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Profile: Paul Kurtz
Paul Kurtz was a participant or observer in the following events:
Paul Kurtz. [Source: Publicity photo]Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke and Paul Kurtz, a member of the White House counterterrorism team, visit New York, where they tour the facilities of the stock exchange and telecommunications company Verizon, and inquire about security precautions there. Clarke will later describe that, about a month before 9/11, he and Kurtz spend “two days literally crawling around Wall Street.” They visit the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and also go through the tunnels that carry the fiber optic cable to the Verizon and AT&T switches. (Verizon has a switching center for Wall Street located next to the World Trade Center.) Clarke and Kurtz ask about the security precautions that are in place to protect such a large concentration of critical communications equipment. According to Clarke, “What they told us was that after the 1993 attack against the World Trade Center they had diversified some of their routing capability.” Clarke will recall that he and Kurtz identify “several buildings that, were they taken out, would disconnect Wall Street from the world.” The two men also talk to stock market officials about the need for alternative sites and backup facilities. [Verton, 2003, pp. 157; Clarke, 2004, pp. 19-20]
Infrastructure Examined by Clarke Damaged on 9/11 - On September 11, damage to some of the telecommunications infrastructure Clarke and Kurtz inspect will severely hamper communications in the area surrounding the WTC, including the financial district (see (After 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The New York Times will describe: “The collapse of the World Trade Center crippled many of the connections that downtown Manhattan depended on, threatening crucial links for the police and emergency crews. Cellular sites were knocked out.… Fiber-optic transport equipment was crushed. Power failures cut off high-speed Internet service for many companies across the city.” Verizon’s switching center at 140 West Street will be badly damaged by falling debris and burst water pipes. AT&T officials will say “they are certain that they lost several pieces of sophisticated equipment in the basement of the World Trade Center that were used to transport data over fiber-optic cables.” [New York Times, 9/20/2001; General Accounting Office, 2/2003, pp. 91-92 ; Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 33; 9/11 Commission, 2/25/2004 ] As journalist and author Dan Verton will note, “For Richard Clarke, the digital destruction that severed Wall Street from the world [on September 11] was a nightmare come true.” [Verton, 2003, pp. 157]
Logo of the National Communications System. [Source: National Communications System]The National Coordinating Center (NCC) in Arlington, Virginia, which is the operational arm of the National Communications System (NCS), is activated in response to the terrorist attacks and supports the recovery efforts. [9/11 Commission, 3/16/2004 ] The NCS is a relatively small government agency that works to ensure the availability of critical communications networks during times of crisis. [Verton, 2003, pp. 136]
Center Conducts Non-Stop Operations - An NCS publication will later describe, “Immediately,” in response to the attacks, “the NCC began non-stop operations to support NS/EP [national security and emergency preparedness] communications between federal, state, and local responders, to restore damaged communications lines in Arlington, Virginia, and New York City, and to provision new lines for the recovery and investigation activities.” The NCC operates at four sites: the NCC itself, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Defense Department’s Global Network Operations Support Center headquarters, and a remote “continuity of operations” location. Brenton Greene, the director of the NCS, goes to his “Continuity of Government” site, where personnel operate around the clock to monitor the status of the telecommunications network, and coordinate priorities and repairs. The NCS, which is part of the Department of Defense, also deploys military reservists to three FEMA regional operations centers.
Time Center Activated at Unclear - Greene will tell the 9/11 Commission that the NCC is activated at 8:48 a.m. [National Communications System, 2004, pp. 56 ; 9/11 Commission, 3/16/2004 ] However, other accounts will indicate that the center is not activated until later on. According to journalist and author Dan Verton, Greene—who is attending a briefing on the terrorist threat to the US’s telecommunications infrastructure, apparently at the NCC—initially believes the first plane hit the World Trade Center by accident, and therefore orders the briefing to continue (see 8:00 a.m.-9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). It is only when the second plane hits the WTC at 9:03 a.m. that he realizes “there was some threat,” and responds to the crisis. [Verton, 2003, pp. 139, 141] Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will write that he himself gives the instruction to activate the NCS, at around 12:30 p.m. Then, according to Clarke, his colleague Paul Kurtz calls Greene and instructs him to tell all the major telephone companies that “they need to support Verizon.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 19-20]
Center Coordinates Emergency Communications during Crises - The NCS was established by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, in order to provide better communications support to critical government functions during emergencies. An executive order signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 broadened the NCS’s capabilities, and listed its duties as “the planning for and provision of national security and emergency preparedness communications for the federal government under all circumstances, including crisis or emergency, attack, recovery, and reconstitution.” [US President, 4/3/1984; National Communications System, 10/21/2007; CNET News, 1/16/2009] The NCS consists of 22 federal agencies, 100 full-time civilian employees, and 10 military employees. [Computerworld, 11/7/2002] The mission of the NCC is to assist “in the initiation, coordination, restoration, and reconstitution of national security or emergency preparedness telecommunications services or facilities under all conditions of crisis or emergency.” The center is composed of members from the US government and the telecommunications industry. [US President, 4/3/1984; National Communications System, 3/2001, pp. 4, 6 ] There are 150 private sector contractors from 21 companies working at the NCC. [Computerworld, 11/7/2002]
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