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Context of '1998-2001: Secret Service Simulates Planes Crashing into the White House'

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Paul Nenninger.Paul Nenninger. [Source: KRCU]The US Secret Service runs training exercises that involve computer simulations of planes crashing into the White House, in order to test security there. [Nenninger, 2005, pp. 175]
Plane Crash Scenarios Test White House Security - Secret Service agent Paul Nenninger has, since 1997, been assigned to the Secret Service’s James J. Rowley Training Center in Beltsville, Maryland, where he serves as program manager in charge of the Security and Incident Modeling Lab (SIMLAB). [Nenninger, 2005, pp. 299] In a 2005 book, he will write that from 1998 up until the time of the 9/11 attacks, the Rowley Training Center is “crashing planes into the White House… on a simulation program provided by the military.” This is done “to test the security responses of the various agencies that interact to provide security and support to the White House.” [Nenninger, 2005, pp. 175] The plane crash scenarios are perhaps inspired by an incident in 1994, when a suicidal pilot crashed a Cessna into the White House grounds (see September 11, 1994). Time magazine reported at the time that “security officials have long feared in private [that] the White House is vulnerable to sneak attack from the air.” [Time, 9/26/1994; New York Times, 10/3/2001]
Exercises Held Based on 'Terrorist Attacks on the White House' - Nenninger will not state whether the simulated plane crashes are imagined to be part of a terrorist attack. However, he will comment that simulations “allow you to practice scenarios that can be attempted by a terrorist or other deranged individual.” [Nenninger, 2005, pp. 177-178] And in May 2001, Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill testifies that the Secret Service “holds interagency tabletop exercises in preparation for terrorist attacks on the White House.” However, it is unclear if he is referring to the same exercises as those described by Nenninger. [US Department of the Treasury, 5/8/2001]
Secret Service Uses Advanced Analytical Software - For the simulations, the Secret Service has what Nenninger will describe as “a very good piece of analytical software” called the Joint Conflict and Tactical Simulation (JCATS). This program was developed by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California. It was released by LLNL in 1998 and distributed to the Secret Service by the Joint Warfighting Center at Fort Monroe, Virginia. [Science and Technology Review, 9/2000; Nenninger, 2005, pp. 176] JCATS can handle things like “alarms” and “FAA radar” in the simulations, according to Nenninger. The computer simulations are particularly popular with the Secret Service’s special operations units, which request “more and more time in SIMLAB.” [Nenninger, 2005, pp. 184-185]
Colleague Says 'You Know All about That' in Response to Attack on WTC - On the morning of September 11, 2001, Nenninger is at the Secret Service headquarters in Washington, DC, for a board meeting. When he and the others there for the meeting learn that a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center, another Secret Service agent in the room points at Nenninger and, referring to the computer simulations he has been involved with, comments, “You know all about that.” [Nenninger, 2005, pp. 175]

Entity Tags: US Secret Service, Paul O’Neill, Paul L. Nenninger

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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

A meeting is held in the office of Carl Truscott, the Secret Service special agent in charge of the presidential protective division (PPD), during which Truscott and three other senior Secret Service agents discuss security enhancements at the White House. Truscott, who is responsible for the overall security of the White House, will later say that he contacted the three other agents after watching “the CNN broadcast of the aircraft crashing into the World Trade Center,” and asked them to come to his office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House (see (After 8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The names of these agents are unstated, but they are a deputy special agent in charge of the PPD, an assistant to the special agent in charge of the PPD, and an assistant division chief of the Secret Service’s technical security division. Their meeting begins at “approximately 9:18 a.m.,” according to Truscott. [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001]
Agents Discuss Measures to Increase Security - Truscott and the other agents briefly discuss the Secret Service assets that have so far been deployed in response to the crisis. [United States Secret Service, 9/12/2001] Issues that are addressed during the meeting, according to Truscott, include placing counter-sniper support on the White House; placing counter-surveillance units near the White House; opening the Emergency Operations Center; increasing the number of emergency response teams; increasing technical security division support; providing counter-assault team support to First Lady Laura Bush’s Secret Service detail at the US Capitol building; providing protection for National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice; and alerting the Army Corps of Engineers structural collapse team.
Agent Learns of Aircraft Approaching Washington - While the meeting is taking place, Truscott receives a call from Danny Spriggs, an agent at the Secret Service’s headquarters in Washington, DC, informing him that a suspicious aircraft is flying toward the capital (see (Shortly After 9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). And while he is on the phone with Spriggs, Truscott receives a call from a “White House security representative.” During that call, Truscott instructs the security representative to evacuate the White House. [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001] (The White House will begin evacuating at around 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 2001 pdf file; CNN, 9/12/2001] )
Agent Suggests Going to White House Bunker - At some point, Truscott suggests that those at the meeting go to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), a bunker below the White House. Truscott will subsequently head to the PEOC. Apparently at least one other person at the meeting—the assistant division chief of the technical security division—will head there with him. [United States Secret Service, 9/12/2001] On his way to the PEOC, Truscott will meet Rice in the White House Situation Room and accompany her down to the PEOC (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001] Presumably as a result of the meeting in Truscott’s office, the Secret Service will implement “a number of security enhancements around the White House complex,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report (see (After 9:18 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 35-36]

Entity Tags: US Secret Service, Carlton Danny Spriggs, Carl Truscott

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

L. Paul Bremer.L. Paul Bremer. [Source: Public domain]The White House announces its intention to appoint L. Paul Bremer III as special envoy and civil administrator for Iraq. Bremer, described by media reports as an expert on terrorism, is a former managing director of Kissinger Associates (1989 to 2000). [Newsweek, 4/30/2003; Washington Post, 5/2/2003]

Entity Tags: L. Paul Bremer

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation


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