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Context of 'Shortly Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001: Acting Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Learns of First Crash from Television'

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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. [Associated Press, 9/12/2001; Larry King Live, 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; Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 9/14/2001; Powell Moore, 9/19/2001 pdf file; Federal Computer Week, 3/31/2003; Vanity Fair, 5/9/2003; US Department of Defense, 9/10/2004; American Forces Press Service, 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.” [PBS Frontline, 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). [American Forces Press Service, 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. [Larry King Live, 12/5/2001; US Department of Defense, 8/12/2002; PBS, 10/26/2004; American Forces Press Service, 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. [PBS Frontline, 10/26/2004] Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Giambastiani return to their offices. [Vanity Fair, 5/9/2003; American Forces Press Service, 9/8/2006] The members of Congress leave the building. [Washington Post, 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; American Forces Press Service, 10/23/2001]

Entity Tags: Richard B. Myers, Christopher Cox, Doug Bereuter, Kay Granger, Donald Rumsfeld, John Hostettler, Edmund Giambastiani, Mac Thornberry, Pete Geren, Paul Wolfowitz, Thomas E. White, Roger Wicker, Mark Steven Kirk, Robin Hayes, Randall (“Duke”) Cunningham, John Shimkus, John Mica

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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; American Forces Press Service, 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. [MSNBC, 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; American Forces Press Service, 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). [Council on Foreign Relations, 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; Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 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]

Entity Tags: Richard A. Clarke, Henry Hugh Shelton, Max Cleland, Richard B. Myers

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers learns of the second attack on the World Trade Center. According to some reports, Myers entered a meeting on Capitol Hill with Senator Max Cleland (D-GA) just minutes before the second plane hit the WTC (see Shortly Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). There are confused accounts of when he learns of this second attack and what he does in response. Myers later tells NBC News, “[S]omewhere in the middle of that meeting, they came in and said the second tower has been hit… and I think that’s when we figured out something—that America or at least the World Trade Center is under attack.” He adds, “And then I left the office,” and, he says, NORAD Commander Ralph Eberhart then calls him. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] Similarly, in his 2009 memoirs, Myers will write that Cleland “had started preparing a pot of tea, but we hadn’t taken a sip when a staff person came in from the outer office and informed us that the second tower had been hit. We both knew the interview was over and started out to the TV to see the South Tower erupting with smoke and flame.” [Myers, 2009, pp. 8] In testimony on September 13, 2001, Myers will state, “[A]fter the second tower was hit, I spoke to the commander of NORAD, General Eberhart.” [US Congress, 9/13/2001] In a speech in 2006, Myers says that after the second attack occurs, “The meeting was over very quickly.” [Council on Foreign Relations, 6/29/2006] He will tell CNN, “[W]hen the second target was hit, we knew something was up, so we rushed back to the Pentagon.” [CNN, 4/15/2003] Yet in an interview five weeks after 9/11, Myers claims, “Nobody informed us” when the second tower was hit, “But when we came out [of our meeting], that was obvious.” [Armed Forces Radio And Television Service, 10/17/2001; American Forces Press Service, 10/23/2001] And, according to several accounts, he does not leave Capitol Hill until around the time the Pentagon is hit, which is more than 30 minutes after the second attack happens (see (Shortly After 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). In a speech in 2003, Cleland will recall: “Gen. Myers bolted from his seat. We rushed into an adjoining office as we saw on TV the second plane slam into the second tower. Gen. Myers rushed out of my office, headed for the Pentagon. At that moment, the Pentagon was hit.” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6/16/2003] But on a couple of other occasions, Cleland says he is still meeting with Myers in his office at the time the Pentagon is hit. [US Congress, 9/13/2001; CNN, 11/20/2001] Contradicting both Cleland and Myers, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will claim that when he joins a video teleconference shortly after the time of the second attack, he can see Myers on screen, meaning Myers is at the Pentagon at that time rather than on Capitol Hill (see (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Clarke, 2004, pp. 1-3]

Entity Tags: Ralph Eberhart, Max Cleland, Richard B. Myers

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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. [Washington Post, 3/28/2004] Even Clarke’s later opponent, National Security Adviser Rice, calls him 9/11’s “crisis management guy.” [United Press International, 4/9/2004] The conference is where the government’s emergency defense efforts are concentrated.

Entity Tags: Larry D. Thompson, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Richard B. Myers, Richard Armitage, John Ashcroft, Robert S. Mueller III, Richard A. Clarke, Henry Hugh Shelton, Jane Garvey, Donald Rumsfeld, 9/11 Commission, George J. Tenet, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

According to his own account, acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers was in a meeting on Capitol Hill with Senator Max Cleland (D-GA) since just before 9:00 a.m. (see Shortly Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] It is unclear exactly when this meeting ended. But Myers says he first learns of the Pentagon attack (which occurs at 9:37) around the time he is leaving the building for the drive back to the Pentagon. In an early interview, he says he hears somebody say the Pentagon has been hit just after he comes out of his meeting with Cleland. [Armed Forces Radio And Television Service, 10/17/2001] In some accounts, he says he hears that the Pentagon has been hit just as he is leaving Capitol Hill. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004 pdf file] In a meeting in 2006, he says, “my security guy got the call the Pentagon had been hit,” as he is making his way out of the building. [Council on Foreign Relations, 6/29/2006] Myers says that, as his car crosses the 14th Street Bridge across the Potomac River, he can see all the black smoke rising up out of the Pentagon. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 463; American Forces Press Service, 9/8/2006] Max Cleland later confirms that Myers meets with him on this morning, and is with him until the time of the Pentagon attack, or slightly before. [US Congress, 9/13/2001; CNN, 11/20/2001; Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6/16/2003] However, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke gives a contradictory account. He claims that Myers is back at the Pentagon, speaking to him over a video conference, around ten minutes before the Pentagon is struck (see 9:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Clarke, 2004, pp. 5]

Entity Tags: Richard B. Myers

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; Council on Foreign Relations, 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. [American Forces Press Service, 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; Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 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]

Entity Tags: Richard B. Myers, National Military Command Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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