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Context of 'Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld Learns of First WTC Attack'

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With the approval of President Harry S. Truman, the US government constructs a massive 200,000-square-foot underground facility along the Maryland-Pennsylvania border, about seven miles north of Camp David and about 65 miles north of Washington, DC. Site-R at Raven Rock, officially known as the Alternate Joint Communications Center, is one of 96 bunkers being assembled around the nation’s capital in preparation for a potential nuclear conflict with the Soviet Union (see 1950-1962). Site-R is designed to serve as a complete backup to the Pentagon in times of war and is complete with state-of-the-art technology, alternate command posts, war rooms, and living spaces for top officials. The subterranean fortress resembles a small city, with all the basic necessities for sustaining a population in the thousands for months at a time. The site is equipped with its own self-generating power supply, offices, medical clinic, fire department, mail service center, dining halls, and dormitories. The facility is said to have its own a chapel, two fishing lakes, a barbershop, a drug store, and even a bowling alley. There are also rumors that an underground tunnel connects Site-R to Camp David less than 10 miles to the south. Decades later, Vice President Dick Cheney and other high-ranking officials will relocate to Site-R in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 (see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and September 12, 2001-2002). (Guo 8/7/1985; Gup 5/31/1992; Gifford 12/2/2000; Weiser 6/25/2002; Goldstein 7/20/2004)

Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, along with then-President Gerald Ford, April 28, 1975.Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, along with then-President Gerald Ford, April 28, 1975. [Source: David Hume Kennerly / Gerald R. Ford Library] (click image to enlarge)Throughout the 1980s, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are key players in one of the most highly classified programs of the Reagan administration. Presently, Cheney is working as a Republican congressman, while Rumsfeld is head of the pharmaceutical company G. D. Searle. At least once per year, they both leave their day jobs for periods of three or four days. They head to Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington, DC, and along with 40 to 60 federal officials and one member of the Reagan Cabinet are taken to a remote location within the US, such as an underground bunker. While they are gone, none of their work colleagues, or even their wives, knows where they are. They are participating in detailed planning exercises for keeping government running during and after a nuclear war with the Soviet Union.
Unconstitutional 'Continuity of Government' - This highly secret “Continuity of Government” (COG) program is known as Project 908. The idea is that if the US were under a nuclear attack, three teams would be sent from Washington to separate locations around the US to prepare to take leadership of the country. If somehow one team was located and hit with a nuclear weapon, the second or third team could take its place. Each of the three teams includes representatives from the State Department, Defense Department, CIA, and various domestic-policy agencies. The program is run by a new government agency called the National Program Office. Based in the Washington area, it has a budget of hundreds of million dollars a year, which grows to $1 billion per year by the end of Reagan’s first term in office. Within the National Security Council, the “action officer” involved in the COG program is Oliver North, who is a key figure in the mid-1980s Iran-Contra scandal. Reagan’s Vice President, George H. W. Bush, also supervises some of the program’s efforts. As well as Cheney and Rumsfeld, other known figures involved in the COG exercises include Kenneth Duberstein, who serves for a time as President Reagan’s chief of staff, and future CIA Director James Woolsey. Another regular participant is Richard Clarke, who on 9/11 will be the White House chief of counterterrorism (see (1984-2004)). The program, though, is extraconstitutional, as it establishes a process for designating a new US president that is nowhere authorized in the US Constitution or federal law. After George H. W. Bush is elected president in 1988 and the effective end of the Soviet Union in 1989, the exercises continue. They will go on after Bill Clinton is elected president, but will then be based around the threat posed by terrorists, rather than the Soviet Union (see 1992-2000). According to journalist James Mann, the participation of Rumsfeld and Cheney in these exercises demonstrates a broader truth about them: “Over three decades, from the Ford administration onward, even when they were out of the executive branch of government, they were never too far away; they stayed in touch with its defense, military, and intelligence officials and were regularly called upon by those officials. Cheney and Rumsfeld were, in a sense, a part of the permanent, though hidden, national security apparatus of the United States.” (Mann 2004, pp. 138-145; Mann 3/2004; Kurtz 4/7/2004; Cockburn 2007, pp. 85)
No Role for Congress - According to one participant, “One of the awkward questions we faced was whether to reconstitute Congress after a nuclear attack. It was decided that no, it would be easier to operate without them.” Thus the decision is made to abandon the Constitutional framework of the nation’s government if this plan is ever activated. (Dubose and Bernstein 2006, pp. 198)
Reactivated after 9/11 - The plan they rehearse for in the COG exercises will be activated, supposedly for the first time, in the hours during and after the 9/11 attacks (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Gellman and Schmidt 3/1/2002) Mann subsequently comments, “The program is of particular interest today because it helps to explain the thinking and behavior of the second Bush Administration in the hours, days, and months after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.” (Mann 3/2004)

US Central Command raises the force protection condition level for US forces based in the Arabian peninsula and the Persian Gulf. In six countries the force protection level is raised to Delta, the highest level possible. The US orders all its naval ships docked in those countries out to sea, and the US Fifth Fleet moves out of port in Bahrain. Regional military exercises are canceled and US embassies are temporarily closed. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 256-257, 534) This is partly in response to an al-Qaeda video which surfaced the previous week containing the message, “It’s time to penetrate America and Israel and hit them where it hurts most” (see June 19, 2001). (Bamford 2004, pp. 241; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 256, 534) Additionally, Newsweek reports at the time that this alert comes after “Western intelligence agencies picked up ‘quite reliable’ signs of increased activity among Islamic extremists with Afghanistan ties. These indications are said to have included information picked up through electronic monitoring of suspected militants, who US experts say have acquired fairly sophisticated communications and computer equipment.” (Newsweek 7/22/2001) However, as author James Bamford later notes, “No precautions were ever taken within the United States, only overseas.” (Bamford 2004, pp. 241)

Suzanne Giesemann.Suzanne Giesemann. [Source: Suzanne Giesemann]General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gives a warning to be prepared for a domestic terrorist attack at any time, because the conditions are right for such an attack to occur. Shelton will later recall issuing the warning in a speech he gives at a conference on global terrorism. He ends the speech with the admonition to “be on your toes,” because, he will recall, “conditions were such that a domestic terrorist attack could occur at any time.” Lieutenant Commander Suzanne Giesemann, an aide to the chairman, will similarly recall that Shelton ends his conference speech with a warning “to prepare for a terrorist attack at any time and any place.” According to Shelton, the conference takes place the week before September 11, but Giesemann will say it takes place several weeks before September 11. Further details of the conference, such as where it is being held and who else is attending it, are unstated. Both Shelton and Giesemann will be reminded of the chairman’s prophetic warning when they are first notified of the attacks in New York on 9/11 (see (8:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Giesemann 2008, pp. 23; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell 2010, pp. 431)

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 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 2009, pp. 159; McCullough 9/2011 pdf file)

Thomas White.Thomas White. [Source: US Department of Defense]Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld hosts a breakfast meeting in his private dining room at the Pentagon. (Burns 9/12/2001; Rumsfeld 12/5/2001; 9/11 Commission 3/23/2004) The meeting, which is attended by several members of Congress, is intended to discuss the Department of Defense’s Quadrennial Defense Review. As well as the secretary of defense, others in attendance include Rumsfeld’s senior military assistant, Navy Vice Admiral Edmund Giambastiani Jr.; Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz; Pete Geren, a special assistant to Rumsfeld; and Representatives John Mica (R-FL), Mark Steven Kirk (R-IL), Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Robin Hayes (R-NC), Doug Bereuter (R-NE), John Hostettler (R-IN), Kay Granger (R-TX), John Shimkus (R-IL), Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA), and Christopher Cox (R-CA). (Powell Moore 9/10/2001 pdf file; Mahlburg 9/14/2001; Hasson 3/31/2003; Wolfowitz 5/9/2003; Powell Moore 9/19/2003 pdf file; Rumsfeld 9/10/2004; Miles 9/8/2006) Secretary of the Army Thomas White, who is at the meeting, appears to say it is also attended by numerous key military figures, later telling PBS: “Don Rumsfeld had a breakfast, and virtually every one of the senior officials of the Department of Defense—service chiefs, secretary, deputy, everybody, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And as that breakfast was breaking up, the first plane had hit the World Trade tower.” (White 10/26/2004; PBS 10/26/2004) By “chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” White presumably means Richard Myers, who is the acting chairman on this day, in place of Henry Shelton who is out of the country (see 7:15 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Garamone 9/8/2006) During the course of the meeting Rumsfeld predicts that some kind of “shocking” world event will occur in the near future (see (Before 8:46 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Most accounts suggest the meeting is adjourned soon after the time the first World Trade Center tower is hit, presumably around 8:50 a.m., though one report says it ends at about 9:00 a.m. Just prior to the meeting ending, Rumsfeld is handed a note informing him of the crash (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). Giambastiani also sees this note. Whether the other people in attendance are notified of the crash at this time is unknown. (Rumsfeld 12/5/2001; Rumsfeld 8/12/2002; PBS 10/26/2004; Miles 9/8/2006) White will later recall, “We all went on with the day’s business,” after leaving the meeting. White heads off to give a speech at the nearby Army Navy Country Club. (White 10/26/2004) Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Giambastiani return to their offices. (Wolfowitz 5/9/2003; Miles 9/8/2006) The members of Congress leave the building. (Rumsfeld 1/9/2002) If Myers is at the meeting, as White appears to say, he must head promptly to Capitol Hill, as he enters another meeting in the offices of Senator Max Cleland (D-GA) before the time when the second WTC tower is hit (see Shortly Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Armed Forces Radio And Television Service 10/17/2001; Rhem 10/23/2001)

Secretary of State Colin Powell leaves his Lima, Peru hotel after hearing news of the attacks.Secretary of State Colin Powell leaves his Lima, Peru hotel after hearing news of the attacks. [Source: Agence France-Presse]Just prior to learning about the 9/11 attacks, top US leaders are scattered across the country and overseas:
bullet President Bush is in Sarasota, Florida. (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002)
bullet Secretary of State Colin Powell is in Lima, Peru. (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002)
bullet General Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is flying across the Atlantic on the way to Europe. (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002; Giesemann 2008, pp. 19-40)
bullet Attorney General John Ashcroft is flying to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002)
bullet Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Joe Allbaugh is at a conference in Montana. (ABC News 9/14/2002) Others are in Washington:
bullet Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice are at their offices in the White House. (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002)
bullet Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is at his office in the Pentagon, meeting with a delegation from Capitol Hill. (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002)
bullet CIA Director George Tenet is at breakfast with his old friend and mentor, former Senator David Boren (D-OK), at the St. Regis Hotel, three blocks from the White House. (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002)
bullet FBI Director Robert Mueller is in his office at FBI headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC. (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002)
bullet Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta is at his office at the Department of Transportation. (US Congress 9/20/2001)
bullet Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is at a conference in the Ronald Reagan Building, three blocks from the White House. (Clarke 2004, pp. 1)

John Mica.John Mica. [Source: Publicity photo]Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Representatives Christopher Cox (R-CA) and John Mica (R-FL), and numerous others are meeting in Rumsfeld’s private Pentagon dining room, discussing missile defense (see (8:00 a.m.-8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Rumsfeld later recalls, “I had said at an eight o’clock breakfast that sometime in the next two, four, six, eight, ten, twelve months there would be an event that would occur in the world that would be sufficiently shocking that it would remind people again how important it is to have a strong healthy Defense Department that contributes to—that underpins peace and stability in our world.” (Rumsfeld 12/5/2001) Wolfowitz recalls, “And we commented to them that based on what Rumsfeld and I had both seen and worked on the Ballistic Missile Threat Commission, that we were probably in for some nasty surprises over the next ten years.” (Wolfowitz 5/9/2003) According to Mica, “the subject of the conversation Donald Rumsfeld was interested in was, the military had been downsized during the ‘90s since the fall of the Berlin Wall. And what we were going to do about [the] situation if we had another—the word [Rumsfeld] used was ‘incident.‘… And he was trying to make certain that we were prepared for something that we might not expect.” (US Congress. House. Oversight and Government Reform Committee 8/1/2007) There are confused accounts that Rumsfeld says, “I’ve been around the block a few times. There will be another event,” just before the Pentagon is hit by Flight 77 (see (Before 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but such comments may have been made around this time instead. Shortly afterwards, someone walks in with a note informing Rumsfeld that a plane has just hit the WTC (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Rumsfeld 12/5/2001; 9/11 Commission 3/23/2004) Mica later comments, “[L]ittle did we know that within a few minutes of the end of our conversation and actually at the end of our breakfast, that our world would change and that incident that we talked about would be happening.” (Rumsfeld 9/10/2004)

Larry Di Rita.Larry Di Rita. [Source: US Department of Defense]Larry Di Rita, a special assistant to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, has sent a note to Rumsfeld to inform him of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. Although some initial reports suggest the WTC may have been hit by just a small plane, according to Victoria Clarke, the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, “Even in the accidental crash scenario, the military might be involved in some way. Rumsfeld needed to know.” Rumsfeld, who is currently hosting a breakfast meeting with several members of Congress (see (8:00 a.m.-8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001), later acknowledges having received this note. Yet apparently he does nothing in response. He recalls, “Everyone assumed it was an accident, the way it was described.” He says only that “we adjourned the meeting, and I went in to get my CIA briefing.” (Rumsfeld 12/5/2001; 9/11 Commission 3/23/2004; Clarke 2006, pp. 217-218; Vogel 2007, pp. 428)

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 pdf file; 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 pdf file; 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 pdf file) 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). (McCullough 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 2009, pp. 159)

CIA Director George Tenet has just learned of the first attack on the WTC while having breakfast with former Senator David Boren (D-OK) at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, DC. He later says, “It was obvious to us both that I had to leave immediately.” Along with Tim Ward, the head of his security detail, he gets into his car and, with lights flashing, hurries back to the CIA headquarters in Langley. Tenet later recalls that in these first minutes after the attack, “All the random dots we had been looking at started to fit into a pattern.… [M]y head was exploding with connections. I immediately thought about the ‘Bojinka’ plot to blow up twelve US airliners over the Pacific and a subsequent plan to fly a small airplane into CIA headquarters, which was broken up in 1994.” During his journey, he calls John Moseman, his chief of staff, and instructs him to assemble the senior CIA staff and key people from the Counterterrorist Center in the conference room next to his office. However, Tenet claims, it is difficult for him to get calls through on the secure phone, meaning he is “Essentially… in a communications blackout between the St. Regis and Langley, the longest twelve minutes of my life.” He only learns that a second plane hit the World Trade Center when he arrives at CIA headquarters. Tenet enters the conference room at around 9:15 a.m. By that time, he says, “I don’t think there was a person in the room who had the least doubt that we were in the middle of a full-scale assault orchestrated by al-Qaeda.” (Tenet 2007, pp. 161-163)

In the Washington, DC, area, members of the public, emergency responders, and government officials experience serious communications problems. Telephone and cell phone services around the capital remain unavailable to members of the public for most of the day. (Verton 2003, pp. 149)
bullet Particular problems are experienced around the Pentagon. Reportedly, cellular and landline telephone communications there are “virtually unreliable or inaccessible during the first few hours of the response,” after it is hit at 9:37 (see After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (US Department of Health and Human Services 7/2002, pp. C36 pdf file)
Some senior government officials also experience communications difficulties:
bullet CIA Director George Tenet has problems using his secure phone while heading from a Washington hotel back to CIA headquarters, located about eight miles outside Washington (see (8:55 a.m.-9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Buncombe 11/6/2002; Tenet 2007, pp. 161-162)
bullet Secretary of State Colin Powell has to take a seven-hour flight from Peru, to get back to the capital. He later complains that, during this flight, “because of the communications problems that existed during that day, I couldn’t talk to anybody in Washington” (see (12:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (ABC News 9/11/2002)
bullet Between the time of the second WTC attack and about 9:45 a.m., Vice President Dick Cheney, who is at the White House, has problems reaching Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert at the US Capitol by secure telephone (see (9:04 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Hastert 9/11/2002; Hayes 2007, pp. 336-337)
bullet Even President Bush experiences difficulties communicating with Washington after leaving a school in Florida, and subsequently while flying on Air Force One (see (9:34 a.m.-9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/10/2006)
A classified after-action report will later be produced, based on observations from a National Airborne Operations Center plane launched near Washington shortly before the time of the Pentagon attack (see (9:27 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to one government official, the report indicates that the nation was “deaf, dumb, and blind” for much of the day. (Verton 2003, pp. 150-151) Members of the public in New York City also experience communications problems throughout the day, particularly with cell phones (see (After 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Air Force General Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and acting chairman on 9/11.
Air Force General Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and acting chairman on 9/11. [Source: NORAD]According to his own account, Air Force General Richard Myers, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sees reports of the first WTC crash on television. Myers is acting chairman of the US military during the 9/11 crisis because Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army General Henry Shelton is flying across the Atlantic for a NATO meeting in Europe. (ABC News 9/11/2002; Garamone 9/8/2006) Myers has a 9 o’clock appointment with Senator Max Cleland (D-GA) in one of the Senate office buildings. He is heading into this meeting and sees a television in Cleland’s outer office showing the burning North Tower, with the commentator suggesting it has been hit by an airplane. (Myers 9/11/2002) Myers later recalls, “They thought it was a small plane or something like that.” (Armed Forces Radio And Television Service 10/17/2001; Rhem 10/23/2001) He says, “And we’re standing around saying, ‘What in the world happened?’ I remember the day being beautiful. I said, ‘How could a pilot be that stupid, to hit a tower? I mean, what’—but then you think, ‘Well, whatever.’” So he goes ahead and walks into the meeting, and is with Cleland at the time the second tower is hit (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Myers 6/29/2006) On several occasions, Cleland will confirm that Myers had this meeting with him. (US Congress 9/13/2001; CNN 11/20/2001; Baxter and Galloway 6/16/2003) But counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke seems to contradict this account. He claims that, when he joins a video teleconference shortly after arriving at the White House, he sees Myers on screen, indicating that Myers is at the Pentagon rather than with Cleland (see (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Clarke 2004, pp. 1-3)

Paul Wolfowitz.Paul Wolfowitz. [Source: R. D. Ward / US Department of Defense]Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz sees the second hijacked plane crashing into the World Trade Center on television, but does nothing in response to it and instead continues with a routine meeting in his office at the Pentagon. (Wolfowitz 4/19/2002 pdf file; Wolfowitz 5/9/2003) Wolfowitz was in a meeting at the Pentagon with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and several members of Congress at the time the first hijacked plane crashed into the WTC (see (8:00 a.m.-8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Rumsfeld was given a note informing him of the crash soon after it occurred (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). Whether Wolfowitz was alerted to what had happened at that time is unclear. (Wolfowitz 4/22/2002; Vogel 2007, pp. 428) The meeting ended at around 9:00 a.m. (Giambastiani 7/18/2002 pdf file) Wolfowitz then returned to his office for another meeting. Once there, he saw the television coverage of the crash in New York. “Someone said a plane had hit the World Trade Center,” he will later recall. The television in the office was then turned on. (Wolfowitz 4/19/2002 pdf file; Wolfowitz 5/9/2003) “We started seeing the scenes of what was taking place up in New York,” Wolfowitz will say. (Wolfowitz 4/22/2002) Wolfowitz and those with him see Flight 175 crashing into the South Tower live on television, at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). “We started seeing the shots of the second plane hitting,” Wolfowitz will describe. However, even though it is now clear that America is under attack, Wolfowitz feels it is unnecessary for him to do anything in response to the crisis. “I sat here thinking that something terrible was going on in New York, but it was up there, not here,” he will comment. The deputy secretary of defense and those with him therefore continue their meeting as if nothing unusual has happened. “There didn’t seem to be much to do about it immediately and we went on with whatever the meeting was,” Wolfowitz will say. Wolfowitz will still be in his office at 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon is attacked (see After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Wolfowitz 4/19/2002 pdf file; Wolfowitz 5/9/2003)

Denny Watson.Denny Watson. [Source: Risk Assessment Network + Exchange]Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld goes ahead with his daily intelligence briefing in his office at the Pentagon, even though Denny Watson, his CIA briefer, urges him to cancel it and respond to the terrorist attacks. (Rumsfeld 2011, pp. 335; Priess 2016, pp. 244) Rumsfeld has just been in a meeting in his private dining room that was attended by several members of Congress (see (8:00 a.m.-8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). During it, he was informed that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Burns 9/12/2001; Rumsfeld 12/5/2001; 9/11 Commission 3/23/2004) He assumed the crash was an accident. (Vogel 2007, pp. 428; Rumsfeld 2011, pp. 335)
Rumsfeld Went to His Office for His Intelligence Briefing - After the meeting ended, apparently around 9:00 a.m., he returned to his office to receive his intelligence briefing. (Giambastiani 7/18/2002 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 37) Rumsfeld receives an intelligence briefing from Watson each morning, similar to the intelligence briefing provided to the president each day. The briefings usually last at least half an hour. (Rumsfeld 2011, pp. 335; Priess 2016, pp. 243) The briefing today is scheduled to run from 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. (Rumsfeld 8/12/2002)
CIA Briefer Learned of the Crashes from TV - Watson, meanwhile, recently arrived at the Pentagon and learned about the crashes at the WTC. After she entered the building, she noticed people staring at a television, which showed the North Tower burning after being hit by a plane. She then went to the anteroom of Rumsfeld’s office, where she saw the second hijacked plane crashing into the WTC live on television (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). She immediately called the operations center at CIA headquarters to see if she could find out more about what was happening. She was told only that there were 50 planes still airborne that were unaccounted for.
Rumsfeld Refuses to Cancel the Briefing - Rumsfeld then calls Watson into his office. Assuming the briefing will be suspended due to what has happened in New York, the CIA analyst hasn’t even opened her briefcase to pull out her copy of the President’s Daily Brief (PDB). “Sir, you just need to cancel this,” she says to Rumsfeld as she enters the office. “You’ve got more important things to do,” she adds. Rumsfeld, however, wants to go ahead with the briefing. “No, no, we’re going to do this,” he says. Watson then sits down and tells Rumsfeld what she learned from the CIA’s operations center, but the secretary of defense simply nods his head and starts flipping through the PDB. (Priess 2016, pp. 244) The PDB apparently contains no remarkable information today. “As we reviewed the threat reports from around the world, September 11 seemed to be no more or less different than any other day,” Rumsfeld will later comment. (Rumsfeld 2011, pp. 336)
Rumsfeld Will Be Receiving the Briefing When the Pentagon Is Hit - Vice Admiral Edmund Giambastiani Jr., Rumsfeld’s senior military assistant, will come into the office around this time and tell the secretary of defense about the second crash at the WTC (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Giambastiani 7/18/2002 pdf file; Rumsfeld 8/12/2002) Two of Rumsfeld’s aides will also come to the office and, like Watson, try, unsuccessfully, to persuade Rumsfeld to cancel his schedule so he can respond to the attacks (see a904rumsfeldrefuses). (Clarke 2006, pp. 218-219; Priess 2016, pp. 244) Rumsfeld will be in his office with Watson, still receiving his intelligence briefing, at 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon is attacked (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 130; Vogel 2007, pp. 438-439)

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice tries to gather together the principals of the National Security Council (NSC), but is unable to get in touch with key officials. Rice realized the US was under terrorist attack during a staff meeting, when her assistant informed her of the second plane striking the World Trade Center (see (9:04 a.m.) September 11, 2001). She had then headed to the White House Situation Room’s operations center. (Thomas 12/30/2001; Bumiller 2007, pp. xii) Here she intends to assemble the principals of the NSC for a crisis meeting. (O, the Oprah Magazine 2/1/2002) Along with the national security adviser, the principal members of the NSC are the president, the vice president, the secretary of state, the secretary of the treasury, and the secretary of defense; additionally, the CIA director and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are statutory advisers to the NSC. (US President 2/13/2001; Felix 2002, pp. 226) However, Rice remembers that Secretary of State Colin Powell is currently away in Peru (see (8:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Rice 9/11/2002) Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill is away in Japan. (US Department of the Treasury 11/29/2001; US Department of the Treasury 1/23/2002) And Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Henry Shelton is on his way to Europe for a NATO meeting there. (CNN 10/1/2001) Rice tries calling Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who is in his office at the Pentagon (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but cannot reach him. (Rice 7/12/2002; Clarke 2006, pp. 218-219; Cockburn 2007, pp. 1) She is also unable to get a call through to CIA Director George Tenet. (Bumiller 2007, pp. xii) (Tenet will later claim that, around this time, he is having trouble using his secure phone while being driven out to CIA headquarters (see (8:55 a.m.-9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Tenet 2007, pp. 161-162) ) Also around this time, in the Secure Video Conferencing Center just off the main floor of the Situation Room, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is trying to convene a video teleconference with other top officials (see (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Bumiller 2007, pp. xii)

NEADS commander Robert Marr.NEADS commander Robert Marr. [Source: Dick Blume]Numerous reports incorrectly claiming that aircraft have been hijacked are received while the terrorist attacks are taking place and into the afternoon. (Code One Magazine 1/2002; Baker 3/31/2005; Graff 9/9/2016) There are “multiple erroneous reports of hijacked aircraft” during the morning, according to the 9/11 Commission Report. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28) At around 9:09 a.m., the FAA Command Center reports that 11 aircraft are either not communicating with FAA facilities or flying unexpected routes. (Scott 6/3/2002) Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region, will later claim that during the “four-hour ordeal” of the attacks, a total of 21 planes are identified as possible hijackings. (Filson 2002; Code One Magazine 1/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 71) Colonel Robert Marr, the battle commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), will say, “At one time I was told that across the nation there were some 29 different reports of hijackings.” (Baker 3/31/2005) Secret Service agent Dave Wilkinson, who travels with President Bush on Air Force One after it leaves Sarasota, Florida (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001), will recall that by the time the plane reaches Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, at 2:50 p.m. (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001), “there were like 15 to 20 planes still unaccounted for” nationwide. “For everything we knew, they were all hijacked,” he will say. (Graff 9/9/2016) Officials will claim that these false reports cause considerable confusion. Arnold will recall that particularly during the time between the Pentagon being hit at, 9:37 a.m., and Flight 93 going down, at around 10:03 a.m., “a number of aircraft are being called possibly hijacked.… There was a lot of confusion, as you can imagine.” (Filson 2003, pp. 71-73) He will say: “We were receiving many reports of hijacked aircraft. When we received those calls, we might not know from where the aircraft had departed. We also didn’t know the location of the airplane.” (Code One Magazine 1/2002) Marr will comment: “There were a number of false reports out there. What was valid? What was a guess? We just didn’t know.” (Filson 2003, pp. 73) Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Victoria Clarke, who is in the Pentagon during the attacks and for most of the rest of the day, will recall: “There were lots of false signals out there. There were false hijack squawks, and a great part of the challenge was sorting through what was a legitimate threat and what wasn’t.” (CNN 6/17/2004; Clarke 2006, pp. 215-231)

Around this time, according to his own account, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke reaches the Secure Video Conferencing Center just off the main floor of the Situation Room in the West Wing of the White House. From there, he directs the response to the 9/11 attacks and stays in contact with other top officials through video links. Clarke claims that on video he can see Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, CIA Director George Tenet, FBI Director Robert Mueller, FAA Administrator Jane Garvey, Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson (filling in for the traveling Attorney General John Ashcroft), Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage (filling in for the traveling Secretary of State Colin Powell), and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers (filling in for the traveling Chairman Henry Shelton). National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice is with Clarke, but she lets him run the crisis response, deferring to his longer experience on terrorism matters. Clarke is also told by an aide, “We’re on the line with NORAD, on an air threat conference call.” (Clarke 2004, pp. 2-4; Australian 3/27/2004) According to the 9/11 Commission, logs indicate that Clarke’s video teleconference only begins at 9:25 a.m. (see 9:25 a.m. September 11, 2001), which is later than Clarke suggests, and CIA and FAA representatives only join it at 9:40 a.m. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 36 and 462) Other accounts claim that, rather than being involved in Clarke’s teleconference at this time, Donald Rumsfeld is still in his office waiting for his intelligence briefing (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and Richard Myers is in a meeting on Capitol Hill (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Armed Forces Radio And Television Service 10/17/2001; Clarke 2006, pp. 218-219) The 9/11 Commission claims that, “While important,” Clarke’s conference has “no immediate effect on the emergency defense efforts.” (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) Yet, as the Washington Post puts it, “everyone seems to agree” Clarke is the chief crisis manager on 9/11. (Achenbach 3/28/2004) Even Clarke’s later opponent, National Security Adviser Rice, calls him 9/11’s “crisis management guy.” (Waterman 4/9/2004) The conference is where the government’s emergency defense efforts are concentrated.

Mike Fenzel.Mike Fenzel. [Source: Wall Street Journal]According to counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, around this time, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice says she is going down to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House to be with Vice President Dick Cheney. Clarke is currently convening a video teleconference with top officials from the Secure Video Conferencing Center, just off the main floor of the Situation Room (see (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Rice has just walked in with her deputy, Stephen Hadley. Clarke asks her, “Do you want to chair this as a principals meeting?” (Clarke 2004, pp. 2-4) (A “principals meeting” includes the principals of the National Security Council, but not the president. (Bumiller 2007, pp. 141) ) Rice declines, allowing Clarke to run the conference. Clarke will recall that Rice says to him: “You’re going to need some decisions quickly. I’m going to the PEOC to be with the vice president. Tell us what you need.” Clarke replies, “What I need is an open line to Cheney and you.” Clarke then turns to his White House Fellow, Army Major Mike Fenzel, and instructs him to “go with Condi to the PEOC and open a secure line to me. I’ll relay the decisions we need to you.” (Clarke 2004, pp. 3-4) However, according to her own later recollections, Rice does not head down from the Situation Room to the PEOC until later, at some time shortly after the Pentagon is hit (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Rice 7/12/2002; Rice 9/11/2002; Sanger 9/11/2002; Bumiller 2007, pp. xiii)

Timothy Flanigan.Timothy Flanigan. [Source: C-SPAN]Timothy Flanigan, the deputy White House counsel, talks on the phone with Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson and is told what the Justice Department currently knows about the crashes at the World Trade Center, but he is surprised to hear that the FBI is treating them as crimes, rather than acts of war. Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley has just come into the White House Situation Room (see (9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Wanting to learn more about the crashes in New York, he instructs Flanigan to contact the Justice Department and find out what it knows. “We need everything they’ve got,” he says. Flanigan picks up a phone and calls the Justice Department’s command center. His call is answered by a retired FBI agent who helps run the center. Flanigan introduces himself and says, “I need to speak to the deputy attorney general right away.” (Attorney General John Ashcroft is currently away from Washington, DC (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), and so Thompson, his deputy, is filling in for him.) Flanigan’s call is forwarded to the Strategic Information and Operations Center (SIOC) at FBI headquarters. (C-SPAN 2/28/2009; Eichenwald 2012, pp. 23-25) Thompson was in the Justice Department’s command center earlier on, but left there in response to the attacks on the WTC. (Harris 6/8/2011) He has just entered the SIOC and is told that someone in the Situation Room wants to talk to him. He picks up a phone and hears Flanigan’s voice. “Larry, it’s Tim,” Flanigan says, adding: “I need information. People are starving for it here. Tell me whatever you have.” Thompson tells Flanigan to hold on while he finds out. He turns to FBI Director Robert Mueller, who has been monitoring the information about the attacks that is being gathered by FBI agents in New York, and says, “The White House wants an update on what we’ve got.” Mueller tells him everything is in motion and criminal investigators are already at the attack site. Thompson then gets back on the phone with Flanigan and says, “The FBI is on the scene and they’re treating it as a crime scene.” As he glances at the coverage from New York on television, however, Flanigan is surprised that the FBI is treating the crashes as crimes, rather than acts of war. “We have no information about possible perpetrators and no info about casualties at this point,” Thompson adds. Flanigan thanks him for the information and ends the call. He then turns to Hadley. He is about to tell the deputy national security adviser that the FBI is treating the WTC as a crime scene but then stops himself. “That was my moment of realization that this was not a crime scene,” he will later recall. He therefore simply tells Hadley, “The FBI’s there and we’ll be getting reports from the scene.” (C-SPAN 2/28/2009; Eichenwald 2012, pp. 24-25)

According to his own account, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, started a video teleconference from the White House’s Secure Video Conferencing Center, next to the Situation Room, at around 9:10 a.m.(see (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, the 9/11 Commission says that logs indicate this conference beginning 15 minutes later than this. Included in the conference are the FBI, the CIA, the FAA, the departments of State, Justice, and Defense, and the White House shelter. The FAA and CIA join at 9:40 a.m. The 9/11 Commission says, “It is not clear to us that the video teleconference was fully under way before 9:37, when the Pentagon was struck.” Furthermore, it states: “We do not know who from Defense participated, but we know that in the first hour none of the personnel involved in managing the crisis did. And none of the information conveyed in the White House video teleconference, at least in the first hour, was being passed to the NMCC [in the Pentagon].” Clarke’s video teleconference is not connected into the area of the NMCC from where the crisis is being managed. Consequently, “the director of the operations team-who was on the phone with NORAD-did not have the benefit of information being shared on the video teleconference.” And, “when the Secretary [of Defense Rumsfeld] and Vice Chairman [of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Myers] later participated in the White House video teleconference, they were necessarily absent from the NMCC and unable to provide guidance to the operations team.” Clarke, however, gives a specific recollection of Myers speaking over video at 9:28, which is seemingly at odds with the 9/11 Commission’s account (see 9:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). One witness later recalls: “[It] was almost like there were parallel decision-making processes going on; one was a voice conference orchestrated by the NMCC… and then there was the [White House video teleconference].… [I]n my mind they were competing venues for command and control and decision-making.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004)

Gordon England.Gordon England. [Source: US Department of Defense]Secretary of the Navy Gordon England is unable to communicate with colleagues on the ground while he is being flown from Texas to Washington, DC. England, the Navy’s top civilian official, traveled to Fort Worth, Texas, the previous evening to give a speech to the Navy League. When the terrorist attacks began this morning, he was getting ready to fly back to Washington. Initially, however, the Navy plane he was going to travel on was grounded. (CNN 10/16/2001; Miles 9/7/2006) (The FAA ordered a ground stop to prevent any aircraft taking off across the US at around 9:26 a.m. (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure 9/21/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 25) ) But after a “short period,” England will later recall, the Navy secretary and his companions “got clearance to come back to Washington.” While they are flying to the capital, however, they are unable to communicate with their colleagues on the ground. When he is asked about the flight, England will recall, “Well, of course, we didn’t have any communications.” England and his companions consequently have little knowledge of what the attacks involved. “We didn’t know what was happening,” England will say. “Literally just knew some of the things that happened, knew that something had been hit in Washington, but didn’t know until we were airborne that it had been the Pentagon.” England only learns more about what has happened when his plane lands. “I really didn’t hear much until we got on the ground,” he will say. Why England and those with him have these communication problems is unknown. After arriving in Washington, England joins colleagues of his at the Naval Criminal Investigative Service headquarters, where the Navy has set up a temporary headquarters (see After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (CNN 10/16/2001; Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 133) Other senior US government officials also have trouble making and receiving communications while the attacks are taking place this morning, and in the following hours (see (After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). These officials include President Bush (see (9:34 a.m.-9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Secretary of State Colin Powell (see (12:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001), CIA Director George Tenet (see (8:55 a.m.-9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and House Speaker Dennis Hastert (see (9:04 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Barrett 2002 pdf file; Hastert 2004, pp. 6; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/10/2006; Tenet 2007, pp. 162)

According to his own account, during a video conference with top officials that he is directing, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke asks acting Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers, “I assume NORAD has scrambled fighters and AWACS. How many? Where?” Myers, who is at the Pentagon, replies, “Not a pretty picture, Dick. We are in the middle of Vigilant Warrior, a NORAD exercise, but… Otis has launched two birds toward New York. Langley is trying to get two up now [toward Washington]. The AWACS are at Tinker and not on alert.” Vigilant Warrior may be a mistaken reference to either the on-going war game Vigilant Guardian, or perhaps another exercise called Amalgam Warrior (see 9:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). Otis Air National Guard Base is in Massachusetts, 188 miles east of New York City; Langley is in Virginia, 129 miles south of Washington; Tinker Air Force Base is in Oklahoma. Clarke asks, “Okay, how long to CAP [combat air patrol] over DC?” Myers replies, “Fast as we can. Fifteen minutes?” (Clarke 2004, pp. 5) The first fighters don’t reach Washington until perhaps more than 30 minutes later (see (Between 9:49 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, this account—or at least the time Clarke alleges the conversation occurs—is contradicted by Myers himself and Senator Max Cleland (D-GA). Myers claims he has been at a meeting on Capitol Hill with Cleland since about 9:00 a.m., and does not arrive back at the Pentagon until after it is hit, which is at 9:37 a.m. (Rhem 10/23/2001; Myers 9/11/2002; CNN 4/15/2003; Garamone 9/8/2006) Cleland confirms the existence of this meeting, and claims that Myers is with him until around the time of the Pentagon attack. (CNN 11/20/2001; Baxter and Galloway 6/16/2003) (There are, though, some inconsistencies in Myers and Cleland’s accounts of this period—see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

The National Miilitary Command Center, inside the Pentagon.The National Miilitary Command Center, inside the Pentagon. [Source: US Department of Defense]The National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon finally commences and runs a “significant event conference” in response to the ongoing crisis, 26 minutes after the second plane hit the World Trade Center and officers in the NMCC realized the US was under terrorist attack. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 37; Garamone 9/7/2006)
NMCC Directors Decided to Establish Conference - After those in the NMCC saw Flight 175 hitting the WTC live on television at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), Captain Charles Leidig, the acting deputy director for operations (DDO) in the center throughout the attacks, and Commander Pat Gardner, the assistant DDO, talked about the need to convene a significant event conference so there could be a discussion of what actions were to be taken in response. The DDO and the assistant DDO are the two officers responsible for deciding what type of conference the NMCC should convene, and when it should do so. Because there is no specific procedure for dealing with terrorist attacks, Leidig and Gardner decided a significant event conference would most suit their needs, because it would have the flexibility of allowing more people to be added in as required. They also discussed who would need to be on this conference. (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file) But Major Charles Chambers, who is currently on duty in the NMCC, will give a slightly different account. According to Chambers, Staff Sergeant Val Harrison had a phone in her hand and said NORAD was asking for a significant event conference. Leidig had agreed, and so Harrison started establishing the conference.
Conference Begins with Recap of Situation - According to Chambers, “The computer does a mass dialing to connect to those command centers that are always included” in an NMCC conference call, but Harrison also had to manually call the civilian agencies that were going to be included in the conference, such as the FAA, the FBI, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). (US Department of Defense 9/2001) The conference then begins at 9:29 a.m. with a brief recap: Two aircraft have hit the WTC, there is a confirmed hijacking of Flight 11, and fighter jets have been scrambled from Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). The FAA is asked to provide an update, but its line is silent as the agency has not yet been added to the call (see (9:29 a.m.-12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). A minute later, Leidig states that it has just been confirmed that Flight 11 is still airborne and is heading toward Washington, DC. (This incorrect information apparently arose minutes earlier during a conference call between FAA centers (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001).) (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 37) NMCC conference calls are moderated by the DDO. (9/11 Commission 7/21/2003 pdf file) Leidig will tell the 9/11 Commission that they are conducted over “a special phone circuit, and it’s classified to be able to pass information, relay information between very senior leadership all the way over to the White House.” (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004)
NMCC Struggled to Convene Conference - Some officers currently on duty in the NMCC will later complain about circumstances that delayed the establishing of the significant event conference. Chambers will recall that the conference took “much longer than expected to bring up.” (US Department of Defense 9/2001) Gardner will tell the 9/11 Commission that the NMCC had been “struggling to build the conference,” which “didn’t get off as quickly as hoped.” (9/11 Commission 5/5/2004) He will describe his “frustration that it wasn’t brought up more quickly.” (9/11 Commission 5/12/2004)
Other Conference and Connection Problems Delayed Call - Preparations for the conference were disrupted as a result of the CIA convening a National Operations and Intelligence Watch Officer Network (NOIWON) conference call between government agencies in the Washington area, reportedly at sometime between 9:16 a.m. and 9:25 a.m. (see (Between 9:16 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to a 9/11 Commission memorandum, the NMCC had “abandoned its attempt to convene a [significant event conference] so its watch officers could participate in the NOIWON conference.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/21/2003 pdf file) Another factor that slowed attempts to convene the significant event conference was a problem with connecting some agencies to it. According to Chambers, “A couple of the civil agencies couldn’t be reached and others kept dropping off moments after connecting.” He will recall, “We finally decided to proceed without those agencies that were having phone problems.” (US Department of Defense 9/2001) Leidig had announced that the NMCC would have to start without those agencies and add them to the conference later on. (9/11 Commission 5/12/2004)
Call Ends after Five Minutes - The significant event conference ends after only a few minutes, following a recommendation by NORAD that it be reconvened as an “air threat conference.” It is brought to an end at around 9:34 a.m., and will resume as an air threat conference at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m.-9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 37)

Representative Christopher Cox (R-CA) will later claim he is still meeting with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at this time. They are still discussing missile defense, apparently completely oblivious of the approaching Flight 77. Watching television coverage from New York City, Rumsfeld says to Cox: “Believe me, this isn’t over yet. There’s going to be another attack, and it could be us.” According to the Daily Telegraph, Flight 77 hits the building “moments later.” (Langley 12/16/2001) In another telling, Cox will claim that Rumsfeld says: “If we remain vulnerable to missile attack, a terrorist group or rogue state that demonstrates the capacity to strike the US or its allies from long range could have the power to hold our entire country hostage to nuclear or other blackmail. And let me tell you, I’ve been around the block a few times. There will be another event.” Rumsfeld repeats this sentence for emphasis. According to Cox, “Within minutes of that utterance, Rumsfeld’s words proved tragically prophetic.” Cox also claims, “I escaped just minutes before the building was hit.” (Office of Representative Christopher Cox 9/11/2001) However, Rumsfeld will claim that this meeting with Cox ended before the second World Trade Center crash, which occurred at 9:03 a.m. Cox himself will say that after being told of that crash, “[Rumsfeld] sped off, as did I.” Cox will say he immediately headed to his car, making it impossible for him to still be in the Pentagon “just minutes before” it is hit. (Theimer 9/11/2001) Another account will put Rumsfeld’s “I’ve been around the block a few times. There will be another event” comment two minutes before the first WTC crash at 8:46 a.m., when Rumsfeld reportedly made other predictive comments. (Woodward 9/16/2001)

According to most accounts, at the time the Pentagon is hit, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is in his office on the third floor of the Pentagon’s outer E Ring, receiving his daily intelligence briefing. (van Natta and Alvarez 9/12/2001; Woodward 2002, pp. 24; 9/11 Commission 3/23/2004; Clarke 2006, pp. 221; Cockburn 2007, pp. 1; Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 130; Vogel 2007, pp. 438-439) As he later recalls, “the building shook and the tables jumped.” (Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 130) Although he has been informed of the two aircraft hitting the World Trade Center (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he supposedly does not initially suspect a plane has hit the Pentagon, thinking instead that a bomb has gone off. (Rumsfeld 9/16/2001; Rumsfeld 9/30/2001; Rumsfeld 1/9/2002) In his nearby office, Rumsfeld’s senior military assistant Vice Admiral Edmund Giambastiani Jr. also hears the explosion, and walks through his doorway toward Rumsfeld’s office. As the two meet, Rumsfeld asks Giambastiani, “What the hell’s happening?” (Miles 9/8/2006; Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 130) Rumsfeld then looks out his window but, he later recalls, sees “nothing here.” (Rumsfeld 10/12/2001; Rumsfeld 1/9/2002) He goes into the hallway and, accompanied by his security guards, hurries toward the crash site (see 9:38 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 130) However, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will later contradict these accounts. Clarke indicates that Rumsfeld has been participating in the video teleconference conducted from the White House Situation Room since shortly after the second WTC crash (see (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He claims that Rumsfeld is still involved in this conference at the time the Pentagon is hit, and he tells his deputy, “I can still see Rumsfeld on the screen, so the whole building didn’t get hit.” (Clarke 2004, pp. 2-3 and 7-8) If Clarke’s account were correct, this would presumably mean Rumsfeld is in the Pentagon’s Executive Support Center (ESC), which has secure video facilities, rather than in his office. (Scarborough 2/23/2004) But according to other accounts, Rumsfeld does not go to the ESC until around 10:15 a.m., after he returns from the crash site (see (10:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Clarke 2006, pp. 221; Cockburn 2007, pp. 1-5)

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz is initially evacuated from the Pentagon after it is attacked but he subsequently returns to the building and joins other senior officials in the National Military Command Center (NMCC). Wolfowitz saw the second crash at the World Trade Center on the television in his office at the Pentagon, but did nothing in response to it and instead continued with a routine meeting (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Wolfowitz Thought the Pentagon Attack Was an Earthquake - He was still in his office when the Pentagon was attacked, at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). Although his office is on the opposite side of the building to where the attack occurred, he felt the building shake from the impact. He also heard the crash. “I think I heard it, a dull, thud-like noise,” he will later recall. And yet, despite being aware of the crashes at the WTC, he initially thought the shaking was caused by an earthquake, rather than another attack. “I didn’t put the two things together in my mind,” he will comment. He therefore initially did nothing in response. “It was clear something had happened, but it still wasn’t clear that there was anything to do,” he will say.
Wolfowitz Is Evacuated from the Pentagon - Wolfowitz only reacts to the incident when he hears someone saying a bomb has gone off on the other side of the Pentagon and the building needs to be evacuated. By now, alarm bells are sounding and people are streaming out of the building. A Marine sergeant who works outside Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s office is anxious to get Wolfowitz away from the Pentagon. The deputy secretary of defense is therefore evacuated from the building and then gathers with others on the parade ground in front of it. After spending about 10 minutes there, he receives the instruction to return to the Pentagon, apparently from someone in Rumsfeld’s office. He therefore gets into his car, is driven to an entrance, and walks into the building. (Wolfowitz 4/19/2002 pdf file; Wolfowitz 4/22/2002; Wolfowitz 5/9/2003)
Wolfowitz Goes to the Command Center - After returning to the Pentagon, Wolfowitz possibly goes to the Executive Support Center on the building’s third floor. Victoria Clarke, the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, will recall seeing him there sometime after the Pentagon is hit. (Clarke 7/2/2002 pdf file) Wolfowitz will say only that he goes to the NMCC after returning to the Pentagon. The time he arrives there is unstated. Other senior officials with him in the NMCC include Rumsfeld and General Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In the NMCC, Wolfowitz participates in a secure video conference. (Wolfowitz 4/19/2002 pdf file; Wolfowitz 4/22/2002; Wolfowitz 5/9/2003) After spending some time there, he will be flown to Raven Rock, the alternate command center outside Washington, DC (see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 132; Vogel 2007, pp. 441; Graff 2017, pp. 347-348)

Rumsfeld show on a video broadcast on CNN helping carry a stretcher shortly after the Pentagon attack. He is in the center of the picture, wearing a dark jacket.Rumsfeld show on a video broadcast on CNN helping carry a stretcher shortly after the Pentagon attack. He is in the center of the picture, wearing a dark jacket. [Source: CNN]Within seconds of the Pentagon being hit, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld rushed out of his office and headed toward the crash scene (see 9:38 a.m. September 11, 2001). According to Officer Aubrey Davis, who is currently accompanying Rumsfeld as his bodyguard, when they reach the site, “There were the flames, and bits of metal all around. The secretary picked up one of the pieces of metal. I was telling him he shouldn’t be interfering with a crime scene when he looked at some inscription on it and said, ‘American Airlines.’” According to Rumsfeld, a person who’d seen the attack on the Pentagon informs him a plane had flown into it. Rumsfeld later recalls: “I saw people on the grass, and we just, we tried to put them in stretchers and then move them out across the grass towards the road and lifted them over a jersey wall so the people on that side could stick them into the ambulances. I was out there for a while, and then people started gathering, and we were able to get other people to do that, to hold IVs for people. There were people lying on the grass with clothes blown off and burns all over them.” (Rumsfeld 10/12/2001; Cockburn 2007, pp. 1-2) Versions of this story will appear elsewhere. (Doyle 9/12/2001; Rumsfeld 12/5/2001; ABC News 9/11/2002; Wolfowitz 5/9/2003) Video footage confirms that Rumsfeld helps carry a stretcher at the crash scene. (CNN 8/17/2002) One report will even describe him pulling budget analyst Paul Gonzales to safety from the burning wreckage. (Alderson et al. 9/16/2001) However, Gonzales later offers his own detailed recollections of pulling other people to safety, which fail to involve Rumsfeld in any way. (Vogel 3/11/2002) Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Victoria Clarke will say Rumsfeld is gone from the building for “about half an hour.” (Clarke 9/15/2001) A Pentagon spokesperson has Rumsfeld helping at the crash site for “15 minutes or so.” (Aldinger 9/11/2001) Another account will claim he loads the wounded onto stretchers for 15 minutes. (Sprengelmeyer and Alessi 9/11/2001) However, considering the time it would have taken to walk to the crash site—each side of the enormous Pentagon is the length of three football fields—journalist Andrew Cockburn later concludes that Rumsfeld could only have been at the crash scene for a brief period. (Cockburn 2007, pp. 3) Rumsfeld reportedly heads back into the Pentagon at the urging of a security agent, though in an interview soon after 9/11 he will claim the decision to go back inside was his own, saying, “I decided I should be in [the building] figuring out what to do, because your brain begins to connect things, and there were enough people there to worry about that.” (Rumsfeld 10/12/2001; Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002) He tells the 9/11 Commission, “I was back in the Pentagon with a crisis action team shortly before or after 10:00 a.m.” (see (10:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 3/23/2004) While Rumsfeld is at the crash scene, others are frantically trying to get in touch with him but are unable to do so (see (9:38 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Anna Perez.Anna Perez. [Source: Paul Drinkwater / NBC Universal]Government officials in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House are frustrated at technical problems they have with the televisions in the center, which mean they are unable to get audio from both the TV broadcast channels and the videoconferencing system at the same time. (Rice 11/1/2001; Thomas 12/30/2001) Two large television screens are built into a wall of the PEOC conference room, and, according to journalist and author Stephen Hayes, for most of the day one of them is tuned to CNN and the other to the Fox News Channel. Hayes will write, “Watching the uninterrupted news coverage not only provided new and timely information; it also allowed officials in the shelter [i.e. the PEOC] to understand, as they designed their public response, what exactly the American people were seeing.” (Hayes 2007, pp. 337, 342)
Officials Have Problems with Television and Video Conference Audio - But, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice will later recall, the “only frustration” among those in the PEOC is “that we kept having trouble getting the TV to work.… [W]e were having trouble with the, some of the video link.” Therefore, “if you were trying to do the video conference, you had trouble doing TV.” (Rice 11/1/2001) The “video conference” Rice refers to is presumably the White House video teleconference being conducted by counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke (see (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 36) Anna Perez, Rice’s communications counselor, will add, “[Y]ou couldn’t do the SVTS [secure video teleconference system] at the same time you could do the CNN.” (Rice 11/1/2001) Eric Edelman, a member of Vice President Dick Cheney’s staff, will recall: “[T]he video conference that Dick Clarke was chairing was going on.… [W]e could see that, so that was on the screen, we could follow that. Not always with audio… sometimes with audio, sometimes not.” (Edelman 10/25/2001) According to Hayes, however, the problem is in fact that “[a]lthough the two televisions on the wall could be tuned to different channels, they could get audio from only one.” Consequently, “On several occasions, the officials could see notices of ‘breaking news’ without being able to hear the details of those updates.” (Hayes 2007, pp. 342)
'Everybody' in PEOC Frustrated by TV Problem - Rice will recall that the problem with the televisions is “kind of frustrating to everybody.” (Rice 11/1/2001) One unnamed official will recall that Cheney, who is in the PEOC for much of the day, is “cranked up” about the problem and repeatedly demands that it be fixed. (Hayes 2007, pp. 342) Mary Matalin, a counselor to Cheney, will recall, “You can have sound on one or the other [i.e. the TV broadcasts or the video teleconference], and [Cheney] found that technically imperfect.” (CNN 9/11/2002; CNN 9/14/2002) According to Newsweek, this is the only thing that causes Cheney’s composure to break and leads to him showing any irritation while he is in the PEOC. (Thomas 12/30/2001)
Accounts Conflict over Whether Problem Is Fixed - It is unclear whether this technical problem with the televisions gets fixed. According to Perez, PEOC personnel are able to fix it. “It took them a little while, but they did get it together. They got it right,” she will say. (Rice 11/1/2001) But according to Hayes, the problem remains unfixed. (Hayes 2007, pp. 342) Clarke will later give a different account of the problem with getting audio from television broadcasts and the video conference simultaneously. He will write that when he goes down to the PEOC sometime around midday (see (Shortly Before 12:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001), Army Major Mike Fenzel complains to him, “I can’t hear the crisis conference because Mrs. Cheney [Lynne Cheney, the wife of the vice president] keeps turning down the volume on you so she can hear CNN.” (Clarke 2004, pp. 18)

FAA National Operations Manager Ben Sliney.FAA National Operations Manager Ben Sliney. [Source: Publicity photo]Ben Sliney, FAA’s National Operations Manager, orders the entire nationwide air traffic system shut down. All flights at US airports are stopped. Around 3,950 flights are still in the air. Sliney makes the decision without consulting FAA head Jane Garvey, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, or other bosses, but they quickly approve his actions. It’s Sliney’s first day on the job. (CNN 9/12/2001; New York Times 9/12/2001; Washington Post 9/12/2001; MSNBC 9/22/2001; Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002; LeBlanc 8/12/2002; Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002; Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002; Associated Press 8/21/2002; Adcock 9/10/2002) Seventy-five percent of the planes land within one hour of the order. (Levin 8/12/2002) The 9/11 Commission will later remark that this “was an unprecedented order” that the “air traffic control system handled… with great skill.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 29) The Washington Post has reported that Mineta told Monte Belger at the FAA: “Monte, bring all the planes down,” even adding, “[Expletive] pilot discretion.” (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002) However, it is later reported by a different Post reporter that Mineta did not even know of the order until 15 minutes later. This reporter “says FAA officials had begged him to maintain the fiction.” (Green 4/2/2002)

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. (McCullough 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 pdf file; 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. (McCullough 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)

By 9:50 a.m., CIA Director George Tenet is in his office on the seventh floor of the agency’s Langley headquarters. He later describes: “[E]veryone was wondering, what next? Reports came in of several airplanes that were not responding to communications from the ground and perhaps heading toward Washington. Several [Counterterrorist Center] officers reminded us that al-Qaeda members had once discussed flying an airplane into CIA headquarters, the top floor of which we were presently occupying.” Tenet himself later recalls that, in the minutes after he’d learned of the first attack, he’d “thought about the ‘Bojinka’ plot to blow up twelve US airliners over the Pacific and a subsequent plan to fly a small airplane into CIA headquarters” (see (8:55 a.m.-9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Woodward 2002, pp. 7-8; Tenet 2007, pp. 162 and 164) According to CIA contractor Billy Waugh, people at the headquarters are aware that Flight 93 is currently unaccounted for, and it is “a widespread assumption within the building that this flight [is] headed straight for us in the CIA headquarters” (see (Before 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Waugh and Keown 2004, pp. 293-294) Tenet asks Mike Hohlfelder, the chief of his security detail, for his recommendation, and is advised, “Let’s evacuate.” Though he later claims he was “reluctant” about this, Tenet tells his senior leadership: “We have to save our people. We have to evacuate the building.” Therefore, at about 10 a.m., the word goes out for a large number of the CIA’s thousands of employees to go home. Initially, the senior leadership team moves from Tenet’s seventh-floor conference room to another room on the first floor, but it then exits the headquarters building and heads across the campus to the CIA’s printing plant, where a crude operational capability has been set up. However, due to the objections of CIA counterterrorism chief Cofer Black, those in the Counterterrorist Center and the Global Response Center are allowed to stay in place in the headquarters (see (10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Tenet and his staff will leave the printing plant and return to the headquarters at around 1 p.m., by which time they will consider the danger to be over. (Woodward 2002, pp. 8-9; Tenet 2007, pp. 164-165 and 168) The CIA headquarters evacuation is aided by the fact that a fire had occurred there just over a month earlier. Consequently, new evacuation procedures had been laid out, which Tenet follows on this day (see August 7-September 10, 2001). (Kessler 2003, pp. 222-223)

Ben Robinson.Ben Robinson. [Source: US Air Force]An Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) plane is directed toward Sarasota, Florida, where President Bush is currently located, and will accompany Air Force One as it carries Bush back to Washington, DC. The AWACS has been flying a training mission off the east coast of Florida (see Before 9:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). NORAD now instructs it to head toward Sarasota, on Florida’s west coast.
Pilot Thinks This Is an Exercise - Several months previously, Major General Larry Arnold, the commanding general of NORAD’s Continental US Region, made arrangements with Brigadier General Ben Robinson, the commander of the 552nd Air Control Wing at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, for AWACS support to be provided during training exercises simulating attacks on the United States. As Arnold will later recall, the pilot of the AWACS that NORAD now contacts “thought it was an exercise.” However the pilot is then told “what happened at the World Trade Center” and realizes “his responsibility was to follow the president.” Arnold will say: “We told him to follow Air Force One, and he asked the question we all asked: ‘Where is it going?’ We said: ‘We can’t tell you. Just follow it.’” (Filson 2002; Code One Magazine 1/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 86-87)
AWACS Escorts President to Washington - The time the AWACS plane gets close enough to Air Force One to be of assistance to it is unclear. According to journalist and author Bill Sammon, by around 10:30 a.m., it has not yet arrived to protect the president’s plane. (Sammon 2002, pp. 107) Arnold will recall that NORAD maintains “the AWACS overhead the whole route,” as Air Force One flies to Barksdale Air Force Base, then Offutt Air Force Base, and then back to Washington. (Code One Magazine 1/2002)
AWACS Is a 'Wonderful Asset' - According to Mark Rosenker, the director of the White House Military Office, AWACS planes “give you the big picture in the sky. They’re able to identify what’s a friend, what’s a foe.” Rosenker, who will fly with Bush on Air Force One after it takes off from Sarasota (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001), says the AWACS is “a wonderful asset to have up there for us, it tremendously helped us to be able to guide for where we needed to go, to what potential problems we might encounter.… [I]t was an important part of what we needed to do to guarantee the safety of the president of the United States.” (White House 8/29/2002)

Acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers enters the National Military Command Center (NMCC) within the Pentagon, though exactly when this happens remains unclear. According to his own statements, he was on Capitol Hill, in the offices of Senator Max Cleland (D-GA), from just before 9:00 a.m. until around the time the Pentagon was hit. He’d then headed back to the Pentagon (see Shortly Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Armed Forces Radio And Television Service 10/17/2001; Myers 9/11/2002; Myers 6/29/2006) According to the 9/11 Commission, Myers joins the air threat conference call from the NMCC at “shortly before 10:00.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 38) But the American Forces Press Service reports that he arrives at the NMCC “about 15 minutes” before Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (who arrives around 10:30), meaning at about 10:15 a.m. (Garamone 9/8/2006) Rumsfeld claims that, as he enters the NMCC, Myers has “just returned from Capitol Hill.” (9/11 Commission 3/23/2004) Cleland verifies that Myers was with him on Capitol Hill until around the time of the Pentagon attack. (CNN 11/20/2001; Baxter and Galloway 6/16/2003) But counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke claims that Myers has been taking part in a video conference since shortly after the second attack on the WTC, and has been visible on the Pentagon screen (see (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:28 a.m. September 11, 2001), thereby implying Myers has been at the Pentagon all along. (Clarke 2004, pp. 3 and 5) Myers tells the 9/11 Commission, “After I reached the National Military Command Center (NMCC), I asked questions to determine where Secretary Rumsfeld was, how the FAA was handling airborne flights, and the status of fighters prepared to intercept any hijacked aircraft inbound to Washington.” (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004 pdf file)

Two F-16s belonging to the 147th Fighter Wing.Two F-16s belonging to the 147th Fighter Wing. [Source: Gonda Moncada / Texas Military Forces]Four armed F-16 fighter jets belonging to the Texas Air National Guard are directed toward Air Force One in order to escort the president’s plane. (BBC 9/1/2002; Kohn 9/11/2002; Bombardier 9/8/2006 pdf file; Rosenfeld and Gross 2007, pp. 40)
SEADS Sends Fighters toward Air Force One - Air Force One has taken off from Sarasota, Florida (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001), and the White House has requested a fighter escort for it (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Martin 7/4/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 38) NORAD’s Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS) orders jets that belong to the 147th Fighter Wing of the Texas Air National Guard toward the president’s plane. (Hehs 4/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 87; Rosenfeld and Gross 2007, pp. 40) Major General Larry Arnold, the commanding general of NORAD’s Continental US Region, will later recall: “We were not told where Air Force One was going. We were told just to follow the president.” (Code One Magazine 1/2002)
Ellington Field an 'Alert' Site - The 147th Fighter Wing is based at Ellington Field, a joint civil and military use airport about 15 miles south of Houston. (Rendon 12/9/2003; GlobalSecurity (.org) 8/21/2005; GlobalSecurity (.org) 1/21/2006) Ellington Field is one of NORAD’s seven “alert” sites around the US, which all have a pair of armed fighters ready to take off immediately if called upon. (McKenna 12/1999; Hebert 2/2002)
Pilots Not Told What Their Target Is - Two of the F-16s sent toward Air Force One are on the ground at Ellington Field and have been placed on “battle stations,” with the pilots sitting in the cockpits, when the scramble order is received. (Hehs 4/2002) The other two have been flying a training mission (see After 9:55 a.m. September 11, 2001), and are pulled off it to escort Air Force One. (Arnold 12/2001 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 255) Among the four pilots are Shane Brotherton and Randy Roberts. Their new mission is so secret that their commander does not tell them where they are going. When they ask what their target is, the commander says, “You’ll know when you see it.” Brotherton will later recall, “I didn’t have any idea what we were going up [for] until that point.” (Kohn 9/11/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 255)
Jets First to Reach Air Force One - At least two of the 147th Fighter Wing F-16s will be seen from Air Force One at around 11:30 a.m., although an official will tell reporters on board that fighters are escorting the plane about 15 minutes before that time (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). They are the first fighters to reach Air Force One after it left Sarasota, according to most accounts. (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001; Kohn 9/11/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 87; Martin 7/4/2004; Rosenfeld and Gross 2007, pp. 40; Spencer 2008, pp. 255) However, a few accounts will indicate the first jets to reach it belong to a unit of the Florida Air National Guard located at Jacksonville International Airport (see (10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (US Department of Defense 9/2001; Langley 12/16/2001) The 147th Fighter Wing F-16s will accompany Air Force One all the way to Washington, DC. (Filson 2003, pp. 87-88; Cousins 7/9/2005)

According to the 9/11 Commission: “An Air Force lieutenant colonel working in the White House Military Office [joins] the [NMCC’s air threat] conference and state[s] that he had just talked to Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. The White House request[s]: (1) the implementation of Continuity of Government measures, (2) fighter escorts for Air Force One, and (3) the establishment of a fighter combat air patrol over Washington, DC.” (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke gave the order to implement the Continuity of Government plan a few minutes earlier, from inside the White House Situation Room (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Before that, he had requested a fighter escort for Air Force One (see (Between 9:30 a.m. and 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and combat air patrols over all major US cities (not just Washington), according to his own recollection (see (Between 9:38 a.m. and 9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Clarke 2004, pp. 7-8)

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld returns from the Pentagon crash site “by shortly before or after 10:00 a.m.” Then he has “one or more calls in my office, one of which was with the president,” according to his testimony before the 9/11 Commission. (9/11 Commission 3/23/2004) The commission later concludes that Rumsfeld’s call with President Bush has little impact: “No one can recall any content beyond a general request to alert forces.” The possibility of shooting down hijacked planes is not mentioned. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) Rumsfeld then goes to the Executive Support Center (ESC) located near his office, arriving there at around 10:15 a.m. In the ESC already are Stephen Cambone, Rumsfeld’s closest aide, Larry Di Rita, Rumsfeld’s personal chief of staff, and Victoria Clarke, the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. Rumsfeld had instructed Di Rita and Clarke to go to the ESC and wait for him there when they’d come to his office soon after the second WTC tower was hit at 9:03 A.M. (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Presently, Rumsfeld gives them their first confirmation that a plane hit the Pentagon, saying, “I’m quite sure it was a plane and I’m pretty sure it’s a large plane.” According to Clarke, he pulls out a yellow legal pad and writes down three categories, “by which his thinking would be organized the rest of the day: what we needed to do immediately, what would have to be underway quickly, and what the military response would be.” (Clarke 2006, pp. 221-222; Cockburn 2007, pp. 5-6) The Executive Support Center has secure video facilities, and while there, Rumsfeld participates in the White House video teleconference. This is the video conference that counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke claims Rumsfeld is a part of much of the morning (see (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Then at around 10:30 a.m., he moves on to the National Military Command Center NMCC, located next door to the ESC (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Scarborough 2/23/2004; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 43-44) Those in the NMCC are apparently unaware of Rumsfeld’s whereabouts during the half-hour from 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.: Brigadier General Montague Winfield later recalls, “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)

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). (McCullough 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 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 (Between 9:55 a.m. and 10:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2/17/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 38)

The NORAD representative on the Pentagon’s air threat conference call reports that General Ralph Eberhart, the commander in chief of NORAD, has declared “concern” for the crisis that is taking place. At around 9:39 a.m., the NORAD representative said over the conference call that “[n]o assessment for the overall air situation” had been given by NORAD at that point (see (9:39 a.m.) September 11, 2001). But now he says an assessment has been issued. He reports over the conference call: “At this time, CINC [commander in chief] NORAD”—meaning Eberhart—“has declared an assessment of concern for the air events does hold. I say again, an assessment of concern does hold for the air events.” (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001; US Department of Defense 9/11/2001 pdf file) Eberhart will tell the 9/11 Commission that at NORAD, he alone would be responsible for making an assessment of concern. He will say that at around 9:40 a.m. to 9:45 a.m., he received a lot of pressure from personnel at NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center to say that “yes,” he did assess concern. If he makes an assessment of concern, Eberhart will comment, it triggers a “Defcon surge.” What he means by a “Defcon surge” is unclear. (9/11 Commission 3/1/2004) (The military’s defense readiness condition (Defcon) will in fact be raised to Defcon 3, on the orders of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, at 10:52 a.m. (see (10:43 a.m.-10:52 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 326; Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 131) ) Eberhart will also say that an assessment of concern is “tied basically to a foreign attack” and making it triggers a number of consequences that, among other things, would impact Russia. (9/11 Commission 3/1/2004)

US military installations are placed on the highest state of alert, known as Force Protection Condition Delta (FPCON Delta), in response to the terrorist attacks in New York and at the Pentagon. The raised threat level applies to every US military installation across the country and around the world, and every member of the US armed forces. (Associated Press 9/11/2001; US Department of Defense 9/11/2001; Shanker and Schmitt 9/12/2001) Measures that are taken once FPCON Delta has been declared include placing more guards on duty at installations, having all vehicles on installations identified, and having all personnel positively identified. Additionally, all suitcases, briefcases, and packages brought into an installation must be searched. (Suellentrop 9/12/2001)
Rumsfeld and Myers Decide to Raise FPCON - The decision to raise the force protection condition is apparently made by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and/or acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers. Rumsfeld will tell the 9/11 Commission that after he arrives at the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center (NMCC) (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he and Myers “discussed, and I recommended… increasing the force protection level.” (9/11 Commission 3/23/2004) Myers will later write that after he arrives at the NMCC (see (Between 9:55 a.m. and 10:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he “recommended that all American military commands and units worldwide go to [FPCON] Delta.” He will add: “Terrorists had staged major attacks in New York and Washington. Although we did not yet have reliable intelligence on when and where they would strike next, it seemed likely that they would.” (Myers 2009, pp. 153) But White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke will write that he gave the instruction to raise the force protection condition, at around 9:30 a.m. (see (9:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Clarke 2004, pp. 5-6)
Conflicting Times Given for Raising of FPCON - The exact time at which the force protection condition is raised is unclear. CNN’s Barbara Starr will report that “all US military forces [are] ordered to Condition Delta” at 10:10 a.m. (CNN 9/4/2002) However, other evidence indicates the force protection condition is raised at a later time, around 10:35 a.m. Rumsfeld only enters the NMCC at about 10:30 a.m., indicating it is raised after that time. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 43-44) And at 10:38 a.m., after Vice President Dick Cheney asks him on the air threat conference call if US forces are on “heightened alert,” Rumsfeld will reply, “Yes,” and say they are at FPCON Delta. (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001 pdf file)
Some Areas Already at FPCON Delta - Although the entire US military is now under the same FPCON level, usually, different locations can have different FPCON levels. (Suellentrop 9/12/2001) US forces in some parts of the world, particularly the Middle East and the Persian Gulf region, are in fact already at FPCON Delta. (Shanker and Schmitt 9/12/2001) (The force protection condition was raised in those areas in late June, after intelligence reports suggested that terrorists might attack American military or civilian targets in the region (see June 21, 2001). (Richter 6/23/2001; National Public Radio 5/23/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 257) ) Shortly after the force protection condition is raised, Rumsfeld will order that the defense readiness condition also be raised (see (10:43 a.m.-10:52 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 326, 554)
Five Possible Force Protection Conditions - The force protection condition is a “chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff-approved standard for identification of, and recommended responses to, terrorist threats against US personnel and facilities,” according to the Department of Defense. (US Department of Defense 11/8/2011 pdf file) It was created in June 2001 and replaced the “terrorist threat condition,” or “Threatcon.” (Arkin 1/22/2002) There are five possible force protection conditions. The lowest, FPCON Normal, means no threat of terrorist activity is present. The other conditions are Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, up to the highest, FPCON Delta, which means a terrorist attack has occurred or intelligence has been received indicating that action against a specific location is likely. (Associated Press 9/11/2001; Suellentrop 9/12/2001)

Blast doors at NORAD’s operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado.Blast doors at NORAD’s operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado. [Source: Eugene Chavez]The massive doors leading to NORAD’s operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, designed to protect the center from a nuclear blast, are closed for the first time ever in a real-world, non-exercise event, though the reason for this is unclear. (Simmie 12/9/2001; Scott 6/3/2002; BBC 9/1/2002; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/9/2011) The two steel blast doors, one third of a mile inside the mountain, guard the heart of NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC) and are intended to seal the complex to protect it from a nuclear strike. The doors are three feet thick, more than 10 feet high, and each weigh 25 tons. During an attack, they can swing shut in 30 to 40 seconds. (McKenna 1/1996; Astore 5/5/2008; Colorado Springs Gazette 5/10/2008)
Doors Are Shut for the First Time, except for Exercises - Air Force officer William Astore will later recall that when he worked inside Cheyenne Mountain between 1985 and 1988, the blast doors were kept open, “except, of course, during ‘exercises,’ when the mountain ‘buttoned up’ its self-contained world.” (Astore 5/5/2008) Now is the first time since the CMOC opened in 1966 that the blast doors have been shut because of a real-world, non-exercise event. Lieutenant Colonel Steven Armstrong, NORAD’s chief of plans and forces, who is in the CMOC on this day, will later comment, “The fact that we closed the blast doors… was a significant event.” (Simmie 12/9/2001; Zubeck 6/14/2004; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/9/2011)
Accounts Conflict over Why the Doors Are Closed - The reason the blast doors are shut is unclear. According to the Toronto Star, they are closed because “no one yet knew who was behind the attack—or what else might be en route.” (Simmie 12/9/2001) But Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine will report that “NORAD commanders ordered [the] massive steel doors be closed” after “someone—possibly President Bush—ordered the military to a Force Protection Condition Delta wartime posture” (see (Between 10:10 a.m. and 10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Scott 6/3/2002) Other reports will say the doors are shut due to a report the CMOC received about an aircraft that is incorrectly suspected of being hijacked and targeting Cheyenne Mountain (see (10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (BBC 9/1/2002; Grant 2004, pp. 26; Zubeck 6/14/2004; Reid 7/29/2006) A NORAD representative on the Pentagon’s air threat conference call will report over the conference call that the blast doors are in fact shut in response to information received at the CMOC about a number of suspicious trucks that are supposedly heading toward the CMOC (see (Shortly After 1:05 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001)
Doors Are Re-Opened Four Hours Later - The blast doors will be re-opened four hours after they are shut, “when officials learned the threat was bogus,” according to the Colorado Springs Gazette. (Zubeck 6/14/2004)

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.

Personnel in the White House Situation Room learn of a plane supposedly flying toward the United States from Europe that appears to be hijacked, but it is subsequently determined that the alleged flight does not exist. Those in the Situation Room receive word confirming that a suspicious Northwest Airlines flight from Portugal to Philadelphia is heading toward Washington, DC. The plane is not responding to radio calls and its transponder is squawking the code for a hijacking. White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke gives orders for someone to find out more about the flight and what assets the US military has available to intercept it at the coast. Meanwhile, the FAA searches its data for information about the flight and officials try to contact Northwest Airlines to find out more. Those participating in Clarke’s video teleconference (see (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:25 a.m. September 11, 2001) grow increasingly anxious, since no action can be taken until more details about the flight are found. Then Timothy Flanigan, the deputy White House counsel, who is in the Situation Room, has an idea. He leaves the room and finds an unsecure computer. On this, he searches travel websites for details of the suspicious flight, but finds nothing. He then checks on the Northwest Airlines website and again finds no reference to the flight. He quickly jots down everything he can find about Northwest Airlines flights from Europe and then goes to pass on his findings. After taking a seat at the conference table, he addresses Clarke, who is still searching for information about the plane. “I’ve checked and there’s no such flight,” he says. Astonished at this news, Clarke asks, “How did you check?” “I looked on their website,” Flanigan replies. Clarke then passes on the news to the other participants in the video teleconference. “I have information that there is no such flight,” he says and adds, “Check that again.” (Eichenwald 2012, pp. 36-37) The 9/11 Commission Report will later note that there are “multiple erroneous reports of hijacked aircraft” this morning (see (9:09 a.m. and After) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28)

Vice President Dick Cheney tries to bring Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld up to date over the National Military Command Center’s (NMCC) conference call (see 9:29 a.m.-9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001), as Rumsfeld arrived at the NMCC just minutes earlier (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Cheney explains that he has given authorization for hijacked planes to be shot down and that this has been passed on to the fighter pilots. Rumsfeld asks, “So we’ve got a couple of aircraft up there that have those instructions at the present time?” Cheney replies: “That is correct. And it’s my understanding they’ve already taken a couple of aircraft out.” Then Rumsfeld says: “We can’t confirm that. We’re told that one aircraft is down but we do not have a pilot report that they did it.” Cheney is incorrect about his authorization having reached the pilots (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004)

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld refuses to leave the Pentagon, despite the smoke leaking into the National Military Command Center (NMCC) where he is currently working, the danger of a second attack on the Pentagon, and a White House request to begin implementing Continuity of Government (COG) measures. (Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 132) After being out of touch with his colleagues at the Pentagon since the time of the attack there (see (9:38 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001), Rumsfeld finally entered the NMCC at around 10:30 a.m. (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 43-44; Cockburn 2007, pp. 2-6) It is now noticed that smoke is seeping into the center. With people beginning to cough, aides suggest Rumsfeld should leave the building, but he is uninterested in their advice. Even when they warn that the smoke might be toxic, he still ignores them. Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, tells him he should leave the Pentagon. But Rumsfeld instead orders Wolfowitz to leave the NMCC and fly to Site R, the alternate command center outside Washington (see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to journalist and author Steve Vogel, this is “contrary to the established Continuity of Government plan, which called for the secretary of defense to relocate to the alternate command center.… The secretary figured the 45 minutes to an hour it would take to evacuate to Site R would leave him out of touch for too long.” Rumsfeld will later explain: “That’s life. That’s what deputies are for.” (Vogel 2007, pp. 441)

The US military’s defense readiness condition is raised from Defcon 5, the lowest possible level, to Defcon 3, an intermediate level that requires a heightened alert status for US armed forces worldwide, and which is the highest the defense readiness condition has been for 28 years. (Giambastiani 7/18/2002 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 326, 554; Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 131; Rumsfeld 2011, pp. 338)
Rumsfeld Recommends Raising Defcon - The decision to go to Defcon 3 is reportedly made by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. (Rumsfeld 8/12/2002) Rumsfeld will later recall that after he arrives at the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center (NMCC) (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he talks with General Richard Myers, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and “[w]e discussed and I recommended raising the defense condition level from five to three.” (9/11 Commission 3/23/2004)
Teleconference Participants Told to 'Hold Off' on Defcon 3 - Rumsfeld directs that the US military go to Defcon 3. At 10:43 a.m., it is announced on the air threat conference call that the secretary of defense “has directed that we go to Defcon 3 and be prepared to go to [Defcon] 2.” However, a minute later, Rumsfeld talks to Vice President Dick Cheney on the conference call, and Cheney says he will have to run the decision to go to Defcon 3 by the president, “and let him make the call.” Therefore, at 10:45 a.m., those on the conference call are told to “hold off on Defcon 3.”
Order to Raise Defcon Reinstated - But Rumsfeld believes raising the defense readiness condition is urgent. (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 326, 554) There is therefore a “historical discussion about how the move to Defcon 3 went during previous crises, Cuba specifically [i.e. the Cuban missile crisis in 1962],” Captain Charles Leidig, who is also in the NMCC, will later recall. With their reference being “a book on the shelf,” according to Leidig, Myers is shown that he has “approval authority to go to Defcon 3.” (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file) After consulting Defense Department directives, Rumsfeld concludes that he has the authority to issue the order to raise the defense readiness condition. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 554) Therefore, at 10:46 a.m., those on the air threat conference call are told: “Override last instructions. The vice chairman [i.e. Myers] is directing we go to Defcon 3.” A few minutes later, an announcement is made on the conference call, “Emergency action message released at 14:52 [Zulu time, i.e. 10:52 a.m. Eastern time], re: Defcon 3.” (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 2004)
Raising Defcon Is a 'Huge Move' - Rumsfeld will later agree with an interviewer that raising the defense readiness condition is “a very serious step for the nation.” (Rumsfeld 8/12/2002) It was last raised to Defcon 3 during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, when Rumsfeld had been the United States ambassador to NATO. Regarding the decision to raise it, Myers tells Rumsfeld, “It’s a huge move, but it’s appropriate.” (Rumsfeld 1/9/2002; Paltrow 3/22/2004 pdf file; Rumsfeld 2011, pp. 338)
President Later Told of Decision - The decision to go to Defcon 3 will soon be communicated within NORAD (see 11:03 a.m.-11:12 a.m. September11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 6/17/2003; 9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 2/3/2004 pdf file) Rumsfeld will brief President Bush on the decision (see (11:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 554; Bush 2010, pp. 133) Apparently around the time the defense readiness condition is raised, Rumsfeld and/or Myers also decide to raise the force protection condition of US military installations (see (Between 10:10 a.m. and 10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 3/23/2004; Myers 2009, pp. 153)
Defcon 3 Intended for Cold War - Some individuals will later be critical of the decision to raise the defense readiness condition at this time. John Farmer, the senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission, will write that Defcon 3 is in fact “a Cold War-era designation, devised to respond to a nuclear threat.” (Farmer 2009, pp. 235) According to Farmer and other 9/11 Commission staffers, it is “suited more to a Cold War conflict than to al-Qaeda’s attack.” (et al. 9/7/2011 pdf file) General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD, will similarly say that Defcon 3 is “not intended for [events like] the attacks of 9/11 and thus could have complicated the response to the attacks.” He will say he does not think that raising the condition would have “done anything for us” within the continental United States. (9/11 Commission 3/1/2004 pdf file)
Defcons Are Phased Increases in Combat Readiness - The defense readiness condition is a “uniform system of progressive alert postures for use between the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the commanders of unified and specified commands, and for use by the [armed] services,” according to the Department of Defense. (US Department of Defense 11/8/2011 pdf file) Defcons are phased increases in combat readiness and are graduated to match situations of varying military severity. They are numbered, from Defcon 5, which means “normal peacetime readiness,” down to Defcon 1, which means “maximum force readiness.” The current level, Defcon 3, represents an “increase in force readiness above normal readiness.” (Federation of American Scientists 4/29/1998) The defense readiness condition will remain at Defcon 3 until three days later, when it will be reduced one notch, to Defcon 4 (see September 14, 2001). (Balz and Woodward 1/30/2002)

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). (Wolfowitz 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. (Schwartz 11/2001; Vogel 2007, pp. 441) Wolfowitz will later recall that he “was not happy about” receiving this order. (Wolfowitz 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.” (Schwartz 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). (Rumsfeld 1/9/2002; Myers 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)

The North Portal entrance to the Cheyenne Mountain Complex in Colorado.The North Portal entrance to the Cheyenne Mountain Complex in Colorado. [Source: NORAD]The message goes out within NORAD that the military’s defense readiness condition has been raised to Defcon 3. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2003; 9/11 Commission 2004) Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld directed that the defense readiness condition be raised from Defcon 5—the lowest level—to Defcon 3 at around 10:45 a.m. (see (10:43 a.m.-10:52 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 326, 554; Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 131) At 10:52 a.m., an emergency action message about the increased defense readiness condition was issued. (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 2004)
NORAD Personnel Learn of Defcon Change - Word of the change is then communicated within NORAD. At 11:03 a.m., NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) is ordered to Defcon 3. Four minutes later, at 11:07 a.m., Lieutenant Colonel Steve Usher, the director of combat operations at the headquarters of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR) in Florida, announces that Defcon 3 has been ordered. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2003) And a military log will state that “NORAD has directed Defcon change” at 11:12 a.m. (9/11 Commission 2004) Staff Sergeant Brent Lanier, an emergency action controller in NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC) in Colorado, is tasked with sending out a message about the change to the defense readiness condition. He will later recall: “I’d sent out false Defcon messages during exercises, but I never thought I’d have to send out an actual Defcon change message—but I did. It was frightening.” (Tudor 3/2002)
NORAD Officers Discuss Defcon Change - Major General Larry Arnold, the CONR commander, will tell the 9/11 Commission that he hears of the change to the defense readiness condition either from Major General Rick Findley, the director of operations at the CMOC, or from one of NORAD’s computer chat logs. (9/11 Commission 2/3/2004 pdf file) Usher will tell the 9/11 Commission that the instruction to raise the defense readiness condition comes either from the CONR Regional Air Operations Center or from Arnold. He will add that there is an emergency action message confirming the transition. (9/11 Commission 2/4/2004 pdf file) Arnold will recall that, at some unspecified time, he calls General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD, about the change to the defense readiness condition, with the intention of informing Eberhart “of what was ongoing.” (9/11 Commission 2/3/2004 pdf file)
Change in Defcon Affects Who Can Declare a Target Hostile - Steve Hedrick, an air weapons officer at NEADS, will tell the 9/11 Commission that “any change in Defcon is authenticated immediately” with the fighter jets under NORAD control. He will also say that “the main change when a Defcon level changes is in who has the authority to declare a target hostile.” Hedrick will note that the order from Vice President Dick Cheney, that NORAD fighters were “cleared… to intercept tracks of interest and shoot them down if they do not respond” (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001), is “distinct and different from the transition in Defcon levels.” (9/11 Commission 10/27/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 42)

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld speaks with President Bush, and they discuss the rules of engagement for fighter pilots and Rumsfeld’s decision to raise the defense readiness condition to Defcon 3. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 465, 554) Rumsfeld is in the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon and Bush is on board Air Force One, flying toward Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. (9/11 Commission 3/23/2004; Martin 7/4/2004) After Rumsfeld entered the NMCC at around 10:30 a.m. (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he had been concerned with ensuring that fighter pilots defending US airspace have a clear understanding of their rules of engagement, so they know “what they could and could not do” (see (10:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 3/23/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 43-44) He also directed that the nation’s armed forces go to Defcon 3, an increased state of military readiness (see (10:43 a.m.-10:52 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 326; Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 131)
President Approves Decision to Raise Defcon - Rumsfeld now speaks with Bush and, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, tells him that the Department of Defense is “working on refining the rules of engagement, so pilots would have a better understanding of the circumstances under which an aircraft could be shot down.” Also at this time, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, Rumsfeld briefs Bush on his decision to raise the defense readiness condition to Defcon 3. When Rumsfeld ordered that the condition be raised, Vice President Dick Cheney told him to run the issue by the president; Rumsfeld replied that he would “call him shortly.” (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 465, 554) Bush gives Rumsfeld his approval for having raised the defense readiness condition. (Milbank and Allen 9/12/2001; Bush 2010, pp. 133)
Defense Readiness Condition Possibly Discussed at Later Time - Although the 9/11 Commission Report will say Rumsfeld and Bush’s discussion of the defense readiness condition occurs at 11:15 a.m., in his 2010 book Decision Points, Bush will write that he approves Rumsfeld’s decision when he speaks to Rumsfeld from the office of Lieutenant General Thomas Keck at Barksdale Air Force Base. (Bush 2010, pp. 133) If correct, this would mean the relevant phone call takes place sometime after 12:11 p.m., when Bush goes to Keck’s office (see (12:11 p.m.-1:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sammon 2002, pp. 112-113; Freeman 10/2006 pdf file)

Russian President Vladimir Putin phones President Bush while he is aboard Air Force One. Putin is the first foreign leader to call Bush following the attacks. He earlier called the White House to speak with the president, but had to speak with Condoleezza Rice instead (see Between 10:32 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). Putin tells Bush he recognizes that the US has put troops on alert, and makes it clear that he will stand down Russian troops. US forces were ordered to high alert some time between 10:10 and 10:46 a.m. (see (Between 10:10 a.m. and 10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001) Bush later describes, “In the past… had the President put the—raised the DEF CON levels of our troops, Russia would have responded accordingly. There would have been inevitable tension.” Bush therefore describes this phone call as “a moment where it clearly said to me, [President Putin] understands the Cold War is over.” (US President 10/1/2001; US President 11/19/2001; Dougherty 9/10/2002) Putin also sends a telegram to Bush today, stating: “The series of barbaric terrorist acts, directed against innocent people, has evoked our anger and indignation.… The whole international community must rally in the fight against terrorism.” (Russian Embassy 9/17/2001)

Raven Rock Mountain, the location of ‘Site R.’Raven Rock Mountain, the location of ‘Site R.’ [Source: Unknown]After arriving at the alternate military command center outside Washington, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz reports that the computer and communications systems there are hardly functioning. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ordered Wolfowitz to leave the Pentagon and relocate to the alternate command center—“Site R”—earlier on, and Wolfowitz was transported there by helicopter (see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 132; Vogel 2007, pp. 441) Site R is located inside Raven Rock Mountain, about six miles north of Camp David, on the Pennsylvania-Maryland border. (Schwartz 11/2001) According to authors Patrick Creed and Rick Newman, it “was designed as a duplicate of the NMCC” (the National Military Command Center, inside the Pentagon). “If an attack took out the NMCC, or it needed to be evacuated for any reason, Site R would become the Pentagon’s primary command center.” Since joining the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1998 as its director of operations, Vice Admiral Scott Fry had “instituted regular drills and other measures to make sure Site R could rapidly get up to speed in an emergency, without glitches that might be fatal in a war setting.” (Creed and Newman 2008, pp. 174) Yet when he calls the Pentagon from this alternate command center, Wolfowitz reports that “the computer and communication systems there functioned poorly or not at all.” He is, however, able to participate in video teleconference calls. (Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 132) These problems are not reported as causing any significant hindrance in the emergency response to the attacks. But Creed and Newman will comment: “The authority to order major military action rested jointly with the senior civilian leaders at both the White House and the Defense Department. Only they, together, could order troops to move, or missiles to fly. If the NMCC went down before Site R was up and running, the communications link required to utilize the nation’s military might be severed, for the first time since the system was put in place in 1947.” (Creed and Newman 2008, pp. 174-175)

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 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 2009, pp. 159)

President Bush is taken to the headquarters of the 8th Air Force at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, from where he calls government officials in New York and Washington, DC, prepares and records a speech to the nation, and watches television coverage of the terrorist attacks. (Tapper 9/12/2001; Associated Press 10/2/2001; Freeman 10/2006 pdf file) After landing at Barksdale (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001), Bush was initially driven to a conference center on the base, where he made a brief phone call (see (11:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001; Newseum et al. 2002, pp. 164)
Bush Is Driven to the 8th Air Force Headquarters - Bush emerges from there at 12:11 p.m. accompanied by his senior adviser, Karl Rove, his chief of staff, Andrew Card, his military aide, some other aides, and several Secret Service agents. (Sammon 2002, pp. 112; Freeman 10/2006 pdf file) He is then driven to “Building 245” on the base—the headquarters of the 8th Air Force—in a small motorcade that also includes the pool of reporters who have been traveling with him on Air Force One. Inside the building, they all can see a sheet of paper that has been taped to a door, with words written in large black type, “Defcon Delta”—the highest possible state of military alert. (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001; Sammon 2002, pp. 112) Bush and his staff go to the office of Lieutenant General Thomas Keck, the commander of the 8th Air Force, where they get to work responding to the attacks. (Freeman 10/2006 pdf file)
Bush Prepares a Speech to the Nation - Bush and Card together draft a speech to the nation that the president is going to record at the base, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. (Villafuerte 9/8/2002) However, according to journalist and author Bill Sammon, the speech is drafted by Bush’s press secretary, Ari Fleischer, who is with the president at Barksdale, and edited by White House counselor Karen Hughes, who is back in Washington. (Sammon 2002, pp. 113) Once the speech is ready, Keck escorts Bush to the building’s conference room to be filmed delivering it. (Freeman 10/2006 pdf file) The reporters traveling on Air Force One go to the conference room after entering the 8th Air Force headquarters building and are there when Bush records his speech at 12:36 p.m. (see 12:36 p.m. September 11, 2001). (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001)
Bush Watches TV, Makes Phone Calls - Bush watches the latest developments on a television in Keck’s office. After recording his speech, he sees the footage, shown on CNN, of the World Trade Center towers collapsing for the first time, according to Keck. He then tells Keck, “I don’t know who this is, but we’re going to find out and we’re going to go after them, and we’re not just going to slap them on the wrist.” Keck replies, “We’re with you.” There is a secure phone in Keck’s office, and, while he is at the base, Bush uses it to talk with Vice President Dick Cheney at the White House (see (12:11 p.m.-1:25 p.m.) September 11, 2001), Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon (see 1:02 p.m. September 11, 2001), and Hughes. He also talks over the secure phone with New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, New York Governor George Pataki, and New York Senator Charles Schumer.
Bush Is Informed of the Intelligence about the Attacks - Keck remains at Bush’s side for the entire time the president is in the 8th Air Force headquarters building. He works intently, monitoring base security and keeping up to date with the latest information from the 8th Air Force Command. He and his team keep Bush and his aides informed about the intelligence coming in via Air Force channels about the morning’s attacks and ongoing events. After nearly two hours at Barksdale, Bush and his entourage prepare to leave the base. Keck will accompany the president as he is driven back to Air Force One. (Associated Press 10/2/2001; Langley 12/16/2001; Freeman 10/2006 pdf file; Graff 9/9/2016)

Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, who is in the White House Situation Room, is informed that Vice President Dick Cheney wants him to come down to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), located below the East Wing of the White House. Clarke heads down and, after being admitted by Cheney’s security detail, enters the PEOC. In addition to the vice president and his wife Lynne Cheney, the PEOC contains National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, political adviser Mary Matalin, Cheney’s chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, deputy White House chief of staff Josh Bolten, and White House counselor Karen Hughes. Clarke can see the White House Situation on a screen. But Army Major Mike Fenzel, who is also in the PEOC, complains to him, “I can’t hear the crisis conference [that Clarke has been leading] because Mrs. Cheney keeps turning down the volume on you so she can hear CNN… and the vice president keeps hanging up the open line to you.” Clarke later describes that Lynne Cheney is, like her husband, “a right-wing ideologue,” and is offering her advice and opinions while in the PEOC. When Clarke asks the vice president if he needs anything, Cheney replies, “The [communications] in this place are terrible.” His calls to President Bush keep getting broken off. By the time Clarke heads back upstairs to the Situation Room, it is 12:30 p.m. (Clarke 2004, pp. 17-19)

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

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 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; McCullough 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)

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. (Peters 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)

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; Balz and Woodward 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). (Elliott 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)

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)

Carl Levin.Carl Levin. [Source: Publicity photo]Air Force General Richard Myers is questioned about the US military’s response to the 9/11 attacks when he appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee for his confirmation hearing as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but his answers are vague and confused, and he claims, incorrectly, that no fighter jets were scrambled in response to the hijackings until after the Pentagon was hit. (Shenon 2008, pp. 119; Farmer 2009, pp. 241-243) Myers has been the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff since March 2000. (US Air Force 9/2005) With General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, flying toward Europe on the morning of September 11 (see (8:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he served as the acting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the 9/11 attacks. (Myers 2009, pp. 10; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell 2010, pp. 431-433)
Myers Says Fighters Were Only Scrambled after the Pentagon Attack - During the hearing, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) asks if the Department of Defense was contacted by “the FAA or the FBI or any other agency” after the first two hijacked aircraft crashed into the World Trade Center, at 8:46 a.m. and 9:03 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), but before 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon was hit (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). Myers replies, “I don’t know the answer to that question.” Levin then asks if the military was “asked to take action against any specific aircraft” during the attacks. Myers answers, “When it became clear what the threat was, we did scramble fighter aircraft, AWACS, radar aircraft, and tanker aircraft to begin to establish orbits in case other aircraft showed up in the FAA system that were hijacked.” Myers elaborates later in the hearing, telling Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL): “[A]fter the second tower was hit, I spoke to the commander of NORAD, General [Ralph] Eberhart (see (9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). And at that point, I think the decision was at that point to start launching aircraft.” But he tells Levin that “to the best of my knowledge,” the order to scramble fighters was only given “after the Pentagon was struck.”
Flight 93 Was Not Shot Down, Myers Says - Myers addresses the military’s response to Flight 93, the fourth hijacked plane, which crashed in a field in Pennsylvania (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He says: “[I]f my memory serves me… we had launched on the one that eventually crashed in Pennsylvania. I mean, we had gotten somebody close to it, as I recall.” However, he adds, “I’ll have to check that out.” When Levin mentions that there have been “statements that the aircraft that crashed in Pennsylvania was shot down,” Myers responds, “[T]he armed forces did not shoot down any aircraft.” He says, “[W]e never actually had to use force.” Although Myers appears unclear about when the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) launched fighters in response to the hijackings, he is more confident when he states: “At the time of the first impact on the World Trade Center, we stood up our Crisis Action Team. That was done immediately. So we stood it up. And we started talking to the federal agencies.” (US Congress 9/13/2001)
NORAD and the 9/11 Commission Contradict Myers's Account - Myers’s claim that fighters were only launched in response to the hijackings after the Pentagon was hit will later be contradicted by the accounts of NORAD and the 9/11 Commission, which state that fighters were ordered to take off from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) and from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia at 9:24 a.m. (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20, 27) The 9/11 Commission will also contradict Myers’s claim that the military launched fighters in response to Flight 93 and “had gotten somebody close to it.” “By the time the military learned about the flight,” the 9/11 Commission Report will state, “it had crashed.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 34)
Myers's Testimony Prompts Criticism in the Media - Journalist and author Philip Shenon will question why Myers, a veteran Air Force fighter pilot, would give such an inaccurate account of the military’s response to the 9/11 attacks during the hearing. “It seemed obvious that Myers, of all people at the Pentagon, would want to know—would demand to know—how jet fighters under NORAD’s control had responded on the morning of September 11 to the threat in the skies,” he will write. (US Congress 9/13/2001; Shenon 2008, pp. 119) John Farmer, the senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission, will comment that “Myers’s evident confusion about precisely what had occurred prompted criticism in the media and a quick, if contradictory, response from the administration.” (Farmer 2009, pp. 243) Major General Paul Weaver, director of the Air National Guard, will provide a more detailed account of the military’s response to the hijackings in an “impromptu hallway interview” at the Pentagon on September 14 (see September 14, 2001). (Whittle 9/14/2001) And four days later, NORAD will release a timeline of its response to the hijackings (see September 18, 2001). (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001)

The US military’s defense readiness condition is lowered one notch, from Defcon 3 to Defcon 4. (Balz and Woodward 1/30/2002) The defense readiness condition was raised from Defcon 5, the lowest possible level, to Defcon 3 following the terrorist attacks on September 11 (see (10:43 a.m.-10:52 a.m.) September 11, 2001), putting it at its highest level for 28 years. (Paltrow 3/22/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 326; Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 131) Defense readiness conditions are phased increases in combat readiness. The new level, Defcon 4, requires increased intelligence and strengthened security measures. (Federation of American Scientists 4/29/1998)

Technical Sergeant James Tollack, an officer from McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey, is tasked with transcribing tape recordings from September 11 of the operations floor at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, New York. (9/11 Commission 3/22/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/29/2004; Farmer 2009, pp. 274) On September 11, NEADS was responsible for coordinating the US military’s response to the hijackings. In a corner of its operations floor, four Dictaphone multi-channel tape recorders were recording every radio channel. (Bronner 8/1/2006; Shenon 2008, pp. 203-204) Tollack will later say that NEADS Technical Sergeant Jeremy Powell maybe tells him that personnel at NEADS have already listened to the tapes prior to his arrival there.
Digital Recording Expert Spends Two Weeks Working on Transcripts - Tollack is the resident expert in digital voice recording systems at McGuire Air Force Base and also has experience of doing transcription work. He arrives at NEADS on September 20 and stays there for 11 to 14 days, leaving on either October 1 or October 4. His first day at NEADS is spent on orientation, and so September 21 is his first full day of transcribing. Tollack will later recall that Colonel Robert Marr, the battle commander at NEADS, probably advises him to only transcribe the tapes from September 11 up to around 10:15 a.m., which is about 10 minutes after the fourth hijacked plane, Flight 93, crashed in Pennsylvania. For his first few days at NEADS, Tollack spends 14 to 16 hours per day working on the task. He works at a desk on the operations floor, drafting notes by hand and then typing them out with the assistance of two secretaries.
Transcripts Needed for Investigations - Tollack works directly for Marr, and also reports to Lieutenant Colonel Dawne Deskins, the assistant director of the Sector Operations Control Center. Marr tells Tollack that the transcripts of the tapes are required for investigation purposes. General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD, tells Tollack the information is needed for a Congressional report or hearing (see (Between September 23 and September 24, 2001)).
Tollack's Work Not Reviewed - While Tollack is at NEADS, no one there reviews his work as he goes through the tapes. (9/11 Commission 3/22/2004) On September 21, one of the tapes is damaged during the transcription process, causing information on it to be lost (see September 21, 2001). (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/21/2001)
9/11 Commission Not Initially Made Aware of NEADS Tapes - During its investigation of the September 11 attacks, the 9/11 Commission will only learn of the existence of the recordings of the NEADS operations floor in late October 2003 (see Late October 2003), and it subsequently subpoenas NORAD for the tapes (see November 6, 2003). Despite the efforts of Tollack, according to journalist and author Philip Shenon, by the time the Commission receives the tapes, around December 2003, NORAD has still “not prepared transcripts itself” of the tapes’ contents. (Kean and Hamilton 2006, pp. 86-88; Shenon 2008, pp. 203-208)

After his opening comments on the first day of the 9/11 Commission’s first hearing, Chairman Tom Kean says, “We will be following paths, and we will follow those individual paths wherever they lead,” adding: “We may end up holding individual agencies, people, and procedures to account. But our fundamental purpose will not be to point fingers.” According to author Philip Shenon, there is “a rumble in the audience, even a few groans,” as the victims’ family members realize “what the Commission would not do: It did not intend to make a priority of blaming government officials for 9/11.” Shenon will add: “A few of the family advocates cocked their ears, wondering if they had heard Kean correctly. They had pushed so hard to create the Commission because they wanted fingers pointed at the government. And Kean knew it; the families had told him that over and over again in their early meetings. For many families, this investigation was supposed to be all about finger pointing. They wanted strict accountability, especially at the White House, the CIA, the FBI, the Pentagon, and other agencies that had missed the clues that might have prevented 9/11. The families wanted subpoenas—and indictments and jail sentences, if that was where the facts led.” (Shenon 2008, pp. 99)
Lack of Publicity - This hearing and the next two do not receive much publicity and Commission Chairman Tom Kean and Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton will later call them “background policy hearings in front of a C-SPAN audience.” They will later say that at this point the Commission “was not ready to present findings and answers,” since the various staff teams are nowhere near completing their tasks. For example, the team investigating the air defense failure on the day of 9/11 will not even issue a subpoena for the documents it needs until autumn (see Late October 2003 and November 6, 2003). (Kean and Hamilton 2006, pp. 127-8)
Close to a Disaster - Referring to various problems with the first hearing, including confusion over logistics, low turnout by the public, and the discontent from the victims’ families, Shenon will say that this first public hearing “came close to being a disaster.” (Shenon 2008, pp. 97)

The 9/11 Commission releases a status report showing that various government agencies are not cooperating fully with its investigation. Neither the CIA nor the Justice Department have provided all requested documents. Lack of cooperation on the part of the Department of Defense “[is] becoming particularly serious,” and the Commission has received no responses whatsoever to requests related to national air defenses. The FBI, State Department, and Transportation Department receive generally positive reviews. (Arnold 7/9/2003) Commissioner Tim Roemer complains: “We’re not getting the kind of cooperation that we should be. We need a steady stream of information coming to us.… Instead, We’re getting a trickle.” (Borger 7/10/2003) The Commission is eventually forced to subpoena documents from the Defense Department and FAA (see November 6, 2003). Commission Chairman Tom Kean also highlights the presence of government “minders” at Commission interviews. The minders accompany witnesses the Commission is interviewing and come from the witnesses’ parent agencies. Kean says: “I think the Commission feels unanimously that it’s some intimidation to have somebody sitting behind you all the time who you either work for or works for your agency. You might get less testimony than you would.” He adds, “We would rather interview these people without minders or without agency people there.” (Shenon 7/8/2003; Arnold 7/9/2003) However, Kean will later play down the effect minders are having on witnesses (see September 23, 2003), the full scope of which will be revealed in an internal Commission memo (see October 2, 2003).

Several months into its investigation, the 9/11 Commission is already dissatisfied with the Department of Defense (see July 7, 2003).
Recorded Conversations Not Provided to Commission - When its staff take a tour of a Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) facility in Rome, New York, which helped coordinate the air defense on the day of 9/11, the staff enter the operations room, which has “more than 20 banks of operators: some weapons controllers and some flight controllers.” The staff find that the operators’ conversations are always tape-recorded, but the tapes for 9/11 have not yet been sent to the Commission. In addition, according to Commission Chairman Tom Kean and Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton, “there were also discrepancies between things NORAD was telling [the Commission] about their performance on the morning of September 11—things that the agency had stated publicly after 9/11—and the story told by the limited tapes and documents the Commission had received.”
'Egregious' Failure - Upon learning of the existence of the tapes, team leader John Farmer immediately suspends the tour and the interviews and flies to meet Kean in New Jersey. (Kean and Hamilton 2006, pp. 85-88) Farmer will say that the failure to produce the tapes was “egregious,” as, “Those tapes told the story of the air defense better than anything else that anyone could have given us.”
Subpoena Demanded - Farmer demands that a subpoena be issued to the Pentagon for the tapes. He tells Kean: “Listen, we have to subpoena this stuff. We may not get it, but if we don’t try to get it, how can you explain to the public that we have done our job?” Farmer is aware that it will be difficult to get a subpoena on the Pentagon—“When you’re talking about subpoenaing the DOD, the room goes quiet”—but he decides privately: “I would have quit if we didn’t. I felt we were becoming a laughingstock.” (Shenon 2008, pp. 204)
Lost Time - Despite opposition from its Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton (see (Late October-Early November 2003)) and, allegedly, its Executive Director Philip Zelikow (see November 5, 2003), the Commission will subpoena NORAD for the tapes (see November 6, 2003). However, according to Kean and Hamilton, this means that “the staff had lost so much time that our hearing on the 9/11 story in the skies was postponed for months. Indeed, the delays from NORAD and the FAA made it highly unlikely that the team could complete its work as scheduled.” (Kean and Hamilton 2006, pp. 85-88) Chapter 1 of the Commission’s final report will draw heavily on the tapes. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 1-46)
Contrast with Other Aspects of Investigation - However, the Commission does not make the same effort with all day of 9/11 recordings. For example, it does not even find out which person(s) from the Department of Defense participated in a White House video conference chaired by counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke during the attacks (see (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 36)

Following the discovery that NORAD is withholding extremely important evidence from the 9/11 Commission (see Late October 2003), John Farmer, the leader of the Commission team investigating the day of 9/11, and the Commission’s Executive Director Philip Zelikow discuss subpoenaing the Pentagon. In the first meeting, Zelikow seems to support Farmer’s demand that a subpoena be issued, but is “hard to read” according to Farmer.
Charges that Zelikow is 'Undoing' Subpoena - Farmer then returns to New York, where he is based for his work on the Commission. According to Farmer, he receives an urgent phone call from Daniel Marcus, the Commission’s counsel, telling him Zelikow is trying to derail the subpoena and that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is to meet with the commissioners to dissuade them. Such a meeting will actually be held one day before the Commission votes on the subpoena (see November 5, 2003). In Farmer’s account, Marcus says: “You’d better get down here. It’s all unraveling. Philip is undoing this.” Marcus will later say he does not recall this call, but will say that Zelikow, who was close to members of Rumsfeld’s staff, would even “flaunt” his good relations with Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone. Zelikow will later make a successful last-ditch bid to prevent a subpoena being issued on the White House (see February 2004).
Disagreement between Zelikow, Farmer - According to Farmer, he returns to Washington and together with Dana Hyde, one of his staffers, confronts Zelikow. Hyde complains, “We can’t do our job if you frustrate us.” Farmer adds: “I thought you were supporting this subpoena. Now I hear otherwise. What’s going on?” He demands he be allowed to address the commissioners on the subpoena, but Zelikow replies: “I represent the staff. I will represent your views.” According to author Philip Shenon, Zelikow’s face “turn[s] the crimson color that the staff in Washington ha[ve] seen before in moments of his most extreme rage.” Zelikow then says, “It’s beyond our pay grade at this point.” Farmer disagrees and storms out of Zelikow’s office.
Zelikow's Version - Zelikow will confirm that there was a difference of opinion with Farmer on the matter: “We did have concerns about timing and tactics. Tension was building to a breaking point.” However, Zelikow will say he did not necessarily oppose a subpoena, as he shared Farmer’s concerns about the Pentagon’s truthfulness. Marcus will back Zelikow, saying that he thinks Zelikow did not try to derail the subpoena because of his friendship with Cambone or for any other reason. (Shenon 2008, pp. 205-207)

Lee Hamilton, vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission, makes an 11th-hour visit to the Pentagon in an attempt to avert a subpoena some on the Commission want to file on the Defense Department over documents NORAD is withholding from the Commission (see Late October 2003).
Meeting with Defense Officials - At the Pentagon, Hamilton meets Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, his deputy Paul Wolfowitz, and Undersecretary for Intelligence Stephen Cambone. Hamilton takes with him Slade Gorton, a Republican member of the Commission who is inclined towards issuing the subpoena.
Arranged by Zelikow? - It is unclear who initiated and arranged the meeting; some staffers who want the subpoena issued will accuse Philip Zelikow, the Commission’s executive director, of setting it up as a part of a wider effort to thwart the subpoena (see (Late October-Early November 2003)). However, Zelikow will later say he does not recall having anything to do with the meeting.
Rumsfeld Promises to Settle Issue - At the meeting, Rumsfeld is, according to author Philip Shenon, “charming and agreeable” and insists he is unaware of the problems between the Commission and NORAD. He vows to resolve the issues and promises that any evidence that has been withheld until now will be turned over immediately. Therefore, he says, there is no need for a subpoena.
Differences between Hamilton and Gorton - Hamilton, who was initially rejected for the vice chairmanship of the Commission because of his links to Rumsfeld and other Republicans (see Before November 27, 2002) and who sometimes takes the current administration’s side in internal Commission debates (see March 2003-July 2004 and Early July 2004), thinks this is the end of the matter. “I’ve known Don Rumsfeld for 20, 30 years,” he tells the other commissioners. “When he said, ‘I’m going to get that information for you,’ I took him at his word.” Gorton’s attitude is different. “I was outraged with NORAD and the way they had operated.” Thinking false statements NORAD officials provided to the Commission may have been made knowingly, he will add, “Even if it wasn’t intentional, it was just so grossly negligent and incompetent.” (Shenon 2008, pp. 207) The Commission will vote to issue the subpoena the next day, with Hamilton against and Gorton for (see November 6, 2003).

The 9/11 Commission votes to issue a subpoena on the Defense Department for documents withheld from it regarding the fighter response on the day of the attacks. The vote follows a demand from the Commission’s team investigating the air defense that it be issued, as the military has been withholding documents and making false statements (see Late October 2003), as well as the failure of last-ditch attempts to stop the subpoena’s issue (see (Late October-Early November 2003) and November 5, 2003).
Chairman Kean Has Decisive Vote - The four ordinary Democratic commissioners vote for the subpoena’s issue, but Democratic Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton votes against, together with three ordinary Republican commissioners. The fourth Republican commissioner, Slade Gorton, votes for the subpoena. This means that Tom Kean, the Commission’s Republican chairman, has the deciding vote, and he votes for the subpoena. He dislikes voting against Hamilton, but thinks NORAD is trying to hide something. (Shenon 2008, pp. 207-208)
'Especially Dismayed' - In a statement issued after the vote, the Commission says it is “especially dismayed” by incomplete document production on the part of NORAD. The Commission explains, “In several cases we were assured that all requested records had been produced, but we then discovered, through investigation, that these assurances were mistaken.” (Arnold 11/7/2003)
Documents Expose Apparent False Statements by NORAD - When the documents arrive, according to author Philip Shenon, they show that “NORAD’s public statements about its actions on 9/11 had been wrong, almost certainly intentionally.” Based on interviews of 9/11 Commission staffers, Shenon will add: “This was not the fog of war. This was the military trying to come up with a story that made its performance during 9/11 look reasonably competent, when in fact the military had effectively left the nation’s skies undefended that morning.” In particular, tape recordings of communications at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) indicate that the military did not know of the hijacking of Flight 93 until it had crashed. 9/11 Commission team leader John Farmer will even say that it is “99 percent” certain that Pentagon officers knew they were lying when they made statements to the Commission, sometimes under oath. (Shenon 2008, pp. 208)

After finding that FAA and US military officials have made a string of false statements to them about the air defense on the day of the attacks and have withheld key documents for months (see September 2003, Late October 2003, October 14, 2003, and November 6, 2003), the 9/11 Commission’s staff proposes a criminal investigation by the Justice Department into those officials.
Proposal Sent to Zelikow - The proposal is contained in a memo sent by the Commission team investigating the day of the attacks to Philip Zelikow, the Commission’s executive director. However, nothing much is done with the memo for months. A similar proposal will then be submitted to the very last meeting of the 9/11 commissioners, who decide to refer the matter not to the Justice Department, but to the inspectors general of the Pentagon and FAA (see Shortly before July 22, 2004). Whereas the Justice Department could bring criminal charges for perjury, if it found they were warranted, the inspectors general cannot.
Dispute over Events - According to John Azzarello, a Commission staffer behind the proposal, Zelikow fails to act on the proposal for weeks. Azzarello will say that Zelikow, who has friends at the Pentagon (see (Late October-Early November 2003)), “just buried that memo.” Azzarello’s account will be backed by Commission team leader John Farmer. However, Zelikow will say that Azzarello was not party to all the discussions about what to do and that the memo was delayed by other Commission staffers, not him. Zelikow’s version will receive backing from the Commission’s lawyer, Daniel Marcus. (Shenon 2008, pp. 209-210)


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