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Profile: Ann Compton

Ann Compton was a participant or observer in the following events:

Andrew Card speaks to President Bush and tells him of the second World Trade Center crash.Andrew Card speaks to President Bush and tells him of the second World Trade Center crash. [Source: Agence France-Presse]Andrew Card, President Bush’s chief of staff, enters the classroom where Bush is participating in a reading demonstration, and tells him about the second crash at the World Trade Center and that America is under attack. [ABC News, 9/11/2002; NBC News, 9/10/2009; BBC, 9/9/2011] Bush learned about the first hijacked plane crashing into the WTC when he arrived at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, shortly before 9:00 a.m. (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 11/26/2001; Rove, 2010, pp. 249-250] He decided, though, to continue with the scheduled event at the school (see (9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 8/25/2002] Card was told about the second crash at the WTC by Deborah Loewer, director of the White House Situation Room, while he was in the “staff hold,” a room adjacent to the classroom where the reading demonstration is taking place (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Dayton Daily News, 3/16/2013; Priess, 2016, pp. 240-241] He decided that he needed to tell the president what had happened and went to pass on the news to Bush. [NBC News, 9/10/2009; BBC, 9/9/2011]
Bush Is Told, 'America Is under Attack' - In the classroom, the children have just finished a spelling and pronunciation drill, and are reaching for their textbooks for the second part of the reading demonstration. Card, who was waiting at the door, takes advantage of the lull. He walks across the room toward Bush, leans down, and whispers in the president’s ear: “A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack.” He then takes a couple of steps back so the president is unable to ask him any questions. [Washington Times, 10/7/2002; Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 pdf file; Bohn, 2015, pp. 214; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] “There was no time for discussion or anything,” Bush will later comment. Card then takes up a position at the side of the room, next to Florida Lieutenant Governor Frank Brogan. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 83-84] Card will explain why he gives such a brief message to Bush about the second crash, saying: “I knew that this was not the place to stand and have a conversation with the president. I just wanted to convey the situation to the president in stark reality and inviting him, then, to find the best chance to excuse himself from the classroom.” [White House, 8/12/2002]
Bush Feels 'Outrage' but Continues with the Event - Bush will recall how he feels after hearing Card’s message, writing: “My first reaction was outrage. Someone had dared attack America. They were going to pay.” [Bush, 2010, pp. 127] “An expression of grim sobriety spread across the president’s face” after Card speaks to him, journalist and author Bill Sammon will describe. “He raised his chin and nodded almost imperceptibly to signal that he got the message. His eyes darted nervously around the room, as if he didn’t know quite where to focus them.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 84] However, even though it is now clear that America is under attack, the Secret Service takes no action to get Bush out of the classroom. “[N]o agents were there to surround the president and remove him instantly,” author Philip Melanson will note. [Melanson, 2005, pp. 330-331] Instead, perhaps 15 or 30 seconds after Card speaks to him, Bush picks up his copy of the textbook and continues listening to the children reading. [Tampa Tribune, 9/1/2002]
Bush Will Be Criticized for Continuing with the Event - Intelligence expert and author James Bamford will criticize Bush for his lack of response to Card’s devastating information, writing: “[H]aving just been told that the country was under attack, the commander in chief appeared uninterested in further details. He never asked if there had been any additional threats, where the attacks were coming from, how to best protect the country from further attacks, or what was the current status of NORAD or the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Nor did he call for an immediate return to Washington. Instead, in the middle of a modern-day Pearl Harbor, he simply turned back to the matter at hand: the day’s photo op.” [Bamford, 2002, pp. 633] Bush, though, will explain his lack of response to the 9/11 Commission, telling it that “his instinct was to project calm, not to have the country see an excited reaction at a moment of crisis.” He will say that he “felt he should project strength and calm until he could better understand what was happening.”
Bush Remains in the Classroom for Several More Minutes - Card tells Bush about the second crash at 9:05 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission Report. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 38] But ABC News reporter Ann Compton, who is in the classroom watching the reading demonstration, recognizes that something serious has happened when she sees Card interrupting the event and makes a note of the time, which her watch shows as 9:07 a.m. [ABC News, 9/11/2002] Bush will stay in the classroom for at least seven minutes after Card informs him of the second crash (see (9:08 a.m.-9:13 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:13 a.m.-9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Andrew Card, Ann Compton, James Bamford, US Secret Service, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Air Force One, with President Bush on board, changes course and heads west toward Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana around this time, according to some reports, significantly later than is claimed in other accounts, such as the 9/11 Commission Report. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 108-109; Washington Post, 1/27/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325] The president’s plane is currently flying off the coast of South Carolina and is about half way through its 900-mile journey from Sarasota, Florida (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001), to Washington, DC, according to journalist and author Bill Sammon. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 109] At 10:41 a.m., Vice President Dick Cheney called Bush from the White House and urged him not to come back to Washington, because, Cheney told Bush, the capital was still too unsafe for him to return there (see 10:41 a.m. September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 9/16/2001; Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
Air Force One Turns West - According to the 9/11 Commission Report, Air Force One changed course and headed west at around 10:10 a.m. (see (10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and it began flying toward Barksdale Air Force Base at about 10:20 a.m. (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325] However, Sammon will write that Bush gives the order to divert his plane after receiving the 10:41 a.m. call from Cheney. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 108-109] “Within minutes” of Cheney calling Bush, according to the Washington Post, “those on board the president’s plane could feel it bank suddenly and sharply to the left, its course now westerly toward Barksdale Air Force Base.” [Washington Post, 1/27/2002] Barksdale is about 800 miles away, according to Sammon. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 109] Representative Dan Miller (R-FL), who is on Air Force One, will support the claim that the plane changes course at this time, around 10:45 a.m. According to the St. Petersburg Times, Miller thought Air Force One “flew due north for about 45 minutes. Then it turned west.” [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] Miller will tell the National Journal, “I would say 10:45, maybe 10:30 or so, the plane changed course.” [National Journal, 8/31/2002]
Other Evidence Indicates Plane Is Already Flying West - However, in addition to the 9/11 Commission Report, several other accounts will indicate that Air Force One turned west and headed toward Barksdale Air Force Base significantly earlier than this. A reporter who is on Air Force One will write that the plane “suddenly veered west” within “perhaps 20 minutes of takeoff,” meaning before 10:15 a.m. [USA Today, 9/11/2001] And Ann Compton, another reporter on Air Force One, writes in her notebook that at 10:29 a.m., “We were not en route to Washington.” [Gilbert et al., 2002, pp. 131-132] Furthermore, at 10:42 a.m., an ID technician at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) received a call about Air Force One, in which they were told, “It looks like he’s going westbound now.” The caller, someone at NORAD’s Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS), added that the plane was “west of Tallahassee,” which is in north Florida, and said, “We called [the FAA’s Jacksonville Center] to see if he was deviating and they said he, it’s unknown where he’s going at this time.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Dan Miller, Ann Compton

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Pilot Mark Tillman in the cockpit of Air Force One.Pilot Mark Tillman in the cockpit of Air Force One. [Source: CBS News]Reporters accompanying President Bush on Air Force One notice their plane significantly increasing its altitude. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Salon, 9/12/2001; Gilbert et al., 2002, pp. 148] According to Ann Compton of ABC Radio, who is on Air Force One, there is “a noticeable increase in the plane’s altitude” at this time. [Sylvester and Huffman, 2002, pp. 136] At 11:14 a.m., the reporters on the plane will be informed that they are flying at around 40,000 feet. [USA Today, 9/11/2001] Compton will later recall that around the time it increases its altitude, Air Force One is heading west, instead of flying toward Washington, DC. A Secret Service agent shakes his head and whispers to her, “We aren’t going home.” [Gilbert et al., 2002, pp. 148; Sylvester and Huffman, 2002, pp. 136] It is unclear if there is a specific reason for Air Force One’s increase in altitude. Around 20 minutes earlier, Colonel Mark Tillman, the plane’s pilot, was notified of a threat received by the White House indicating that Air Force One is a target (see (10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and shortly afterwards, air traffic control alerted him to a suspicious aircraft that was flying toward his plane (see (10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 106-107; CBS News, 9/11/2002; CBS News, 1/17/2009]

Entity Tags: US Secret Service, Ann Compton

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Ann Compton.Ann Compton. [Source: Harvard University]Reporters on Air Force One are told that President Bush is being evacuated, but they currently have no idea where the plane is heading. [Salon, 9/12/2001; BBC, 9/1/2002; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Thirteen reporters are gathered in a small cabin at the back of the president’s plane. [CBS News, 8/19/2002; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 145] White House press secretary Ari Fleischer comes in and tells them, “This is off the record, but the president is being evacuated.” He says Bush is being evacuated “for his safety and the safety of the country.” Ann Compton of ABC Radio responds: “You can’t put that off the record. That’s a historic and chilling fact. That has to be on the record.” [ABC News, 9/11/2002; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] “I’ve covered the White House for more than 25 years,” she will later reflect, adding, “I have never heard of a president being evacuated.” [BBC, 9/1/2002] Fleischer’s statement “sent chills down my spine,” she will say. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Air Force One is currently heading for Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325] But the reporters on board are unaware of the plane’s destination. When they have inquired where they were going, the people they asked said they didn’t know. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Salon, 9/12/2001; Rochester Review, 9/2004]

Entity Tags: Ann Compton, George W. Bush, Ari Fleischer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Members of President Bush’s staff decide to remove any nonessential passengers traveling with the president on Air Force One when it leaves Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, and determine that they will leave behind some congressmen, numerous White House staffers, and most of the journalists that have been accompanying them. [Sarasota Magazine, 11/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 118; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 145; Rove, 2010, pp. 259]
Reporters Traveling with President Reduced to Five - While the president’s staffers are preparing to leave Barksdale, Bush’s chief of staff Andrew Card pulls White House press secretary Ari Fleischer aside and tells him they need to reduce the number of people flying on the president’s plane. Usually, when the president flies, numerous personnel get to his destination ahead of him to prepare for his arrival, but at the present time, Bush’s support team is limited to those already on Air Force One. “Given the heightened sense of security,” Fleischer will later recall, “the Secret Service didn’t want the president to wait for the normal entourage to board the makeshift motorcade that would be assembled upon landing.” Card says the traveling White House staff is going to be reduced and the members of Congress on board will also be left behind at Barksdale, and he tells Fleischer to decrease the number of reporters flying with the president. Card wants the pool of reporters reduced from the current 13 to three, but agrees to Fleischer’s request to make it five. Fleischer decides the reporters that remain with them will be Ann Compton of ABC Radio, Sonya Ross of the Associated Press, Associated Press photographer Doug Mills, and a CBS cameraman and soundman. [Fleischer, 2005, pp. 145-146] White House assistant press secretary Gordon Johndroe passes on the bad news to the reporters. While they are waiting on a bus to be driven back to Air Force One, he comes on board and tells them there will only be five seats on the president’s plane for the media. [USA Today, 9/11/2001]
Reporters Angry at Being Left Behind - The reporters and nonessential personnel remaining at Barksdale Air Force Base will be standing on the tarmac and watching as Air Force One takes off from there, heading for its next destination (see 1:37 p.m. September 11, 2001). [National Journal, 5/3/2011] Some of the reporters will be angry at being left behind. As the president and his entourage are approaching the plane, Reuters correspondent Steve Holland will shout out to Fleischer, “Ari, what about us?” Another angry reporter will call out, “Who’s in charge here, the military or the civilians?” [White House, 8/8/2002; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 146]
'Skeleton Crew' Remaining on Air Force One - As well as the eight reporters, others removed from the plane include Representatives Adam Putnam (R-FL) and Dan Miller (R-FL), Bush’s senior education adviser Sandy Kress, Bush’s personal aide Blake Gottesman, and several Secret Service agents. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Sarasota Magazine, 11/2001] Fleischer will recall that after the nonessential passengers have been left behind, those who continue on Air Force One are just “a skeleton crew.” [White House, 8/8/2002] Those remaining at Barksdale will be escorted to a building and stay there until another plane flies them from the base back to Washington, DC, later in the afternoon (see (3:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sarasota Magazine, 11/2001]

Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, Adam Putnam, Andrew Card, Ann Compton, Steve Holland, US Secret Service, Gordon Johndroe, Sonya Ross, Blake Gottesman, Doug Mills, Barnett A. (“Sandy”) Kress, Dan Miller

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Air Force One departs Barksdale Air Force Base.Air Force One departs Barksdale Air Force Base. [Source: Reuters]Air Force One takes off from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana to fly President Bush to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. While Bush has been at Barksdale, base personnel have refueled Air Force One and restocked it with provisions for its continuing journey, on the basis that it may have to serve as the president’s flying command center for the foreseeable future. [Associated Press, 10/2/2001; 2d Bomb Wing, 6/30/2002 pdf file; BBC, 9/1/2002]
Reduced Number of Passengers on Board - For security reasons, the number of people traveling on Air Force One has been reduced (see (1:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Fleischer, 2005, pp. 145-146] Those continuing with the president include Bush’s chief of staff Andrew Card, his senior adviser Karl Rove, his communications director Dan Bartlett, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, and assistant press secretary Gordon Johndroe. The number of Secret Service agents accompanying the president has been reduced, as has the number of reporters. The five remaining journalists are Ann Compton of ABC Radio, Sonya Ross of the Associated Press, Associated Press photographer Doug Mills, and a CBS cameraman and sound technician. [Salon, 9/12/2001; Associated Press, 9/12/2001]
President Given Thumbs-up by Airmen - Lieutenant General Thomas Keck, the commander of the 8th Air Force, has been at Bush’s side for most of his time at Barksdale, and accompanies the president as he is being driven across the base to Air Force One. The president passes a row of B-52 bombers and is given a thumbs-up by the planes’ crew members. Keck explains to Bush that this means the troops “are trained, they’re ready, and they’ll do whatever you want them to.” Military police salute and other Air Force crew members cheer the president as he passes them. [American History, 10/2006 pdf file]
Fighter Escort Rejoins Air Force One - Air Force One is being guarded by soldiers with their guns drawn when Bush reaches it, and a pack of military dogs is patrolling the tarmac. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 117-118] After the plane takes off, two F-16 fighter jets pull up alongside it to provide an escort. [American History, 10/2006 pdf file] These are presumably the same fighters, belonging to the 147th Fighter Wing of the Texas Air National Guard, that escorted Air Force One as it came in to land at Barksdale (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Filson, 2003, pp. 87; Bombardier, 9/8/2006 pdf file]
Destination Chosen Due to 'Continuity of Government' Plan - Bush’s destination, Offutt Air Force Base, is home to the US Strategic Command (Stratcom), which controls the nation’s nuclear weapons. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Woodward, 2002, pp. 19] Bush will later say the decision to head there was based on Offutt’s “secure housing space and reliable communications.” [Bush, 2010, pp. 133] The base’s secure teleconferencing equipment will allow the president to conduct a meeting of his National Security Council later in the afternoon (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 119; Woodward, 2002, pp. 19, 26] According to the 9/11 Commission Report, Offutt has been chosen as the president’s next destination “because of its elaborate command and control facilities, and because it could accommodate overnight lodging for 50 persons. The Secret Service wanted a place where the president could spend several days, if necessary.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325] But according to White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke, the decision to head to Offutt instead of back to Washington, DC, was due to a plan called “Continuity of Government.” This program, which dates back to the Reagan administration, originally planned to set up a new leadership for the US in the event of a nuclear war. It was activated for the first time shortly before 10:00 a.m. this morning (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 4/7/2004; ABC News, 4/25/2004]

Entity Tags: Dan Bartlett, Barksdale Air Force Base, Thomas Keck, Ann Compton, Ari Fleischer, Doug Mills, George W. Bush, Gordon Johndroe, US Secret Service, 147th Fighter Wing, Sonya Ross, Karl C. Rove, Andrew Card, Richard A. Clarke

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A local television channel shows live coverage of Air Force One, the president’s plane, landing at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. [Gilbert et al., 2002, pp. 198; Sammon, 2002, pp. 120-121; Sylvester and Huffman, 2002, pp. 138] Air Force One, accompanied by two F-16 fighter jets, arrives at Offutt at 2:50 p.m. (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Salon, 9/12/2001; Bamford, 2004, pp. 89] As it is coming in to land, reporters on the plane notice the television in the press cabin showing a local Nebraska news affiliate interrupting the national coverage of the terrorist attacks in order to show live video of Air Force One descending toward Offutt. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 120-121] “We had the eerie experience of watching ourselves landing live on the local TV channel broadcast in our cabin,” Ann Compton of ABC Radio, who is traveling with the president, will later comment. [Gilbert et al., 2002, pp. 198] It is unclear why local news crews are at Offutt in time to report Air Force One arriving there. Personnel at the base only learned the president’s plane would be landing there about 20 to 30 minutes ago. [Omaha World-Herald, 9/8/2002; NET News, 12/27/2011] And reporters on Air Force One were not told that the plane was going to land at Offutt. [Gilbert et al., 2002, pp. 198; Sylvester and Huffman, 2002, pp. 138] According to journalist and author Bill Sammon, Nebraska reporters “instinctively gathered outside the gates of the local air base at this time of national crisis.” These reporters have “made no agreement with the White House to keep the president’s location a secret,” which is presumably why Air Force One’s arrival at Offutt is being shown live on television. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 120] Earlier today, a local television channel reported the arrival of Air Force One at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, even though the president’s location was meant to be a secret (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Salon, 9/12/2001; Rove, 2010, pp. 258]

Entity Tags: Ann Compton

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Bush speaking to Cheney shortly after leaving Offutt.
Bush speaking to Cheney shortly after leaving Offutt. [Source: White House]Air Force One, with President Bush on board, takes off from Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska and heads for Washington, DC. [CNN, 9/12/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 123; Draper, 2007, pp. 143] The president’s plane landed at Offutt at 2:50 p.m. While he was at the base, Bush conducted a meeting of the National Security Council in a secure video teleconference (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bamford, 2004, pp. 89, 91; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326] Against objections from the Secret Service, he has announced that he will be returning to Washington (see (4:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Woodward, 2002, pp. 28; Washington Times, 10/8/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 135]
Bush Thanks Personnel at Offutt - Bush waved to personnel at the base as he was making his way out to his plane. “We were working at our desks and all of a sudden, there was the president striding down the hallway,” Julie Ziegenhorn, a public affairs officer, will later describe, adding, “He walked right out the front door, waving to us.” He shouted to the personnel, “Thanks for all you’re doing!”
Pilot Was Surprised that Bush Is Leaving - Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, was incredulous when he was told the president was getting ready to leave, since he’d expected Bush to stay at Offutt for a much longer time. He had been in an office at the base when a young airman ran up to him and said, “It looks like the president is heading back to the plane.” He dismissed the airman, saying, “It probably wasn’t the guy,” but the airman replied, “No, I’m pretty sure I just saw him drive by.” Tillman then raced back to Air Force One and found the president waiting for him at the top of the stairs by the cockpit. Bush told him: “Tillman, we got to get back home. Let’s get back home.”
Reporters Are Allowed to Say What Bush Is Doing - Reporters who have been traveling with Bush are finally permitted to describe the president’s movements on the record. “I called my bureau and told them that the president was heading back to Washington and would address the nation from the Oval Office,” Ann Compton of ABC Radio will recall. [US Air Force, 2/29/2012 pdf file; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Bush Tells His Wife, 'See You at the White House' - As Air Force One is taking off, Bush calls his wife, Laura, who is at the Secret Service headquarters in Washington (see (10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001), to let her know he is returning to the capital. He tells her: “I’m coming home. See you at the White House. I love you. Go on home.” After talking to her, he feels comfortable enough to make a joke. “If I’m in the White House and there’s a plane coming my way, all I can say is I hope I read my Bible that day,” he says to his aides. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 123; Woodward, 2002, pp. 17, 28; Washington Times, 10/8/2002]

Entity Tags: Laura Bush, Julie Ziegenhorn, Ann Compton, Mark Tillman, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Ann Compton.Ann Compton. [Source: ABC Media Net]ABC News Radio journalist Ann Compton has a brief, informal discussion with White House deputy press secretary Scott McClellan. When Compton asks about the as-yet-undiscovered Iraqi WMD, McClellan, as he later recalls, “repeat[ed] the White House’s standard position of the time which I shared: ‘We believe that weapons of mass destruction will eventually be found. The inspectors are still in the early stages of their work.’” McClellan is “a bit shaken” by Compton’s blunt retort. As he will recall, Compton says: “They’re not going to find any weapons. If there were any, they would have found them by now.” Compton, McClellan will recall, “spoke with an air of confidence, as someone who had worked in Washington long enough to anticipate a story’s likely end.” McClellan will recall that after being initially rattled, “as Ann left my office, the sense of hard-nosed reality she brought with her departed as well.” The White House arguments over the WMD issue once again assert themselves in McClellan’s mind. But, he will write, “deep inside, Ann Compton’s words haunted me.” [McClellan, 2008, pp. 159-160]

Entity Tags: Scott McClellan, Ann Compton, Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

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