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(9:04 a.m.-9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Members of Bush’s Entourage Are Concerned about the Vulnerability of the President While He Is at the School

Edward Marinzel.Edward Marinzel. [Source: Command Group]Secret Service agents and other staffers with President Bush in Florida are worried about Bush’s safety while he is at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, and some of them are concerned that terrorists might try to attack the school. [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 pdf file; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Bush and his entourage arrived at the school, where the president is now attending a reading demonstration, shortly before 9:00 a.m. (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 41; Washington Times, 10/7/2002] Members of the president’s staff who are in a holding room at the school while Bush listens to the reading demonstration are promptly informed about the second hijacked plane crashing into the World Trade Center after the attack occurs (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [White House, 8/12/2002; White House, 8/12/2002] Karl Rove, Bush’s senior adviser, who is at the school, will later comment that while details of the terrorist attacks in New York are “hazy,” it is clear that “unknown assailants [are] executing a well-planned attack, of unknown dimensions, against America.” [Rove, 2010, pp. 251] Secret Service agents responsible for protecting the president therefore have serious concerns that Bush could be in danger at the school.
Secret Service Worries that Bush Could Be a Target - Dave Wilkinson, assistant special agent in charge of the presidential protection division, will recall that he and other agents at the school are worried that Bush could be targeted by the terrorists. They ask each other, “Is there any direction of interest towards the president… or is this just an attack on New York?” The Secret Service determines that the attacks “might be an effort to decapitate the government,” according to Rove. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] The belief of Bush’s agents is, “[T]he president’s whereabouts are known; somebody is going to be flying an airplane into the school,” Rove will say. [Austin American-Statesman, 5/18/2013]
Lead Agent Wants to Leave the School 'as Fast as Possible' - Edward Marinzel, the head of Bush’s Secret Service detail, has “quite a worried look on his face,” Mike Morell, Bush’s CIA briefer, will recall. [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 pdf file] Marinzel “wanted to get the hell out of [the school] as fast as possible,” Morell will say. Representative Adam Putnam (R-FL), who is at the school, overhears Secret Service agents telling members of Bush’s staff, “We need to get [Bush] secure.” But before the president and his entourage leave the school, there is “angst from the Secret Service that we don’t know what’s out there,” according to Andrew Card, Bush’s chief of staff.
CIA Officer Is Worried about a Plane Crashing into the School - Other members of Bush’s entourage are concerned about the president’s vulnerability while he is at the school. There is “the fear of the unknown” among the president’s staff, according to Brian Montgomery, the White House’s director of advance. “We didn’t know if someone had put a biological agent or chemical agent at the school,” he will say. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Morell is particularly worried that Bush could be the target of an attack. He will recall that he grows “increasingly concerned about [Bush’s] safety as well as the safety of others at the school” while Bush is in the holding room, where he goes after listening to the reading demonstration (see (9:16 a.m.-9:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 pdf file] “I was really worried that someone was going to fly a plane into that school,” Morell will say. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] He thinks about telling Marinzel of his concern, but decides not to, determining that Marinzel has probably already considered this scenario. [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 pdf file; Morell and Harlow, 2015, pp. 49]
Bush's Visit Is Public Knowledge - Bush’s plan to visit Sarasota today was publicly announced four days ago, on September 7 (see September 7, 2001). [White House, 9/7/2001] “The fact that the president would be at Booker Elementary at this hour, on this day, had been public knowledge for days,” Morell will point out. [Morell and Harlow, 2015, pp. 49] The planned visit has been “big news” in Sarasota, according to journalist and author Mark Bowden. [Bowden, 2012, pp. 3] Therefore, Morell will say, “anyone could have known about it.” [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Bush Would Be Safer in His Limousine - Philip Melanson, an expert on the Secret Service, will note that at the current time, Bush would be “safer in that presidential limo, which is bombproof and blastproof and bulletproof.” [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] And yet, apparently, no attempt is made to evacuate him from the school and move him to somewhere more secure for more than 30 minutes after the second hijacked plane crashed into the WTC, and it became obvious that America was under attack. Instead, Bush will only leave the school at around 9:35 a.m. (see (9:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Times, 10/8/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39]

Entity Tags: Dave Wilkinson, Adam Putnam, Brian Montgomery, US Secret Service, Andrew Card, Michael J. Morell, Edward Marinzel, George W. Bush, Karl C. Rove, Philip Melanson

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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