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(Between 9:16 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Washington-Area Conference Call Convened by CIA, but Is of Little Benefit

Norman Seip.Norman Seip. [Source: US Air Force]A National Operations and Intelligence Watch Officer Network (NOIWON) conference call is established to allow government agencies in the Washington, DC, area to quickly share information regarding the ongoing events, but the call reportedly contributes little of value to the emergency response to the terrorist attacks. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 4/29/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/13/2004; Government Executive, 6/1/2009] The NOIWON call is convened by the CIA sometime between 9:16 a.m. and 9:25 a.m., according to FAA chronologies. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file] According to an officer at the Pentagon, the White House Situation Room is taking the lead at the time he answers the NOIWON call. [9/11 Commission, 5/5/2004]
FAA Participates in Call - At the FAA headquarters in Washington, the NOIWON call is answered by Bart Merkley, one of two officers on duty in the ACI Watch—a small, 24-hour intelligence facility located on the building’s third floor. [9/11 Commission, 7/13/2004] Merkley stays on the call for its entire duration. He passes onto it information he has learned from the Tactical Net—a teleconference established by the operations center at FAA headquarters at 8:50 a.m. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004]
NMCC Participates in Call - At the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon, the initial call on the NOIWON line is answered by Commander Pat Gardner, the assistant deputy director for operations. [9/11 Commission, 5/5/2004] Subsequently, Brigadier General Norman Seip will take over the line and remain on it for most of the day. According to a 9/11 Commission memorandum, this is because the “White House Situation Room insisted on having a flag officer on an open line” with it. [9/11 Commission, 7/21/2003 pdf file]
NOIWON Call of Little Use - The NOIWON call apparently contributes little of value to the emergency response to the terrorist attacks. Darrel Smith, who is working alongside Merkley in the ACI Watch at FAA headquarters, will tell the 9/11 Commission that he “does not remember any useful or significant information coming as a result of the NOIWON call.” [9/11 Commission, 7/13/2004] Captain Charles Leidig, the acting deputy director for operations in the NMCC throughout the attacks, will tell the Commission that he “recalled no situational awareness that came from the NOIWON call.” [9/11 Commission, 4/29/2004 pdf file] Gardner will say he “doesn’t remember specifically what was discussed” on the call. [9/11 Commission, 5/5/2004] FAA records will state, “It is believed that the [Department of Defense] received information” concerning the attacks over the NOIWON call, but the FAA “holds no records of that communication.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001]
Call Delays Establishing of NMCC's Conference - Furthermore, the NOIWON call delays the Pentagon’s response to the attacks. The NMCC’s usual first action in response to a crisis is to establish a “significant event conference” in order to gather and disseminate information from government agencies, and discuss what actions should be taken. However, the NOIWON call reportedly intervenes with the preparations for such a conference call. According to a 9/11 Commission memorandum, “The NMCC abandoned its attempt to convene a [significant event conference] so its watch officers could participate in the NOIWON conference.” [9/11 Commission, 7/21/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] The significant event conference will therefore only commence at 9:29 a.m. (see 9:29 a.m.-9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 37]
No Recording of Call - The NOIWON is described as “a dedicated secure telephone system with a conferencing capability for the rapid exchange and sharing of high interest and time-sensitive information between Washington-area operations centers.” [Government Executive, 6/1/2009] During breaking crises it is used by the major national security watch centers around Washington, including the NMCC and the National Military Joint Intelligence Center at the Pentagon, the State Department Operations Center, the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, the CIA’s operations center, the NSA’s operations center, and the White House Situation Room. [Radi, 3/1997 pdf file] The 9/11 Commission will later request a transcript of the NOIWON call conducted on this day, but despite “multiple searches,” no recording of it will be found. [9/11 Commission, 8/22/2003; Stephen A. Cambone, 10/14/2003; 9/11 Commission, 4/16/2004]

Entity Tags: Darrel Smith, Bart Merkley, Charles Leidig, White House, Central Intelligence Agency, National Operations and Intelligence Watch Officer Network, Federal Aviation Administration, Patrick Gardner, National Military Command Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline


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