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Profile: Robert J. Darling

Robert J. Darling was a participant or observer in the following events:

Members of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team.Members of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team. [Source: Training and Simulation Journal]The FBI’s Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG) goes to California for a week of training and is therefore stranded away from Washington, DC, when it is required to help in the response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Darling, 2010, pp. 75] The CIRG is “the unit that coordinates the FBI’s rapid response to crisis incidents, including terrorist attacks,” according to Major Robert Darling of the White House Military Office. Its members arrive in San Francisco this evening to participate in a week of special weapons and tactics (SWAT)-related field training. [Darling, 2010, pp. 74-75] While the 9/11 attacks are underway, NBC News will report that the FBI is in a state of “chaos,” partly because of the CIRG being stranded in California (see 10:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [NBC 4, 9/11/2001] On the afternoon of September 11, the White House will arrange for the CIRG to return to Washington as a matter of priority (see (3:50 p.m.) September 11, 2001), and the unit’s members will be flown back later that day (see Late Afternoon September 11, 2001). [Darling, 2010, pp. 73-76]
Unit Created to Respond to Terrorist Incidents - The CIRG would be a valuable resource for responding to the 9/11 attacks. The unit was established in 1994 “to give the FBI the ability to respond with the tactical and investigative expertise needed in a major terrorist incident,” according to the Congressional Research Service. It has crisis managers, hostage negotiators, behavioral scientists, surveillance assets, and agents that it can utilize. [United States General Accounting Office, 9/1997, pp. 40 pdf file; Brake, 4/19/2001, pp. 9-10 pdf file] The CIRG also has a “seven-step approach” it follows, which uses “active listening” to defuse a crisis. According to the Indian Express, “by showing support and empathy, [CIRG] negotiators often can talk a hijacker into surrendering largely by listening.” [Law Enforcement Bulletin, 8/1997; Indian Express, 12/29/1999]
Hostage Rescue Team Serves as Domestic Counterterrorism Unit - The tactical centerpiece of the CIRG is the Hostage Rescue Team (HRT), a full-time team headquartered in Quantico, Virginia, that is able to deploy to any location within four hours of notification. Its skills include hostage rescue tactics, precision shooting, and tactical site surveys. [United States General Accounting Office, 9/1997, pp. 40 pdf file; Brake, 4/19/2001, pp. 10 pdf file] The HRT was created to give civilian law enforcement agencies a counterterrorist community comparable to that which exists in the military. Many of its members have a military background. [Training and Simulation Journal, 2/2009] According to Darling, the HRT is ”the domestic counterterrorism unit, offering a tactical resolution option in hostage and high-risk law enforcement situations.” [Darling, 2010, pp. 7]

Entity Tags: Robert J. Darling, Critical Incident Response Group, FBI Hostage Rescue Team, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Eisenhower Executive Office Building.The Eisenhower Executive Office Building. [Source: White House]The Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB), a government building located next to the West Wing of the White House, is evacuated. [CNN, 9/11/2001; Washington Post, 1/27/2002] The EEOB is where most of the president’s staff works. [New York Times, 1/8/2009] It is evacuated on the orders of the Secret Service. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002] Carl Truscott, the Secret Service special agent in charge of the presidential protective division, recently learned that a suspicious aircraft was flying toward the White House, and as a result said he would initiate the evacuations of the White House and the EEOB (see (Shortly After 9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He then instructed a “White House security representative” to evacuate the White House. [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001; United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001]
Guards Scream at People to Leave Building - Lloyd Blanchard, who works for the Office of Management and Budget in the EEOB, will later describe the evacuation. He will recall seeing “security personnel… moving frantically through the building, telling everyone to evacuate.” Blanchard and his colleagues are unaware of why, specifically, they are being ordered to leave the building. [IEM, 9/11/2011] Cesar Conda, a domestic policy adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, whose office is in the EEOB, will recall seeing guards “screaming to everyone to ‘move’ and ‘run’ out of the White House complex.” [Politico, 4/23/2009] The New York Times will describe bomb squads “racing through the upper floors of the [EEOB], screaming, ‘Get out, get out, this is real!’” [New York Times, 9/16/2001] And Ron Christie, the deputy assistant to the vice president for domestic policy, will describe the scene on the second floor of the EEOB, writing: “[T]he offices containing the vice president’s Secret Service detail were flung open. Men and women I’d never seen before ran out with automatic weapons. They began to shout: ‘Everybody evacuate the building. Get out now!’” [Christie, 2006, pp. 129]
Some People Hear Recorded Evacuation Order - Apparently, some people in the EEOB hear an announcement instructing them to evacuate, but others do not. Time magazine will describe a recorded announcement going off. It will report: “Staff members in the [EEOB]… were huddled in front of their TV screens when they heard from TV reporters that they were being evacuated. Then the tape loop began. ‘The building is being evacuated. Please walk to the nearest exit.’” [Time, 9/14/2001] According to White House spokesman Scott Stanzel, who is in the EEOB, “[A]larms sounded, a steady, electronic beep, followed by a recorded male voice [saying,] ‘Evacuate the White House.’” [Knight Ridder, 9/16/2001] And Major Robert Darling, who is in the White House Airlift Operations office on the fourth floor of the EEOB, will recall, “The building’s intercom suddenly came to life and ordered all personnel to evacuate the White House and the adjoining Eisenhower Executive Office Building.” The announcement states: “Evacuate the White House complex! All personnel are to evacuate the White House complex immediately!” [Darling, 2010, pp. 46]
Some People Hear 'No Alarm Bells' - However, Yvonne Boulding, who works for the Office of Management and Budget, hears no announcement. “There was no announcement to evacuate,” she will recall. “Everybody just started yelling, ‘Get out, get out.’” [Boston Globe, 9/11/2001] And according to Mitch Daniels, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, “There was some confusion” but “no alarm bells went off.” Daniels will say that people instead decide to leave the building based on “word of mouth.” [New York Times, 9/12/2001]
Commotion, but No Evacuation Order Earlier On - Apparently no order was given to evacuate the EEOB earlier on, even when the nearby Pentagon was hit at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). Conda will recall that at the time he heard the boom in the distance from the Pentagon attack, the EEOB had not yet been evacuated. He had, however, already noticed “a lot of commotion, with the Secret Service agents scurrying up and down the marbled hallway” outside his office. [Politico, 4/23/2009] Just before the evacuation begins, Christie saw a Secret Service officer he is friends with outside the office of Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, on the second floor of the EEOB. The agent waved frantically when he noticed Christie and then told him: “Ron, you need to get out of here. I’ve heard there’s another plane inbound to the White House and it could get here in less than two minutes. You need to get your staff, get out, and stay away from the windows.” [Christie, 2006, pp. 128-129] The EEOB will be mostly empty by 10:05 a.m., according to a Secret Service timeline. [United States Secret Service, 9/12/2001] The White House is evacuated around the same time as the EEOB is (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 2001 pdf file; CNN, 9/12/2001]

Entity Tags: Yvonne Boulding, Lloyd Blanchard, Eisenhower Executive Offices Building, US Secret Service, Cesar Conda, Ron Christie, Mitch Daniels, Scott Stanzel, Robert J. Darling

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Eric Edelman.Eric Edelman. [Source: US Department of Defense]An anonymous phone call is received at the White House in which the caller says Air Force One, the president’s plane, will be the next terrorist target and uses code words indicating they have inside information about government procedures. [Cheney, 9/11/2001; New York Times, 9/13/2001; Woodward, 2002, pp. 18] Air Force One is currently flying toward Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, with President Bush on board (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325] The White House receives a call from an anonymous individual, warning that the next target of the terrorist attacks will be Air Force One. The caller refers to the plane as “Angel.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 106-107; Woodward, 2002, pp. 18; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554; Darling, 2010, pp. 60-61] “Angel” is the Secret Service’s code name for Air Force One. [Williams, 2004, pp. 81; CBS News, 11/25/2009] An unnamed “high White House official” will later say the use of “American code words” shows the caller has “knowledge of procedures that made the threat credible.” [New York Times, 9/13/2001]
Government Officials Told about Threat - News of the threatening call is promptly passed on to government officials in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC)—a bunker below the White House—and reported on the Pentagon’s air threat conference call. [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file; Newsweek, 12/30/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554; Darling, 2010, pp. 60-61] Vice President Dick Cheney, who is in the PEOC, will comment that the news “reinforced the notion here… that the government has been targeted and that we need to be extra careful about making certain we protected the continuity of government, secured the president, secured the presidency.” [White House, 11/19/2001] According to Major Robert Darling of the White House Military Office, who is also in the PEOC, “The talk among the principals in the room quickly determined that the use of a code word implied that the threat to Air Force One and the president could well be from someone with access to [the president’s] inner circle—possibly someone who was near the president at that very moment.” [Darling, 2010, pp. 61]
Accounts Conflict over Who Receives Call - It is unclear who at the White House answers the call in which the threat against Air Force One is made. The call is received by the White House switchboard, according to some accounts. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 106; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 141-142] Other accounts will indicate it is received by the White House Situation Room. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554; Darling, 2010, pp. 60-61] Eric Edelman, a member of Cheney’s staff who is in the PEOC, will say the call is received by the Secret Service. [White House, 10/25/2001] But two Secret Service agents who are on duty today will deny “that their agency played any role in receiving or passing on a threat to the presidential jet,” according to the Wall Street Journal. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 pdf file] However, a Secret Service pager message will be sent at 10:32 a.m., which states that the “JOC”—the Secret Service Joint Operations Center at the White House—has received an “anonymous call” reporting that “Angel is [a] target.” [CBS News, 11/25/2009]
Military Officer Passes on Details of Threat - Officials in the PEOC reportedly learn about the threat to Air Force One from a military officer working in the center. Although Cheney will say the threat “came through the Secret Service,” he will say later this year that he is unsure who passed the details of it to those in the PEOC. [Meet the Press, 9/16/2001; White House, 11/19/2001] An official in Cheney’s office will say in 2004 that Cheney was informed of the threat by “a uniformed military person” manning the PEOC, although Cheney and his staff are unaware who that individual was. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 pdf file] National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice will say that those in the PEOC are told about the threat by a “communicator,” meaning one of the military officers who works in the PEOC, and is responsible for “establishing phone lines and video lines, and staying in touch with the National Military Command Center” at the Pentagon. [White House, 11/1/2001] The military officer Rice is referring to may be Darling. Darling will recall that he answers a call from the White House Situation Room about the threat to Air Force One and then passes on the information he receives to Rice, telling her, “Ma’am, the [Situation Room] reports that they have a credible source in the Sarasota, Florida, area that claims Angel is the next target.” Rice immediately passes on the news to Cheney, according to Darling. [Darling, 2010, pp. 60-61] Cheney will subsequently call Bush and tell him about the threat (see (10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 106-107; CBS News, 9/11/2002]
Reason for 'Bogus' Threat Unclear - The threat will be determined to be “almost surely bogus,” according to Newsweek. [Newsweek, 12/30/2001] The Secret Service’s intelligence division tracked down the origin of this threat,” the 9/11 Commission Report will state, “and, during the day, determined that it had originated in a misunderstanding by a watch officer in the White House Situation Room.” Although the 9/11 Commission will say it found the intelligence division’s “witnesses on this point to be credible,” Deborah Loewer, the director of the White House Situation Room, will dispute this account. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554] By the end of 2001, White House officials will say they still do not know where the threat came from. [Newsweek, 12/30/2001] Darling will write in 2010, “To this day, it has never been determined why either the ‘credible source’ or Situation Room personnel used that code word [i.e. ‘Angel’] in their report to the PEOC.” [Darling, 2010, pp. 62] “The best we can tell,” Rice will say, is that “there was a call that talked about events—something happening to the president on the ground in Florida. And that somehow got interpreted as Air Force One.” She will say that the fact the caller knew the code name for Air Force One is “why we still continue to suspect it wasn’t a crank call.” [White House, 11/1/2001] However, former Secret Service officials will say the code name wasn’t an official secret, but instead “a radio shorthand designation that had been made public well before 2001.” [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Eric Edelman, Condoleezza Rice, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Deborah Loewer, US Secret Service, Robert J. Darling, White House

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Will Chandler.Will Chandler. [Source: National Geographic]Vice President Dick Cheney phones President Bush and tells him the White House has received a credible threat against Air Force One. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 106-107; Woodward, 2002, pp. 18; CBS News, 9/11/2002] The White House has just received an anonymous phone call in which the caller said the president’s plane would be the next terrorist target (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Woodward, 2002, pp. 18; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554] The caller referred to the plane as “Angel,” which is the Secret Service’s code name for Air Force One. [Fleischer, 2005, pp. 141-142] Details of the call were passed on to government officials, including Cheney, in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House. [White House, 11/19/2001; Newsweek, 12/30/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554]
Cheney Tells Bush about a 'Credible' Threat - Cheney now tells Bush: “We’re getting reports of a threat against you. It appears credible,” Major Robert Darling of the White House Military Office, who is with Cheney in the PEOC, will later recall. Cheney says, “We’re scrambling fighter escorts and the Secret Service is taking internal precautions on board Air Force One.” [Darling, 2010, pp. 61] Bush turns to Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gould, his military aide, and passes on the news, saying, “A call came into the White House switchboard saying, ‘Angel is next.’” Bush then continues talking with Cheney and says, “We’re at war, Dick, and we’re going to find out who did this and we’re going to kick their ass.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 107; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 141-142]
Pilot Is Told of the Threat and Asks for a Guard at the Cockpit Door - Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, is told about the threat. [CBS News, 9/11/2002] Noting that “Angel” is “a classified call sign of Air Force One,” Tillman will comment that “the only people that knew that call sign was us, [the] Secret Service, and the staff.” Therefore, he will say, “for somebody [to] call into the White House and say that Angel was next, that was just incredible.” [US Air Force, 2/29/2012 pdf file] “It was serious before that, but now… no longer is it a time to get the president home,” Tillman will comment. “We actually have to consider everything we say. Everything we do could be intercepted and we have to make sure that no one knows what our position is.” Tillman asks to have an armed guard at his cockpit door. Will Chandler, the chief of security, is therefore summoned to the front of the plane and stands watch at the base of the stairs leading to the cockpit. No one is then allowed up these stairs. Secret Service agents double-check the identity of everyone on the plane, while the crew reviews the emergency evacuation plan. [CBS News, 9/11/2002; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Threat Influences the Decision to Fly to Nebraska - White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who is on Air Force One with Bush, will say the threat against the president’s plane is what leads to the decision to take Bush to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001) and is also one of the reasons why Bush does not head back to Washington, DC, right away. [White House, 9/12/2001] However, during the afternoon, the Secret Service will determine that the reported threat was unfounded. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554] Shortly after Bush learns about the threat, Tillman will be informed that an aircraft that may have been hijacked is heading toward Air Force One (see (10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CBS News, 9/11/2002; CBS News, 1/17/2009] White House chief of staff Andrew Card will say he in fact learned a threat had been made against Air Force One almost an hour earlier, while he was being driven with Bush to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (see (Between 9:35 a.m. and 9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [White House, 8/12/2002; White House, 8/16/2002; White House, 8/16/2002]

Entity Tags: Mark Tillman, Ari Fleischer, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George W. Bush, Robert J. Darling, US Secret Service, Will Chandler, Thomas Gould

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Mark Rosenker.Mark Rosenker. [Source: National Transportation Safety Board]The FAA’s Jacksonville Center informs the pilot of Air Force One that an unidentified aircraft is heading toward his plane, and this aircraft is out of radio contact, has its transponder off, and might be another hijacking. Air Force One is currently flying toward Gainesville in northern Florida. [CBS News, 9/11/2002; CBS News, 1/17/2009; Peter Schnall, 1/25/2009] Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, has just been informed that President Bush, who is on the plane, has been called by Vice President Dick Cheney, and Cheney told the president that an anonymous threat has been phoned into the White House, stating that Air Force One is the next target (see (10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 106-107; CBS News, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554]
Suspicious Plane Descending toward Air Force One - Tillman is now notified of the suspicious aircraft by the Jacksonville Center. He will later recall that the Jacksonville Center air traffic controller says there is “an aircraft coming at us, descending… and… its transponder was not on, and they had no idea who it was. It could have been another hijacked airliner. They weren’t sure.” The controller tells Tillman the aircraft is “behind you 10 miles, descending at least, flight level 3-5-0, looks to be holding there.” He adds: “Apparently we’ve lost radio contact with them. Are you aware of them?” Tillman replies, “Affirmative.” [Peter Schnall, 1/25/2009] The FAA reports this suspicious aircraft over the Pentagon’s air threat conference call at 10:39 a.m., saying the Jacksonville Center “is not working the aircraft. He’s not under [air traffic control] control.” [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file] Major Robert Darling of the White House Military Office, who is in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, will later recall that around this time, those in the PEOC receive word “of an unaccounted-for airliner last seen in the Atlanta, Georgia, area headed southeast toward Florida.” It is unclear if this is the aircraft that Tillman is warned about. [Darling, 2010, pp. 61]
Pilot Tells Others on Air Force One of Suspect Plane - Tillman informs others onboard Air Force One of the suspicious plane. Mark Rosenker, the director of the White House Military Office, will recall that Tillman “indicated to us that something was coming at us, it was not squawking [i.e. its transponder was off], it was not turning, and we had a feeling that we were going to be able to get away from it. But for a moment you ask the question, ‘What could it be?’” A CBS interviewer will point out to Rosenker that since this “unidentified aircraft… had its transponder off and wasn’t communicating,” it is apparently following “the MO [modus operandi] of all the other aircraft that attacked that day,” and suggest, “That must have made everybody a little nervous.” Rosenker will reply, “Well, it did.” However, he will add, “[W]e are clearly on probably the finest airplane in the world, so we were comforted by knowing that we had the ability to out-run and out-climb anything that was going to get near us.” [White House, 8/29/2002]
Air Force One Heads toward Gulf of Mexico for Safety - Tillman turns Air Force One and heads out to the Gulf of Mexico. He will recall: “We weren’t sure who was hijacked and who wasn’t, so I went out into the Gulf of Mexico. There’s basically fighters all over the Gulf that have the capability to make sure that no one comes into the Gulf, penetrates the United States. So I knew I’d be safe out into the Gulf of Mexico.” He will say he heads to the Gulf “to regroup and figure out where we could bring the president to keep him safe.”
Suspicious Plane a False Alarm - The concern about the suspicious aircraft turns out to be a false alarm. According to Tillman, “In reality, just his transponder was off [and] he hadn’t checked in with the controller right afterwards.” [CBS News, 1/17/2009; Peter Schnall, 1/25/2009]

Entity Tags: Mark Rosenker, Mark Tillman, Robert J. Darling, Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Robert J. Darling.Robert J. Darling. [Source: Robert J. Darling]Government and military officials in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House learn that the FBI’s crisis response team wants to be flown from California back to Washington, DC, and, because of the team’s crucial role in responding to terrorism, they arrange a flight for it as a matter of priority. [Darling, 2010, pp. 73-75] The FBI’s Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG) arrived in California the previous day for a week of field training (see September 10, 2001) and was therefore stranded away from Washington when the terrorist attacks occurred this morning (see 10:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [NBC 4, 9/11/2001; Darling, 2010, pp. 75]
FBI San Francisco Office Arranges to Get Team to Washington - Two agents belonging to the CIRG learned of the attacks when the FBI’s San Francisco field office phoned them just before 9:00 a.m. (Eastern time) and alerted them to the events in New York. The agents quickly went to the field office, where Bruce Gebhardt, the special agent in charge, gave them the details of what had happened, and told them to get their team together and head to the San Francisco airport. Gebhardt said that although US airspace was closed to all commercial air traffic (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he would do what he could to get the CIRG transported back to Washington as soon as possible. The team members therefore packed their gear and went to the airport. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 8/18/2004; Darling, 2010, pp. 75-76]
Transporting Unit Home Becomes 'Priority' at White House - In the PEOC, Colonel Michael Irwin, the director of operations for the White House Military Office, is called by a senior member of the FBI, who requests airlift support for the CIRG. The request is quickly passed to Joe Hagin, the White House deputy chief of staff. Hagin hands it back to Irwin and says: “I want you to get these folks back to DC immediately! Let the military know this is a White House priority.” The task of getting the CIRG back to Washington is then passed to Major Robert Darling, the White House Military Office airlift operations liaison officer, who is also in the PEOC. It becomes his “number-one mission priority.” The CIRG is the unit that coordinates the FBI’s rapid response to crisis incidents, including terrorist attacks. Therefore, “It made perfect sense,” Darling will later comment, “that the president would want them home and at the ready, given the day’s events.”
United Airlines Offers to Provide Aircraft - After learning that the FBI has essential personnel trying to return to Washington, United Airlines quickly offers its services. If the White House can authorize an aircraft to fly under the Special Assignment Air Mission designator, the airline says, it will provide the required aircraft and crew immediately. With the approval of Hagin and a phone call to NORAD, United Airlines Flight 8811 is authorized to transport the CIRG back to Washington. “Within the hour” of this authorization being given, according to Darling, the CIRG members will take off from San Francisco and head back to Washington (see Late Afternoon September 11, 2001). [Darling, 2010, pp. 73-76]

Entity Tags: Critical Incident Response Group, Bruce Gebhardt, Federal Bureau of Investigation, United Airlines, Michael Irwin, Robert J. Darling, Joseph W. Hagin, North American Aerospace Defense Command

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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