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Profile: Rob Hargis
Rob Hargis was a participant or observer in the following events:
John Sherman (left) and Rob Hargis (right). [Source: T.J. Kirkpatrick / MCT]A spontaneous training exercise is held in the White House Situation Room, based on the scenario of a terrorist bombing in Yemen. In recent months, the Situation Room has been extra vigilant due to the increased reporting of a possible terrorist attack on US interests in the Middle East. Presumably influenced by these concerns, Rob Hargis, the senior duty officer in the Situation Room, now holds an impromptu drill. He says to the others in the room: “Okay, there’s been a large bombing in Yemen. Who does what?” Further details of the exercise are unknown. Commenting on it, John Sherman, one of Hargis’s two assistants, will later say: “We were pretty keen on recognizing an event early. But we had no thoughts that morning about an attack on the homeland.”
Situation Room Is the 'Nerve Center' of Crisis Management - The Situation Room is a multi-room facility on the ground floor of the White House’s West Wing. It is staffed around the clock by personnel from each military branch, the State Department, and the intelligence agencies. [McClatchy Newspapers, 8/29/2011] Its mission is to provide current intelligence and crisis support to the National Security Council staff, the national security adviser, and the president. Its watch teams provide 24-hour monitoring of international events. [Studies in Intelligence, 1997] Throughout the terrorist attacks later this morning, the White House Situation Room will serve as “the nerve center of presidential crisis management,” according to McClatchy Newspapers. However, its director, Navy Captain Deborah Loewer, is away from the White House on this day, accompanying President Bush on his visit to Florida. [McClatchy Newspapers, 8/29/2011]
The White House Situation Room. [Source: Chuck Kennedy / White House]Staffers in the White House Situation Room remain where they are despite being advised to evacuate and a list of their names is sent out, in case an aircraft should crash into the White House. At 9:33 a.m., a supervisor at Washington’s Reagan National Airport called the Secret Service Joint Operations Center at the White House to report that an unidentified aircraft was heading toward the White House. The supervisor warned, “[I]f you’ve got people [at the White House], you’d better get them out of there” (see (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/14/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9; McClatchy Newspapers, 8/29/2011] Most personnel evacuated from the White House at around 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001]
Situation Room Personnel Decline the Advice to Leave - Meanwhile, Rob Hargis, the senior duty officer in the Situation Room, receives a call from a National Security Council official, who urges him and his colleagues to get out of the White House. Hargis turns to the others in the Situation Room and says: “We have been ordered to evacuate. If you want to go, go now.” However, everyone stays silent and no one gets up to leave. Hargis therefore tells the caller, “We’re staying.” He thinks the White House would be disconnected from the crisis if the Situation Room stopped operating at such a critical time. [McClatchy Newspapers, 8/29/2011] According to Franklin Miller, a senior aide to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, at some point Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley gives the instruction to keep the Situation Room running and there is in fact never any question about its personnel leaving. [New York Times, 3/30/2004]
Counterterrorism Chief Allegedly Asks the Staffers to Evacuate - White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke will later claim that, apparently around this time, he is concerned for the safety of those with him in the Situation Room, and so he huddles them together and asks them to leave. He tells them: “We will be the next target. It’s no shame to relocate. Some of you have kids too. Think about them.” But the staffers all decline his request. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 12] However, Miller will dispute whether Clarke makes this offer, calling his claim “a complete fiction” (see March 30, 2004). [New York Times, 3/30/2004]
List of the Staffers' Names Is Sent to the CIA - All the same, Miller is concerned for the safety of those in the Situation Room. “The White House could be hit; we could be going down,” he thinks. He therefore quietly compiles a list of the names of everyone in the room, he will recall, “so that when and if we died, someone would know who was in there.” The list is passed to Scott Heyer, a communications officer in the Situation Room, and Heyer e-mails it to the CIA operations center. [New York Times, 12/30/2001; McClatchy Newspapers, 8/29/2011] For the rest of the day, about a dozen staffers will remain in the Situation Room, working frantically to keep information flowing to President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and key White House personnel. [Daily Telegraph, 9/10/2010; McClatchy Newspapers, 8/29/2011]
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