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Context of '(Between 8:48 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Vice President Cheney Sees Footage of WTC Crash on Television, but Allegedly Does Not Realize It Is Terrorism'

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Sean O’Keefe.Sean O’Keefe. [Source: Bill Ingalls / NASA]Sean O’Keefe, the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, stops by Vice President Dick Cheney’s White House office for an unscheduled visit. According to journalist and author Stephen Hayes, Cheney’s colleagues have learned to keep any impromptu sessions with him short and succinct. Yet O’Keefe spends more than 20 minutes with the vice president. Cheney is scheduled to meet John McConnell, his chief speechwriter, at 8:30 a.m. Yet McConnell is left waiting outside the office while the vice president is deep in discussion with O’Keefe. According to Hayes, while the topic of O’Keefe and Cheney’s conversation seems urgent at present, “In time, neither man would be able to recall what it was that had been so important.” [Hayes, 2007, pp. 328-330] O’Keefe is a former Pentagon comptroller, and had been a close confidant of Dick Cheney’s when he was the secretary of defense, in the early 1990s. He was also secretary of the navy from 1992 to 1993. [New York Times, 7/7/1992; New York Times, 2/3/2003]

Entity Tags: Sean O’Keefe, John McConnell, Stephen Hayes, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Vice President Dick Cheney later claims he learns of the first attack on the World Trade Center just before 9:00 a.m. He has just finished an impromptu discussion in his office at the White House with Sean O’Keefe, the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget (see (8:25 a.m.-8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). His chief speechwriter John McConnell has come in for a meeting, when his secretary, Debbie Heiden, calls in and tells him a plane hit the WTC. Cheney recalls, “So we turned on the television and watched for a few minutes.” However, journalist and author Stephen Hayes suggests Cheney learns of the attack earlier. He says that while McConnell is waiting for his meeting, O’Keefe comes out of the vice president’s office. McConnell gestures at a television showing the burning WTC, and “O’Keefe nodded; they had been watching the reports inside.” When McConnell enters Cheney’s office, “The small television on the other side of the desk was tuned to ABC News.” [Meet the Press, 9/16/2001; Hayes, 2007, pp. 328-330] According to his own recollection, Cheney is puzzled by the reports: “I was sitting there thinking about it. It was a clear day, there was no weather problem—how in hell could a plane hit the World Trade Center?” [Newsweek, 12/30/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 35] He claims it is only when he sees the second tower hit at 9:03 that he realizes this is a terrorist attack, saying, “as soon as that second plane showed up, that’s what triggered the thought: terrorism, that this was an attack.” [Meet the Press, 9/16/2001; CNN, 9/11/2002]

Entity Tags: Debbie Heiden, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, John McConnell, Sean O’Keefe

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

John McConnell.John McConnell. [Source: University of Tennessee]While he is waiting outside Vice President Dick Cheney’s office for a scheduled meeting, Cheney’s chief speechwriter John McConnell has been chatting with Cheney’s secretary Debbie Heiden and the Secret Service agent posted at the door. They all see the news about the first plane hitting the World Trade Center on the television above Heiden’s desk. McConnell will later recall: “There wasn’t any kind of alarm. It was just kind of, ‘Oh man, look at that.’” The Secret Service agent then receives an urgent call from the agency’s intelligence division. According to McConnell: “He put the phone down and told me: passenger jet. And that’s when you go, Geez. And then you start getting a sick feeling. Because a passenger aircraft is not going to crash into the World Trade Center.” [Hayes, 2007, pp. 329-330] But, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, it is not until they learn of the second crash at 9:03 that nearly everyone in the White House realizes this is not an accident (see (Between 8:46 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 35]

Entity Tags: US Secret Service, John McConnell, Debbie Heiden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Liz Cheney, Vice President Dick Cheney’s eldest daughter, calls her father and tells him a plane has hit the World Trade Center, but he is already aware of both crashes in New York. [Hayes, 2007, pp. 330-332] The vice president, who is in his office at the White House, was informed of the first crash at the WTC (see (Between 8:48 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and watched the second crash live on television. [Meet the Press, 9/16/2001] Liz Cheney heard about the first crash on her car radio and now phones her father on his private line. She says to him, “A plane has hit the World Trade Center.” He replies: “Two planes have hit. It’s a terrorist attack.” Dick Cheney tells his daughter, “I’ve got to go,” before ending the call. The vice president then picks up a phone with a direct line to President Bush, according to journalist and author Stephen Hayes. He tells the person who answers, “I need to talk to the president,” and then promptly hangs up. [Hayes, 2007, pp. 331-332]

Entity Tags: Elizabeth (“Liz”) Cheney, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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