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Profile: Executive Support Center
Executive Support Center was a participant or observer in the following events:
Scott Fry. [Source: NATO]Vice Admiral Scott Fry, a top official at the Pentagon with important responsibilities, goes to a dental appointment and only becomes involved with the response to the attacks after the second crash in New York. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 4-6] Fry is the director of operations of the Joint Staff, a post he has held since 1998. [US Department of Defense, 9/23/1998; Stars and Stripes, 10/4/2001] In this position, he is responsible for running the National Military Command Center (NMCC)—“the Pentagon’s highly secure nerve center”—and the Executive Support Center (ESC)—a suite of rooms at the Pentagon “where the secretary of defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other senior officials would meet to discuss urgent matters.” [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 5-6] He is due to leave shortly for Italy, where he is to take up an important Navy command. [Department of Defense, 9/4/2001; Stars and Stripes, 10/4/2001; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 4-5] Fry is anxious to go to the dentist before leaving for Italy. As he is about to leave his office for a 9:00 a.m. appointment, his executive assistant draws his attention to the television coverage of the first attack in New York. Reportedly believing the crash was “probably just a freak accident,” instead of heading to the NMCC or the ESC, Fry continues to the clinic (which is presumably within the Pentagon), and is in the dentist’s chair when the second attack occurs. His assistant then calls him on his cell phone to alert him to this. Fry reportedly concludes: “One airplane hitting a skyscraper, that was damned suspicious. But two… there was no doubt about it. It had to be a terrorist attack.” He promptly cancels his appointment and hurries to the NMCC. From there, he goes upstairs to the ESC, where a group is already assembling (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). In the ESC, a “video teleconference link could connect them to the White House, the State Department, the CIA, and military commanders throughout the world.” There, Fry discusses events in New York with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s aide Stephen Cambone. But, reportedly, what the men know is “not much, except what they could see on TV.” [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 4-6] Only a few months previously, on June 1, 2001, a new Defense Department directive on dealing with domestic hijackings was issued under Fry’s signature (see June 1, 2001). [US Department of Defense, 6/1/2001 ]
Victoria Clarke. [Source: US Department of Defense]Just minutes after the second plane hits the World Trade Center, the Executive Support Center (ESC) within the Pentagon goes into operation. The ESC is located next door to the National Military Command Center (NMCC), and comprises several conference rooms that are secure against electronic eavesdropping. The Pentagon’s state-of-the-art communications hub, “Cables,” is establishing secure two-way video links with the White House and other key agencies. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Victoria Clarke arrives at the ESC soon after the second crash, accompanied by Larry Di Rita, who is Donald Rumsfeld’s personal chief of staff. They have just visited Rumsfeld and informed him of the second crash, but he has remained in his office to wait for his daily intelligence briefing (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Also at the ESC at this time is Rumsfeld’s closest aide, Stephen Cambone. According to Clarke, the ESC is “the place where the building’s top leadership goes to coordinate military operations during national emergencies.” Yet supposedly the Secretary of Defense does not join them there until about 10:15 A.M. (see (10:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Clarke, 2006, pp. 218-221; Cockburn, 2007, pp. 5-6]
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld returns from the Pentagon crash site “by shortly before or after 10:00 a.m.” Then he has “one or more calls in my office, one of which was with the president,” according to his testimony before the 9/11 Commission. [9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004] The commission later concludes that Rumsfeld’s call with President Bush has little impact: “No one can recall any content beyond a general request to alert forces.” The possibility of shooting down hijacked planes is not mentioned. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Rumsfeld then goes to the Executive Support Center (ESC) located near his office, arriving there at around 10:15 a.m. In the ESC already are Stephen Cambone, Rumsfeld’s closest aide, Larry Di Rita, Rumsfeld’s personal chief of staff, and Victoria Clarke, the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. Rumsfeld had instructed Di Rita and Clarke to go to the ESC and wait for him there when they’d come to his office soon after the second WTC tower was hit at 9:03 A.M. (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Presently, Rumsfeld gives them their first confirmation that a plane hit the Pentagon, saying, “I’m quite sure it was a plane and I’m pretty sure it’s a large plane.” According to Clarke, he pulls out a yellow legal pad and writes down three categories, “by which his thinking would be organized the rest of the day: what we needed to do immediately, what would have to be underway quickly, and what the military response would be.” [Clarke, 2006, pp. 221-222; Cockburn, 2007, pp. 5-6] The Executive Support Center has secure video facilities, and while there, Rumsfeld participates in the White House video teleconference. This is the video conference that counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke claims Rumsfeld is a part of much of the morning (see (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Then at around 10:30 a.m., he moves on to the National Military Command Center NMCC, located next door to the ESC (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Times, 2/23/2004; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 43-44] Those in the NMCC are apparently unaware of Rumsfeld’s whereabouts during the half-hour from 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.: Brigadier General Montague Winfield later recalls, “For 30 minutes we couldn’t find him. And just as we began to worry, he walked into the door of the [NMCC].” [ABC News, 9/11/2002]
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