!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News

Context of 'Spring 2001: President Tells White House Staffer to Fix Problem with Phone System, but Staffer Will Not Have Done So by September 11'

This is a scalable context timeline. It contains events related to the event Spring 2001: President Tells White House Staffer to Fix Problem with Phone System, but Staffer Will Not Have Done So by September 11. You can narrow or broaden the context of this timeline by adjusting the zoom level. The lower the scale, the more relevant the items on average will be, while the higher the scale, the less relevant the items, on average, will be.

President Bush, after having trouble making a telephone call, instructs Joseph Hagin, the White House deputy chief of staff for operations, to fix the problem and ensure that he is able to make calls at any time, but the issue will not have resolved by September 11, when Bush experiences significant communication problems. While he is being driven through Washington, DC, in his limousine, Bush tries to make a phone call but is unable to get a signal and hears only static. When he arrives at the White House, he calls Hagin over to discuss the problem. [National Journal, 4/11/2011] Hagin is a little known but influential member of the White House staff who, according to Politico, “manages everything around the president and the presidency except politics and policy.” [Politico, 7/3/2008; Washington Post, 7/4/2008] Bush tells him the president should be able to call anyone at any time. “He essentially said to me, ‘We need to fix this and fix it quickly,’” Hagin will later recall. Bush adds, “What would we do if something really serious happened and this didn’t work?” [National Journal, 4/11/2011] Presumably as part of Hagin’s effort to resolve the problem, in the spring of 2001, the White House commissions the Department of Defense to study a communications upgrade. [ABC News, 12/20/2006] However, Hagin’s task will not have been completed by September 11. On that day, Bush and other senior government officials will experience serious communication problems (see (After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001; (9:04 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001; and (9:34 a.m.-9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [National Journal, 4/11/2011] But the 9/11 attacks, according to the Associated Press, “spurred on the effort to modernize White House communications.” Hagin subsequently “took the White House’s cell phone technology digital, upgraded the systems in the president’s cars, and moved staffers to the BlackBerry wireless communicator, while not freeing them from carrying pagers as well.” [Associated Press, 8/22/2003] According to Thomas Kean, the chairman of the 9/11 Commission, “[T]he fix to the presidential communications was one of the first things that was done after 9/11.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Thomas Kean, Joseph W. Hagin, US Department of Defense, White House

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

CIA Director George Tenet has just learned of the first attack on the WTC while having breakfast with former Senator David Boren (D-OK) at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, DC. He later says, “It was obvious to us both that I had to leave immediately.” Along with Tim Ward, the head of his security detail, he gets into his car and, with lights flashing, hurries back to the CIA headquarters in Langley. Tenet later recalls that in these first minutes after the attack, “All the random dots we had been looking at started to fit into a pattern.… [M]y head was exploding with connections. I immediately thought about the ‘Bojinka’ plot to blow up twelve US airliners over the Pacific and a subsequent plan to fly a small airplane into CIA headquarters, which was broken up in 1994.” During his journey, he calls John Moseman, his chief of staff, and instructs him to assemble the senior CIA staff and key people from the Counterterrorist Center in the conference room next to his office. However, Tenet claims, it is difficult for him to get calls through on the secure phone, meaning he is “Essentially… in a communications blackout between the St. Regis and Langley, the longest twelve minutes of my life.” He only learns that a second plane hit the World Trade Center when he arrives at CIA headquarters. Tenet enters the conference room at around 9:15 a.m. By that time, he says, “I don’t think there was a person in the room who had the least doubt that we were in the middle of a full-scale assault orchestrated by al-Qaeda.” [Tenet, 2007, pp. 161-163]

Entity Tags: George J. Tenet, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

In the Washington, DC, area, members of the public, emergency responders, and government officials experience serious communications problems. Telephone and cell phone services around the capital remain unavailable to members of the public for most of the day. [Verton, 2003, pp. 149]
bullet Particular problems are experienced around the Pentagon. Reportedly, cellular and landline telephone communications there are “virtually unreliable or inaccessible during the first few hours of the response,” after it is hit at 9:37 (see After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C36 pdf file]
Some senior government officials also experience communications difficulties:
bullet CIA Director George Tenet has problems using his secure phone while heading from a Washington hotel back to CIA headquarters, located about eight miles outside Washington (see (8:55 a.m.-9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Independent, 11/6/2002; Tenet, 2007, pp. 161-162]
bullet Secretary of State Colin Powell has to take a seven-hour flight from Peru, to get back to the capital. He later complains that, during this flight, “because of the communications problems that existed during that day, I couldn’t talk to anybody in Washington” (see (12:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 9/11/2002]
bullet Between the time of the second WTC attack and about 9:45 a.m., Vice President Dick Cheney, who is at the White House, has problems reaching Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert at the US Capitol by secure telephone (see (9:04 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Daily Herald (Arlington Heights), 9/11/2002; Hayes, 2007, pp. 336-337]
bullet Even President Bush experiences difficulties communicating with Washington after leaving a school in Florida, and subsequently while flying on Air Force One (see (9:34 a.m.-9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006]
A classified after-action report will later be produced, based on observations from a National Airborne Operations Center plane launched near Washington shortly before the time of the Pentagon attack (see (9:27 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to one government official, the report indicates that the nation was “deaf, dumb, and blind” for much of the day. [Verton, 2003, pp. 150-151] Members of the public in New York City also experience communications problems throughout the day, particularly with cell phones (see (After 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Colin Powell, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Dennis Hastert, George J. Tenet, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Dennis Hastert.Dennis Hastert. [Source: Congressional Pictorial Directory]Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, who is third in line for the presidency, is in his office suite on the second floor of the US Capitol building when he sees the second plane hitting the World Trade Center live on television. [Hastert, 2004, pp. 5] He is told that Vice President Dick Cheney will soon be calling him on the secure telephone in his office. [Daily Herald (Arlington Heights), 9/11/2002] However, Cheney is currently having problems using secure phones, and Hastert is too. Hastert later recalls, “To use the secure phone, you have to push a button and turn a key. On that dreadful day I couldn’t make the thing work. No matter what I did, I couldn’t connect with the vice president. As the minutes passed, my frustrations grew.” [Hastert, 2004, pp. 6; Hayes, 2007, pp. 336] Several attempts to reach the vice president are unsuccessful. Hastert’s later explanation is that “Anyone who has used a secure phone can tell you they do not work very well.” However, numerous other people in the Washington area, including senior government officials, are also experiencing serious communications problems throughout the day (see (After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Around the time the Pentagon is hit, the light on Hastert’s regular phone starts flashing, but instead of being Cheney it is apparently a nuisance caller, who complains, “I can’t get a hold of Jeb Bush, I can’t get a hold of the president, I can’t get a hold of Colin Powell. All this stuff is happening. What are you guys doing?” When Hastert asks the caller who they are, their reply is, “I’m just a citizen. Who is this?” [Chicago Sun-Times, 9/25/2001; Daily Herald (Arlington Heights), 9/11/2002; Associated Press, 6/16/2007] Shortly afterwards, the Capitol is evacuated (see 9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001) and Hastert’s Secret Service agents hurry him out of the building. It is not until around 11 a.m. that Cheney finally speaks to him. [Hastert, 2004, pp. 8-9; Hayes, 2007, pp. 337 and 340-341]

Entity Tags: Dennis Hastert, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Brent Scowcroft.Brent Scowcroft. [Source: Publicity photo]An E-4B National Airborne Operations Center (NAOC) takes off from Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, DC. The E-4B is a militarized version of a Boeing 747. Its purpose is to provide the president, vice president, and Joint Chiefs of Staff with an airborne command center that could be used to execute war plans and coordinate government operations during a national emergency. The E-4B taking off from Andrews, which has the call sign “Word 31,” is carrying civilian and military officials, and is launched in order to participate in a previously scheduled military exercise, according to journalist and author Dan Verton. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001 pdf file; Verton, 2003, pp. 143-144; 9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004; NET Nebraska, 9/2/2011] This exercise would be Global Guardian, which is being conducted by the US Strategic Command (Stratcom) to test its ability to fight a nuclear war (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). Two other E-4Bs are also participating in Global Guardian today (see Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002]
Plane Ends Participation in Exercise after Taking Off - The E-4B taking off from Andrews Air Force Base is supposed to be using and testing its sophisticated technology and communications equipment for the exercise. It has “only just taken off” at the time the Pentagon is hit—9:37 a.m.—according to Verton. [Verton, 2003, pp. 144] But the flight tracking strip from Andrews will record it as having taken off at 9:27 a.m., 10 minutes before the Pentagon is hit. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004] The crew will later be informed that after the plane launches, it flies “right over the top of the aircraft that eventually impacted the Pentagon.” [Flying K, 9/7/2012 pdf file] After taking off, the E-4B is “immediately ordered to cease the military exercise it was conducting and prepare to become the actual National Airborne Operations Center,” Verton will write. [Verton, 2003, pp. 144] (Global Guardian was reportedly put on pause at 9:11 a.m. (see 9:11 a.m. September 11, 2001), but it is not formally terminated until 10:44 a.m. (see (10:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bombardier, 9/8/2006 pdf file] ) The plane then converts “on the fly from exercise status to real-world crisis management.” [Verton, 2003, pp. 150]
Plane Flies Former National Security Adviser to Base in Nebraska - Former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and his staff are on the E-4B, which will fly them to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Flying K, 9/7/2012 pdf file] The original plan had been for the aircraft to take them to Offutt to observe the Global Guardian exercise today. [Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002] After reaching the base, the E-4B will take off again and resume its airborne operations. [Flying K, 9/7/2012 pdf file] Minutes after the Pentagon is attacked, an unidentified four-engine jet plane will be seen circling above the White House (see (9:41 a.m.-9:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). CNN will suggest this is an E-4B, so it is possible it is “Word 31.” [CNN, 9/12/2007] Another E-4B, with the call sign “Venus 77,” will take off from Andrews Air Force Base at around 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004; Farmer, 2009, pp. 206]

Entity Tags: E-4B National Airborne Operations Center, Global Guardian, Brent Scowcroft

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

President Bush trying to use a cell phone as his motorcade nears the Sarasota airport.President Bush trying to use a cell phone as his motorcade nears the Sarasota airport. [Source: Associated Press]President Bush has difficulty communicating with colleagues in Washington, DC, while he is being driven to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006] Bush left the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, at around 9:35 a.m. to be driven to Air Force One (see (9:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Bloomberg, 6/17/2004] While he is in his limousine, he tries calling colleagues at the White House over a secure telephone line, but all the secure lines are down. He ends up trying to call Washington using a borrowed cell phone. Even this doesn’t work, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006] However, he talks with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice around this time, which means he is able to make at least one call (see (Between 9:38 a.m. and 9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bush, 2010, pp. 128] Dave Wilkinson, assistant special agent in charge of the presidential protection division, will later comment on the difficulties Bush and his entourage have communicating with Washington today, saying, “Every kind of communication… was challenged” and the “communications network did not hold up.” [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Lee Hamilton, vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission, will claim that Bush had difficulty communicating with Washington while he was being driven to the airport because members of his entourage all tried calling the capital at the same time after leaving the school, thereby causing a “communication jam.” However, the communication problems will continue after Bush takes off from Sarasota on Air Force One (see (9:54 a.m.-2:50 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006] The president’s difficulty reaching his colleagues in Washington during the drive to the airport is particularly notable since, just a few months ago, Bush instructed Joseph Hagin, his deputy chief of staff for operations, to promptly ensure that he is always able to make phone calls, after he had trouble making a call from his limousine (see Spring 2001). Hagin has apparently not yet fixed the problem. [National Journal, 4/11/2011]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Lee Hamilton, Condoleezza Rice, Dave Wilkinson

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Firefighters and other rescuers at the Pentagon crash site.Firefighters and other rescuers at the Pentagon crash site. [Source: US Department of Defense]Emergency responders and others at the Pentagon experience serious problems with communications following the attack there. These difficulties last for several hours. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. 12-13 pdf file; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 114] According to a federally funded report on the emergency response to the Pentagon attack, communications systems had been busy “even before American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon.” But when the crash occurs, “all area communications [seem] simultaneously overwhelmed.” [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A34 pdf file] The Defense Department’s book about the Pentagon attack later describes, “Almost immediately radio traffic gridlocked, land lines were unavailable, and cellular telephone networks became so overloaded that for a time Pentagon officials and employees as well as some emergency responders could not call outside.” [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 114] This leads to significant problems: “Firefighters calling the [Arlington County Emergency Communications Center] couldn’t get through. Relatives of Pentagon workers found cellular and land lines jammed.” [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A34 pdf file] The DiLorenzo Tricare Health Clinic at the Pentagon and the Rader Clinic at nearby Fort Myer are unable to establish reliable communications. Reportedly, “Hospitals and clinics could not be informed about the flow of casualties, and perhaps more damaging, communication between the fire and rescue and the emergency medical elements on-site was severely impaired.” [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 114] Officer Aubrey Davis of the Pentagon police heads to the crash site with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld immediately after the Pentagon is hit. He receives frantic pleas over his radio, regarding Rumsfeld’s whereabouts. But, as Davis later recalls, “the system was overloaded, everyone on the frequency was talking, everything jumbled, so I couldn’t get through and they went on asking” (see (9:38 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Cockburn, 2007, pp. 1-2] Cellular and landline telephone communications remain “virtually unreliable or inaccessible during the first few hours of the response.” But later on, in the afternoon, Verizon technicians and Secret Service technical staff install portable cellular towers at the Pentagon, and this significantly increases cell phone access. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C36 pdf file] Communications problems are experienced not just around the Pentagon but also in the broader Washington area, with some senior government officials being affected (see (After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Verton, 2003, pp. 149]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, DiLorenzo Tricare Health Clinic, Arlington County Emergency Communications Center, Pentagon, US Department of Defense, Aubrey Davis, Rader Clinic

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice briefly talks on the phone with President Bush and warns him against returning to Washington, DC, before she is escorted to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), the bunker below the White House. [White House, 11/1/2001; BBC Radio 4, 8/1/2002 pdf file; White House, 8/2/2002] Carl Truscott, the Secret Service special agent in charge of the presidential protective division, has just come into the White House Situation Room and told Rice she must go to the PEOC because a plane may be heading toward the White House (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001; White House, 8/6/2002] But before she goes to the PEOC, Rice wants to talk to the president.
President Told that Washington Is 'under Attack' - Bush has now arrived at the Sarasota airport after leaving the Booker Elementary School (see (9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [White House, 8/2/2002; New York Times, 9/11/2002] Rice calls him and says: “Mr. President, here’s what’s going on. The Pentagon has been hit.” He tells her, “I’m getting ready to come back [to Washington].” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] Bush is “very calm” as he talks, Rice will later recall. Franklin Miller, a senior national security official who “does defense policy” for Rice, is with the national security adviser. [White House, 10/24/2001; White House, 11/1/2001] He whispers to her, “Tell him that it may not be wise to come back here, because Washington is under attack.” [White House, 8/2/2002] Rice therefore tells Bush: “Sir, you can’t come back here. Washington’s under attack.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002]
Rice Is Being 'Pushed' to Go to the Bunker - The call between Bush and Rice is only short. Rice will say this is because she is “being pushed” by Truscott “to get off the phone and get out of the West Wing.” [White House, 8/2/2002; CBS News, 9/11/2002] “I had people pulling at my arm, saying, ‘You have to go to the bunker,’” she will recall. [White House, 11/1/2001] After she has finished speaking to Bush, Rice heads toward the PEOC. She will enter it shortly before 10:00 a.m. (see (Shortly Before 9:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [White House, 8/2/2002; Bumiller, 2007, pp. xiii]

Entity Tags: Franklin Miller, George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Carl Truscott

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Senator John Kerry looks up to the sky as he and others evacuate.Senator John Kerry looks up to the sky as he and others evacuate. [Source: CBC]The Capitol building in Washington, DC is evacuated. [Associated Press, 8/21/2002] It is the first time in US history this has ever happened. [Chicago Tribune, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001] Both the Senate and the House are in session at the time. [CNN, 8/17/2002] Capitol Police officers go through the building and order people to leave at once. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/11/2002]
Reports of Plane Approaching the Capitol - The evacuation appears to be in response to reports of a plane heading toward the Capitol. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; CNN, 8/17/2002; Bamford, 2004, pp. 80-81] According to CNN congressional correspondent Dana Bash, “the Capitol Police were hearing, in their radio, that there was a plane—another plane in the air, likely headed for the Capitol.” [CNN, 9/11/2006] When a Capitol Police officer instructs Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) to leave the building, he says: “We have word that an airplane is heading this way and could hit the building anytime. You need to evacuate.”
'Nothing Orderly' about Evacuation - However, there are problems with the evacuation. According to Daschle, “The fire alarm system, which was working in the nearby Senate office buildings, was never activated in the Capitol, so there were people who weren’t aware that an evacuation was taking place.” Also, some individuals are reluctant to leave. [Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 109-110] Rep. Bob Stump (R-AZ) will recall: “They tried to throw me out three times, but they didn’t succeed. I figured I was safer in the building than out on the street.” [Associated Press, 9/11/2001] Daschle will recall that there is “nothing orderly” about the evacuation. Outside the building “No one knew what to do or where to go. People congregated on the grass and in the parking lot. Senators and staff were mixed in with tourists, all staring up at the sky, wondering what might be headed our way.” [Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 110] CNN will report, “[S]ome of the most high ranking officials in the United States government were just kind of scattered around this area without a gathering point.” [CNN, 9/11/2006]
Sergeant at Arms Concerned over Poor Security - Al Lenhardt, the Senate’s sergeant at arms, will later say how alarmed he was “to see members of Congress and their staffs mixed in with visitors and passersby wandering in the open around the Capitol grounds. One of the tactics that terrorists have been known to employ is to create a diversion to move their intended target to the area where the actual attack will take place. Al imagined a bomb or gunfire erupting right there on the lawn outside the Capitol.” [Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 111] Eventually, many of the members of Congress go to the Capitol Police headquarters, which then serves as their command center for the day (see (9:55 a.m. and After) September 11, 2001 and (10:00 a.m.-6:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/11/2002; Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 112]

Entity Tags: Al Lenhardt, Robert Lee Stump, US Capitol Police, Tom Daschle

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Candy Crowley.Candy Crowley. [Source: CNN]After the Capitol building in Washington is evacuated (see 9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001), those located around it—including members of Congress—experience serious problems communicating by phone and other means. CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley will describe: “Nobody knew anything.… Nobody had any way to communicate.… The cell phones went down. Eventually… the personal BlackBerrys that bring your e-mail to you, they went down. And inside the Capitol, remember [there are] still switchboard operators there. Inside the Capitol, the phones worked only on and off.” According to Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), there is “no communication whatsoever going on.” [CNN, 9/11/2002] Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) will recall: “People were punching their cell phones to no avail. The lines were jammed.” [Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 110] Consequently, for more than an hour Daschle’s own staff is unable to establish where he is. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002] House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) was experiencing communications problems even before he was evacuated from the Capitol, while trying to contact Vice President Dick Cheney by phone (see (9:04 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Hastert, 2004, pp. 6; Hayes, 2007, pp. 336] Whether others at the Capitol also experienced similar difficulties prior to the evacuation is unclear. What causes these problems is uncertain. However, numerous other people in the Washington area, including senior government officials, also experience serious communications problems throughout the day (see (After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Edward M. (“Ted”) Kennedy, Tom Daschle, Dennis Hastert

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL), who is third in line for the presidency, is evacuated from the US Capitol building and flown to a secret underground bunker in Virginia, where he remains until late in the afternoon. [ABC News, 9/11/2001; ABC News, 9/15/2002] Around 9:48, the Capitol building had begun evacuating (see 9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). At that time, Hastert was on the House floor. Two members of his security detail now enter the chamber and tell him, “We’re going to evacuate the Capitol, and you’re going to a secure location.” They take him out of the building and drive him hurriedly to Andrews Air Force Base, ten miles southeast of Washington. After he arrives there, Hastert is finally able to communicate with Vice President Dick Cheney, who is at the White House. (Hastert had been trying to contact Cheney earlier on, but without success (see (9:04 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001.) Cheney tells Hastert: “There’s a real danger. I want you to go to a secure location.” [Hastert, 2004, pp. 8-9] Hastert gets on a helicopter and is flown to the secret underground bunker at Mount Weather in Bluemont, Virginia, 48 miles outside Washington—about 20 minutes journey by air. [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 11/2001; ABC News, 9/15/2002; Bamford, 2004, pp. 81] In the following hours, other top members of the House and Senate leaderships will join him there (see (Between Late Morning and Early Afternoon) September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 9/11/2001; Hastert, 2004, pp. 10] Hastert remains at the secure facility for several hours, and will return to Washington late in the afternoon (see (Between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Daily Herald (Arlington Heights), 9/11/2002] Hastert’s evacuation to Mount Weather is the result of “Continuity of Government” (COG) orders, which provide for evacuating the third and fourth in the line of presidential succession during a national emergency, in order to protect the nation’s constitutional leadership. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002] 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: Mount Weather, Dennis Hastert, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney

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

President Bush on the phone during the flight from Sarasota to Barksdale Air Force Base.President Bush on the phone during the flight from Sarasota to Barksdale Air Force Base. [Source: White House]President Bush and his staff have difficulty communicating with colleagues in Washington, DC, while they are traveling on Air Force One, after the plane takes off from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Northwest Indiana Times, 9/22/2002; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Bush had problems calling his colleagues at the White House while he was being driven to the airport, after leaving the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, at around 9:35 a.m. (see (9:34 a.m.-9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006]
Air Force One Should Have 'Outstanding Communications' - He ought to have more success after he boards Air Force One, at around 9:45 a.m. (see (9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001), since the plane has state-of-the-art communications systems. [Inside the White House, 9/1998; Hardesty, 2003, pp. 167] Its capabilities are “just as good as the communications from the Oval Office in terms of [the president] being able to call, in a secure way, the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, the generals that might have to fight a war, or the vice president or… the national security adviser,” White House chief of staff Andrew Card will later comment. The plane has the “capacity to have… outstanding communications,” he will say. [White House, 8/12/2002]
Communications Systems Are 'All Jammed' - However, Bush and his staff have great difficulty sending and receiving information about the day’s events while they are on Air Force One. [Northwest Indiana Times, 9/22/2002] The “multiple [communications] systems—commercial and terrestrial systems” on the plane are “all jammed,” according to Master Sergeant Dana Lark, superintendent of communications. Lark actually wonders, “Did someone sabotage our comms?” [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Bush Has Problems Communicating with Vice President Cheney - Bush finds that his calls are successful only intermittently. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006] Attempts are made to establish an open line with Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who are at the White House, but the line keeps dropping. [Bush, 2010, pp. 131] “It was absolutely stunning, standing next to the president as he was talking to the vice president, then holding the phone off his ear because it cut off,” White House press secretary Ari Fleischer will comment. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] At one point, Bush pounds his desk in frustration and shouts: “This is inexcusable. Get me the vice president.” [CBS News, 9/11/2002] He also has difficulty reaching his wife, Laura, since the line keeps dropping when he tries to call her. He eventually talks to her shortly before 11:45 a.m., when Air Force One is approaching Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana (see (Shortly Before 11:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bush, 2010, pp. 132]
Officials in Washington Are Unable to Call the Plane - Some key individuals in Washington are unsuccessful when they try calling Air Force One. Scott Heyer, a communications officer in the White House Situation Room, is unable to contact the plane while it is flying from Sarasota to Barksdale Air Force Base, even when he tries calling its satellite phone (see 9:54 a.m.-11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 3/16/2004] And White House counselor Karen Hughes is unable to reach the president when she tries calling him while he is airborne (see (Between 10:31 a.m. and 11:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; NBC, 4/4/2004]
Bush Has His First Teleconference Hours after Leaving Sarasota - As a result of his problems communicating from the plane, Bush will hold his first teleconference with his principal advisers at around 3:15 p.m. (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001)—more than five hours after he takes off from Sarasota—after he arrives at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, where there is sophisticated communications equipment (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Northwest Indiana Times, 9/22/2002; Business Week, 11/4/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326] By that time, the communication problems will apparently have started to ease. Lark will recall that as Air Force One is flying to Offutt, “some of the commercial systems finally began to become available” and she actually receives a call from her chief. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Good Communications Are 'Critical' for the President - Bush’s communication problems may have a significant impact on the government’s ability to respond to the terrorist attacks. Thomas Kean, the chairman of the 9/11 Commission, will explain why the president’s ability to communicate during a crisis is so important, saying, “In the case of any kind of attack in the United States, what you’re supposed to do is get the president off the ground and Air Force One then becomes the command center.” Once he is airborne, the president is “commanding the forces of the United States from the air,” Kean will say. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006] “The president literally can’t function in his constitutional role unless he can communicate, so [good communications are] absolutely critical,” Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Herman, a senior presidential communications officer, will similarly comment. [Marist Magazine, 10/2002] The president “is the only one who can give certain orders that need to be given,” Kean will note. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006] However, Mark Rosenker, director of the White House Military Office, will claim that the communication problems have only a limited impact. “[F]or the most part I believe the president had the ability to do what was necessary to be in control and have command of his forces, and talk with his national security structure,” he will say. [White House, 8/29/2002]
Communications Systems Are Supposedly 'Saturated' - Lark will learn at a later date that the communication problems occur because, she will say, “the commercial systems were all just saturated.” [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Rosenker will similarly suggest that the problems may be partly due to the fact that communications from Air Force One “have to get through a regular telephone network,” and when there is a crisis, the increased volume of communications “jam and overuse the structure.” [White House, 8/29/2002] On top of their problems making and receiving calls, Bush and his staffers have difficulty monitoring the television coverage of the attacks while they are airborne, because the reception on the plane is poor and intermittent (see (9:54 a.m.-6:54 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [CBS News, 9/11/2002; Northwest Indiana Times, 9/22/2002; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]

Entity Tags: Thomas Kean, Condoleezza Rice, Ari Fleischer, Thomas Herman, Scott Heyer, Andrew Card, Mark Rosenker, Dana Lark, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George W. Bush, Laura Bush, Karen Hughes

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Throughout the day of 9/11 and after, members of the public in New York City experience significant communications problems, particularly with cell phones. “In the aftermath [of the attacks], and for several days afterwards, cellular phone services were either not working or were severely overloaded.” [SatNews, 10/19/2001] As Time magazine reports, “Lines formed, at least 20 people long, at all pay phones, because cell phones were not working.” [Time, 9/14/2001] (Reportedly, though, the 911 system is not disrupted.) Later accounts will suggest that an increased volume of phone calls being made in response to the attacks may have overloaded networks. Within minutes of the first attack, according to the New York Times, there were “tens of millions of [phone] calls—many from worried relatives and friends—that threatened to clog the system.” [New York Times, 9/20/2001] The call volume of Verizon Communications, which has its main regional switching station across the street from the World Trade Center, reaches twice its normal daily rate of 115 million calls in New York City. “And although it remained operational, the wireless network experienced massive congestion that prevented most calls from getting through. During the peak of the chaos, Verizon experienced nearly 100 percent more traffic than normal on its nationwide wireless network.” [Verton, 2003, pp. 148] Some of the communications problems in the New York area are later attributed to physical damage to the infrastructure. A report by the Mineta Transportation Institute will summarize, “The collapse of the World Trade Center towers knocked out Verizon’s switching center in Lower Manhattan and severely damaged the infrastructure for cellular telephones. Telephone communications for NYPD Command and Control was also destroyed in the attack. As a consequence, cell phone service was subsequently overloaded. NYC Transit lost a key portion of its fiber-optic network in one tunnel.” [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 33] Similar communication problems are also experienced around Washington, DC, and some top government officials are affected (see (After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to one government official, the nation was “deaf, dumb, and blind” for much of the day. [Verton, 2003, pp. 151]

Entity Tags: Verizon Communications, Verizon Wireless

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Secretary of State Colin Powell learned of the attacks on the US while away in Peru, Lima (see (9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). During his seven-hour flight back to Washington, he is frustrated at being unable to communicate with other senior government leaders. In a March 2002 speech at the State Department, Powell will recall, “I never felt more useless in my life than on the morning of the 11th of September. Phones [were] gone because of what happened here and what happened to the [communications] system here in Washington. They couldn’t get a phone line through. I was able to get some radio communications—two radio spots on the way back—but for most of that seven-hour period, I could not tell what was going on here in my capital, and I’m the secretary of state!” [Telecom News, 2002, pp. 4-5 pdf file; Verton, 2003, pp. 149-150] Powell is able to talk by radio with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. But, according to journalist Bob Woodward, any “real talk” between them “was hopeless.” [Woodward, 2002, pp. 10] Yet, in a 7:40 p.m. press briefing, State Department Deputy Spokesman Philip Reeker will claim that Powell “has been kept in the loop and informed all day.” [US Department of State, 9/11/2001]

Entity Tags: Colin Powell, Richard Armitage

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Ordering 

Time period


Email Updates

Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database

 
Donate

Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
Donate Now

Volunteer

If you would like to help us with this effort, please contact us. We need help with programming (Java, JDO, mysql, and xml), design, networking, and publicity. If you want to contribute information to this site, click the register link at the top of the page, and start contributing.
Contact Us

Creative Commons License Except where otherwise noted, the textual content of each timeline is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike