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Context of '9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001: 9/11-Style Simulation Set to Commence at Agency near Pentagon'

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The FBI conducts a training exercise based on the scenario of an aircraft hijacking at Washington Dulles International Airport, the airport from which American Airlines Flight 77—the third plane to be hijacked—will take off on 9/11 (see (8:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The FBI exercise is based around a “traditional” hijacking that involves hostages being taken by the hijackers, according to Dana Pitts, an airport operations manager for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Members of the Dulles Airport staff provide some “operational support” during the exercise. Further details, including the date when the exercise is held, are unstated. [9/11 Commission, 10/16/2003 pdf file] The FBI is the agency that has jurisdiction if a hijacking or hostage-taking incident occurs on an aircraft that is still on the ground. [Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, 5/6/2000 pdf file; NPR, 9/20/2001]

Entity Tags: Washington Dulles International Airport, Dana Pitts, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Flight 77 departs Dulles International Airport near Washington, ten minutes after its 8:10 scheduled departure time. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/17/2001; Guardian, 10/17/2001; Associated Press, 8/21/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

John Fulton.John Fulton. [Source: NLESI]A training exercise is scheduled to begin at a US intelligence agency located just over 20 miles from the Pentagon, based around the scenario of a small corporate jet plane experiencing a mechanical failure and crashing into a tower building there. The exercise, which has been planned for several months, is to take place at the headquarters of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) in Chantilly, Virginia, four miles away from Washington Dulles International Airport and 24 miles from the Pentagon. [Associated Press, 8/21/2002; United Press International, 8/22/2002] Its purpose is to test the agency’s employees’ ability to respond to a small aircraft crash. [Associated Press, 8/21/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/14/2003]
Simulated Plane Crash - The exercise is set to commence at 9:00 a.m., when its observers meet to be briefed. The observers and exercise role players are to move to their positions for the exercise 10 to 15 minutes later. The plane in the exercise scenario is a Learjet 35A with two pilots and four passengers on board, which takes off at 9:30 a.m. from Dulles Airport. [9/11 Commission, 7/14/2003] This is the airport Flight 77, which crashes into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m., took off from earlier in the morning (see (8:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 8-10] A minute after taking off, the Learjet is supposed to experience a mechanical failure. It then goes out of control, leading it to crash into one of the four towers at the NRO’s headquarters at around 9:32 a.m. (see 9:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). No real plane is going to be used in the exercise, but some stairwells and exits at the NRO headquarters are to be closed off in order to simulate the damage from the crash, forcing employees to find other ways to evacuate the building. [Associated Press, 8/21/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/14/2003]
Scenario Created by War Gaming Division - The exercise scenario was imagined by the NRO’s internal war gaming division. [United Press International, 8/22/2002] The exercise is being run by John Fulton, the chief of this division, and his team at the CIA. [National Law Enforcement and Security Institute, 8/4/2002; National Law Enforcement and Security Institute, 8/6/2002 pdf file]
Highly Secretive Agency - The NRO is an agency of the US Department of Defense. Its mission is “to ensure that the US has the technology and spaceborne and airborne assets needed to acquire intelligence worldwide.” [US Department of Defense, 9/18/1992] It operates many of the nation’s spy satellites. [Associated Press, 8/21/2002] According to the New York Times, “It designs, builds, and operates spy satellites that photograph and overhear what other countries are up to.” [New York Times, 8/10/1994] The NRO employs some 3,000 people. These employees are drawn from the CIA and the military. [Associated Press, 8/21/2002] The New York Times has called the NRO “probably the most secretive of the intelligence agencies.” Until 1992, its existence was not even officially disclosed. [New York Times, 8/10/1994]
Exercise Canceled - According to NRO spokesman Art Haubold, the exercise will be called off “as soon as real world events began to unfold.” However, he does not give a specific time. All but the NRO’s most essential employees will then be sent home. [United Press International, 8/22/2002] Haubold will later comment, “It was just an incredible coincidence” that the exercise scenario “happened to involve an aircraft crashing into our facility.” [Associated Press, 8/21/2002]

Entity Tags: National Reconnaissance Office, Central Intelligence Agency, Art Haubold, John Fulton

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The telephone Ted Olson used when he spoke to his wife, who called him from Flight 77.The telephone Ted Olson used when he spoke to his wife, who called him from Flight 77. [Source: US Department of Justice]Barbara Olson, a passenger on Flight 77, talks over the phone with her husband, Ted Olson, the solicitor general of the United States, for a second time and is able to give him additional details of the hijacking of her plane before the call gets cut off. She has just called him at his office at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC, and was able to say her plane had been hijacked and give him details of the hijacking before the call got disconnected (see (Between 9:15 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/14/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9] Since then, Ted Olson has called the Department of Justice command center and passed on the information she provided (see (Between 9:17 a.m. and 9:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 32]
Secretary Answers the Call - Shortly after making her first call to him, Barbara Olson calls Ted Olson again. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9] The call is initially answered by Lori Keyton, a secretary in Ted Olson’s office. When Keyton picks up the phone, Barbara Olson says, “It’s Barbara.” Keyton says she will put her through to her husband. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001] Ted Olson is told his wife is on the phone again and the call is put through to him.
Barbara Olson Says Her Plane Has Been Circling Around - Barbara Olson then gives her husband additional information about the hijacking of Flight 77. She says the pilot announced that the plane had been hijacked. Ted Olson asks if she has any idea of her plane’s location. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/14/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 32] She says the plane was hijacked shortly after takeoff and has been circling around for a while. [CNN, 9/14/2001; Fox News, 9/14/2001] (However, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, Flight 77 was hijacked between around 8:51 a.m. and 8:54 a.m. (see 8:51 a.m.-8:54 a.m. September 11, 2001), more than 30 minutes after it took off (see (8:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 8] ) She says it is currently flying over some houses. After consulting another person on the plane, she says she thinks they are heading northeast.
Barbara Olson Asks What She Should Tell the Pilot - Ted Olson says two aircraft, besides Flight 77, were hijacked this morning and these planes subsequently crashed into the World Trade Center. Barbara Olson “absorbed the information,” the solicitor general will later recall. The couple then try to reassure each other. Ted Olson says, “It’s going to come out okay” and Barbara Olson tells him the same thing. She then says, “I love you.” Before the call ends, the couple “segued back and forth between expressions of feeling for one another and this effort to exchange information,” Ted Olson will recall. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/14/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 32] “We exchanged the feelings that a husband and wife who are extraordinarily close—as we are—those kind of sentiments,” he will say. [Fox News, 9/14/2001] The last thing Barbara Olson says is: “What shall I tell the pilot? What can I tell the pilot to do?” This implies that either the plane’s pilot or the co-pilot is at the back of the plane, where the hijackers moved the passengers, Ted Olson will note. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/14/2001]
Call Is Abruptly Cut Off - The call then ends abruptly, with the line suddenly going dead. It has lasted “two or three or four minutes,” Ted Olson will estimate. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/14/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 32] Ted Olson will then return to watching the coverage of the attacks at the WTC on television. When he sees the reports about an attack at the Pentagon, he will immediately think his wife’s plane crashed there (see (Shortly After 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; Fox News, 9/14/2001]
Call Is Made Sometime between 9:20 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. - The exact time of Barbara Olson’s second call to her husband is unclear. A list compiled by the Department of Justice supposedly showing all of the calls made today from Flight 77 will include four “connected calls to unknown numbers” (see 9:15 a.m.-9:30 a.m. September 11, 2001) and the 9/11 Commission Report will determine that these include the two calls made by Barbara Olson. According to the information in the list, her second call must occur at 9:20 a.m., 9:25 a.m., or 9:30 a.m. and last for 4 minutes 34 seconds, 2 minutes 39 seconds, or 4 minutes 20 seconds. [9/11 Commission, 5/20/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 455; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 94]
Call Is Made Directly to Ted Olson's Office - It is also unclear whether Barbara Olson makes this call using a cell phone or an Airfone. Keyton’s phone has no caller identification feature and so she is unable to determine what kind of phone Barbara Olson uses. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001] But the Department of Justice will determine that all of the calls from Flight 77 were made using Airfones. [9/11 Commission, 5/20/2004] Barbara Olson makes the call by dialing “0,” apparently in an attempt to reach an operator, according to an FBI report. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/20/2001] But Keyton will say that, unlike the first call, Barbara Olson’s second call to her husband is made directly to his office, rather than reaching it via an operator. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001] And Mercy Lorenzo, the operator who connected Barbara Olson’s first call to Ted Olson’s office (see (Between 9:15 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001), will apparently mention dealing with only one call, not two, from Barbara Olson when she is interviewed by the FBI. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001]

Entity Tags: Theodore (“Ted”) Olson, Mercy Lorenzo, Lori Lynn Keyton, Barbara Olson

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

A Learjet 35A.A Learjet 35A. [Source: enviscope GmbH]A training exercise planned by a US government agency is scheduled to include the scenario of a small corporate jet plane hitting a building just over 20 miles from the Pentagon around this time, though whether the scenario is actually played out before the exercise is called off is unclear. [United Press International, 8/22/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/14/2003] The exercise was set to begin at 9:00 a.m. at the headquarters of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) in Chantilly, Virginia (see 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001), which is just four miles from Washington Dulles International Airport, from where Flight 77 took off. [Associated Press, 8/21/2002; United Press International, 8/22/2002]
Simulated Crash around Time of Pentagon Attack - In the exercise scenario, a Learjet 35A with two pilots and four passengers takes off from Dulles Airport at 9:30 a.m. About a minute later, an explosion is heard, and the pilot complains that one of the engines is on fire and he is losing altitude. Around 9:32 a.m., the plane crashes into tower 4 at the NRO headquarters. [9/11 Commission, 7/14/2003] This would be just five minutes before the real attack occurs at the Pentagon, which is 24 miles away from the NRO headquarters (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [United Press International, 8/22/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 10]
Simulation Includes Numerous Deaths and Injuries - According to a description of the exercise scenario: “Various parts of the aircraft struck the outside portions of the building, spraying jet fuel. The final portions of the wreckage were scattered around the entryway between tower 1 and 2. Jet fuel was burning uncontrollably in the vicinity of the flagpoles. There are a number of injured and dead NRO employees.” [9/11 Commission, 7/14/2003] No real plane is to be used in the simulation, and the crash is to be the result of mechanical failure, not terrorism. [Associated Press, 8/21/2002]
Exercise 'Inputs' - The exercise is set to include numerous “inputs,” which are presumably communications and other actions that will make it appear more realistic to participants. Planned “inputs” include, at 9:30 a.m. a smoke generator is to be started. At 9:32, numerous phone calls are set to begin flooding in, from people reporting fires in various locations in the building. At 9:34, after someone reports that a small civilian jet has crashed, NRO personnel are to be instructed to evacuate their building. At 9:37, the first engine from Fairfax County Fire Department is scheduled to arrive. (The exercise description states that “inputs from simulated Fairfax responders” are to be used “if Fairfax does not play.”) At 10:03, four more fire department trucks and emergency medical technician vehicles respond to the crash. By 10:30 all the simulated fires will have been extinguished, but at least four NRO employees will be confirmed to have died in the crash. The exercise is set to end at 11:45 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 7/14/2003]
Exercise Canceled, Timing Unclear - The exercise is reportedly called off in response to the morning’s real world crisis. However, the time when it is canceled is unstated. NRO spokesman Art Haubold will only say, “As soon as the real world events began, we canceled the exercise.” [Associated Press, 8/21/2002] It is therefore unclear whether the simulated plane crash is actually played out, or whether the exercise is brought to an end beforehand. After the exercise is called off, all but the NRO’s most essential employees are sent home. [United Press International, 8/22/2002]

Entity Tags: National Reconnaissance Office, Art Haubold, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Pentagon explodes. 
The Pentagon explodes. [Source: Donley/ Sipa]Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon. All 64 people on the plane are killed. A hundred-and-twenty-four people working in the building are killed, and a further victim will die in hospital several days later. Hijackers Hani Hanjour, Khalid Almihdhar, Majed Moqed, Nawaf Alhazmi, and Salem Alhazmi presumably are killed instantly. (Typically, they are not included in the death counts.) [CNN, 9/17/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; Guardian, 10/17/2001; Washington Post, 11/21/2001; USA Today, 8/12/2002; Associated Press, 8/21/2002; MSNBC, 9/3/2002; ABC News, 9/11/2002; CBS, 9/11/2002] Flight 77 hits the first floor of the Pentagon’s west wall. The impact and the resulting explosion heavily damage the building’s three outer rings. The path of destruction cuts through Army accounting offices on the outer E Ring, the Navy Command Center on the D Ring, and the Defense Intelligence Agency’s comptroller’s office on the C Ring. [Vogel, 2007, pp. 431 and 449] Flight 77 strikes the only side of the Pentagon that had recently been renovated—it was “within days of being totally [renovated].” [US Department of Defense, 9/15/2001] “It was the only area of the Pentagon with a sprinkler system, and it had been reconstructed with a web of steel columns and bars to withstand bomb blasts. The area struck by the plane also had blast-resistant windows—two inches thick and 2,500 pounds each—that stayed intact during the crash and fire. While perhaps, 4,500 people normally would have been working in the hardest-hit areas, because of the renovation work only about 800 were there.” More than 25,000 people work at the Pentagon. [Los Angeles Times, 9/16/2001] Furthermore, the plane hits an area that has no basement. As journalist Steve Vogel later points out, “If there had been one under the first floor, its occupants could easily have been trapped by fire and killed when the upper floors collapsed.” [Vogel, 2007, pp. 450]

Entity Tags: Hani Hanjour, Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi, US Department of Defense, Salem Alhazmi, Majed Moqed, Pentagon

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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