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Context of '(9:07 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Secret Service Contacts Army ‘Collapse Team’ and Requests Help'

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At Fort Belvoir, an army base 12 miles south of the Pentagon, Lt. Col. Mark R. Lindon is conducting a “garrison control exercise” when the 9/11 attacks begin. The object of this exercise is to “test the security at the base in case of a terrorist attack.” Lindon later says, “I was out checking on the exercise and heard about the World Trade Center on my car radio. As soon as it was established that this was no accident, we went to a complete security mode.” Staff Sgt. Mark Williams of the Military District of Washington Engineer Company at Fort Belvoir also later says: “Ironically, we were conducting classes about rescue techniques when we were told of the planes hitting the World Trade Center.” Williams’ team is one of the first response groups to arrive at the site of the Pentagon crash and one of the first to enter the building following the attack. [Connection Newspapers, 9/5/2002] A previous MASCAL (mass casualty) training exercise was held at Fort Belvoir a little over two months earlier (see June 29, 2001). It was “designed to enhance the first ready response in dealing with the effects of a terrorist incident involving an explosion.” [MDW News Service, 7/5/2001] Located at Fort Belvoir is Davison Army Airfield, from where UH-1 “Huey” and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters fly. Davison’s mission includes maintaining “a readiness posture in support of contingency plans,” and providing “aviation support for the White House, US government officials, Department of Defense, Department of the Army, and other government agencies.” [Pentagram, 5/7/1999; Military District of Washington, 8/2000]

Entity Tags: Mark R. Lindon, World Trade Center, Fort Belvoir, Mark Williams

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The MDW Engineer Company.The MDW Engineer Company. [Source: Tim Hipps / US Army]An agent in the Secret Service’s technical security division (TSD) is instructed to contact the “structural collapse team” at Fort Belvoir—an Army base 12 miles south of Washington, DC—and request its assistance. At 9:07 a.m., according to a Secret Service chronology, the agent is “advised to alert the [Department of Defense] structural collapse team… at Fort Belvoir.” The “alert,” according to the chronology, will “instruct all of the structural collapse personnel associated with the special program that the Secret Service may have a need for their assets, and they should report to their duty station.” [United States Secret Service, 9/12/2001]
Military Unit Specializes in 'Collapsed-Building Rescue' - Although its name is unstated, the “structural collapse team” is presumably the Military District of Washington (MDW) Engineer Company, which is based at Fort Belvoir. The MDW Engineer Company’s mission, according to one of its members, “involves rescue from collapsed structures in the national capital area.” [MDW News Service, 9/23/2001] It is “the only unit in the US Army that specializes in collapsed-building rescue.” [Fort Belvoir News, 4/4/2002] The MDW Engineer Company includes 76 soldiers, and has equipment such as bulldozers, bucket loaders, and dump trucks. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 96] The reason why the Secret Service requests its help is unstated.
Collapse Team Put on 'Alert Status' - At an unspecified time later in the day, the TSD duty desk will receive a call from a supervisor, who says the “structural collapse team” is “on alert status.” The unit is put on “30-minute standby” for the White House. [United States Secret Service, 2001, pp. 10-11] The MDW Engineer Company will also be asked to deploy to the Pentagon in response to the attack there, and its personnel will arrive at the Pentagon between around 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 96] They will be involved in the rescue and recovery operations there for the next 10 days. [Belvoir Eagle, 2/16/2012] The Secret Service’s TSD, which contacts the MDW Engineer Company, has numerous responsibilities that include providing “technical and physical protection for all designated Secret Service protectees by ensuring a safe environment,” and identifying “threats or hazards at any given site” and implementing countermeasures. [United States Secret Service, 2009, pp. 53 pdf file]

Entity Tags: US Secret Service, Military District of Washington Engineer Company

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A meeting is held in the office of Carl Truscott, the Secret Service special agent in charge of the presidential protective division (PPD), during which Truscott and three other senior Secret Service agents discuss security enhancements at the White House. Truscott, who is responsible for the overall security of the White House, will later say that he contacted the three other agents after watching “the CNN broadcast of the aircraft crashing into the World Trade Center,” and asked them to come to his office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House (see (After 8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The names of these agents are unstated, but they are a deputy special agent in charge of the PPD, an assistant to the special agent in charge of the PPD, and an assistant division chief of the Secret Service’s technical security division. Their meeting begins at “approximately 9:18 a.m.,” according to Truscott. [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001]
Agents Discuss Measures to Increase Security - Truscott and the other agents briefly discuss the Secret Service assets that have so far been deployed in response to the crisis. [United States Secret Service, 9/12/2001] Issues that are addressed during the meeting, according to Truscott, include placing counter-sniper support on the White House; placing counter-surveillance units near the White House; opening the Emergency Operations Center; increasing the number of emergency response teams; increasing technical security division support; providing counter-assault team support to First Lady Laura Bush’s Secret Service detail at the US Capitol building; providing protection for National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice; and alerting the Army Corps of Engineers structural collapse team.
Agent Learns of Aircraft Approaching Washington - While the meeting is taking place, Truscott receives a call from Danny Spriggs, an agent at the Secret Service’s headquarters in Washington, DC, informing him that a suspicious aircraft is flying toward the capital (see (Shortly After 9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). And while he is on the phone with Spriggs, Truscott receives a call from a “White House security representative.” During that call, Truscott instructs the security representative to evacuate the White House. [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001] (The White House will begin evacuating at around 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 2001 pdf file; CNN, 9/12/2001] )
Agent Suggests Going to White House Bunker - At some point, Truscott suggests that those at the meeting go to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), a bunker below the White House. Truscott will subsequently head to the PEOC. Apparently at least one other person at the meeting—the assistant division chief of the technical security division—will head there with him. [United States Secret Service, 9/12/2001] On his way to the PEOC, Truscott will meet Rice in the White House Situation Room and accompany her down to the PEOC (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001] Presumably as a result of the meeting in Truscott’s office, the Secret Service will implement “a number of security enhancements around the White House complex,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report (see (After 9:18 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 35-36]

Entity Tags: US Secret Service, Carlton Danny Spriggs, Carl Truscott

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

David Wherley.David Wherley. [Source: US Air Force]Brigadier General David Wherley, the commander of the District of Columbia Air National Guard (DCANG), finally receives specific instructions from the Secret Service for his fighter jets to follow when they launch over Washington, and is told they can use “whatever force is necessary” to prevent another aircraft hitting a building. [9/11 Commission, 8/28/2003; Vogel, 2007, pp. 446; Spencer, 2008, pp. 218]
Instructions Received within 'Half-Hour' of Request - Wherley phoned the Secret Service’s White House Joint Operations Center after arriving at the headquarters of the DCANG’s 121st Fighter Squadron at Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington (see (Shortly After 9:39 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The agent he talked to requested that DCANG fighters be sent up over the capital, but Wherley asked for more specific instructions (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Secret Service agents at the White House have been working hard to get these. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 184-185, 218] According to the Washington Post, “within a half-hour,” Wherley receives “oral instructions from the White House giving the pilots extraordinary discretion to shoot down any threatening aircraft.” [Washington Post, 4/8/2002]
Jets May Use 'Whatever Force Is Necessary' - Wherley had been talking to Secret Service agent Kenneth Beauchamp, but these instructions are given to him by Becky Ediger, the deputy special agent in charge of the Presidential Protective Division, who now comes on the line. Ediger says the instructions have come directly from Vice President Dick Cheney. She tells Wherley: “We want you to intercept and turn away any airplane that attempts to fly within 20 miles of the Washington area. If you are not able to turn them away, use whatever force is necessary to keep them from hitting any buildings downtown.”
Wherley Wants to Talk to Military - Wherley asks if there is anybody in a uniform—i.e. from the military—with Ediger that he could talk to. Ediger alludes to a Navy captain who is busy with other things, but says no one from the military is available. Although the instructions he has been given are not in military terms, Wherley feels they are understandable enough. [Peabody Gazette-Bulletin, 2/12/2003; 9/11 Commission, 8/28/2003; Spencer, 2008, pp. 218] According to the 9/11 Commission, Wherley translates Ediger’s instructions in military terms to flying “weapons free,” meaning “the decision to shoot rests in the cockpit, or in this case in the cockpit of the lead pilot.” He will pass these instructions to the DCANG pilots that take off at 10:42 a.m. and after (see 10:42 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 11:11 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 44]
Instructions Coming from Cheney - Wherley will later say that Ediger is “standing next to the vice president” during their call. [Filson, 2003, pp. 79] However, the 9/11 Commission will apparently state differently, saying a “Secret Service agent” (presumably Ediger) has “a phone in each ear, one connected to Wherley and the other to a fellow agent at the White House, relaying instructions that the White House agent said he was getting from the vice president.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 44]
White House Denies Cheney Involvement - In 2004, Secret Service officials will confirm that its agents’ actions relating to the DCANG on September 11 are ordered by Cheney. The agency will issue a statement, clarifying, “The Secret Service is not authorized to, nor did it, direct the activation or launch of Department of Defense aviation assets.” But two unnamed White House officials that are involved in the emergency response to the attacks will say the Secret Service acts on its own. An official speaking on behalf of Cheney will say he doesn’t know whether the vice president directed Secret Service agents to call the DCANG, and he would not be able to find out. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 pdf file] The 9/11 Commission will state that both Cheney and President Bush “indicated to us they had not been aware that fighters had been scrambled out of Andrews, at the request of the Secret Service and outside the military chain of command.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 44]
Wherley Wants More Information - Wherley still has questions about the rules of engagement for his fighter jets, which will subsequently be answered by a Secret Service agent at the White House, possibly Ediger (see (Between 10:16 a.m. and 10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/28/2003]

Entity Tags: District of Columbia Air National Guard, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Becky Ediger, David Wherley, US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline


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