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9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001: Security Cameras Capture the Attack on the Pentagon

Steve Pennington.Steve Pennington. [Source: Chesapeake and Midlantic Marketing]Two recently installed security cameras outside the Pentagon capture the building being hit, but the images they take will turn out to be of poor quality. [Associated Press, 5/17/2006; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 161] The cameras are located at a checkpoint north of the crash site that visitors to the Pentagon go through and usually focus on the drivers of the vehicles that come in and out. They are reportedly the only security cameras at the Pentagon that capture the building being hit (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001 and Shortly After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [CNN, 5/20/2006; Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 11/9/2006 pdf file; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 161]
Video System Was Switched on Early for Testing - It is fortunate that the cameras film the crash. The Pentagon has an elaborate new, centralized, digital video recording system that was only installed a few weeks ago and is not yet government property. It should not be on now, but workers started running it early to capture data for testing purposes. Steve Pennington, a private consultant responsible for the Pentagon’s security cameras, will later recall that, along with Brian Austin, the maintenance team chief responsible for the cameras, a colleague called Greg Goff, and a couple of other people, he “decided to turn it on a few days before [9/11], not knowing that something was going to occur.” “It was purely happenstance that the system happened to be running [on 9/11], because it wasn’t supposed to be running for another month,” Pennington will comment. However, since the system is only being tested, the cameras are running at a slower rate than they normally would and therefore capture less information. Whereas they usually record at a rate of either 3.75 or 7.5 images per second, they are currently recording just one image per second.
Government Will Initially Withhold the Captured Video - On September 12, the footage of the crash captured by the cameras will be put onto CDs and copies will be provided to the FBI, the secretary of defense’s office, and the Joint Operations Center at Fort Myer (see September 12, 2001). [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 11/9/2006 pdf file] Subsequently, the US government will initially refuse to make public the footage because it is going to be used as evidence in the trial of al-Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. It will finally be released in May 2006 (see May 16, 2006). However, five frames from one of the tapes will be released unofficially in March 2002 (see March 7, 2002). [Washington Post, 5/17/2006; CNN, 5/20/2006] The images of the crash captured by the cameras will turn out to be of poor quality, though. The Associated Press will describe the plane shown hitting the building as “a thin white blur.” [Associated Press, 5/17/2006] John Jester, chief of the Defense Protective Service, will similarly describe it as “just a blur.” “You can see a bit of tail, a plane sliding across the ground, and a huge explosion,” he will say. [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 1/31/2006 pdf file]

Entity Tags: John Jester, Steve Pennington

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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