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Context of '(9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001: White House Evacuated after Secret Service Learns of Plane en Route to Washington'

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It is reported that the US Secret Service is using an “air surveillance system” called Tigerwall. This serves to “ensure enhanced physical security at a high-value asset location by providing early warning of airborne threats.” Tigerwall “provides the Secret Service with a geographic display of aircraft activity and provides security personnel long-range camera systems to classify and identify aircraft. Sensor data from several sources are fused to provide a unified sensor display.” [US Department of Defense, 2000; US Department of the Navy, 9/2000, pp. 28 pdf file] Among its responsibilities, the Secret Service protects America’s highest elected officials, including the president and vice president, and also provides security for the White House complex. [US Congress, 5/1/2003] Its largest field office with over 200 employees is in New York, in Building 7 of the World Trade Center. [Tech TV, 7/23/2002] Whether the Secret Service, in New York or Washington, will make use of Tigerwall on 9/11 is unknown. Furthermore, in New York the Secret Service has a Stinger missile secretly stored in the WTC, to be used to protect the president if the city were attacked when he visited. Presumably it keeps this is in Building 7, where its field office is. [Weiss, 2003, pp. 379] As well as Tigerwall, the Secret Service appears to have other air surveillance capabilities. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will describe that on 9/11, the Secret Service had “a system that allowed them to see what FAA’s radar was seeing.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 7] Barbara Riggs, a future deputy director of the Secret Service who is in its Washington, DC headquarters on 9/11, will describe the Secret Service “monitoring radar” during the attacks. [PCCW Newsletter, 3/2006; Star-Gazette (Elmira), 6/5/2006] Furthermore, since 1974 the Secret Service operations center has possessed a special communications line from the control tower of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. This hotline allows air traffic controllers monitoring local radar to inform agents at the White House of any planes that are off course or appear to be on a “threatening vector.” [Time, 9/26/1994]

Entity Tags: US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Members of the Secret Service’s uniformed division.Members of the Secret Service’s uniformed division. [Source: Joe Marquette / Associated Press]The Secret Service begins implementing a number of security enhancements around the White House complex. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 35-36] The measures are apparently being implemented on the orders of a number of senior Secret Service agents who have been meeting in the office of Carl Truscott, the special agent in charge of the presidential protective division, who is responsible for the overall security of the White House (see (9:18 a.m.) September 11, 2001). During that meeting, according to Truscott, the agents have discussed “security enhancements at the White House,” such as “placing counter-sniper support on the White House” and “placing counter-surveillance units near the White House.” [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001] The officials who ordered the security enhancements “did not know that there were additional hijacked aircraft or that one such aircraft was en route to Washington,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report. The measures are simply “precautionary steps taken because of the strikes in New York.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 36] However, once the Secret Service has established a perimeter around the White House, its uniformed division officers are ordered “to stow their submachine guns out of sight,” according to US News and World Report, because officials fear that they look too “militaristic.” The uniformed division officers are furious about this. “All we were left with were our pistols,” one of them will later complain. [US News and World Report, 12/1/2002] The security enhancements are initiated after 9:03 a.m., when the second plane hit the World Trade Center, according to the 9/11 Commission Report (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 35-36] However, the meeting of senior Secret Service agents during which the measures were discussed began at around 9:18 a.m., according to Truscott, which would indicate that the measures are initiated some time after 9:18 a.m. [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001] Furthermore, the Secret Service will only order that the White House be evacuated at around 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 2001 pdf file; CNN, 9/12/2001]

Entity Tags: US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Nantucket Hair Salon.The Nantucket Hair Salon. [Source: Nantucket Hair Salon]Lynne Cheney, the wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, is evacuated from a hair salon in Washington, DC, by her Secret Service agents, but, after initially heading toward the vice president’s residence, her car changes direction and heads to the White House after the Pentagon is hit. [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001; White House, 11/9/2001] Cheney was at the Nantucket Hair Salon, near the White House, at the time of the plane crashes at the World Trade Center, but the Secret Service agents accompanying her did not evacuate her in response to those attacks (see (8:48 a.m.-9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001] At around 9:33 a.m., however, air traffic controllers informed the Secret Service that an unidentified aircraft was heading toward the White House (see (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39]
Cheney Driven at 'High Speed' Away from Hair Salon - Presumably just a short time later, the Secret Service Joint Operations Center alerts the agents accompanying Cheney to the suspicious aircraft. One of the agents therefore decides to evacuate Cheney to the vice president’s residence, which is on the grounds of the US Naval Observatory in northwest Washington. [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001; CNN, 10/26/2001; Washington Post, 11/27/2008] Cheney will later recall that her agents move her “rather briskly into a car” and then drive “at rather high speed” toward the vice president’s mansion. [White House, 11/9/2001; Newsweek, 12/30/2001]
Car Makes 'Dramatic U-turn' and Heads to White House - During the journey, one of Cheney’s Secret Service agents phones a colleague who tells them that “the suspect airplane had crashed into the Pentagon,” according to Michael Seremetis, who is one of the agents accompanying Cheney this morning. [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001] (The Pentagon is hit at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 10] ) The colleague says that since Cheney’s motorcade is “on 15th Street and near the White House,” it should change destination and take Cheney to “the White House shelter” where she can join her husband. [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001] Cheney will recall that after her car has been heading toward the vice president’s residence for about five minutes, “we made a rather dramatic U-turn in the middle of the street and headed toward the White House.” [White House, 11/9/2001] She will comment that after the Pentagon has been hit, the Secret Service “decided that maybe it would be safer for me to be underneath the White House. The immediate threat was gone, so they took me there.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 7/2/2002; NPR, 7/2/2002] Cheney will arrive at the White House as it is being evacuated (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Newsweek, 12/30/2001]

Entity Tags: US Secret Service, Michael Seremetis, Lynne Cheney

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Secret Service with automatic weapons directing people away from the White House.Secret Service with automatic weapons directing people away from the White House. [Source: Associated Press]The White House is evacuated after the Secret Service receives what the Associated Press describes as a credible threat of a terrorist attack against it. [Associated Press, 2001 pdf file; CNN, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001] Minutes earlier, in the White House Situation Room, Secret Service Director Brian Stafford informed counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke that an aircraft was heading in their direction, and said he was going to order the evacuation of the White House (see (9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Clarke, 2004, pp. 7] The Secret Service learned of this aircraft by monitoring radar and over an open line with the FAA (the “hijack net”), which enable them to receive real time information about the hijacked aircraft. The Secret Service, which has been using an air surveillance system called Tigerwall for some time (see (September 2000 and after)), tracks both American 77 and United 93 as they approach Washington and assumes the White House is a target. Secret Service agent Barbara Riggs will later say, “The Secret Service prepared to defend the facility,” although the precise nature of the preparations is unclear. [New York Times, 9/12/2001; MSNBC, 9/22/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Washington Post, 1/27/2002; Associated Press, 8/21/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; PCCW Newsletter, 3/2006] A slow and orderly evacuation of the White House had in fact begun earlier on (see (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). But now the Secret Service orders people to run so as to evacuate faster. [CNN, 9/11/2001; ABC News, 9/11/2002]

Entity Tags: Barbara Riggs, US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline


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