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Context of 'Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001: Pentagon Defense Chief Says Building Has Nothing to Protect against an Airplane'

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The head of the agency that provides security at the Pentagon informs another military employee that the Pentagon is unprotected against an aerial attack. In reaction to the news of the attacks on New York, Army Deputy Administrative Assistant Sandra Riley telephones John Jester, the chief of the Defense Protective Service (DPS)—the law enforcement agency that guards the Pentagon. She asks him, “What do we have in place to protect from an airplane?” He tells her, “Nothing.” According to the Defense Department’s book about the Pentagon attack: “The Pentagon did not have an antiaircraft system on the roof of the building or on the grounds. Even if DPS had received word of an inbound plane, it had no plan to counter a suicide air attack. Had a warning been issued in time, DPS’s only effective response would have been evacuation and dispersal of the building’s occupants.” [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 152] The Washington Post will similarly claim the Pentagon has “no anti-aircraft guns posted on its roof, nor any radars of its own for tracking local air traffic.” [Washington Post, 9/16/2001] Yet, at the nearby White House, the Secret Service is believed to have a battery of ground-to-air Stinger missiles ready to defend the place. [Daily Telegraph, 9/16/2001]

Entity Tags: Sandra Riley, John Jester, Pentagon

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

John Jester.John Jester. [Source: The Pentagon Channel]John Jester, the chief of the Defense Protective Service (DPS), which guards the Pentagon, finally gives the instruction to raise the Pentagon’s state of alert, though only by one level. Jester had been in his office on the fourth floor of the Pentagon when he learned of the attacks in New York (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). He had reviewed contingency plans and procedures for increasing security with DPS Major James Phillips, and then headed to the office of David O. “Doc” Cooke, the head of the Washington Headquarters Services. Jester next goes to the office of his immediate supervisor Paul Haselbush, the director of real estate and facilities. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 151-152] Jester will recall that Haselbush asks him: “What if a plane were to come here? It’s just a thought that people have had. What if it were to occur here?” Jester replies: “Hopefully it is not going to happen here. What can you do to defend a building against a plane?” [Murphy, 2002, pp. 244] According to the Defense Department’s own book about the Pentagon attack, before returning to his office Jester meets with his deputy, John Pugrud, and directs him to notify the DPS Communications Center to raise the Terrorist Force Protection Condition. This ranges from Normal up through four higher levels, Alpha to Delta. But Jester only instructs that it be raised one level, from Normal to Alpha, which means a general threat of possible terrorist activity exists that requires enhanced security. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 152] It requires spot-inspections of vehicles and increased police patrols. [Washington Post, 9/16/2001] In one account, Jester will recall having instructed Pugrud to increase the threat level earlier, before he’d headed to Cooke’s office. [Murphy, 2002, pp. 244] But other evidence is consistent with him giving this instruction at the later time, minutes before the Pentagon attack. For example, Marine Corporal Timothy Garofola reportedly receives an e-mail shortly before the Pentagon is struck, informing all Defense Department employees that the threat condition remains at Normal (see (Shortly Before 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Leatherneck, 11/2001] And Pugrud is reportedly trying to phone the DPS Communications Center about raising the threat level at the very time the Pentagon is hit (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 152]

Entity Tags: Paul Haselbush, John Jester, John Pugrud

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Defense Protective Service (DPS)—the law enforcement agency that guards the Pentagon—arrests three people at the Pentagon who are dressed in firefighting gear but are not firefighters. Further details of who these people are and why they are at the Pentagon are unstated. John Jester, the chief of the DPS, later reflects: “When you have a major event, certain people are like moths around a light bulb. They come to the scene as thrill seekers.” Reportedly, incident command, DPS, and FBI officials are worried by the “absence of an effective identification system to control the large number of people that [are passing] through the outer perimeter fence to support firefighting and recovery operations” at the Pentagon. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 170]

Entity Tags: Defense Protective Service, John Jester

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline


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