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Context of '(Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001: White House Officials Reportedly Converge on Vice President Cheney’s Office, but Accounts Conflict'

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Douglas Cochrane with Dick Cheney.Douglas Cochrane with Dick Cheney. [Source: David Bohrer / White House]Douglas Cochrane, Vice President Dick Cheney’s military aide, learns that a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center and subsequently heads to Cheney’s office to pass on to the vice president a phone number for President Bush. Cochrane is in his office on the fifth floor of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House, when he learns a plane has hit the WTC (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). He learns about the crash when someone in the White House Situation Room calls and tells him what has happened, according to the Florida Times-Union. However, he will tell the 9/11 Commission that he learns about it from the television coverage of the incident, at about 8:50 a.m.
Military Aide Heads to the Situation Room - Cochrane leaves his office and goes to the Situation Room, seeking information, but personnel there can tell him nothing more than what is being reported on CNN. Cochrane will tell the 9/11 Commission that a supervisor informs him that Cheney got cut off while talking on the phone with Bush. He therefore takes a piece of paper with a phone number for the president on it and heads to Cheney’s office, in the West Wing of the White House. When he reaches the office, he finds National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice there with the vice president, according to the Florida Times-Union. [Florida Times-Union, 9/10/2003; 9/11 Commission, 4/16/2004] However, according to other accounts, Rice will only go to Cheney’s office after 9:03 a.m., when the second hijacked plane hits the WTC (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Meet the Press, 9/16/2001; Hayes, 2007, pp. 332; Gellman, 2008, pp. 114]
Military Aide Reportedly Sees Cheney on the Phone with Bush - Cochrane will tell the 9/11 Commission that while he is in Cheney’s office at this time, he sees the vice president picking up the phone and answering a call from Bush. Cheney says, “Yes, Mr. President,” he will recall. [Florida Times-Union, 9/10/2003; 9/11 Commission, 4/16/2004] However, according to other accounts, including the 9/11 Commission Report, Cheney will first talk with Bush about the crashes in New York sometime after the second plane hits the WTC, apparently around 9:15 a.m. (see (9:16 a.m.-9:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Meet the Press, 9/16/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 92-93; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39; Hayes, 2007, pp. 332] Cochrane then shuts the door to Cheney’s office and heads back to the Situation Room. There, he will see the second crash at the WTC live on television (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Florida Times-Union, 9/10/2003; 9/11 Commission, 4/16/2004]

Entity Tags: Douglas Cochrane, Condoleezza Rice, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Josh Bolten.Josh Bolten. [Source: ONE]Josh Bolten, the deputy White House chief of staff, learns of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center and then, according to his own account, goes and tells National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice what has happened. With many of President Bush’s senior staff members, including White House chief of staff Andrew Card, traveling with the president in Florida, Bolten is the acting chief of staff at the White House this morning. He has run the senior staff meeting and, after the meeting ended, noticed the coverage of the first crash at the WTC on the television in his office. He’d thought the crash was a “freak accident,” he will later comment. “But then,” he will say, “the TV pictures kind of made me wonder.” Bolten went down to the White House Situation Room to see if he could learn anything more. The Situation Room, according to Bolten, “is supposed to be the information nerve center of the White House, where they are monitoring all of the TV stations, all the intelligence sources.” It is “where the Defense Department and CIA and everybody funnels in information to the president and to the White House.” After he enters the Situation Room, Bolten learns of Flight 175 hitting the second WTC tower, presumably seeing it live on television at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). “[I]t was at that moment that I realized this is not an accident,” he will recall. Bolten will say that he then heads into the conference area of the Situation Room, where Rice is conducting a meeting with her senior directors. After he enters the room, Rice says, “Here’s Josh Bolten,” and then starts introducing him to her senior directors. Bolten will say he gives Rice “the timeout signal” and asks her to step outside the room with him. He then tells her, “A second plane has hit; this is not an accident, it is an attack.” [C-SPAN, 10/6/2013] Rice, however, will contradict Bolten’s account. In interviews in which she discusses this morning’s events, she will make no mention of Bolten coming into her senior directors’ meeting. She will say she learns a second plane has hit the WTC not from Bolten but from her executive assistant, Tony Crawford, who comes into her meeting and hands her a note that tells her about the crash (see (9:04 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [White House, 10/24/2001; White House, 11/1/2001; BBC Radio 4, 8/1/2002 pdf file; White House, 8/6/2002] Bolten will say that after he tells Rice about the crash, the two of them head upstairs to Vice President Dick Cheney’s office and talk to Cheney there (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [C-SPAN, 10/6/2013]

Entity Tags: Condoleezza Rice, Joshua Bolten

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Vice President Dick Cheney sees the second plane hitting the World Trade Center live on television while meeting with his speechwriter John McConnell. He later claims that several other officials then come and join him in his White House office: National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, political adviser Mary Matalin, and his chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who has come across from the Old Executive Office Building next door to the White House. [Meet the Press, 9/16/2001] According to journalist and author Stephen Hayes, “As word of the attacks spread throughout the West Wing, many White House officials migrated to Cheney’s office.” As well as Rice, Libby, and Matalin, these include Sean O’Keefe, the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget; Josh Bolten, the deputy White House chief of staff; and counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke. [Hayes, 2007, pp. 332] However, other accounts contradict this. Clarke claims that when he arrives at the White House shortly after 9:03, he sees the vice president and Rice, but the two are “alone in Cheney’s office” (see (9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (It is possible, though, that the other officials only arrive after Clarke ends his brief visit to the vice president’s office.) [Clarke, 2004, pp. 1-2] In numerous interviews where she discusses her actions this morning, Rice makes no mention of heading to Cheney’s office after the second tower is hit. [O, the Oprah Magazine, 2/1/2002; BBC Radio 4, 8/1/2002 pdf file; Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/11/2002; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; New York Times, 9/11/2002] Also, according to some accounts, the Secret Service evacuates Cheney from his office shortly after the second attack occurs (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 9/13/2001; ABC News, 9/14/2002] Cheney claims that President Bush phones him around this time, while he is still in his office. [Meet the Press, 9/16/2001] But according to White House adviser Karl Rove, who is with the president in Florida, Bush is unable to reach the vice president because Cheney is being evacuated from his office (see (9:16 a.m.-9:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [MSNBC, 9/11/2002]

Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Condoleezza Rice, Mary Matalin, Richard A. Clarke, John McConnell, Joshua Bolten, Sean O’Keefe

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Lisa Gordon-Hagerty.Lisa Gordon-Hagerty. [Source: University of Michigan]Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is driving up to a gate outside the White House when Lisa Gordon-Hagerty—a member of his staff who is already at the White House—calls and tells him, “The other tower was just hit.” He responds: “Well, now we know who we’re dealing with. I want the highest level person in Washington from each agency on-screen now, especially the FAA.” He ordered Gordon-Hagerty to set up a secure video conference about five minutes earlier. A few minutes later, according to his own recollections, Clarke finds Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in Cheney’s White House office. Clarke tells Cheney: “It’s an al-Qaeda attack and they like simultaneous attacks. This may not be over.” Rice asks Clarke for recommendations and he says, “We’re putting together a secure teleconference to manage the crisis.” He also recommends evacuating the White House. (A slow evacuation of the White House will begin around 9:20-9:25 (see (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001).) Rice notes the Secret Service wants them to go to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, and as Clarke leaves the other two, he sees Cheney gathering up his papers. In Cheney’s outer office, Clarke will recall, he sees eight Secret Service agents instead of the usual two, ready to move to the PEOC. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 1-2; Australian, 3/27/2004]

Entity Tags: US Secret Service, Richard A. Clarke, Condoleezza Rice, Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, Al-Qaeda, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Bush in a holding room before giving his speech. Communications director Dan Bartlett points to the TV, and the clock reads 9:25. 
Bush in a holding room before giving his speech. Communications director Dan Bartlett points to the TV, and the clock reads 9:25. [Source: White House]After leaving the Booker Elementary School classroom, President Bush returns to an adjacent holding room where he is briefed by his staff, and gets his first look at the footage of the burning World Trade Center on a television that has been set up there. He instructs his press secretary, Ari Fleischer, to take notes to create an accurate accounting of events. According to some accounts, he speaks on the phone with Vice President Dick Cheney who is at the White House, and they both agree that terrorists are probably behind the attacks. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 92-93; Daily Mail, 9/8/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39] But White House adviser Karl Rove, who is also in the holding room, will later tell NBC News that Bush is unable to reach Cheney because the vice president is being moved from his office to the White House bunker at this time. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] The president speaks with New York Governor George Pataki and FBI Director Robert Mueller. Bush learns from Mueller that the planes that hit the WTC were commercial American aircraft, and at least one of them had apparently been hijacked after leaving Boston. According to some accounts, Bush also speaks with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice around this time. However, Rice herself will later suggest otherwise (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 93-94; Daily Mail, 9/8/2002; St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39] Fleischer and White House communications director Dan Bartlett quickly draft a statement for the president to deliver in the school’s library, which Bush rewords, scribbling three sheets of notes. Bush will deliver this at 9:30 a.m. (see 9:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). While he works on the statement, Bush briefly glances at the unfolding horror on the television. Turning to his aides in the room, he declares, “We’re at war.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 94; Albuquerque Tribune, 9/10/2002] According to the 9/11 Commission, the focus at the present time is on the president’s statement to the nation, and the only decision made by Bush’s traveling party is to return to Washington. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39] Bush will later claim that he makes no major decisions in response to the crisis until after Air Force One takes off at around 9:55 a.m. (see (Shortly After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]

Entity Tags: George E. Pataki, Dan Bartlett, Condoleezza Rice, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George W. Bush, Ari Fleischer, Robert S. Mueller III, Karl C. Rove

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Dick Cheney heading to the the Presidential Emergency Operations Center.Dick Cheney heading to the the Presidential Emergency Operations Center. [Source: David Bohrer / White House]Vice President Dick Cheney is taken by the Secret Service from his office to an underground tunnel leading to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House around this time, according to some accounts, including the 9/11 Commission Report, although other accounts will suggest he was evacuated from his office about half an hour earlier. [United States Secret Service, 11/17/2001 pdf file; Newsweek, 12/30/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39-40; Hayes, 2007, pp. 333, 335] Cheney, who is in his office in the West Wing of the White House, is aware of the two plane crashes in New York and realizes this is a terrorist attack. He is now “watching developments on the television,” he will later recall, and starting “to get organized to figure out what to do.” [Meet the Press, 9/16/2001; Hayes, 2007, pp. 330-331] The Secret Service was informed that an unidentified aircraft was heading toward the White House at around 9:33 a.m. (see (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Concern about this aircraft prompted it to order the evacuation of Cheney “just before 9:36,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report (see (9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39]
Armed Agents Enter Cheney's Office - Four or five Secret Service agents carrying submachine guns therefore enter Cheney’s office, according to Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman. One of them, Special Agent James Scott, pushes through the group of government officials who are gathered around Cheney (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and tells the vice president, “Sir, we need to move you—now.” Cheney nods, indicating that he will respond to the agent in a moment, and then turns to say something to another person. But Scott brings down the flat of his hand sharply on Cheney’s desk and commands, ”Now![Gellman, 2008, pp. 114-115]
Cheney Propelled out of His Office - Scott then puts his hand on Cheney’s shoulder, grabs the vice president by the back of his belt, and moves him out the door. [Hayes, 2007, pp. 333] Cheney will comment that Secret Service agents “practice this, I’m sure, because… whether you wanted to move or not, you’re going. They don’t exactly pick you up and carry you. It’s more like they propel you forward.” [White House, 11/19/2001] As the Secret Service agents take Cheney through his outer office, the vice president manages to grab the latest issue of The Economist off a table. “I’m always carrying something in case I get hung up someplace,” he will explain. “I’ve got to have something to read.” [Newsweek, 12/30/2001; Hayes, 2007, pp. 333] Carrying the magazine but nothing more, Cheney is hurried down the hallway, past the Oval Office, and down into the basement of the White House. [White House, 11/19/2001]
Other Officials Left in Cheney's Office - The officials who were with Cheney are left in his office. Mary Matalin, one of Cheney’s senior advisers, will recall: “[S]peechwriter John McConnell and I were left behind in his office, staring at each other as if to say, ‘What are we, chopped liver?’ I think I actually said that.” [National Review, 9/8/2011] Cheney will arrive in the underground tunnel leading to the PEOC about a minute after he leaves his office (see (9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). There he will learn that the Pentagon has been hit and talk over the phone with the president (see (9:45 a.m.-9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001) before heading into the PEOC (see (9:58 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 40; Hayes, 2007, pp. 335-336] However, according to some accounts, Cheney was evacuated from his office a significant time earlier on, around 9:03 a.m., when the second plane crashed in New York (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 9/13/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; ABC News, 9/14/2002; Clarke, 2004, pp. 1-2]

Entity Tags: John McConnell, Mary Matalin, James Scott, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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