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Context of '(9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001: FAA Sets Up Ineffectual Hijacking Teleconference'

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Boston flight control begins notifying the chain of command that a suspected hijacking of Flight 11 is in progress. Those notified include the center’s own facility manager, the FAA’s New England Regional Operations Center (ROC) in Burlington, Massachusetts, and the FAA Command Center in Herndon, Virginia (see 8:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 11] According to the 9/11 Commission, this is consistent with FAA protocol: “From interviews of controllers at various FAA centers, we learned that an air traffic controller’s first response to an aircraft incident is to notify a supervisor, who then notifies the traffic management unit and the operations manager in charge. The FAA center next notifies the appropriate regional operations center (ROC), which in turn contacts FAA headquarters.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 458] But according to Ben Sliney, the national operations manager at the FAA’s Command Center, “the protocol was in place that the center that reported the hijacking would notify the military.… I go back to 1964, where I began my air traffic career, and they have always followed the same protocol.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Yet Boston Center supposedly will not contact NORAD about Flight 11 until about 12 minutes later (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Already about ten minutes have passed since controllers first noticed a loss of contact with Flight 11 (see (8:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Boston reportedly also contacts several other air traffic control centers about the suspected hijacking at this time (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

According to a statement by two high-level FAA officials, “Within minutes after the first aircraft hit the World Trade Center, the FAA immediately established several phone bridges [i.e., telephone conference calls] that included FAA field facilities, the FAA command center, FAA headquarters, [Defense Department], the Secret Service, and other government agencies.” The FAA shares “real-time information on the phone bridges about the unfolding events, including information about loss of communication with aircraft, loss of transponder signals, unauthorized changes in course, and other actions being taken by all the flights of interest, including Flight 77. Other parties on the phone bridges in turn shared information about actions they were taken.” The statement says, “The US Air Force liaison to the FAA immediately joined the FAA headquarters phone bridge and established contact with NORAD on a separate line.” [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] Another account says the phone bridges are “quickly established” by the Air Traffic Services Cell (ATSC). This is a small office at the FAA’s Herndon Command Center, which is staffed by three military officers at the time of the attacks (see (Between 9:04 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). It serves as the center’s liaison with the military. According to Aviation Week and Space Technology, the phone bridges link “key players, such as NORAD’s command center, area defense sectors, key FAA personnel, airline operations, and the NMCC.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/10/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] According to an FAA transcript of employee conversations on 9/11, one of the phone bridges, between the FAA Command Center, the operations center at FAA headquarters, and air traffic control centers in Boston and New York, begins before Flight 11 hits the World Trade Center at 8:46 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 10/14/2003, pp. 3-10 pdf file] If these accounts are correct, it means someone at NORAD should learn about Flight 77 when it deviates from its course (see (8:54 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, the 9/11 Commission will later claim that the FAA teleconference is established about 30 minutes later (see (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The Air Force liaison to the FAA will claim she only joins it after the Pentagon is hit (see (Shortly After 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: US Secret Service, Federal Aviation Administration, Air Traffic Services Cell, US Department of Defense

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, learns from an FAA teleconference that there is a second hijacked plane over the US. He has previously called the FAA’s New York Center and was told, “We’re working a hijack,” but mistakenly thought the controller was referring to Flight 11 (see (Between 8:40 a.m. and 8:54 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to author Lynn Spencer, Scoggins now hears on the FAA headquarters’ hijack teleconference of the second hijacked airliner, Flight 175. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 48-49 and 82] Spencer’s account is consistent with a May 2003 statement by the FAA, according to which the FAA established its teleconference “[w]ithin minutes after the first aircraft hit the World Trade Center” (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] But the 9/11 Commission will claim that the FAA headquarters’ hijacking teleconference is only established at “about 9:20” (see (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 36] According to Spencer, Scoggins assumes that NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) is also on the FAA teleconference and is receiving the same information that he is about the second hijacking. However, the “FAA headquarters’ teleconference is between air traffic control facilities, the [FAA] Command Center, the Defense Department, and several other agencies; NORAD is not looped in.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 82] Although the FAA will claim that the “Air Force liaison to the FAA immediately joined the FAA headquarters [teleconference] and established contact with NORAD on a separate line,” the Air Force liaison will subsequently claim she only joins the teleconference after 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon is hit (see (Shortly After 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003; US Department of Transportation, 8/31/2006 pdf file] Even though Scoggins assumes NEADS is already aware of the information, he will subsequently call it with the news of the second hijacking (see (9:02 a.m.-9:07 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 82]

Entity Tags: Colin Scoggins, Federal Aviation Administration, Northeast Air Defense Sector

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Bill Peacock, the FAA director of air traffic services, is currently away from FAA headquarters for a meeting in New Orleans (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). His staff called him earlier to alert him to the possible hijacking of Flight 11. He returned to his hotel room in time to see the second attack live on CNN. He quickly phones FAA headquarters, trying to contact his staff, and has his call added to the teleconference being run from the conference room next to his office. [Freni, 2003, pp. 12 and 22] According to a statement provided by the FAA to the 9/11 Commission in 2003, this teleconference began “[w]ithin minutes” of the first WTC tower being hit (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Yet the 9/11 Commission will later claim that it was not established until “about 9:20” (see (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001), which is about 15 minutes later than Peacock supposedly joined it. [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 36]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, Bill Peacock

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The FAA sets up a hijacking teleconference with several agencies, including the Defense Department. This is almost one hour after the FAA’s Boston flight control began notifying the chain of command (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001) and notified other flight control centers about the first hijacking at 8:25 a.m. (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). According to the Acting FAA Deputy Administrator Monte Belger, this teleconference (called the “hijack net”) is “the fundamental primary source of information between the FAA, [Defense Department], FBI, Secret Service, and… other agencies.” Yet even after the delay in setting it up, FAA and Defense Department participants later claim it plays no role in coordinating the response to the hijackings. The 9/11 Commission says, “The NMCC [National Military Command Center inside the Pentagon] officer who participated told us that the call was monitored only periodically because the information was sporadic, it was of little value, and there were other important tasks. The FAA manager of the teleconference also remembered that the military participated only briefly before the Pentagon was hit.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 36] According to a statement provided by the FAA to the 9/11 Commission in 2003, this teleconference began significantly earlier—“[w]ithin minutes after the first aircraft hit the World Trade Center” (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, Monte Belger, US Department of Defense, 9/11 Commission

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Monte BelgerMonte Belger [Source: FAA]At 9:20 a.m. (or earlier, according to some accounts), the FAA set up a hijacking teleconference with several agencies (see (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). FAA records indicate that the National Military Command Center within the Pentagon was included in the communication network “no later than 9:20 a.m.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004 pdf file] Yet at some point later in the morning, Acting FAA Deputy Administrator Monte Belger becomes aware that the military is not involved in the teleconference in any meaningful way. Presumably referring to tape recordings of the FAA headquarters, 9/11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick will later say to Belger, “We heard some rather colorful language came from your mouth at that point.” The absence of the NMCC from the teleconference is unusual. Belger says, “I’ve lived through dozens of hijackings in my 30-year FAA career… and [the NMCC] were always there. They were always on the net, and were always listening in with everybody else.” He adds, “The most frustrating after-the-fact scenario for me to understand is to explain… the communication link on that morning between the FAA operations center and the NMCC.… I know how it’s supposed to work, but… it’s still a little frustrating for me to understand how it actually did work on that day.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 36]

Entity Tags: Monte Belger, National Military Command Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Pentagon’s National Military Command Center (NMCC) is located on the other side of the building to where it is hit. Therefore, when the attack on the Pentagon occurs, those inside it supposedly do not feel the impact. [CNN, 9/4/2002] According to Newsweek, the NMCC has been called “the primary nerve system” of the Pentagon, from where “commanders can monitor and communicate with American forces around the world.” [Newsweek, 9/28/2001] A military instruction for dealing with hijacked aircraft describes it as “the focal point within Department of Defense for providing assistance” in response to hijackings. [US Department of Defense, 6/1/2001 pdf file] But supposedly NMCC personnel do not initially realize the Pentagon has been attacked. Steve Hahn, an operations officer at the center, later says, “I didn’t know [the Pentagon had been hit] until I heard the news report on television.” [American Forces Press Service, 9/7/2006] Yet an article in the New York Times later claims, “During the hour or so that American Airlines Flight 77 was under the control of hijackers, up to the moment it struck the west side of the Pentagon, military officials in [the NMCC] were urgently talking to law enforcement and air traffic control officials about what to do” (see (Shortly After 8:51 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 9/15/2001] Furthermore, at about 8:50 a.m. according to the FAA, or 9:20 a.m. according to the 9/11 Commission, the FAA had established several phone bridges linking key players, including the NMCC (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001) (see (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The FAA states that it shares “real-time information on the phone bridges,” which includes “actions being taken by all the flights of interest, including Flight 77.” [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 36] Why NMCC personnel do not therefore know immediately that the Pentagon has been hit is unclear. Also around this time, Officer Aubrey Davis of the Pentagon police is outside Donald Rumsfeld’s office. He hears what he later describes as “an incredibly loud ‘boom,’” when the Pentagon is struck (see 9:38 a.m. September 11, 2001). Yet no mention is made of anyone in the NMCC hearing this “boom,” even though the center is located only around 200 feet from where Davis is standing. [WBZ Radio 1030 (Boston), 9/15/2001; Cockburn, 2007, pp. 1] Dan Mangino, an operations officer in the NMCC, went out earlier to withdraw some money from a cash machine (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), and rushes back to the center after the Pentagon is hit. He finds the people in it are very calm. He says, “There was no panic, no raised voices. We train for emergencies all the time, and that training took over.” [American Forces Press Service, 9/7/2006]

Entity Tags: Steve Hahn, National Military Command Center, Dan Mangino

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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