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Context of '(9:04 a.m.-9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Security around Air Force One Increased amid Fears that Plane May Be a Terrorist Target'

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At 6:30 p.m., President Bush arrives at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort on Longboat Key, Florida. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 13; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/2002] He is in Florida as part of a weeklong effort to place a national spotlight on education and reading, and visited a school in Jacksonville earlier in the day. [ABC News, 9/10/2001; Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville), 9/10/2001] In preparation for the president’s visit to the resort, all guests have been cleared out of the building “to make way for the invasion of White House staffers, aides, communications technicians—even an antiterrorism unit.” Overnight, snipers and surface-to-air missiles are located on the roof of the Colony and adjacent structures, to protect the president. “The Coast Guard and the Longboat Key Police Department manned boats that patrolled the surf in front of the resort all night. Security trucks with enough men and arms to stop a small army parked right on the beach. An Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) plane circled high overhead in the clear night sky.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 13 and 25; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/2002] Whether this is a typical level of security for a presidential visit, or is increased due to recent terror warnings, is unstated.

Entity Tags: George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The conference room on Air Force One.The conference room on Air Force One. [Source: George Bush Library]Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, the president’s plane, receives no contact from any US government agency, such as the CIA or the FBI, about the first plane crash at the World Trade Center, although numerous agencies call the plane immediately after the second crash. Air Force One is currently at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport in Florida, where it has been since the previous evening (see September 10, 2001). Tillman boarded the plane at around 8:15 a.m. this morning, and he has been preparing to take off at 10:45 a.m. and take President Bush back to Washington, DC.
Pilot Sees Coverage of First Crash but Thinks It Is an Accident - While he is walking around the plane and checking all the rooms, Tillman is called upstairs by the plane’s radio operator. Upstairs, the radio operator shows him the coverage of the first crash at the WTC on television and says: “I don’t know what’s going on; neither does the media. But it doesn’t look like it’s anything important; it looks like it’s an aircraft accident.” Air Force One, according to Tillman, has 42 phone lines that specifically connect to government agencies such as the FBI, the CIA, and the National Security Agency. But, Tillman will later recall: “None of those phones were going off. Everybody thought this was just an aircraft accident.” He will say that the plane’s crew receives “no information from any command and control authority” at this time. Tillman believes that, in light of what has happened, Bush will want to visit New York. Everyone on the plane is therefore told to be ready to go. He tells the radio operator simply to keep monitoring what is happening in New York and then heads downstairs to continue checking the rooms on Air Force One.
All Phones Start Ringing after Second Attack - After the second plane hits the WTC at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), Tillman is again called upstairs. The radio operator alerts him to the television coverage of what has happened. “We now have an understanding that it’s a deliberate attack on the [Twin] Towers,” Tillman will say. “All the information we had was from the news media at this point,” he will comment. But whereas no government agencies previously called Air Force One, suddenly, Tillman will recall: “All the phone lines are coming alive. Every agency in the world wants to know what our status is [and] if we’re ready to go.” In response to the second attack, security around Air Force One will be increased (see (9:04 a.m.-9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [United Services Automobile Association, 9/11/2011; US Air Force, 2/29/2012 pdf file] The plane will take off from the Sarasota airport with Bush on board at 9:54 a.m. (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39]

Entity Tags: National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mark Tillman

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Security is increased around Air Force One, the president’s plane, in response to the second attack on the World Trade Center, and the pilot is informed that the aircraft may be targeted by terrorists while it is on the ground. Air Force One is currently at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport in Florida, where it has been since the previous evening (see September 10, 2001). Only the standard level of security has been provided, with cones marking a security zone around the plane. Will Chandler, the chief of security, has been standing inside these cones and guarding the aircraft. According to Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, prior to the attacks on the WTC, “there was no intel, there was nothing that said we’re about to be attacked.” But Tillman will later recall that after he learns of the second plane crash in New York and realizes it is a deliberate attack, he and the rest of the plane’s crew “start pulling out all the plans that we know we have to execute to keep the president safe and ensure the continuity of government.” [United Services Automobile Association, 9/11/2011; US Air Force, 2/29/2012 pdf file]
Pilot Says Air Force One Is 'Ready to Go' - Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gould, a military aide who is accompanying President Bush on his visit to Florida, calls Tillman and instructs him to get Air Force One and its crew ready to leave immediately (see (9:04 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Santa Barbara News-Press, 9/11/2011] Mark Rosenker, the director of the White House Military Office, and Edward Marinzel, the head of the president’s Secret Service detail, who are with Bush at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, also call Tillman. Tillman will recall that they ask him: “What is our status? If [Bush and his entourage] can come to us within 10 minutes, can we get going?” Tillman replies: “Yes, absolutely. We are ready to go.”
Pilot Told Plane Is a 'Sitting Duck' - Tillman is informed that “about nine planes” have been hijacked and that “one is in the Florida area.” Rosenker tells him: “Assume that [Air Force One is] a target on the ramp in Sarasota. It’s a large 747. [It is] sitting wide open. [A] sitting duck.” Tillman will say that his intention, therefore, is “to move that aircraft. Get it out of the way, and come back and grab the president when he’s ready to go.” He cannot do this, however, because Bush wants to “come rushing back to us and head to Washington, DC.” Secret Service agents with the president instruct Tillman: “We are coming at you as fast as we can come at you. Do not—repeat—do not move.”
People Moved Away from Air Force One - “We started getting reports of unidentified people all around the airport,” Tillman will recall, and there is a “possibility that we were subject to the plan to go ahead and assassinate the president.” The crew of Air Force One has “no idea what was going on” and is receiving “a lot of misinformation” while waiting for the president to arrive at the airport. To increase security, people are pushed away from Air Force One. This, according to Tillman, is so that “whoever was near that aircraft had a good reason to be there.” [United Services Automobile Association, 9/11/2011; US Air Force, 2/29/2012 pdf file]
Military Presence Increased at Airport - White House communications director Dan Bartlett, who has gone to the Booker Elementary School with Bush, notices the increased security around Air Force One when the president’s motorcade arrives at the Sarasota airport (see 9:43 a.m. September 11, 2001). There is always “an incredible security presence” around the plane, he will comment. But now he sees “the redoubling of that.” There is “more of a military presence at the airport, as opposed to just a security [made up] of local police officers or anything like that.” [White House, 8/12/2002] Bartlett sees “a lot of military uniforms” and notices “the perimeters [around Air Force One] increasing.” Furthermore, he will recall, “[T]he scrutiny for entering the perimeter was much tougher than you could ever imagine.” [White House, 8/12/2002]
Sheriff in Helicopter Watches Over Airport - Meanwhile, a helicopter arrives to keep watch over the airport. Sergeant Kevin Kenney of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office had been scheduled to fly the Sheriff’s Office helicopter to cover Bush’s motorcade as it traveled to the Booker Elementary School this morning, but was unable to do so because of heavy fog. However, after the second attack on the WTC, a member of Bush’s Secret Service detail instructs him to launch the helicopter and get to the Sarasota airport as soon as possible. He arrives there around the time Bush’s motorcade reaches the airport. The Secret Service then instructs Kenney to fly around the airport perimeter and be on the lookout for suspicious vehicles or groups of people. He notices “numerous civilian vehicles… already responding to the vicinity of the airport and gathering along the roadways in the proximity.” He relays information to Bush’s Secret Service detail and local agencies that are dispatching patrol units to the area. Kenney continues his surveillance of the airport for the 10 minutes or so it takes to get Bush and the other passengers onto Air Force One. [Sheriff, 9/2011; Longboat Observer, 9/8/2011] Additionally, reporters and other individuals who are traveling with the president are subjected to a strict security check while they are boarding the plane (see (9:45 a.m.-9:53 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 99]

Entity Tags: Thomas Gould, Mark Rosenker, Edward Marinzel, Kevin Kenney, US Secret Service, Dan Bartlett, Mark Tillman

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Bush boards Air Force One in Sarasota, Florida, waving to people below as if the day were like any other.Bush boards Air Force One in Sarasota, Florida, waving to people below as if the day were like any other. [Source: Agence France-Presse]President Bush’s motorcade arrives at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, racing across the tarmac there and pulling up close to Air Force One. Bush ascends the stairs by the left wing onto the plane. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 98-99; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39] He pauses in the doorway to wave to photographers. The St. Petersburg Times will later note that this raises “further questions about security [on 9/11].” [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] Meanwhile, 13 members of the press, and others such as US Representatives Dan Miller (R-FL) and Adam Putnam (R-FL), hurry onto the plane through its rear entrance. [Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/2001; BBC, 9/1/2002] Secret Service agents with dogs hurriedly check people’s luggage. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/2002] Even White House employees who are wearing special lapel pins identifying themselves as such have their belongings checked by the bomb-sniffing dogs. According to journalist and author Bill Sammon, the mood is “extraordinarily tense.” A military aide snaps: “We gotta hurry up and get out of here. Let’s go!” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 99] Secret Service agents are yelling, “Move it, move it, move it!” [BBC, 9/1/2002] But White House chief of staff Andrew Card is reportedly “frustrated because so many guests [have] come on the plane and [are] delaying the takeoff.” [St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/2002] Air Force One will not take off until about 9:56 (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]

Entity Tags: Adam Putnam, Andrew Card, George W. Bush, US Secret Service, Dan Miller

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Secret Service agents inspecting the luggage of members of the media travel pool at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.Secret Service agents inspecting the luggage of members of the media travel pool at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. [Source: Steve Nesius / Associated Press]Secret Service agents subject reporters and other individuals who are traveling with President Bush to a strict security check as they are getting onto Air Force One. Bush’s motorcade has now arrived at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport in Florida, where Air Force One is waiting (see 9:43 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 99; Rochester Review, 9/2004] The plane’s crew members have been told there is a “great potential that we are going to be under attack sitting on the ramp” at the airport, according to Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot. They have also been told there are “unidentified people all around the airport,” and that there is a “possibility that we were subject to the plan to go ahead and assassinate the president” (see (9:04 a.m.-9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [United Services Automobile Association, 9/11/2011] Reporters who are heading for the rear entrance to Air Force One are stopped by Secret Service agents and ordered to drop whatever they are carrying for a security sweep. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 99] One reporter, White House correspondent Richard Keil, will later recall seeing “a dozen additional Secret Service agents” at the airport, “each with bomb-sniffing dogs.” “We usually have our bags inspected only once in the morning, as long as we remain inside the secure ‘bubble’ in which the president travels,” Keil will write. But now, “everyone’s bag had to be re-swept.” [Rochester Review, 9/2004] Even staffers who are wearing special lapel pins showing they are White House employees have their belongings checked by the bomb-sniffing dogs. Meanwhile, a military aide standing at the foot of the rear entrance to the plane snaps: “If you’re not essential, you’re not getting on the airplane! We gotta hurry up and get out of here.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 99] Tillman will recall that Secret Service agents and the plane’s own security staffers are “double, triple-checking the manifest,” and the bomb-sniffing dogs “search everything” that comes onto Air Force One. “We didn’t want to take any chances,” he will comment. [United Services Automobile Association, 9/11/2011; US Air Force, 2/29/2012 pdf file] The mood, according to journalist and author Bill Sammon, is “extraordinarily tense.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 99]

Entity Tags: US Secret Service, Mark Tillman, Richard Keil

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Mark Tillman.Mark Tillman. [Source: US Air Force]Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, is warned about an unidentified man, possibly carrying a gun, who is standing at the end of the runway at the airport in Sarasota, Florida, as he is preparing to take off with President Bush on the plane. [Fox News, 9/6/2011; US Air Force, 2/29/2012 pdf file] Bush arrived at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport after being driven away from the Emma E. Booker Elementary School and is now on Air Force One (see 9:43 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 98-99; St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] While the plane’s crew members were waiting for him to arrive, they were told there was “great potential that we are going to be under attack sitting on the ramp” and they received “reports of unidentified people all around the airport,” according to Tillman (see (9:04 a.m.-9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [United Services Automobile Association, 9/11/2011]
Secret Service Alerts Pilot to Man Carrying a 'Long Gun' - Now, as Air Force One is taxiing out for takeoff, Tillman receives a warning from the Secret Service about an unidentified man who is standing by the fence at the end of the runway and carrying some type of device. The Secret Service “didn’t know what the gentleman had, but he had something in his hand; they thought it might have been a long gun,” Tillman will later recall. [Fox News, 9/6/2011] “It is almost impossible to defend against a long gun if he’s going to shoot me on the ground,” Tillman will note. He is told that “shooters have [the unidentified man] in sight” and “will take him down if he moves.” He is instructed, “[P]lease, do not taxi by him and take off,” even though the direction of the prevailing wind would normally lead to the plane going by the man while taking off. [US Air Force, 2/29/2012 pdf file] Tillman therefore has to launch in the opposite direction, with a tail wind, in order to stay away from the man. [Wichita Eagle, 11/13/2012]
Plane Takes Off 'Like a Rocket' - Air Force One will take off at about 9:54 a.m. (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39] Tillman will climb the plane steeply. This, he will say, is “what we needed to do to make sure that [the man] didn’t have a correct line of sight to fire at the aircraft.” [Peter Schnall, 1/25/2009] “I start hauling down the runway,” he will describe. “Pull back, went up at about 8,000 feet per minute, and just put the plane on its tail, rolled it off towards the Gulf of Mexico, because I didn’t want the shooter to get us.” [US Air Force, 2/29/2012 pdf file] White House communications director Dan Bartlett, who is on Air Force One, will note that the plane takes off “like a rocket.” He will recall that “for a good 10 minutes, the plane was going almost straight up.” [White House, 8/12/2002] White House adviser Karl Rove, who is also on Air Force One, will comment that he has not previously “been in a jet at such a steep incline.” He will also say the Secret Service is “concerned about the possibility of terrorists with shoulder-launched ground-to-air missiles” and it therefore wants the plane “out of range quickly.” [Rove, 2010, pp. 252-253]
Suspicious Man Found to Be Not a Threat - The fear over the unidentified man at the end of the runway will turn out to be unfounded. The man, according to Tillman, is just someone who has come to the airport with his children to see Air Force One leaving Sarasota, and the device he is carrying is just a video camera. [US Air Force, 2/29/2012 pdf file; Wichita Eagle, 11/13/2012]

Entity Tags: Mark Tillman, Karl C. Rove, US Secret Service, Dan Bartlett

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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