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Context of '9:38 a.m. September 11, 2001: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld Dashes toward Crash Site Seconds after Pentagon Is Hit'

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According to most accounts, at the time the Pentagon is hit, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is in his office on the third floor of the Pentagon’s outer E Ring, receiving his daily intelligence briefing. [New York Times, 9/12/2001; Woodward, 2002, pp. 24; 9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004 pdf file; Clarke, 2006, pp. 221; Cockburn, 2007, pp. 1; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 130; Vogel, 2007, pp. 438-439] As he later recalls, “the building shook and the tables jumped.” [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 130] Although he has been informed of the two aircraft hitting the World Trade Center (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he supposedly does not initially suspect a plane has hit the Pentagon, thinking instead that a bomb has gone off. [ABC News, 9/16/2001; MSNBC, 9/30/2001; Washington Post, 1/9/2002] In his nearby office, Rumsfeld’s senior military assistant Vice Admiral Edmund Giambastiani Jr. also hears the explosion, and walks through his doorway toward Rumsfeld’s office. As the two meet, Rumsfeld asks Giambastiani, “What the hell’s happening?” [American Forces Press Service, 9/8/2006; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 130] Rumsfeld then looks out his window but, he later recalls, sees “nothing here.” [Parade Magazine, 10/12/2001; Washington Post, 1/9/2002] He goes into the hallway and, accompanied by his security guards, hurries toward the crash site (see 9:38 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 130] However, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will later contradict these accounts. Clarke indicates that Rumsfeld has been participating in the video teleconference conducted from the White House Situation Room since shortly after the second WTC crash (see (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He claims that Rumsfeld is still involved in this conference at the time the Pentagon is hit, and he tells his deputy, “I can still see Rumsfeld on the screen, so the whole building didn’t get hit.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 2-3 and 7-8] If Clarke’s account were correct, this would presumably mean Rumsfeld is in the Pentagon’s Executive Support Center (ESC), which has secure video facilities, rather than in his office. [Washington Times, 2/23/2004] But according to other accounts, Rumsfeld does not go to the ESC until around 10:15 a.m., after he returns from the crash site (see (10:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Clarke, 2006, pp. 221; Cockburn, 2007, pp. 1-5]

Entity Tags: Richard A. Clarke, Donald Rumsfeld, Edmund Giambastiani

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld heads for the crash site immediately after the Pentagon is hit. At the time of the attack, Rumsfeld is in his office proceeding with his regularly scheduled CIA briefing, despite being aware of the two attacks on the World Trade Center earlier on. Waiting outside his door is Officer Aubrey Davis of the Pentagon police, who is assigned to the defense secretary’s personal bodyguard and has come of his own initiative to move Rumsfeld to a better-protected location. According to Davis, there is “an incredibly loud ‘boom,’” as the Pentagon is struck. Just 15 or 20 seconds later, Rumsfeld walks out of his door looking composed, having already put on the jacket he normally discards when in his office. Davis informs him there is a report of an airplane hitting a section of the Pentagon known as the Mall. Rumsfeld sets off without saying anything or informing any of his command staff where he is going, and heads swiftly toward the Mall. Davis accompanies him, as does Rumsfeld’s other security guard Gilbert Oldach, his communications officer, and the deputy director of security for the secretary’s office. Finding no sign of damage at the Mall, Davis tells Rumsfeld, “[N]ow we’re hearing it’s by the heliport,” which is along the next side of the building. Despite Davis’s protests that he should head back, Rumsfeld continues onward, and they go outside near where the crash occurred. [Cockburn, 2007, pp. 1-2; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 130; Democracy Now!, 3/7/2007] The Pentagon was hit on the opposite site of the huge building to Rumsfeld’s office. [Reuters, 9/11/2001] Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Victoria Clarke will say that Rumsfeld is “one of the first people” to arrive at the crash scene. [KYW Radio 1060 (Philadelphia), 9/15/2001] He spends a brief time there (see Between 9:38 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. September 11, 2001), before returning to the building by about 10:00 a.m., according to his own account (see (10:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004 pdf file] Rumsfeld will later justify his actions following the attack, saying, “I was going, which seemed to me perfectly logically, towards the scene of the accident to see what could be done and what had happened.” [US Department of Defense, 8/12/2002] As journalist Andrew Cockburn will point out, though, “[T]he country was under attack and yet the secretary of defense disappears for 20 minutes.” [C-SPAN, 2/25/2007] John Jester, the chief of the Defense Protective Service, which guards the Pentagon, will criticize Rumsfeld for heading to the crash scene at this time. He will say: “One of my officers tried to stop him and he just brushed him off. I told [Rumsfeld’s] staff that he should not have done that. He is in the national command authority; he should not have gone to the scene.” [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 10/19/2001 pdf file] The numerous reports of Rumsfeld going outside to the crash scene are apparently contradicted by counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke. In his 2004 book Against All Enemies, Clarke will give the impression that Rumsfeld never leaves a video conference for very long after the Pentagon is hit, except to move from one secure teleconferencing studio to another elsewhere in the Pentagon. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 7-9] However, video footage confirms that Rumsfeld does indeed go to the crash site. [CNN, 8/17/2002]

Entity Tags: Gilbert Oldach, Donald Rumsfeld, Victoria (“Torie”) Clarke, Aubrey Davis, John Jester

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Rumsfeld show on a video broadcast on CNN helping carry a stretcher shortly after the Pentagon attack. He is in the center of the picture, wearing a dark jacket.Rumsfeld show on a video broadcast on CNN helping carry a stretcher shortly after the Pentagon attack. He is in the center of the picture, wearing a dark jacket. [Source: CNN]Within seconds of the Pentagon being hit, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld rushed out of his office and headed toward the crash scene (see 9:38 a.m. September 11, 2001). According to Officer Aubrey Davis, who is currently accompanying Rumsfeld as his bodyguard, when they reach the site, “There were the flames, and bits of metal all around. The secretary picked up one of the pieces of metal. I was telling him he shouldn’t be interfering with a crime scene when he looked at some inscription on it and said, ‘American Airlines.’” According to Rumsfeld, a person who’d seen the attack on the Pentagon informs him a plane had flown into it. Rumsfeld later recalls: “I saw people on the grass, and we just, we tried to put them in stretchers and then move them out across the grass towards the road and lifted them over a jersey wall so the people on that side could stick them into the ambulances. I was out there for a while, and then people started gathering, and we were able to get other people to do that, to hold IVs for people. There were people lying on the grass with clothes blown off and burns all over them.” [Parade, 10/12/2001; Cockburn, 2007, pp. 1-2] Versions of this story will appear elsewhere. [Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 9/12/2001; US Department of Defense, 12/5/2001; ABC News, 9/11/2002; Vanity Fair, 5/9/2003] Video footage confirms that Rumsfeld helps carry a stretcher at the crash scene. [CNN, 8/17/2002] One report will even describe him pulling budget analyst Paul Gonzales to safety from the burning wreckage. [Daily Telegraph, 9/16/2001] However, Gonzales later offers his own detailed recollections of pulling other people to safety, which fail to involve Rumsfeld in any way. [Washington Post, 3/11/2002] Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Victoria Clarke will say Rumsfeld is gone from the building for “about half an hour.” [WBZ Radio 1030 (Boston), 9/15/2001] A Pentagon spokesperson has Rumsfeld helping at the crash site for “15 minutes or so.” [Reuters, 9/11/2001] Another account will claim he loads the wounded onto stretchers for 15 minutes. [Scripps Howard News Service, 9/11/2001] However, considering the time it would have taken to walk to the crash site—each side of the enormous Pentagon is the length of three football fields—journalist Andrew Cockburn later concludes that Rumsfeld could only have been at the crash scene for a brief period. [Cockburn, 2007, pp. 3] Rumsfeld reportedly heads back into the Pentagon at the urging of a security agent, though in an interview soon after 9/11 he will claim the decision to go back inside was his own, saying, “I decided I should be in [the building] figuring out what to do, because your brain begins to connect things, and there were enough people there to worry about that.” [Parade, 10/12/2001; Washington Post, 1/27/2002] He tells the 9/11 Commission, “I was back in the Pentagon with a crisis action team shortly before or after 10:00 a.m.” (see (10:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004] While Rumsfeld is at the crash scene, others are frantically trying to get in touch with him but are unable to do so (see (9:38 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Pentagon, Victoria (“Torie”) Clarke, Aubrey Davis, Paul Gonzales, Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

General Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, leaves the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon shortly after arriving there to look for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, but is unable to find him. [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 151-152] Myers recently arrived at the Pentagon following a meeting on Capitol Hill (see (Shortly Before 9:58 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; American Forces Press Service, 9/8/2006] Once there, he headed to the NMCC and reached it at around 9:58 a.m. (see (9:58 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 38; George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012]
Myers Leaves the Command Center - A conference call is being conducted from the NMCC linking the command center to NORAD and the White House, among others (see 9:29 a.m.-9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:37 a.m.-9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). Myers is content that Captain Charles Leidig, the acting deputy director for operations in the NMCC, who convened the conference call, is “doing a good job of managing the information flow and keeping the chain of command plugged in,” he will later recall. He therefore decides to leave the command center to look for Rumsfeld. He will recall seeing the collapse of the South Tower of the World Trade Center on television as he is heading out. This means he leaves the NMCC at around 9:59 a.m., when the collapse occurs (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001)—possibly as little as a minute after he arrived there.
Myers Learns that Rumsfeld Is Outside - Myers heads toward Rumsfeld’s office, on the third floor of the E Ring—the outer ring of the Pentagon. He finds thickening smoke in the E Ring corridor and conditions almost as bad in Rumsfeld’s office suite. He talks to one of Rumsfeld’s aides who tells him the secretary of defense is outside, helping the wounded. [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 152] Although Rumsfeld was in his office earlier on, he headed outside immediately after the Pentagon was attacked (see 9:38 a.m. September 11, 2001) and went to the crash site, where he helped carry an injured victim on a stretcher (see Between 9:38 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 37; Cockburn, 2007, pp. 1-2; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 130] Since the secretary of defense is not around, Myers leaves word that he is returning to the NMCC and then makes his way back to the command center. [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 152-153]
Myers Will Rejoin the Conference Call - The length of time he spends away from the NMCC is unclear. However, he will be back there by 10:17 a.m. At that time, Leidig will state over the conference call that the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff “would like to know who’s controlling the aircraft over Washington, DC.” [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file; US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file] Rumsfeld will arrive at the NMCC and start participating in the conference call at around 10:30 a.m. (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/4/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 38; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 131] After then, he and the vice chairman “stayed joined the rest of the day together,” Myers will recall. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]

Entity Tags: Richard B. Myers, Donald Rumsfeld, Charles Leidig

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld returns from the Pentagon crash site “by shortly before or after 10:00 a.m.” Then he has “one or more calls in my office, one of which was with the president,” according to his testimony before the 9/11 Commission. [9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004 pdf file] The commission later concludes that Rumsfeld’s call with President Bush has little impact: “No one can recall any content beyond a general request to alert forces.” The possibility of shooting down hijacked planes is not mentioned. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004 pdf file] Rumsfeld then goes to the Executive Support Center (ESC) located near his office, arriving there at around 10:15 a.m. In the ESC already are Stephen Cambone, Rumsfeld’s closest aide, Larry Di Rita, Rumsfeld’s personal chief of staff, and Victoria Clarke, the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. Rumsfeld had instructed Di Rita and Clarke to go to the ESC and wait for him there when they’d come to his office soon after the second WTC tower was hit at 9:03 A.M. (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Presently, Rumsfeld gives them their first confirmation that a plane hit the Pentagon, saying, “I’m quite sure it was a plane and I’m pretty sure it’s a large plane.” According to Clarke, he pulls out a yellow legal pad and writes down three categories, “by which his thinking would be organized the rest of the day: what we needed to do immediately, what would have to be underway quickly, and what the military response would be.” [Clarke, 2006, pp. 221-222; Cockburn, 2007, pp. 5-6] The Executive Support Center has secure video facilities, and while there, Rumsfeld participates in the White House video teleconference. This is the video conference that counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke claims Rumsfeld is a part of much of the morning (see (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Then at around 10:30 a.m., he moves on to the National Military Command Center NMCC, located next door to the ESC (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Times, 2/23/2004; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 43-44] Those in the NMCC are apparently unaware of Rumsfeld’s whereabouts during the half-hour from 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.: Brigadier General Montague Winfield later recalls, “For 30 minutes we couldn’t find him. And just as we began to worry, he walked into the door of the [NMCC].” [ABC News, 9/11/2002]

Entity Tags: National Military Command Center, Stephen A. Cambone, Victoria (“Torie”) Clarke, Richard A. Clarke, George W. Bush, Larry Di Rita, Donald Rumsfeld, Executive Support Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Steven Bucci.Steven Bucci. [Source: Zeno Gamble / US Department of Defense]Army Captain Lincoln Leibner, who witnessed the attack on the Pentagon, speaks to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his entourage, and is the first person to confirm to them that the building was hit by an American Airlines plane. [Marble and Milhiser, 9/2004, pp. 5; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 61-62; Lofgren, 2011, pp. 62] Leibner works in the Executive Support Center (ESC)—a secure communications hub on the third floor of the Pentagon. He was scheduled to come into work at 10:00 p.m. this evening for a night shift and was therefore at home when the crashes at the World Trade Center took place. But after seeing the second crash live on television, at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), he called the ESC and said he was going to come in right away to help out, since “any crisis or any development requiring the attention of the secretary [of defense] causes our activity to go up most dramatically,” he will later comment. When he got to the Pentagon, he found his usual parking space was taken and so he had to park in lane one of the south parking lot, which is the lane furthest from the building. After leaving his car, he started jogging toward the building.
Witness Saw 'the Entire Terminal Descent' of Flight 77 - While he was approaching one of the entrances, he witnessed Flight 77 crashing into the building, at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). He initially heard the very loud sound of jet engines. He turned his head toward where the noise was coming from, expecting to see a fighter jet there, but instead saw a passenger aircraft descending toward the Pentagon. [Boston Globe, 9/8/2002; Marble and Milhiser, 9/2004, pp. 3] “I saw the jetliner clear the ridge right by the Navy Annex, coming down Columbia Pike,” he will describe. [Lofgren, 2011, pp. 56] “I watched the entire terminal descent,” he will recall. [Marble and Milhiser, 9/2004, pp. 3] The plane was so close to him that he noticed the American Airlines markings on it. “I could see actually through the windows of the airplane as it came past; it was that close,” he will say. [Boston Globe, 9/8/2002; Lofgren, 2011, pp. 57] He saw the last three or four seconds of the plane’s flight and then watched “the entire airplane go into the building.”
Witness Was Probably the First Person to Reach the Crash Site - He was about 100 yards from the point of impact and immediately ran toward the building. [Boston Globe, 9/8/2002; Marble and Milhiser, 9/2004, pp. 3] “I was probably the first person on the scene,” he will comment. [US Medicine, 5/2002] He was able to enter the building through a door that had been blown off its hinges. [Boston Globe, 9/8/2002; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 61] He then went in and out several times, helping rescue people from there. [US Medicine, 5/2002] Firefighters told people to get away from the building just before the wall that was impacted collapsed (see 10:15 a.m. September 11, 2001). Then, even though he had only minor injuries, he was put in an ambulance and taken to the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington. [Boston Globe, 9/8/2002; Marble and Milhiser, 9/2004, pp. 4-5; Lofgren, 2011, pp. 61] He was able to return to the Pentagon early in the afternoon. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 62]
Witness Was Advised to Talk to Rumsfeld - Once there, he went to the ESC, where he told his immediate supervisor what he had experienced. He then talked to Colonel Steven Bucci, military assistant to the secretary of defense, and Bucci recommended that he talk to Rumsfeld. [Marble and Milhiser, 9/2004, pp. 5] Rumsfeld moved to the ESC earlier this afternoon after smoke from the crash site started seeping into the National Military Command Center, where he had been located (see 12:19 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 132; Rumsfeld, 2011, pp. 340-341]
Rumsfeld Seems to Doubt the Witness's Account - Leibner goes into the conference room where Rumsfeld and a few of his colleagues, including General Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are sitting, and describes to them what he saw when the Pentagon was attacked. “I told them the plane came in full throttle, level, flaps up, wheels up; wasn’t crashed into the building, was flown into the building,” he will recall. He says the aircraft he saw was an American Airlines plane. This is “the first personal account” that Rumsfeld has heard of the attack, Leibner will comment. The secretary of defense, however, appears incredulous. “Even at this point, I don’t believe the secretary was confident that, in fact, a civilian airliner had hit the building,” Leibner will say, adding, “I think they still speculated about a bomb, a cruise missile, a small aircraft.” Rumsfeld asks Leibner if he is positive about what hit the Pentagon. “Was I sure? Was I certain?” Leibner will recall being asked. However, “I was close enough to look into the windows of the airplane as it flew past,” he will comment, and so there is “no doubt in my mind what I had seen.” [Marble and Milhiser, 9/2004, pp. 5-6; Lofgren, 2011, pp. 62]
Rumsfeld Earlier Determined that an American Airlines Plane Hit the Pentagon - Although Rumsfeld now appears dubious of Leibner’s account of what hit the Pentagon, he in fact determined himself that the building was likely hit by a large plane after examining the crash site this morning. He immediately headed to the site after the Pentagon was hit (see 9:38 a.m. September 11, 2001) and had seen “[h]undreds of pieces of metal… scattered across the grass in front of the building.” He had picked up what he will describe as “a small, twisted piece of metal from whatever had hit the Pentagon.” [Rumsfeld, 2011, pp. 335-336] He “looked at some inscription on it” and then said aloud, “American Airlines,” according to Officer Aubrey Davis, one of his security guards (see Between 9:38 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 7/20/2006 pdf file; Cockburn, 2007, pp. 2] When he returned to the building and went to the ESC, he told the people there, “I’m quite sure it was a plane and I’m pretty sure it’s a large plane” (see (10:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [WBZ Radio 1030 (Boston), 9/15/2001; Clarke, 2006, pp. 221] After telling Rumsfeld what he witnessed, Leibner is advised to go home, but he decides to stay at the ESC and continues working there for the rest of the day. [Marble and Milhiser, 9/2004, pp. 6; Lofgren, 2011, pp. 62-63]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, Richard B. Myers, Steven Bucci, Lincoln Leibner

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline


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