Kintz will say in 2011 that he has been unable to find any evidence of the incident. “[T]here wasn’t a single person who could confirm that it happened,” he will say, adding, “We never found anyone who worked at the gate who could tell us that that happened.” [Longboat Observer, 9/7/2011]
Other Suspicious Incidents Occur - Other suspicious incidents occur in the Longboat Key area around this time. Shortly after 4:00 a.m. on September 11, a Sudanese man contacts police in Sarasota and says he is concerned that a friend of his might pose a threat to the president while he is visiting the area (see 4:07 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Summers and Swan, 2011, pp. 457] And at 8:50 a.m. on September 11, a local man will see a van in Sarasota with two Middle Eastern men screaming out the windows, “Down with Bush” (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Longboat Observer, 9/26/2001] Whether these two incidents are related to the alleged incident at the Longboat Key resort is unclear.

Entity Tags: Carroll Mooneyhan, George W. Bush, John Kintz, US Secret Service, Shay Sullivan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice arrives at her office at the White House. [Bumiller, 2007, pp. xi] Rice will later recall that today is intended to be “a normal day, foreign visitors, several meetings.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] Usually she or her deputy, Stephen Hadley, goes along on presidential trips to handle any national security questions that might come up, so one of them would have gone with President Bush the previous day for his two-day trip to Florida (see September 10, 2001). [Dallas Morning News, 9/9/2001; Bumiller, 2007, pp. xi] But, as Rice will later recall, Bush’s trip is “such a short trip that we decided not to do that.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] In their place, they have sent Navy Captain Deborah Loewer, the director of the White House Situation Room. [Bumiller, 2007, pp. xi]

Entity Tags: Condoleezza Rice

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Mike Morell.Mike Morell. [Source: CIA]President Bush receives his daily intelligence briefing in his room at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort on Longboat Key, Florida, where he has just spent the night (see September 10, 2001), but the briefing includes nothing about terrorism. The President’s Daily Brief (PDB) is a summary of the most current intelligence reports from around the world. It is delivered to Bush each day by Mike Morell, a CIA analyst. [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 pdf file; Bowden, 2012, pp. 4-5; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] It usually includes seven or eight items. Fifteen minutes are usually allotted for the briefing, although it often lasts longer than this.
Brief Arrived Late - The PDB today was, unusually, late to arrive. It was going to be sent from CIA headquarters, via the White House Situation Room, to the White House Communications Agency command post at the resort at 3:30 a.m. But at 4:30 a.m. it had not arrived and so Morell called CIA headquarters to see if there was a problem. He was told there wasn’t and the material had been sent at 3:30 a.m., as planned. He then phoned the command post and was assured that the brief would be brought to him soon. Morell therefore received the PDB after 4:30 a.m., which left him less than three hours to master its contents and select supplementary materials to show the president.
CIA Briefer Met the Situation Room Director to Prepare - Morell met Navy Captain Deborah Loewer, the director of the White House Situation Room, at 7:30 a.m. to compare the information they each planned to show the president during the briefing. At 7:55 a.m. the two went up to Bush’s suite. Shortly after 8:00 a.m. they enter the president’s room to give the briefing, and find Bush seated at a table with a cup of coffee and a newspaper. Andrew Card, Bush’s chief of staff, is also in the room for the briefing. Bush puts down his newspaper and asks, “Anything of interest this morning?”
Brief Includes No Terrorism-Related Items - Loewer goes first. She spends a couple of minutes updating Bush on the Middle East peace process. [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 pdf file; Morell and Harlow, 2015, pp. 45-46; Priess, 2016, pp. 238-239] Morell then goes through the PDB with the president. The information in it today covers Russia, China, and the Palestinian uprising in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. [Bush, 2010, pp. 126; Bowden, 2012, pp. 5; Priess, 2016, pp. 239] There is nothing in it about terrorist threats. [Morell and Harlow, 2015, pp. 46; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] “On arguably the most important day in President Bush’s tenure, his intelligence briefing was uneventful,” Morell will later comment. [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 pdf file] It takes Morell less than 10 minutes to go through the PDB with Bush, according to author David Priess. Bush then talks on the phone for a couple of minutes with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, in a call he has requested in response to some of the news Loewer has given him. [Morell and Harlow, 2015, pp. 46-47; Priess, 2016, pp. 239] He asks Rice to follow up on a few points. [Kessler, 2004, pp. 136; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Briefing Lasts 15 to 25 Minutes - The briefing is over by 8:25 a.m., according to Morell. [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 pdf file; Morell and Harlow, 2015, pp. 47] It ends “close to 8:30,” Loewer will say. [Priess, 2016, pp. 239] But according to other accounts, the briefing lasts 15 minutes and so is over by around 8:15 a.m. (see 8:15 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Kessler, 2004, pp. 136; Bohn, 2015, pp. 213] After leaving Bush’s suite, Morell and Loewer will head down to take their places in the motorcade that is going to transport them to the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, which the president is scheduled to visit this morning. [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 pdf file; Morell and Harlow, 2015, pp. 47; Priess, 2016, pp. 239]

Entity Tags: Michael J. Morell, Condoleezza Rice, George W. Bush, Andrew Card, Deborah Loewer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Sandy Kress.Sandy Kress. [Source: Publicity photo]Sandy Kress, President Bush’s unpaid education adviser, meets with Bush in his hotel on Longboat Key, Florida, to brief him on their planned 9 a.m. visit to the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in nearby Sarasota. With them are Secretary of Education Rod Paige, Bush’s senior adviser Karl Rove, and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card. Kress goes over some key points for the talk Bush is due to give to the press after reading with the students at the school. However, Kress will later recall that the “president is a very punctual person,” and “I’ve never known him to be late.” Yet, “we finished the briefing on that fateful day, and we continued to talk for another ten minutes about people and politics in Texas. The time to leave came and passed.” Kress adds, “That struck me as unusual.” [Kessler, 2004, pp. 136-137; Dallas Morning News, 9/10/2006] According to the official schedule, the president is supposed to leave the resort at 8:30 a.m. for the drive to the school. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] Yet, according to one account, he will not leave until as late as 8:39 (see (8:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Times, 10/7/2002]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Andrew Card, Karl C. Rove, Barnett A. (“Sandy”) Kress, Rod Paige

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The destination of Bush’s motorcade is Booker Elementary School.The destination of Bush’s motorcade is Booker Elementary School. [Source: MSNBC]President Bush’s motorcade leaves the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort, bound for the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001] The president had gotten into his Cadillac limousine after “much shaking of hands and posing for pictures and saying pleasant things to local VIPs who had been invited to the Colony to see him off.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 38] According to the official schedule, the president is supposed to leave the resort at 8:30 a.m. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] While some accounts say he leaves on time, according to Washington Times reporter Bill Sammon, who is traveling with the president on this day, Bush’s limousine does not set off until 8:39. [Sarasota Magazine, 11/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 38; Washington Post, 1/27/2002; BBC, 9/1/2002; Washington Times, 10/7/2002; Nationwide Speakers Bureau, Inc., 2004] If Sammon’s time is correct then this is unusual, as Bush has a reputation for being very punctual. [CNN, 2/2/2001; London Times, 6/30/2005] His unpaid education adviser Sandy Kress will in fact say that, prior to this day, “I’ve never known [the president] to be late.” [Kessler, 2004, pp. 137] With Bush in town, the police have shut down traffic in both directions along the nine-mile journey to the school, “leaving the roads utterly deserted for Bush’s long motorcade, which barreled along at 40 mph, running red lights with impunity.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 38-39]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Paul Montanus.Paul Montanus. [Source: United States Naval Academy]Major Paul Montanus and Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gould, two military aides who are accompanying President Bush on his visit to Florida, are notified that a plane has hit the World Trade Center, but they do not yet realize the crash was deliberate, as part of a terrorist attack. [Marist Magazine, 10/2002; Lompoc Record, 9/11/2011; CBS Sports, 8/31/2012] The president has five military aides, who are representatives of the Air Force, the Army, the Navy, the Marines, and the Coast Guard. A military aide will accompany the president wherever he goes. [Lompoc Record, 9/11/2011; Santa Barbara News-Press, 9/11/2011] Montanus, a Marine Corps officer, is currently the president’s “advance aide.” He inspected the locations for the president’s Florida visit beforehand and is accompanying Bush on his trip to the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota. [Marist Magazine, 10/2002; Lompoc Record, 9/11/2011] Gould, an Air Force officer, is the “courier military aide,” who is responsible for handling military emergency operations. He is currently off duty for a few hours, and is working out in the gym at the resort on Longboat Key where Bush spent the previous night (see September 10, 2001). [Lompoc Record, 9/11/2011; Santa Barbara News-Press, 9/11/2011]
Military Aides Alerted to Crash at WTC - Montanus is notified of the crash at the WTC while traveling to the Booker Elementary School in the president’s motorcade. He apparently does not realize it was part of a terrorist attack. [Marist Magazine, 10/2002] “We had heard that a plane had hit the building, but not much more,” he will later recall. [CBS Sports, 8/31/2012] Gould learns what happened in New York when his pager goes off, with a message from the Presidential Emergency Operations Center below the White House that informs him, “A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center.” Gould then sees the coverage of the crash on the television in the gym. He finishes his workout and then calls his wife, to discuss the incident with her. As a trained pilot, Gould wonders how such a crash could have occurred. Like Montanus, he thinks it was an accident. “Part of me doesn’t want to believe it’s anything else,” he will recall. Gould will still be on the phone with his wife when the second plane hits the WTC, and then realize that some kind of attack is taking place (see (9:04 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Military Aide Gives President 'Direct Access to His Military Commanders' - The job of the presidential military aide is, primarily, to be the emergency action officer for the president, but it also involves being the president’s military representative for official functions and his personal aide on weekends. Military aides carry what is called the “nuclear football,” which is a briefcase that holds critical codes that are necessary to initiate a nuclear attack, and other emergency operations details that the president might need when he is away from the White House. Gould will explain that, as the presidential military aide, his role is “to ensure that the commander in chief had direct access to his military commanders; specifically, in the realm of if we were under a nuclear attack, I would present the president with his options.” [Lompoc Record, 9/11/2011; Santa Barbara News-Press, 9/11/2011]

Entity Tags: Thomas Gould, Paul Montanus

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

CNN is the first major network to show the footage of the crash site. It breaks into a commercial and anchor Carol Lin says, “This just in. You are looking at… obviously a very disturbing live shot there—that is the World Trade Center, and we have unconfirmed reports this morning that a plane has crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center.” CNN then switches to Sean Murtagh, the network’s vice president of finance, who says in a live telephone interview, “I just witnessed a plane that appeared to be cruising at a slightly lower than normal altitude over New York City. And it appears to have crashed into—I don’t know which tower it is—but it hit directly in the middle of one of the World Trade Center towers. It was a jet, maybe a two-engine jet, maybe a 737… a large passenger commercial jet… It was teetering back and forth, wing-tip to wing-tip, and it looks like it has crashed into—probably, twenty stories from the top of the World Trade Center—maybe the eightieth to eighty-fifth floor. There is smoke billowing out of the World Trade Center.” [CNN, 9/11/2001; Bamford, 2004, pp. 16-17] Many reports do not come until a few minutes later. For instance, ABC first breaks into regular programming with the story at 8:52 a.m. [ABC News, 9/14/2002] Incredibly, a NORAD timeline presented to the 9/11 Commission in 2003 claims that CNN doesn’t begin its coverage of the attacks until 8:57. [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003]

Entity Tags: Carol Lin, Sean Murtagh, World Trade Center, CNN

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Kevin Kenney.Kevin Kenney. [Source: Longboat Observer]Sergeant Kevin Kenney of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office contacts colleagues of his who are with President Bush’s Secret Service detail after he sees the television coverage of the plane crash at the World Trade Center, and is surprised to find they are unaware of the incident in New York. Kenney was scheduled to fly the Sheriff’s Office helicopter, taking a Secret Service agent with him, to cover Bush’s motorcade as it made the journey to the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, this morning (see (8:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, due to heavy fog over Sarasota, he had to cancel the motorcade cover. While waiting for the fog to clear, Kenney has been watching the news on a television in the hangar at Venice Municipal Airport. He therefore sees the coverage of the first plane crash at the WTC. [Sheriff, 9/2011; Longboat Observer, 9/8/2011] (The crash is reported on TV beginning at 8:48 a.m. (see 8:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Bamford, 2004, pp. 16] ) Kenney immediately contacts colleagues of his from the Sheriff’s Office who are co-located with the president’s Secret Service detail and tells them about the news coverage he is watching. It is unclear if these colleagues are traveling in Bush’s motorcade or waiting at the Booker Elementary School for the motorcade to arrive. “Remarkably,” Kenney will later recall, the Sheriff’s Office personnel reply “that they were not aware of the incident [i.e. the crash at the WTC] at that point.” [Sheriff, 9/2011]

Entity Tags: US Secret Service, Kevin Kenney, Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Military officers exchanging the ‘nuclear football’ under the nose of Air Force One.Military officers exchanging the ‘nuclear football’ under the nose of Air Force One. [Source: J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press]Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gould, a military aide who is accompanying President Bush on his visit to Florida, promptly arranges for Air Force One to leave Sarasota after he learns that a second plane has hit the World Trade Center. Gould, one of the president’s five military aides, is currently off duty for a few hours and at the resort on Longboat Key where Bush spent the previous night (see September 10, 2001), while another military aide, Major Paul Montanus, is with Bush at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota. Gould was alerted to the first crash at the WTC but thought it was an accident (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). He is talking on the phone with his wife and watching the coverage of the crash on television when a second plane, Flight 175, hits the WTC at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). Realizing this must be a deliberate act, Gould abruptly ends the call with his wife. “At that point I know something has happened,” he will later recall. “It’s bigger than an accident. It’s an attack of some sort. I don’t think I thought through what kind of attack it was, but I knew it was something concerted.” Gould has tactical control of all the military assets that support the president, including presidential aircraft, and he has the ability to move assets on behalf of the president. He therefore calls Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, immediately and tells him to get the president’s plane and its crew ready to depart as soon as possible. He then heads to the Sarasota airport, getting there at around 9:30 a.m. After the president’s motorcade arrives at the airport at 9:43 a.m. (see (9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Gould meets Montanus under the nose of Air Force One. Following strict protocol, Montanus gives Gould the “nuclear football”—a briefcase carried by the president’s military aide that holds the codes and plans necessary for the president to initiate a nuclear attack. Gould will be on Air Force One with the president when the plane takes off (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001), but Montanus will stay behind in Sarasota, as is procedure. [Lompoc Record, 9/11/2011; Santa Barbara News-Press, 9/11/2011]

Entity Tags: Thomas Gould, Paul Montanus, Mark Tillman

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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