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Context of 'January 2005: Air Force Flying Sorties Over Iran In Attempt to Target Iranian Radar Systems'

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White House chief of staff Andrew Card, according to his own later recollections, learns that a threat has been made against Air Force One while he is traveling with President Bush to the airport in Sarasota, Florida, although other accounts will indicate that Bush and his entourage are first alerted to the threat at around 10:30 a.m. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 106-107; White House, 8/12/2002; White House, 8/16/2002; White House, 8/16/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554] Card is traveling with Bush in the presidential limousine to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, where Air Force One is waiting, after leaving the Emma E. Booker Elementary School (see (9:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/2002; St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] Card will later recall that he and Bush are “both on the phones,” calling Washington, DC, to try and learn more about the terrorist attacks. He will say that as well as learning about the attack on the Pentagon (see (Between 9:38 a.m. and 9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001), “we also heard that there had been a threat” to Air Force One. “The Secret Service had indicated to us that someone had used the code name for Air Force One and had indicated that it might be a target,” Card will recall. He will say his goal, therefore, is “to get [Bush] to Air Force One as quickly as possible and get Air Force One in the air.” [White House, 8/16/2002; White House, 8/16/2002] Apparently contradicting Card’s claim, most accounts will indicate that Bush and his entourage are first informed that a threat has been made against Air Force One at around 10:30 a.m. (see (10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 106-107; Woodward, 2002, pp. 18; CBS News, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 141-142] But Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Herman, a senior presidential communications officer who is in Sarasota with Bush, will support Card’s account. He will say that around the time the president’s motorcade is leaving the school, “There was some question… that Air Force One and the president were a target.” [Marist Magazine, 10/2002] And Dave Wilkinson, one of Bush’s Secret Service agents, will say that while the motorcade is heading to the airport, “we hear that’s there’s something vague about a threat to the president.” [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]

Entity Tags: Andrew Card, US Secret Service, George W. Bush, Thomas Herman, Dave Wilkinson

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Bush boards Air Force One in Sarasota, Florida, waving to people below as if the day were like any other.Bush boards Air Force One in Sarasota, Florida, waving to people below as if the day were like any other. [Source: Agence France-Presse]President Bush and his entourage arrive at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, where Air Force One is waiting, and Bush hurriedly gets onto his plane. [BBC, 9/1/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39] 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]
Limousine Stops Right by Air Force One - His limousine now speeds past the airport’s main entrance, goes north, and veers down a tiny road leading to the airport, ignoring a sign that states, “No Airport Access.” It then passes through a small, unmarked gate in a chain-link fence and races across the tarmac toward Air Force One. It swings around the plane’s tail and stops behind the left wing. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 98-99] The motorcade arrives at the airport between 9:42 a.m. and 9:45 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission Report. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39] According to journalist and author Bill Sammon, Bush’s limousine reaches the airport at 9:43 a.m. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 99; Washington Times, 10/8/2002]
Plane's Engines Are Already Running - Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, started two of the plane’s four engines while Bush was on his way to the airport. White House chief of staff Andrew Card will later comment that he is “struck that the engines on Air Force One [are] running” when the motorcade reaches the airport, since this is “normally a protocol no-no.” [United Services Automobile Association, 9/11/2011; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] “Usually you don’t start the engine until the president is already on the plane,” he will say. [BBC, 9/9/2011]
President Usually Takes His Time Saying Goodbye - Normally, when his motorcade arrives at Air Force One, the president “emerges from the limo, waves to the crowd behind barricades, thanks hosts who have accompanied him, and shakes hands with the airport personnel and guests who’ve come to see him off,” Karl Rove, Bush’s senior adviser, will write. The president then “walks alone up the steps to Air Force One at a leisurely pace, stopping to wave again to the people on the tarmac.” The other people in the motorcade usually only start to get on board once he is on the plane. [Rove, 2010, pp. 252]
Bush Hurries up the Stairs onto Air Force One - Today, though, the Secret Service wants to get the president onto Air Force One as quickly as possible. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Bush therefore walks briskly up the long mobile staircase behind the left wing. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 99; Walsh, 2003, pp. 207] He is “just trucking up the stairs” without his usual “Texas swagger,” Tillman will describe. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] He does find time, however, to pause at the doorway to wave to photographers before entering the plane. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] Once he is on board, he goes to his private cabin near the front of the aircraft. A Secret Service agent tells him, “Mr. President, we need you to get seated as soon as possible.” Bush then straps himself in, ready for takeoff. [Woodward, 2002, pp. 16]
Chief of Staff Is Frustrated by the Passengers Delaying Takeoff - Meanwhile, everyone who is traveling on Air Force One apart from Bush and his senior staff boards the plane through its back stairs. But before doing so they are subjected to a strict security check (see (9:45 a.m.-9:53 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 99; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Card becomes frustrated that takeoff is being delayed due to the time it takes to get so many passengers onto the plane. [White House, 8/16/2002; St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/2002] Air Force One will take off unusually quickly once all the passengers are on board. [Rochester Review, 9/2004; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] It usually takes another 15 minutes after everyone has boarded for the passengers to get seated, the doors to be closed, and the engines to power up, according to Rove. [Rove, 2010, pp. 252] But today Air Force One will take off about 10 minutes after Bush’s motorcade reaches the airport, at around 9:55 a.m. (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39]

Entity Tags: Andrew Card, George W. Bush, Mark Tillman, US Secret Service, Karl C. Rove

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The US Air Force begins flying sorties over Iran from its bases in Afghanistan and Iraq in order to lure Tehran into turning on air defense radars so the US can develop “an electronic order of battle for Iran.” “We have to know which targets to attack and how to attack them,” an unnamed administration official tells United Press International. [United Press International, 1/26/2005] Bush officials initially deny the overflight reports. [Guardian, 1/29/2005]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), US Department of the Air Force

Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran

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