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Context of '9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld Is Wanted at Pentagon Teleconference but Cannot Be Reached'

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Victoria Clarke.Victoria Clarke. [Source: US Department of Defense]Just minutes after the second plane hits the World Trade Center, the Executive Support Center (ESC) within the Pentagon goes into operation. The ESC is located next door to the National Military Command Center (NMCC), and comprises several conference rooms that are secure against electronic eavesdropping. The Pentagon’s state-of-the-art communications hub, “Cables,” is establishing secure two-way video links with the White House and other key agencies. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Victoria Clarke arrives at the ESC soon after the second crash, accompanied by Larry Di Rita, who is Donald Rumsfeld’s personal chief of staff. They have just visited Rumsfeld and informed him of the second crash, but he has remained in his office to wait for his daily intelligence briefing (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Also at the ESC at this time is Rumsfeld’s closest aide, Stephen Cambone. According to Clarke, the ESC is “the place where the building’s top leadership goes to coordinate military operations during national emergencies.” Yet supposedly the Secretary of Defense does not join them there until about 10:15 A.M. (see (10:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Clarke, 2006, pp. 218-221; Cockburn, 2007, pp. 5-6]

Entity Tags: Victoria (“Torie”) Clarke, Larry DiRita, Stephen A. Cambone, Executive Support Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Stephen Cambone.Stephen Cambone. [Source: US Department of Defense]Immediately after the Pentagon was hit, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld left his office and headed to the crash scene (see 9:38 a.m. September 11, 2001). For the 20 minutes or so that he is gone, others are desperately trying to contact him. Among those seeking Rumsfeld are Stephen Cambone, his closest aide, who is currently in the Pentagon’s Executive Support Center (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), and also the National Military Command Center (see 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). Officer Aubrey Davis of the Pentagon police, who is accompanying Rumsfeld, is receiving frantic calls over his radio saying, “Where’s the secretary? Where’s the secretary?” Davis is unable to answer these requests. He later recalls, “I kept saying, ‘We’ve got him,’ but the system was overloaded, everyone on the frequency was talking, everything jumbled, so I couldn’t get through and they went on asking.” A senior White House official, who is in its Situation Room trying to coordinate a response to the attacks, will later angrily condemn Rumsfeld for having been out of touch during such a critical period. He says, “What was Rumsfeld doing on 9/11? He deserted his post. He disappeared. The country was under attack. Where was the guy who controls America’s defense? Out of touch! How long does it take for something bad to happen? No one knew what was happening. What if this had been the opening shot of a coordinated attack by a hostile power? Outrageous, to abandon your responsibilities and go off and do what you don’t need to be doing, grandstanding.” [Cockburn, 2007, pp. 2-4; C-SPAN, 2/25/2007]

Entity Tags: Stephen A. Cambone, Donald Rumsfeld, National Military Command Center, Aubrey Davis

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

This picture of Rumsfeld (center), taken from the US Army website, is captioned, “Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld returns to Pentagon inner offices Tuesday morning after surveying the damage from the hijacked plane which crashed into the building moments before.” This contradicts his claim that he was helping victims for nearly an hour after the attack. However, there is video footage of Rumsfeld helping a person on a stretcher and it is not known when this picture is taken exactly.This picture of Rumsfeld (center), taken from the US Army website, is captioned, “Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld returns to Pentagon inner offices Tuesday morning after surveying the damage from the hijacked plane which crashed into the building moments before.” This contradicts his claim that he was helping victims for nearly an hour after the attack. However, there is video footage of Rumsfeld helping a person on a stretcher and it is not known when this picture is taken exactly. [Source: US Army]Captain Charles Leidig, a deputy who is temporarily in charge of the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center (NMCC), is handling the NMCC’s crisis teleconference. He opens the call saying, “An air attack against North America may be in progress.” He mentions reports of a crash into the opposite side of the Pentagon, and requests that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld be added to the conference. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004 pdf file] Rumsfeld has a crucial role to play in coordinating the military response to an attack on the US. According to journalist and author Andrew Cockburn, since the Cold War, “In an age when an enemy attack might allow only a few minutes for detection and reaction, control of American military power became vested in the National Command Authority, which consists of the president and the secretary of defense. Collectively, the NCA is the ultimate source of military orders, uniquely empowered, among other things, to order the use of nuclear weapons. In time of war, therefore, Rumsfeld was effectively the president’s partner, the direct link to the fighting forces, and all orders had to go through him. Such orders were supposed to be transmitted from… the National Military Command Center.” Cockburn adds that the NMCC is “the operational center for any and every crisis, from nuclear war to hijacked airliners.” Yet, rather than join the NMCC conference, Rumsfeld has already gone out of the Pentagon to see the crash site, without telling any of his command staff where he was going, and remains out of contact for some time (see Between 9:38 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). Therefore, a few minutes after Leidig makes his request, Rumsfeld’s office will report back that he is nowhere to be found. Cockburn concludes, “The chain of command was broken.” [Cockburn, 2007, pp. 4-5; Democracy Now!, 3/7/2007] It is unknown whether Rumsfeld has a cell phone or pager on him, and if so, why he cannot be reached.

Entity Tags: Charles Leidig, Donald Rumsfeld, National Military Command Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, missing for at least 30 minutes, finally enters the NMCC, where the military’s response to the 9/11 attacks is being coordinated. [CNN, 9/4/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Rumsfeld later claims that he only started to gain a situational awareness of what was happening after arriving at the NMCC. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Rumsfeld was in his office only 200 feet away from the NMCC until the Pentagon crash at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). His activities during this period are unclear. He went outside to the Flight 77 crash site and then stayed somewhere else in the Pentagon until his arrival at the NMCC. Brigadier General Montague Winfield later says, “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] Winfield himself apparently only shows up at the NMCC around 10:30 a.m. as well.

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, National Military Command Center, Montague Winfield

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld refuses to leave the Pentagon, despite the smoke leaking into the National Military Command Center (NMCC) where he is currently working, the danger of a second attack on the Pentagon, and a White House request to begin implementing Continuity of Government (COG) measures. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 132] After being out of touch with his colleagues at the Pentagon since the time of the attack there (see (9:38 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001), Rumsfeld finally entered the NMCC at around 10:30 a.m. (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 43-44; Cockburn, 2007, pp. 2-6] It is now noticed that smoke is seeping into the center. With people beginning to cough, aides suggest Rumsfeld should leave the building, but he is uninterested in their advice. Even when they warn that the smoke might be toxic, he still ignores them. Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, tells him he should leave the Pentagon. But Rumsfeld instead orders Wolfowitz to leave the NMCC and fly to Site R, the alternate command center outside Washington (see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to journalist and author Steve Vogel, this is “contrary to the established Continuity of Government plan, which called for the secretary of defense to relocate to the alternate command center.… The secretary figured the 45 minutes to an hour it would take to evacuate to Site R would leave him out of touch for too long.” Rumsfeld will later explain: “That’s life. That’s what deputies are for.” [Vogel, 2007, pp. 441]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz leaves the Pentagon and relocates to the alternate military command center outside Washington. Wolfowitz had evacuated from his office to an area in front of the Pentagon after the building was hit, but then went back inside and joined Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others in the National Military Command Center (NMCC). [Vanity Fair, 5/9/2003] With smoke seeping into the center, Wolfowitz advises Rumsfeld to leave the NMCC (see (10:40 a.m.-11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). But instead Rumsfeld orders Wolfowitz to leave and fly to Site R, the alternate command center, which is located inside Raven Rock Mountain, about six miles north of Camp David, on the Pennsylvania-Maryland border. [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 11/2001; Vogel, 2007, pp. 441] Wolfowitz will later recall that he “was not happy about” receiving this order. [Vanity Fair, 5/9/2003] Minutes later, a helicopter lands outside the Pentagon, and carries Wolfowitz and several others off to the alternate command center. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 132] Site R was designed as a duplicate of the NMCC, and if the NMCC were ever destroyed in an attack or needs to be evacuated, it would serve as the Pentagon’s primary command center. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 174] It has “more than 700,000 square feet of floor space, sophisticated computer and communications equipment, and room for more than 3,000 people.” [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 11/2001] Others who will relocate to Site R on this day include Army Secretary Thomas White and personnel from the office of the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, though White will return to the Pentagon later on. [Washington Post, 1/9/2002; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 135] According to journalist and author James Mann, Rumsfeld’s decision to order Wolfowitz to leave Washington has its roots in a top secret program Rumsfeld was involved in during the 1980s, which serves to ensure the “Continuity of Government” (COG) in the event of an attack on the US (see 1981-1992). [Mann, 2004, pp. 138-139] Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke activated the COG plan shortly before 10:00 a.m. this morning (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Clarke, 2004, pp. 8]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, Site R, Paul Wolfowitz

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline, Civil Liberties

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