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A month after 9/11, the New York Times will report: “Interpreting intercepted communications, which are cryptic and in code, and sorting through all the rumors present a formidable challenge. One intercept before the Sept. 11 attack was, according to two senior intelligence officials, the first early warning of the assault and it set off a scramble by American and other intelligence agencies. In that call, Mr. bin Laden advised his wife in Syria to come back to Afghanistan. That message, which was intercepted by the intelligence services of more than one country, was passed on to the United States, officials from three countries said.” [New York Times, 10/21/2001] Bin Laden apparently makes a similar phone call to his stepmother in Syria on September 9, 2001 (see September 9, 2001).
At some point, a man later believed to be 9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi buys a pilot’s headset from Eastern Avionics, a vendor at the Charlotte County Airport in Punta Gorda, Florida (see (2000-August 2001)). Subsequently, in the months leading up to 9/11, the salesperson receives e-mails, which may have been sent by hijacker Mohamed Atta as part of a mass mailing. Some are in Arabic, and appear to express Muslim concerns, with one including a photo taken in the Middle East of a dead child. After 9/11, the FBI will take hold of all these e-mails. The local sheriff will point out that there are some other people’s e-mail addresses that can be gleaned from the messages, although the FBI never publicly reveals the identities of these individuals. [Charlotte Sun, 9/21/2001; Charlotte Sun, 10/2/2001; NBC 2 (Fort Myers), 4/24/2002] Investigative reporter Daniel Hopsicker, who later obtains copies of the e-mails, will report that some of the 40 or so addresses Atta sent to belong to employees of US defense contractors. [Atta, 4/24/2002; Hopsicker, 2004, pp. 104-105]
Cheetah’s nude bar in San Diego. [Source: Cheetah's]A number of the 9/11 hijackers apparently drink alcohol heavily in bars, sleep with prostitutes, and watch strip shows in the US in the months and especially the days leading up to 9/11.
In late February 2001, hijacker Ziad Jarrah frequents a strip club in Jacksonville, Florida (see February 25-March 4, 2001).
In July 2001, hijackers Hamza Alghamdi and Marwan Alshehhi make two purchases of “pornographic video and sex toys” from a Florida store (see July 4-27, 2001).
Some hijackers, including possibly Satam Al Suqami and Waleed and Wail Alshehri, sleep with prostitutes in the days before 9/11 (see September 7-11, 2001).
On September 10, three hijacker associates spend $200 to $300 apiece on lap dances and drinks in the Pink Pony, a Daytona Beach, Florida, strip club. While the hijackers have left Florida by this time, Mohamed Atta is reported to have visited the same strip club, and these men appear to have foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks (see September 10, 2001). [Boston Herald, 10/10/2001]
Alshehhi and Atta are seen entering the Hollywood, Florida, sports bar Shuckums already drunk. They proceed to drink even more hard alcohol there (see September 7, 2001).
Atta and Alshehhi are seen at Sunrise 251, a bar in Palm Beach, Florida. They spend $1,000 in 45 minutes on Krug and Perrier-Jouet champagne. Atta is with a tall busty brunette in her late twenties; Alshehhi is with a shortish blonde. Both women are known locally as regular companions of high-rollers. [Daily Mail, 9/16/2001]
A stripper at the Olympic Garden Topless Cabaret in Las Vegas, Nevada, will later recall Alshehhi being “cheap,” paying only $20 for a lap dance. [Cox News Service, 10/16/2001]
Several hijackers reportedly patronize the Nardone’s Go-Go Bar in Elizabeth, New Jersey. They are even seen there on the weekend before 9/11. [Boston Herald, 10/10/2001; Wall Street Journal, 10/16/2001]
Majed Moqed visits a porn shop on three occasions and rents a porn video. The mayor of Paterson, New Jersey, will later say of the six hijackers who stay there, “Nobody ever saw them at mosques, but they liked the go-go clubs.” [Newsday, 9/23/2001; Newsweek, 10/15/2001]
Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar often frequent Cheetah’s, a nude bar in San Diego. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002]
Alshehhi is possibly seen in the Cheetah nightclub in Pompado Beach, Florida, on July 1, 2001. Six dancers who work there will later claim to have seen him. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 173 ]
Hamza Alghamdi watches a porn video on either the afternoon of September 9 or on September 10. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 272 ; Wall Street Journal, 10/16/2001]
Temple University, Philadelphia, professor Mahmoud Mustafa Ayoub will later comment: “It is incomprehensible that a person could drink and go to a strip bar one night, then kill themselves the next day in the name of Islam.… People who would kill themselves for their faith would come from very strict Islamic ideology. Something here does not add up.” [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/16/2001]
Entity Tags: Hamza Alghamdi, Khalid Almihdhar, Mahmoud Mustafa Ayoub, Marwan Alshehhi, Majed Moqed, Mohamed Atta, Wail Alshehri, Waleed Alshehri, Satam Al Suqami, Nawaf Alhazmi, Ziad Jarrah
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
The number of US air marshals (specially trained, plainclothes armed federal agents deployed on airliners) has shrunk from about 2,000 during the Cold War to 32 by 9/11. None are deployed on domestic flights. The number is later increased to about 2,000, but it would take about 120,000 marshals at a cost of $10 billion a year to protect all daily flights to, from, or within the US. [Los Angeles Times, 1/14/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 85]
The position of Deputy Secretary for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, the Defense Department post traditionally dealing the most with counterterrorism, still has not been filled since being vacated in January 2001 when Bush became president. Aides to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld later tell the 9/11 Commission that “the new [Defense Department] team was focused on other issues” and not counterterrorism. [Newsweek, 3/24/2004]
Just prior to 9/11, the CIA and FBI do not have enough staff working on al-Qaeda. Only 17 to 19 people are working in the FBI’s special unit focusing on bin Laden and al-Qaeda. [US Congress, 9/18/2002] The FBI has a $4.3 billion anti-terrorism budget, but of its 27,000 employees, just 153 are devoted to terrorism analysis. [Sydney Morning Herald, 6/8/2002] The FBI’s “analytic expertise has been ‘gutted’ by transfers to operational units” and only one strategic analyst is assigned full time to al-Qaeda. The FBI office in New York is very aware of the threat from bin Laden, but many branch offices remain largely unaware. [US Congress, 9/18/2002] A senior FBI official later tells Congress that there are fewer FBI agents assigned to counterterrorism on this day than in August 1998, when the US embassy bombings in Africa made bin Laden a household name. [New York Times, 9/22/2002] The CIA has only about 35 to 40 people assigned to their special bin Laden unit. It has five strategic analysts working full time on al-Qaeda. [US Congress, 9/18/2002] The CIA and FBI later complain that some of these figures are misleading. [New York Times, 9/18/2002] “Individuals in both the CIA and FBI units… reported being seriously overwhelmed by the volume of information and workload prior to September 11, 2001.” Despite numerous warnings that planes could be used as weapons, such a possibility was never studied, and a congressional report later blames lack of staff as a major reason for this. [US Congress, 9/18/2002] Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) also notes, “Between the Department of Justice and the FBI, they had a whole task force working on finding a couple of houses of prostitution in New Orleans. They had one on al-Qaeda.” [CBS News, 9/25/2002]
Another deputies meeting further considers policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan, and makes further revisions to the National Security Presidential Directive regarding al-Qaeda. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004] By the end of the meeting, a formal, three-phase strategy is agreed upon. An envoy is to go to Afghanistan and give the Taliban another chance to expel Osama bin Laden. If this fails, more pressure will be put on the Taliban, including more support for the Northern Alliance and other groups. If the Taliban still refuse to change, the US will try to overthrow them through more direct action. The time-frame for this strategy is about three years. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004] CIA Director George Tenet is formally tasked to draw up new authorities for the covert action program envisioned and request funding to implement it. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004] The directive is then to be sent to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice for approval. President Bush is apparently aware of the directive and prepared to sign it (though he hasn’t attended any of the meetings about it), but he will not sign it until October. [MSNBC, 5/16/2002; Los Angeles Times, 5/18/2002; Washington Post, 4/1/2004]
The Sphinx Trading sign. [Source: National Geographic]Some of the 9/11 hijackers rent mailboxes from a company called Sphinx Trading, which was also used by ‘Blind Sheikh’ Omar Abdul-Rahman and at least one of his associates. The mailboxes are located in Jersey City, New Jersey, four doors down from the mosque where Abdul-Rahman was imam in the early 1990s. El Sayyid Nosair, who assassinated Rabbi Meir Kahane and was linked to the Islamic militant cell Abdul-Rahman headed (see November 5, 1990 and December 7, 1991), also had a mailbox there before he was arrested in 1990. Sphinx Trading is owned by Waleed al-Noor, who was named an unindicted co-conspirator at the ‘Landmarks’ bomb plot trial (see June 24, 1993). The hijackers will later obtain fake IDs from al-Noor’s partner, Mohamed el-Atriss. The names of the hijackers who had mailboxes there are never given, but in the summer of 2001 el-Atriss interacts with hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi, Abdulaziz Alomari, Khalid Almihdhar, and Hani Hanjour (see (July-August 2001)), at least. [New York Times, 6/25/2003; Newark Star-Ledger, 10/20/2003; Lance, 2006, pp. 372-4; Bergen Record, 9/11/2006] An FBI agent will later comment: “The fact that this location was where Almihdhar, in particular, got his bogus credentials, is not only shocking, it makes me angry. The [Joint Terrorist Task Force] in the [New York Office] had this location back in 1991. In the mid-90s they listed al-Noor, the coowner, as a coconspirator, unindicted in the plot to blow up bridges and tunnels. And now we find out that this is the precise location where the most visible of all the hijackers in the US got his ID? Incredible. All the Bureau’s New York Office had to do was sit on that place over the years and they would have broken right into the 9/11 plot.” [Lance, 2006, pp. 373]
In October 2001, an Iranian named Mehrzad Arbane will tell an associate that he may have smuggled two of the 9/11 hijackers into the US. The associate, a known cocaine smuggler, will be so alarmed that he will become a government informant against Arbane. In 2004, Arbane will be convicted of smuggling cocaine from Latin America into the US and it will be reported he is also being investigated for money laundering and smuggling people from the Middle East into the US. It is not known which hijackers he may have smuggled into the US or when this may have taken place. [Village Voice, 5/25/2004] This runs counter to the 9/11 Commission’s claim, as expressed by one 9/11 Commission staffer, “The plotters all used their own passports to get into the country.” [United Press International, 8/17/2005]
It has been widely reported that the CIA never had any assets near bin Laden before 9/11. For instance, Lawrence Wright will write in his highly regarded 2006 book, The Looming Tower, “The fact is that the CIA had no one inside al-Qaeda or the Taliban security that surrounded bin Laden.” [Wright, 2006, pp. 265] But author Ronald Kessler will write in a 2004 book, “Often, the CIA used operatives from Arab intelligence services like those of Jordan, Syria, Egypt, and other countries to infiltrate bin Laden’s organization.” A longtime CIA officer says, “Egyptians, Jordanians, [and] Palestinians penetrated the bin Laden organization for us. It’s B.S. that we didn’t.” Kessler further explains that such operations remain one of the CIA’s best-kept secrets and often occur even with intelligence agencies the CIA is sometimes otherwise at odds with. Kessler says, “In return for help, the CIA provided them with money, equipment, and intelligence on their adversaries. Over the years, the Jordanians, for example, relied on the CIA to alert them to plots against the king. Over time, the Jordanians became so good at the intelligence game that they were better at detecting plots than the CIA.” [Kessler, 2004, pp. 143] Jack Cloonan, an FBI expert on al-Qaeda, will later say, “There were agents run into the camps. But most of them were not very well placed,” and lacked access to the inner circles. [United Press International, 11/27/2006] One example of such an asset may be Khalil Deek, who worked closely with al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida (see 1998-December 11, 1999) and was reportedly a mole for Jordanian intelligence (see Shortly After December 11, 1999). In the months before 9/11, Jordan will warn the US that al-Qaeda is planning a major attack inside the US using aircraft (see Late Summer 2001), and Egypt will warn the CIA that al-Qaeda has 20 operatives on a mission in the US, some of them training to fly (see Late July 2001).
According to a 2007 book by former CIA Director George Tenet, shortly before 9/11, the CIA learns that a Pakistani charity front has been helping al-Qaeda acquire weapons of mass destruction. The charity, Ummah Tameer-e-Nau (UTN), was founded in 2000 by two prominent nuclear scientists, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Chaudiri Abdul Majeed (see 2000). UTN allegedly is conducting charitable projects in Afghanistan, but a friendly intelligence service tells the CIA that UTN is really helping al-Qaeda build weapons, especially nuclear weapons. Tenet will claim that he presses “all of our contacts worldwide to find out anything we could about the people and organizations with WMD that might be wiling to share expertise with al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.” Ben Bonk, deputy chief of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center (CTC), meets with Musa Kusa, head of Libya’s intelligence service, and Kusa tells him that Libya had contact with UTN. “Yes, they tried to sell us a nuclear weapon. Of course, we turned them down.” According to Tenet, this confirms other information from a different intelligence agency that UTN approached Libya with an offer to provide WMD expertise. The CIA then informs the Pakistani government of this, and Pakistan brings in seven board members of UTN for questioning. But according to Tenet, “The investigation was ill-fated from the get-go” and the UTN officials “were not properly isolated and questioned.” [Tenet, 2007, pp. 262-263] Also shortly before 9/11, the CIA also learns that the two nuclear scientists who founded UTN had recently met with Osama bin Laden and advised him on how to make a nuclear weapon (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001). But despite all this the US takes no other action against UTN before 9/11, not even freezing the assets of the charity until December 2001 (see Early October-December 2001).
The CIA learns that two prominent Pakistani nuclear scientists have met with al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri in mid-August 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell will tell Pakistani officials when he visits Pakistan in October this year (see Early October-December 2001). In the meeting, the two scientists, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Chaudiri Abdul Majeed, discussed helping al-Qaeda make a nuclear weapon (see Mid-August 2001). [Frantz and Collins, 2007, pp. 268-269] CIA Director George Tenet will confirm, in a 2007 book, that the CIA learned of this meeting prior to 9/11. He will write: “A Western intelligence service came to us in the fall of 2001 [with details of the meeting].… [The] CIA pressed the Pakistanis to confront Mahmood and Majeed with this new information. We put [evidence that a charity named Ummah Tameer-e-Nau run by Mahmood and Majeed tried to sell Libya a nuclear weapon] on the table. We also passed new information that had been collected by other intelligence services. To no avail. Then 9/11 struck and there was no slowing down in this pursuit.” [Tenet, 2007, pp. 264] No evidence will be presented showing that President Bush or other top US officials are warned of this, or that there are any general warnings inside the US government about this. Pakistan is not successfully pressured about it before 9/11 (in fact, the Pakistani ISI already knows about it and has failed to warn the US (see Between Mid-August and September 10, 2001)), and after 9/11 the only action Pakistan will take is to twice arrest and then quickly release the two scientists. Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will comment in a 2007 book, “This information, added to the missing canisters of highly enriched uranium [in Pakistan], might have been sufficient to redirect” top Bush officials to take sterner action against al-Qaeda before 9/11. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 311]
Nageeb Abdul Jabar Mohammed Al-Hadi is on an airplane from Frankfurt, Germany, to Chicago when the flight is diverted to Toronto, Canada, due to the shutdown of flights to the US in the immediate wake of the 9/11 attacks. Customs officers search his suitcases and find two Lufthansa airline crew uniforms (he was a Lufthansa sales representative in Yemen) and a piece of torn paper with cryptic writing on it sewn into the pocket of a pair of pants. He is also carrying four Yemeni passports, each with a different passport number. Three bear his photograph and variations of his name, while a fourth has the name and photo of another person. He is married to a US woman living in Detroit. He is arrested and detained. [Hamilton Spectator, 9/26/2001] Al-Hadi is connected through telephone records to Nabil al-Marabh. [Toronto Sun, 9/27/2001] In May 2002, it will be reported that Canada has approved his deportation to the US, where he is wanted on several charges of passport forgery. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 5/7/2002] It appears that in January 2003, he is convicted in the US on the forgery charges. [Washington Post, 6/12/2005]
State Department official Hillary Mann, walking home after being evacuated from the United Nations building after the two World Trade Center attacks, is contacted by a senior Iranian diplomat on her personal cell phone. Mann and the Iranian, whom she will refuse to name but will describe as a cultured man in his fifties with salt-and-pepper hair, have been secretly meeting in a small conference room at the UN. He says the attacks were most likely the work of al-Qaeda, and then says, “I hope that we can still work together.” In the following weeks, the Iranian official will maintain contact with Mann, offering backchannel support for the US and the chance for more full-fledged, open diplomatic contacts. [Esquire, 10/18/2007]
9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta’s “wife” attempts to clear Atta’s driving record. On April 26, 2001, Atta was issued a citation for driving without a license (see April 26, 2001). Because he failed to show up for a hearing, an arrest warrant was issued for him on June 4, 2001 (see June 4, 2001). According to an FBI report on hijacker activities after 9/11, “A woman claiming to be Atta’s wife arrived at Broward County Courthouse on September 11, 2001 and attempted to clear his record.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 4/19/2002] There will be no known reports of Atta having a wife, although he may have gotten engaged once (see October 1999). A search of article databases shows that Atta’s name is first mentioned in the media on September 12. [Knight Ridder Newspapers, 9/12/2001] The FBI makes no further mention of who this woman may be or what her motive may be, and this incident will not be reported by the media.
In the months leading up to the war with Iraq, Bush administration officials manipulate the intelligence provided to them by analysts in order to drum up support for the invasion. Some analysts complain that they are under pressure to write assessments that support the administration’s case for invading Iraq. On March 7, 2002, Knight Ridder reports that various military officials, intelligence employees, and diplomats in the Bush administration have charged “that the administration squelches dissenting views and that intelligence analysts are under intense pressure to produce reports supporting the White House’s argument that Hussein poses such an immediate threat to the United States that preemptive military action is necessary.” [Knight Ridder, 10/7/2002]
The EPA sets up more than 30 fixed air-quality monitors in and around Ground Zero as well as regional monitors in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island to test for the presence of certain contaminants. [Environmental Protection Agency, 9/9/2005] More than 30 such air monitors are also positioned at various locations in the Staten Island Landfill, where the WTC debris will be taken. [Environmental Protection Agency, 9/9/2005] Additionally, both the EPA and OSHA operate portable sampling equipment to collect data from a variety of other surrounding locations. [Environmental Protection Agency, 6/4/2002 ; Environmental Protection Agency, 3/23/2005; Environmental Protection Agency, 3/25/2005] The equipment, however, does not test the air for fiberglass, a common building material and a known carcinogen [Occupational Hazards, 1/25/2002] , or mercury in airborne dusts (although they do test for mercury in its vapor state). [Jenkins, 7/4/2003 ] Critics will argue that monitoring outdoor air is insufficient since it will ultimately be diluted because of wind and diffusion—unlike indoor air, which clings to fabrics and is trapped within walls. [International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, 1/21/2002] Aside from a few exceptions (see September 13, 2001-September 19, 2001), the EPA will use the outdated polarized light microscopy (PLM) testing method for counting asbestos fibers instead of electron microscope technology (see September 12, 2001) which provides far more accurate results. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 2/28/2001; St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1/14/2002]
During the first 25 days of the rescue/recovery effort at the World Trade Center site, 800 policemen are provided with only paper masks. Printed on each of the masks is a disclaimer stating: “Warning, this mask does not protect your lungs.” [Guardian, 6/5/2002]
National Security Adviser Rice is scheduled to deliver a speech claiming to address “the threats and problems of today and the day after, not the world of yesterday.” The speech is never given due to the 9/11 attacks earlier in the day, but the text is later leaked to the media. The Washington Post calls the speech “telling Insight into the administration’s thinking” because it promotes missile defense and contains no mention of al-Qaeda, bin Laden, or Islamic extremist groups. The only mention of terrorism is in the context of the danger of rogue nations such as Iraq. In fact, there are almost no public mentions of bin Laden or al-Qaeda by Bush or other top Bush administration officials before 9/11, and the focus instead is on missile defense. [Washington Post, 4/1/2004; Washington Post, 4/1/2004]
An editorial in the Washington Post published hours before the 9/11 attacks reads, “When it comes to foreign policy, we have a tongue-tied administration. After almost eight months in office, neither President Bush nor Secretary of State Colin Powell has made any comprehensive statement on foreign policy. It is hard to think of another administration that has done so little to explain what it wants to do in foreign policy.” [Washington Post, 9/11/2001] Two months before Bush’s election, many key members of Bush’s future administration signed a Project for the New American Century report that advocates a very aggressive US foreign policy. One British Member of Parliament will later call it a “blueprint for US world domination”(see September 2000). Yet there has been little sign of the foreign policy goals advocated in this report in the eight months before 9/11.
Willie Brown. [Source: San Francisco City Government]Eight hours prior to the terrorist attacks, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown receives a warning from his “security people at the airport,” advising him to be cautious in traveling. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/12/2001] Later reports will claim that this is because someone saw the State Department warning of September 7 (see September 7, 2001), which focused on the threat to military personnel in Asia. Brown is scheduled to fly to New York the next morning. [US Department of State, 9/7/2001; San Francisco Chronicle, 9/12/2001; San Francisco Chronicle, 9/14/2001] The source of the warning, and why it is personally issued to Brown, will remain unknown.
Chris Lyons, a newspaper delivery driver, sees four or five Middle Eastern men near the entrance of Portland airport, from where alleged hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari will later take a plane to Boston (see (6:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The men are speaking Arabic among themselves and hauling about ten suitcases into the airport. Lyons later says they “stuck out because usually no one is around at that hour.” After 9/11, local police will say they don’t think the men are connected to the attacks. However, Lyons is concerned that they might have been “support people,” because, he says, “It’s just too much of a coincidence that this group of businessmen was leaving Portland the morning of the terrorist attacks.” [Portland Press Herald, 9/22/2001; Portland Press Herald, 10/21/2001]
On the morning of September 11, 2001, just hours before the 9/11 attacks begin, the Globe and Mail, Canada’s largest newspaper, reports a front page story entitled “Air-Travel Ban Keeps Rushdie Out of Canada.” The story notes that author Salman Rushdie was not allowed on an Air Canada flight into Canada on September 7, 2001, and he canceled a planned Canadian trip as a result. The article correctly notes that on September 6, the FAA “issued an emergency directive banning Mr. Rushdie from all flights in and out of the United States, reflecting a heightened state of alert” (see September 6, 2001). Rushdie is also having trouble flying inside the US because of the restrictions and one US flight he had recently scheduled had been canceled. The article says the FAA will not explain why the directive about Rushdie had been issued. [Globe and Mail, 9/11/2001] But the Daily Mail will later report that the CIA gave the FAA warning of a spectacular and imminent Muslim fundamentalist attack and the FAA incorrectly guessed this had to do with Rushdie traveling on a book tour (see Shortly Before September 6, 2001). Rushdie had been the subject of an Iranian fatwa (death threat) until it was lifted in 1998. He was in Houston, Texas, for a book reading as part of a North American book tour and planned to fly to Minneapolis on 9/11. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 9/23/2001] This news report about the FAA’s heightened state of alert is only reported in the Globe and Mail before the 9/11 attacks begin. A search of the Lexis Nexus database shows articles about it in just six news sources in the weeks after the attacks. [United Press International, 9/11/2001; New York Post, 9/21/2001; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 9/23/2001; London Times, 9/27/2001; Ananova, 9/27/2001; Daily Mail, 10/7/2001]
Zainelabdeen Ibrahim Omer, a Sudanese man, tells police in Sarasota, Florida, he is concerned that a friend of his may pose a threat to President Bush, who is spending the night on nearby Longboat Key and is due to visit Sarasota today. After he contacts the Sarasota police, Omer is visited by some officers. He tells them that on the previous evening he talked to a friend of his, who he identifies only as “Gandi.” He says Gandi is in Sarasota with two companions, with the intention of getting a friend of theirs out of jail. Omer is apparently concerned that Gandi may be a danger to Bush while he is visiting the area. He says Gandi “has made several remarks in the past that indicated extremely violent thoughts.” He adds that, considering the man’s “past inclinations,” the fact that Gandi is in Sarasota at the time Bush is visiting the area “might not be coincidental.” The Sarasota police officers will contact the Secret Service, whose agents then question Omer about his concerns. Police officers and Secret Service agents will visit an address on 32nd Street in Sarasota, where they find 11 Arab men apparently at morning prayer. One of the men has a card for the Longboat Key Club, which is near the resort where Bush has been spending the night (see September 10, 2001). The men will be questioned, held until Bush has left the area, and then released. It will later be reported that Gandi has links to the guerrilla group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. However, an unnamed law enforcement source will tell authors Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan that there is “nothing to indicate” the 11 Arab men questioned by the police and the Secret Service are linked to the 9/11 plotters. [Sarasota Police Department, 9/11/2001; Sarasota Police Department, 9/11/2001; Summers and Swan, 2011, pp. 457] While Bush is staying on Longboat Key, several Middle Eastern men reportedly arrive at the resort where he is staying and falsely claim they have an interview with him arranged (see (Before 6:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). And at 8:50 a.m. on September 11, a local man will see a van in Sarasota with two Middle Eastern men screaming out the windows, “Down with Bush” (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Longboat Observer, 9/26/2001]
Abdulaziz Alomari (a passport stamp overlaps part of his face). [Source: FBI]Having spent the previous night at the Comfort Inn in Portland, Maine (see September 10, 2001), hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari check out at 5:33 a.m. and drive their rented Nissan to the nearby Portland International Jetport Airport, entering its parking lot at 5:40 a.m. The FBI will later seize their car there. [Observer, 9/16/2001; Portland Press Herald, 10/5/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/5/2001; Newsday, 4/17/2006] Their flight is due to take off for Boston at 6:00 a.m. (see (6:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The Boston Globe points out, “Any significant delay would foil [Atta’s] big plans for the day.” [Boston Globe, 9/16/2001] The 9/11 Commission later concludes: “The Portland detour almost prevented Atta and Omari from making Flight 11 out of Boston.” [9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004]
Michael Tuohey. [Source: CNN]9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari check in at the US Airways counter at Portland International Jetport. [Portland Press Herald, 10/5/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/5/2001] They are wearing ties and jackets. Atta checks in two bags, Alomari none. Atta is randomly selected for additional security scrutiny by the FAA’s Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS) (see (6:20 a.m.-7:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, the only consequence is that his checked bags will be held off the plane until it is confirmed that he has boarded. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 1; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 2; CNN, 3/3/2006] Noting that their flight is soon due to leave, the ticket agent who checks them in, Michael Tuohey, says, “You’re cutting it close.” [Portland Press Herald, 3/6/2005] Tuohey thinks the pair seems unusual. He notices they both have $2,500 first-class, one-way tickets. He later comments, “You don’t see many of those.” Atta looks “like a walking corpse. He looked so angry.” In contrast, Tuohey will say, Alomari can barely speak English and has “a goofy smile, I can’t believe he knew he was going to die that day.” Tuohey will later recount, “I thought they looked like two Arab terrorists but then I berated myself for the stereotype and did nothing.” [Philadelphia Daily News, 2/24/2005; Mirror, 9/11/2005; CNN, 3/3/2006] Atta becomes angry when Tuohey informs him he will have to check in again in Boston. He complains that he was assured he would have a “one-step check-in.” [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 2; Associated Press, 3/7/2005] Tuohey will be recalled to work later in the day to speak to an FBI agent about his encounter with Atta and Alomari. He is shown video footage of them passing through the airport’s security checkpoint upstairs (see (Between 5:45 a.m. and 5:53 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Although recognizing the two men, he notices that in the video they are no longer wearing the jackets and ties they’d had on when checking in just minutes before. He assumes they must have taken these off and tucked them into their carry-on baggage. He is also informed that the security camera behind his own desk, which should have captured the two hijackers, has in fact been out of order for some time. [Portland Press Herald, 3/6/2005; CNN, 3/3/2006]
Abdulaziz Alomari, right, and Mohamed Atta, left (in dark shirt), passing through security in the Portland, Maine, airport. Note the different times on the two time stamps, one in the middle, one at the bottom. [Source: FBI]Minutes after arriving at the Portland airport, hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari pass through the airport’s single security checkpoint, on the way to boarding their 6 a.m. flight to Boston. The checkpoint has a surveillance camera pointing at it, which captures them as they go through. [Time, 9/24/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 2-3] Some reports say the pair passes through at 5:53 a.m. [Associated Press, 9/14/2001; New York Times, 9/14/2001; Washington Post, 9/14/2001] Other reports put it earlier, at 5:45 a.m. [Portland Press Herald, 10/5/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/5/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 3] Strangely, when stills from the surveillance camera are later publicly released, they show two time stamps, one of 5:45 and another of 5:53. [Guardian, 9/21/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/4/2001] When they’d checked in just minutes earlier, Atta and Alomari were observed wearing ties and jackets (see 5:43 a.m. September 11, 2001). But in the security video footage, they have just open-necked shirts, with no jackets or ties. [Philadelphia Daily News, 2/24/2005; Portland Press Herald, 3/6/2005; CNN, 3/3/2006]
Shay Sullivan. [Source: Longboat Observer]A group of Middle Eastern men pulls up at the resort on Longboat Key, Florida, where President Bush is staying and falsely claims to have an interview scheduled with the president, but the men are turned away from the premises, according to a local fire marshal who later hears about the incident. [Longboat Observer, 9/26/2001] Bush arrived at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort on Longboat Key at 6:30 p.m. on September 10 and then spent the night there (see September 10, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 13; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/2002] Sometime before 6:00 a.m. on September 11, or possibly on the evening of September 10, a van occupied by some Middle Eastern men pulls up at the resort. The men claim to be reporters and say they are there for a “poolside” interview with Bush. They then ask for a particular Secret Service agent by name. Security guards phone the receptionist at the resort and relay the men’s request. The receptionist has not heard of the Secret Service agent named by the men or anything about a planned interview with Bush. She passes the phone to a Secret Service agent, who similarly tells the security guards that no one knows of the agent the men referred to or is aware of any scheduled interview with the president. The Secret Service agent says the men should contact the president’s public relations office in Washington, DC, and has them turned away from the premises. [Longboat Observer, 9/26/2001; Longboat Observer, 9/7/2011]
Incident Resembles Recent Assassination Method - Some people will later note the similarity of this alleged incident to the method used to assassinate General Ahmed Shah Massoud, the leader of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, on September 9. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] Massoud was killed by a bomb hidden in the video camera of two Arab men who said they were journalists who wanted to interview him (see September 9, 2001). [Time, 8/12/2002; St. Petersburg Times, 9/9/2002] “Were the men on Longboat Key planning to kill Bush in similar fashion?” the St. Petersburg Times will ask. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004]
Fire Marshal Learns about Incident - The alleged incident on Longboat Key will come to light after reporter Shay Sullivan hears local Fire Marshal Carroll Mooneyhan describing it to a colleague during a lull in a firefighters’ union meeting and then writes an article about it for the Longboat Observer. Mooneyhan does not witness the incident firsthand, but will learn about it when he is at the front desk at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort at around 6:00 a.m. on September 11. At that time, he will overhear the receptionist and a security guard discussing what happened. It is unclear when exactly the incident they discuss is meant to have occurred. [Longboat Observer, 9/26/2001; Longboat Observer, 9/7/2011] The Secret Service will question Mooneyhan about what he hears. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] Two weeks after 9/11, the FBI will reportedly be looking into the alleged incident. [Longboat Observer, 9/26/2001]
Incident Is Later Denied - The day after the incident is first reported in the Longboat Observer, Mooneyhan “went silent” about it, Sullivan will say. [Longboat Observer, 9/7/2011] In 2004, Mooneyhan will deny telling anyone at the Longboat Observer about the incident. “How did they get that information from me if I didn’t know it?” he will say. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] However, Sullivan will suggest that Mooneyhan may have been “ordered to stop talking about it.” He will note that Secret Service agents visited his newspaper and “suggested we back off the story.” [Longboat Observer, 9/7/2011] Longboat Key Police Chief John Kintz will say in 2011 that he has been unable to find any evidence of the incident. “[T]here wasn’t a single person who could confirm that it happened,” he will say, adding, “We never found anyone who worked at the gate who could tell us that that happened.” [Longboat Observer, 9/7/2011]
Other Suspicious Incidents Occur - Other suspicious incidents occur in the Longboat Key area around this time. Shortly after 4:00 a.m. on September 11, a Sudanese man contacts police in Sarasota and says he is concerned that a friend of his might pose a threat to the president while he is visiting the area (see 4:07 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Summers and Swan, 2011, pp. 457] And at 8:50 a.m. on September 11, a local man will see a van in Sarasota with two Middle Eastern men screaming out the windows, “Down with Bush” (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Longboat Observer, 9/26/2001] Whether these two incidents are related to the alleged incident at the Longboat Key resort is unclear.
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice arrives at her office at the White House. [Bumiller, 2007, pp. xi] Rice will later recall that today is intended to be “a normal day, foreign visitors, several meetings.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] Usually she or her deputy, Stephen Hadley, goes along on presidential trips to handle any national security questions that might come up, so one of them would have gone with President Bush the previous day for his two-day trip to Florida (see September 10, 2001). [Dallas Morning News, 9/9/2001; Bumiller, 2007, pp. xi] But, as Rice will later recall, Bush’s trip is “such a short trip that we decided not to do that.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] In their place, they have sent Navy Captain Deborah Loewer, the director of the White House Situation Room. [Bumiller, 2007, pp. xi]
9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari’s flight from Portland to Boston takes off. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/4/2001] Their plane, Colgan Air Flight 5930, is a 19-seat Beechcraft 1900. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 3] Fellow passengers Vincent Meisner and Roger Quirion will later say Atta and Alomari board separately, keep quiet, and do not draw attention to themselves. [Chicago Sun-Times, 9/16/2001; Washington Post, 9/16/2001] Quirion, says: “They struck me as business travelers. They were sitting down, talking, seems like they were going over some paperwork.” [CBS News, 10/12/2001]
Odigo’s logo. [Source: Odigo]Two employees of Odigo, Inc., an Israeli company, receive warnings of an imminent attack in New York City about two hours before the first plane hits the WTC. Odigo, one of the world’s largest instant messaging companies, has its headquarters two blocks from the WTC. The Odigo Research and Development offices where the warnings were received are located in Herzliyya, a suburb of Tel Aviv. Israeli security and the FBI were notified immediately after the 9/11 attacks began. The two employees claim not to know who sent the warnings. “Odigo service includes a feature called People Finder that allows users to seek out and contact others based on certain interests or demographics. [Alex] Diamandis [Odigo vice president of sales and marketing] said it was possible that the attack warning was broadcast to other Odigo members, but the company has not received reports of other recipients of the message.” [Ha'aretz, 9/26/2001; Washington Post, 9/27/2001] Odigo claims the warning did not specifically mention the WTC, but the company refuses to divulge what was specified, claiming, “Providing more details would only lead to more conjecture.” [Washington Post, 9/28/2001] However, a later newspaper report claims that the message declared “that some sort of attack was about to take place. The notes ended with an anti-Semitic slur. ‘The messages said something big was going to happen in a certain amount of time, and it did—almost to the minute,’ said Alex Diamandis, vice president of sales for the high-tech company… He said the employees did not know the person who sent the message, but they traced it to a computer address and have given that information to the FBI.” [Washington Post, 10/4/2001] Odigo gave the FBI the Internet address of the message’s sender so the name of the sender could be found. [Deutsche Presse-Agentur (Hamburg), 9/26/2001] Two months later, it is reported that the FBI is still investigating the matter, but there have been no reports since. [Courier Mail, 11/20/2001]
All the alleged 9/11 hijackers reportedly check in at the airports from where they board Flights 11, 175, 77, and 93. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 1-4; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 27, 89, 93] Since 1998, the FAA has required air carriers to implement a program called the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS). This identifies those passengers who might be a security risk, based upon suspicious behavior such as buying one-way tickets or paying with cash. CAPPS also randomly assigns some passengers to receive additional security scrutiny. If a particular passenger has been designated as a “selectee,” this information is transmitted to the airport’s check-in counter, where a code is printed on their boarding pass. At the airport’s security checkpoints, selectees are subjected to additional security measures. [US News and World Report, 4/1/2002; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; US Congress, 3/17/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 2, 85] Their baggage is to be screened for explosives or held off the plane until they have boarded. Supposedly, the thinking behind this is that someone smuggling a bomb onto a plane won’t get onto that same flight. According to the 9/11 Commission, nine of the 19 hijackers are flagged by the CAPPS system before boarding Flights 11, 175, 77, and 93. [Washington Post, 1/28/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 84; United States of America v. Zacarias Moussaoui, a/k/a Shaqil, a/k/a Abu Khalid al Sahrawi, Defendant, 3/6/2006] In addition, Mohamed Atta was selected when he checked in at the airport in Portland, for his earlier connecting flight to Boston (see 5:33 a.m.-5:40 a.m. September 11, 2001). All of the hijackers subsequently pass through security checkpoints before boarding their flights. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 1-4]
All five Flight 175 hijackers reportedly check in at Boston’s Logan Airport, pass through a security checkpoint, and board their plane during this period. The five hijackers are Marwan Alshehhi, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, Hamza Alghamdi, Ahmed Alghamdi, and Mohand Alshehri. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 89] The FAA has a program in place called CAPPS, which selects passengers for more thorough security screening based on suspicious behavior such as buying a one-way ticket or paying with cash (see (6:20 a.m.-7:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Although reports claim that between two and five of the Flight 175 hijackers have one-way tickets, none are selected by CAPPS. [WorldNetDaily, 4/24/2002; US Congress, 9/26/2002; US Congress, 9/26/2002; Washington Post, 1/28/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 18] Two of them have problems answering security questions at the ticket counter (see (6:20 a.m.-6:53 a.m.) September 11, 2001). At the security checkpoint, all five would pass through a walk-through metal detector, and an X-ray machine would screen their carry-on luggage. But Logan Airport has no video surveillance of its checkpoints (see 1991-2000), so there is no documentary evidence of exactly when they go through, or how they are processed. Jennifer Gore, the young supervisor overseeing the checkpoint, is later unable to recall seeing any of them. The Globe and Mail will explain, “[S]he was trained to look for metal bits in bags and in clothes, not people.” [Globe and Mail, 9/7/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 2; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 18]
Two of the Flight 175 hijackers approach a customer service representative at the United Airlines ticket counter at Boston’s Logan Airport. The two appear unaccustomed to traveling. One tells the representative, Gail Jawahir, that he needs a ticket, though upon examining his documents she finds he already has one. Both men have problems answering standard security questions, which Jawahir has to repeat very slowly until they give the routine, reassuring answers. There is conflicting evidence over their identities. Jawahir will place her encounter with the men at “shortly before 7 a.m.” Shown photos of the alleged hijackers after 9/11, she will indicate that one of the two she encountered resembled Mohand Alshehri, suggesting the two were Alshehri and Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, who checked in at 6:53 a.m. Yet she recalls the two having the same last name and having assigned seats on Row 9 of the plane, suggesting they were Ahmed and Hamza Alghamdi, who checked in at 6:20 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 2, 451; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 17-18, 89]
NORAD’s war room in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado [Source: Val Gempis]Lieutenant Colonel Dawne Deskins and other day shift employees at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, NY, start their workday. NORAD is conducting a week-long, large-scale exercise called Vigilant Guardian. [Newhouse News Service, 1/25/2002] Deskins is regional mission crew chief for the Vigilant Guardian exercise. [ABC News, 9/11/2002]
Exercise Includes Simulated Attack on the US - Vigilant Guardian is described as “an exercise that would pose an imaginary crisis to North American Air Defense outposts nationwide”; as a “simulated air war”; and as “an air defense exercise simulating an attack on the United States.” According to the 9/11 Commission, it “postulated a bomber attack from the former Soviet Union.” [Newhouse News Service, 1/25/2002; Filson, 2003, pp. 55 and 122; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 458] Vigilant Guardian is described as being held annually, and is one of NORAD’s four major annual exercises. [Filson, 2003, pp. 41; Arkin, 2005, pp. 545; GlobalSecurity (.org), 4/27/2005] However, one report says it takes place semi-annually. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002] Accounts by participants vary on whether 9/11 is the second, third, or fourth day of the exercise. [Code One Magazine, 1/2002; Newhouse News Service, 1/25/2002; Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/2002] Vigilant Guardian is a command post exercise (CPX), and in at least some previous years was conducted in conjunction with Stratcom’s Global Guardian exercise and a US Space Command exercise called Apollo Guardian. [US Congress, n.d.; Arkin, 2005, pp. 545; GlobalSecurity (.org), 4/27/2005] All of NORAD is participating in Vigilant Guardian on 9/11. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002]
Exercise Includes Simulated Hijacking - Vanity Fair reports that the “day’s exercise” (presumably Vigilant Guardian) is “designed to run a range of scenarios, including a ‘traditional’ simulated hijack in which politically motivated perpetrators commandeer an aircraft, land on a Cuba-like island, and seek asylum.” [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] However, at NEADS, most of the dozen or so staff on the operations floor have no idea what the exercise is going to entail and are ready for anything. [Utica Observer-Dispatch, 8/5/2004]
NORAD Fully Staffed and Alert - NORAD is currently running a real-world operation named Operation Northern Vigilance (see September 9, 2001). It may also be conducting a field training exercise calling Amalgam Warrior on this morning (see 9:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). NORAD is thus fully staffed and alert, and senior officers are manning stations throughout the US. The entire chain of command will be in place and ready when the first hijacking is reported. An article later says, “In retrospect, the exercise would prove to be a serendipitous enabler of a rapid military response to terrorist attacks on September 11.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; Bergen Record, 12/5/2003] Colonel Robert Marr, in charge of NEADS, will say: “We had the fighters with a little more gas on board. A few more weapons on board.” [ABC News, 9/11/2002] However, Deskins and other NORAD officials later are initially confused about whether the 9/11 attacks are real or part of the exercise (see (8:38 a.m.-8:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Sergeant Matt Rosenberg, an army medic at the Pentagon, is studying “a new medical emergency disaster plan based on the unlikely scenario of an airplane crashing into the place.” [Washington Post, 9/16/2001] The day before, Rosenberg later recalls in an interview with the Office of Medical History, he called the FBI with questions about who would have medical jurisdiction if such an event were to take place. “Believe it or not, the day prior to the incident, I was just on the phone with the FBI, and we were talking ‘so who has command should this happen, who has the medical jurisdiction, who does this, who does that,’ and we talked about it and talked about it, and he helped me out a lot. And then the next day, during the incident, I actually found him. He was out there on the incident that day.” [Office of Medical History, 9/2004, pp. 9]
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 Joint Surveillance System (JSS). [Source: Dr. Steven R. Bussolari, MIT Lincoln Laboratory]Military radar in Massachusetts, which is used by NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), is out of use this morning in order to undergo maintenance work. [9/11 Commission, 10/27/2003 ; 9/11 Commission, 10/27/2003 ]
Radar Scheduled to Go Down - The J53 radar in North Truro, Massachusetts, is one of a number of radar sites that NEADS receives data from. [United States Space Command, 12/30/1995; Jane's C4I Systems, 9/1/2005; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 10/23/2006 ] It has a range of 250 miles. According to Technical Sergeant Jeffrey Richmond, the assistant air surveillance technician at NEADS, J53 is scheduled to go down this morning for some major repairs to be carried out. [9/11 Commission, 10/27/2003 ; 9/11 Commission, 10/27/2003 ]
NEADS Personnel Refer to Radar - A member of staff at NEADS apparently refers to the J53 radar being offline shortly after those on the NEADS operations floor learn of the Flight 11 hijacking (see (8:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and while they are trying to locate the hijacked aircraft. She mentions that NEADS technicians “still should be able to get it” (presumably referring to the plane’s radar track) “without 53.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001] (According to Richmond, the area covered by J53 is overlapped by other radars, “so the need for radar to undergo routine maintenance is accounted for.”) ID technician Shelley Watson will later recall that the NEADS ID desk uses the J53 radar as a point from which it attempts to locate Flight 11. At some time during the morning, Richmond insists that J53 be put back online at some capacity. Whether this happens is unstated. [9/11 Commission, 10/27/2003 ; 9/11 Commission, 10/27/2003 ]
Radar Part of 'Joint Surveillance System' - The J53 radar site is part of the Joint Surveillance System (JSS). [Transportation Safety Board of Canada, 9/2/1998; US Department of the Air Force, 11/1/1999 ; 9/11 Commission, 2004] The JSS consists of “long-range radar sites around the perimeter of the US, with data shared by the [Department of Defense], FAA, Customs, and others.” A 2003 Department of Defense report will state that, at the time of the 9/11 attacks, US air defense relies “largely on outward looking ground-based radars, specifically, the Joint Surveillance System.” [US Department of Defense, 7/2003 ] According to General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD, NORAD has access to the JSS, “which is that system that rings the United States and looks out.” He will say this system “looks for that foreign threat. It looks for someone coming into our airspace that’s not authorized.” [US Congress. Senate, 10/25/2001]
Flight 11 hijackers Waleed Alshehri, Wail Alshehri, and Satam Al Suqami arrive at Boston’s Logan Airport in a rental car, which they park in the airport’s central parking lot. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 5] An unidentified man who arrives at Logan Airport at “about 6:30 a.m.” for an early flight has an argument with several Middle Eastern men over a parking space, before moving on, according to the News of the World. Some early press reports will say his confrontation is with five men. [Boston Herald, 9/12/2001; Daily Telegraph, 9/13/2001; ABC News, 9/14/2001; News of the World, 9/16/2001] However, the 9/11 Commission will later describe the incident differently. It will say there are just three Middle Eastern men, and the man ends up parked next to them. One of the Middle Eastern men opens his car door to get out and then spends time “fiddling with his things,” thus trapping the man in his car. Eventually the man has to force his way out, but the Middle Eastern men are completely unresponsive to him, saying nothing. The man will report the incident to authorities after hearing of the attacks. However, whether he identifies the men as Flight 11 hijackers is unstated. The hijackers’ car, which is associated with either Wail or Waleed Alshehri, will be found in the lot later in the day of 9/11. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 85] Authorities will find Arabic-language flight training manuals inside the Mitsubishi rental. [Associated Press, 9/12/2001; Boston Herald, 9/12/2001; Daily Telegraph, 9/13/2001]
The Portland-to-Boston flight used by 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari arrives on time at Boston’s Logan Airport. [Der Spiegel, 2002] Atta and Alomari then cross a parking lot on their way to the departure terminal for Flight 11, and are observed asking for directions. The other three Flight 11 hijackers arrive at Logan Airport in a rented car around this same time (see (6:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 5]
Hijacker Ziad Jarrah phones his girlfriend, Aysel Senguen, about an hour before he boards Flight 93, according to the Los Angeles Times. Senguen is currently recovering from a minor operation in a hospital in Germany, where she lives. [Los Angeles Times, 10/23/2001; Observer, 8/22/2004] Senguen will later recount: “[H]e was very brief. He said he loved me three times. I asked what was up. He hung up shortly afterwards.… It was so short and rather strange him saying that repeatedly.” [Reuters, 11/19/2002; Guardian, 11/20/2002] Some accounts will say Jarrah makes this call from his hotel, the Days Inn in Newark. Other accounts will claim he makes it from a payphone at Newark Airport, although he does not actually check in at the airport until later on, at 7:39 a.m. [PBS, 1/17/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 532; Observer, 8/22/2004; Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 8/22/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 35]
During this period, all five Flight 11 hijackers check in at Boston’s Logan Airport and board their plane, bound for Los Angeles. The FAA has a program in place called the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS), which is designed to identify those passengers most likely requiring additional scrutiny by airport security (see (6:20 a.m.-7:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Ticket records will show that CAPPS selects three of the Flight 11 hijackers at Logan: Since Waleed Alshehri checks no bags his selection has no consequences; Wail Alshehri and Satam Al Suqami have their bags scanned for explosives, but are not stopped. All five hijackers would need to pass through a security checkpoint to reach the departure gate for their flight. Each would have been screened as they walked through a metal detector calibrated to detect items with at least the metal content of a small-caliber handgun. If they’d set this off, they would have been screened with a handheld metal detector. An X-ray machine would have screened their carry-on luggage. However, Logan Airport has no video surveillance of its security checkpoints (see 1991-2000), so there is no documentary evidence of exactly when they pass through them, or if alarms are triggered. According to the 9/11 Commission, none of the checkpoint supervisors later recall seeing any of the Flights 11 hijackers, or report anything suspicious having occurred. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 1-2; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 5-6] However, a WorldNetDaily article will claim that some Logan staff members recall seeing Mohamed Atta (see (6:50 a.m.-7:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [WorldNetDaily, 9/21/2001] The Boston Globe will later comment, “aviation specialists have said it is unlikely that more rigorous attention to existing rules would have thwarted the 10 hijackers who boarded two jets at Logan on Sept. 11. At the time, the knives and box-cutters they were carrying were permitted.” [Boston Globe, 10/17/2001]
According to an article on the conservative news website WorldNetDaily, alleged lead 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta almost misses Flight 11 and has to rush to the departure gate at Boston’s Logan Airport. The article is based on the account of an unnamed American Airlines employee at Logan, and claims Atta is running late because his connecting flight from Portland was delayed (see (6:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, the 9/11 Commission claims that this plane was “on time,” and says Atta is observed at Logan with Abdulaziz Alomari, asking for directions in a parking lot (see 6:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). The employee says that at the baggage check-in, when asked security questions, Atta claims he does not speak English. A supervisor is called for, who just sends him towards the departure gate, as it is close to his plane’s take-off time. Atta rushes through the security checkpoint, then down to the gate, where he shows up perspiring. The employee comments, “The nitwit. You know, they’d been planning it for five years, and he’s running late for the flight.” An American Airlines spokeswoman will refuse to comment on this account, saying all American employees have been ordered not to speak to the press. [WorldNetDaily, 9/21/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 3, 5]
A three-minute call is made from a payphone at Boston’s Logan Airport, in the gate area from where Flight 175 will later depart, to 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta’s cell phone. The 9/11 Commission will report, “We presume Shehhi [i.e., hijacker Marwan Alshehhi] made the call, but we cannot be sure.” According to the commission, this is Atta and Alshehhi’s final conversation. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 1, 451; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 4] According to other reports, though, they later speak again briefly by cellphone while waiting for their planes to take off (see (Before 7:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 11/4/2001; Time, 8/4/2002]
The Vice President’s Residence. [Source: David Bohrer/ White House]Just before 7:00 a.m., Vice President Dick Cheney sits in the library of the vice president’s residence at the Naval Observatory in Washington, DC, for his regular CIA briefing. His solo briefing is more detailed than the president’s because he asks for more material. According to journalist and author Stephen Hayes, the briefing is “unremarkable.” Cheney typically sets off for the three-mile drive to the White House at 7:30 a.m. He usually joins the president for his intelligence briefing, but with Bush away in Florida, there is no briefing at the White House on this day. [Hayes, 2007, pp. 327-328] According to David Kuo, a special assistant to the president, Cheney arrives at the White House at just after 7:00 a.m. this morning. Kuo will later recall that Cheney “looked like an absentminded professor, deep in thought, oblivious to the world.” [Kuo, 2006, pp. 183]
New York City’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) set up at Pier 92 on the Hudson River following the 9/11 attacks. [Source: ArcNews]At Pier 92 on the Hudson River, preparations are underway for a training exercise due to take place there the following day. The exercise, called Tripod, which had been scheduled months earlier, is intended to test how well New York’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) can administer treatment in response to a biological-terrorism attack (see September 12, 2001). [New York Magazine, 10/15/2001; Giuliani, 2002, pp. 355] Pier 92, located just over four miles north-northwest of the World Trade Center, has been set up as a model distribution station where the simulated victims will be treated. [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 15 and 20] Ken Longert, the owner of a theatrical lighting business, arrives at the pier at 7:00 a.m. to help get the place ready for the exercise. He will later recall, “Two or three hundred cadets [presumably with the New York police and fire departments] were there, learning the proper procedures in case some kind of disaster hit New York.” Longert will recall that, seconds after the second WTC tower is hit at 9:03, “all the people from OEM disappeared” from the pier. [DiMarco, 2007, pp. 457-458] After OEM’s original command center is destroyed when WTC 7—where it is located—collapses (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001), Pier 92 will be selected as the location for the substitute command center. [9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004] Members of OEM staff have also arrived early this morning at the OEM offices in WTC 7 to prepare for the exercise (see 8:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 15]
Jackie Chan. [Source: Reuters]A scene for a Hollywood movie about a terrorist plot to blow up the World Trade Center was originally scheduled to be filmed at the top of one of the Twin Towers at this time, but the filming has been canceled because the script for the scene is late to arrive. [ABC News, 9/19/2001; Empire, 9/19/2001; Orlando Sentinel, 9/27/2002] The action-comedy movie, titled Nosebleed, which was written in 1999 (see February 1999-September 11, 2001), is set to feature the well-known martial artist and actor Jackie Chan as a window washer at the WTC who uncovers a terrorist plot to bomb the Twin Towers. [Variety, 2/7/1999; Entertainment Weekly, 9/24/2001]
Actor 'Would Probably Have Died' if Filming Took Place - Chan will later tell the Hong Kong newspaper Oriental Daily News, “Filming was scheduled to have taken place at 7:00 a.m. [on September 11] and… I had to be at the top of one of the towers for one of the scenes.” [ABC News, 9/19/2001; Empire, 9/19/2001] The scene, Chan will say, was going to be filmed at the “Top of the World restaurant.” [Orlando Sentinel, 9/27/2002] Presumably he is referring to Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of the North Tower. Everyone who is in Windows on the World when Flight 11 hits the North Tower at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) will subsequently die. [NPR, 9/11/2003] Chan will comment, “I would probably have died if the shooting had gone ahead as planned.” Today’s filming at the WTC has been canceled, reportedly because the script for the scene that would have been filmed is late. [ABC News, 9/19/2001; Empire, 9/19/2001] “The action was good, but, somehow, the script not ready,” Chan will say.
Actor Is in Canada for Another Film - Instead of doing the scene for Nosebleed, Chan is in Toronto, Canada, where filming began the previous day for another movie he is starring in. That movie, The Tuxedo, is an action-comedy that Steven Spielberg is involved in producing. Chan will say of The Tuxedo, “I only did this movie because Steven Spielberg asked me himself.” [Reuters, 6/17/2001; Canoe, 7/11/2001; Orlando Sentinel, 9/27/2002] He will recall learning of the attacks in New York during filming, saying: “After the first shot, I turned around and everyone was looking at one monitor, and nobody had responded to me. They said, ‘Jackie, a plane crashed into the World Trade Center.’ Then we [saw] the second plane crash. We knew it was a terrorist attack and everyone started crying.” Chan will add, “The whole day I was like a walking dead man.” [Columbia Chronicle, 9/23/2002]
Actor Learned 'Secrets' of the WTC in Preparation for Film - Chan has done a lot of groundwork for Nosebleed. “We had visited the [WTC] before September 11,” he will recall. “The producer. My manager. We had dinner upstairs. We were getting all kinds of information. I was going to play a window washer, so they were telling me things like how many windows the building had.” Chan has therefore learned “the ‘secrets’ of the towers—how air pressure was regulated with doors that might be useful as gags in one of his trademark fights—which sides of the buildings one could work on to avoid the wind,” according to the Orlando Sentinel. [Orlando Sentinel, 9/27/2002; Rocky Mountain News, 9/28/2002] Production of Nosebleed will be canceled as a result of the 9/11 attacks. [PBS, 10/24/2001; Village Voice, 12/4/2001]
Sometime during this period, the 9/11 hijackers pass through airport security checkpoints at the various airports. The FAA has a screening program in place called the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS). CAPPS automatically targets passengers for additional screening based on suspicious behavior such as buying one-way tickets or paying with cash. If a passenger is selected, their bags are thoroughly screened for explosives, but their bodies are not searched. [Washington Post, 1/28/2004] CAPPS selects three of the five Flight 11 hijackers. Since Waleed Alshehri checked no bags, his selection had no consequences. Wail Alshehri and Satam Al Suqami have their bags scanned for explosives, but are not stopped. No Flight 175 hijackers are selected. Only Ahmed Alhaznawi is selected from Flight 93. His bag is screened for explosives, but he is not stopped. The 9/11 Commission later concludes that Alhaznawi and Ahmed Alnami, also headed to Flight 93, have suspicious indicators and that they could have been linked to al-Qaeda upon inspection, but it has not been explained why or how. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; Baltimore Sun, 1/27/2004] Screening of the Flight 77 hijackers is described below.
According to the 9/11 Commission, between 7:03 a.m. and 7:39 a.m. the four alleged Flight 93 hijackers check in at the United Airlines ticket counter at Newark (New Jersey) Liberty International Airport. Only Ahmad Alhaznawi is selected for additional scrutiny by airport security under the FAA’s CAPPS program (see (6:20 a.m.-7:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The only consequence is that his checked bag is screened for explosives, and not loaded onto the plane until it is confirmed that he has boarded. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 4; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 35] On their way to boarding the plane, all four would pass through a security checkpoint, which has three walk-through metal detectors, two X-ray machines, and explosive trace detection equipment. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 97] The 9/11 Commission later claims Newark Airport has no video cameras monitoring its security checkpoints, so there is no documentary evidence showing when the hijackers passed through the checkpoint or what alarms may have been triggered. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 4; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 35] However, Michael Taylor, the president of a security company, who has done consulting work for the New York Port Authority (which operates the airport), claims that Newark does use security cameras at the time of 9/11. [Boston Herald, 9/29/2001] All of the screeners on duty at the checkpoint are subsequently interviewed, and none report anything unusual or suspicious having occurred. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 4; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 35] The 9/11 Commission later concludes that the passports of Ahmad Alhaznawi and fellow Flight 93 hijacker Ahmed Alnami have suspicious indicators and could have been linked to al-Qaeda, but it does not elaborate on this. [Baltimore Sun, 1/27/2004]
Hijackers in a Dulles Airport, Washington, security checkpoint, from left to right: Nawaf Alhazmi gets searched, Khalid Almihdhar, and Hani Hanjour. [Source: FBI] (click image to enlarge)Around 7:15 a.m., Flight 77 hijackers Majed Moqed and Khalid Almihdhar check in at the American Airlines ticket counter at Washington’s Dulles International Airport. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 2-3; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 27] The FAA has a computer system in place, called CAPPS, which identifies those passengers most likely requiring additional scrutiny by airport security (see (6:20 a.m.-7:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). CAPPS selects both men, but the only consequence is that Moqed’s luggage is not loaded onto Flight 77 until after his boarding is confirmed. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 27-28] Dulles Airport has surveillance cameras monitoring its security checkpoints, and video later viewed by the 9/11 Commission shows the two passing through the Main Terminal’s west security screening checkpoint at 7:18 a.m. When they go through, their carry-on bags fail to set off any alarms, but both men set off the alarm when they pass through the first metal detector. They are directed to a second metal detector, where Almihdhar passes, but Moqed fails again. He is subjected to a personal screening with a metal detection hand wand. This time he is cleared and permitted to pass through the checkpoint. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 3] The other three Flight 77 hijackers pass through the security checkpoint about 20 minutes later (see (7:25 a.m.-7:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The 9/11 Commission later concludes that Almihdhar’s passport was “suspicious” and could have been linked to al-Qaeda, but it does not explain why or how. [Baltimore Sun, 1/27/2004]
The specially modified C-135 nicknamed ‘Speckled Trout.’ [Source: United States Air Force]General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, takes off to fly to Europe for a NATO conference, and will therefore be away from the US when the 9/11 terrorist attacks occur. [Giesemann, 2008, pp. 20, 22; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 430-433] Shelton is scheduled to attend a meeting of the Military Committee—NATO’s highest military authority—in Budapest, Hungary, on September 12, to discuss the situation in the Balkans, the European Security and Defense Identity, and NATO’s new force structure. On his return journey, he is set to stop in London, Britain, to be knighted by the Queen. [North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 9/10/2001; North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 9/11/2001; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 430] Shelton takes off from Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, DC, on a specially modified C-135 (the military version of a Boeing 707) nicknamed “Speckled Trout.” Normally he flies on a VIP Boeing 757 often used by the vice president, but that aircraft is presently unavailable, so he is flying instead on the C-135, which is usually reserved for the Air Force chief of staff. Those accompanying Shelton on the flight include his wife, Carolyn; his executive assistant, Colonel Doug Lute; his aides, Master Sergeant Mark Jones and Lieutenant Commander Suzanne Giesemann; and his personal security agent, Chief Warrant Officer Marshall McCants. [Giesemann, 2008, pp. 20-22; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 431, 434] When Shelton is out of the country, General Richard Myers, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is designated by law as acting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in his place. Shelton will later recall, “Until I crossed back into United States airspace, all the decisions would be [Myers’s] to make, in conjunction with Secretary [of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld and the president.” [Myers, 2009, pp. 10; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 432] After learning of the attacks in New York, Shelton will give the order for his plane to return to the US (see (8:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Giesemann, 2008, pp. 22-23; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 431] However, the plane will repeatedly be denied permission to enter US airspace (see (After 9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and will only land back in the US at 4:40 p.m. (see 4:40 p.m. September 11, 2001). Shelton will only arrive at the National Military Command Center at the Pentagon an hour after that (see 5:40 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001 ; Myers, 2009, pp. 159; Air Force Magazine, 9/2011 ]
Hijacker brothers Salem (white shirt) and Nawaf Alhazmi (dark shirt) pass through security in Dulles Airport in Washington. [Source: FBI] (click image to enlarge)Flight 77 hijacker Hani Hanjour checks in at the American Airlines ticket counter at Washington’s Dulles International Airport some time between 7:25 a.m. and 7:35 a.m., the 9/11 Commission will later estimate. (American Airlines will be unable to locate information confirming his check-in time.) [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 93]
Hanjour Almost Stopped? - Hanjour is selected for additional scrutiny by airport security under the FAA’s CAPPS program (see (6:20 a.m.-7:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but this has no consequences. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 3; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 27-28] In 2003, former CIA official Vincent Cannistraro will claim: “This person goes through the metal detection machine and it starts buzzing.… They call the person out so that they can do a hand search. Just as the person was beginning to do that, a pretty woman walks by and the guard looks at her and waves the guy on. Well, that person happened to be Hani Hanjour, and he basically had box cutters and razor blades in his pockets.” [Fouda and Fielding, 2003, pp. 143] It is unclear how Cannistraro may have known this, and presumably he is speculating as to what Hanjour has in his pockets.
Alhazmi Brothers Seem Suspicious - The final two Flight 77 hijackers, brothers Nawaf and Salem Alhazmi, check in at approximately 7:29 a.m. The customer service representative makes both of them CAPPS selectees, because one of them cannot provide photo identification and seems unable to understand English, and he finds both of them suspicious. However, the only consequence is that Salem Alhazmi’s luggage is not loaded onto the plane until it is confirmed that he has boarded. Surveillance cameras monitor the security checkpoints at Dulles Airport. According to the 9/11 Commission’s review of security footage, Hanjour passes through the main terminal’s west security screening checkpoint at 7:35 a.m. He proceeds through the metal detector without setting off the alarm, and his two carry-on bags set off no alarms when placed on the X-ray belt. The Alhazmis arrive at the same checkpoint a minute later. Salem Alhazmi successfully clears the metal detector and is permitted through the checkpoint. Nawaf Alhazmi sets off the alarms for both the first and second metal detectors, and is subsequently subjected to a personal screening with a metal detection hand wand before being passed. His shoulder bag is swiped by an explosive trace detector and returned without further inspection. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 3; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 27-28] Immediately after the attacks, when the FAA’s local civil aviation security office investigates the security screening at Dulles on 9/11, it will find the airport’s screeners recall nothing out of the ordinary, and cannot recall any of the passengers they screened having been CAPPS selectees. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 3; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 93] The 9/11 Commission will later conclude that the Alhazmi brothers’ passports are “suspicious” and could have been linked to al-Qaeda, but it will not explain why or how. [Baltimore Sun, 1/27/2004]
An unnamed gate agent at Logan Airport in Boston calls Donald Bennett, the crew chief for Flight 11, and asks him if the two suitcases of a passenger who has just boarded the plane have arrived from US Airways. Bennett replies that the suitcases, which belong to lead 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta, have arrived, but Flight 11’s baggage compartment has already been locked for departure, so they will not be loaded. Atta flew from Portland to Boston on a Colgan Air flight operated for US Airways (see (6:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). American Airlines baggage expediter Philip Depasquale will later claim that bags from US Airways are always late, and so this problem is a common occurrence. The luggage is turned over to Depasquale to have it sent to Los Angeles on another flight. According to Salvatore Misuraca, a ramp service manager for American Airlines at Logan Airport, gate agents do not usually call about a bag unless the passenger that owns it has specifically asked about it, to ensure that their bags have been put on their flight. Atta’s luggage will remain at Logan Airport and be found after the attacks, revealing important clues (see September 11-13, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/17/2001; 9/11 Commission, 2/10/2004]
American Airlines Flight 11 pushes back from the gate at Boston’s Logan Airport. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 2] There are discrepancies over which gate it leaves from. Most early reports state that it pushes out from Gate 26 in Terminal B of the airport. [Boston Globe, 9/12/2001; Chicago Sun-Times, 9/13/2001; Daily Telegraph, 9/16/2001; Washington Post, 9/16/2001; Bernstein, 2002, pp. 179; Der Spiegel, 2002, pp. 36] However, one unnamed Logan Airport employee will say it leaves from Gate 32, also in Terminal B. [Boston Globe, 9/11/2001] The transcript of radio communications with the flight confirms it left from Gate 32, and the 9/11 Commission also later states this. [New York Times, 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 451] The reason for the discrepancy in these reports is unclear. Flight 11, a Boeing 767 with a capacity of 158 passengers, is about half full on this day, with 81 passengers on board (including the five hijackers), along with the two pilots and nine flight attendants. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 6] It will take off at 7:59 (see (7:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 4]
Hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari board Flight 11. Atta’s bags are not loaded onto the plane in time and will later be found by investigators. Investigators will discover airline uniforms in one of the bags. [Boston Globe, 9/18/2001] It will not be explained why Atta would have obtained these uniforms only to put them in his checked-in baggage, where he would be unable to access them.
Two passengers leave Flight 93 after hearing an announcement that there will be a five-minute delay in the plane pushing back from the gate. This is according to Terry Tyksinski, a longtime flight attendant with United Airlines, who says a customer service supervisor who witnessed the incident told her about it six months after 9/11. The two first-class passengers are reportedly of dark complexion, “kind of black, not black.” According to Tyksinski, the supervisor notes their names and is subsequently twice interviewed by the FBI. [Longman, 2002, pp. xiii-xiv] No other accounts, including the 9/11 Commission Report, mention this incident. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004] And while Flight 93 is delayed on the ground until 8:42 a.m., reports state that it pushes back from the gate just one minute later than its scheduled departure, rather than there being a five-minute delay as Tyksinski suggests. [Boston Globe, 11/23/2001; MSNBC, 9/11/2006] There will only be 37 passengers on Flight 93, including the four hijackers. This is 20 percent of the plane’s passenger capacity of 182 and, according to the 9/11 Commission, “is considerably below the 52 percent average load factor for Flight 93 for Tuesdays in the three-month period prior to September 11.” [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 36]
Charlie Wells. [Source: Publicity photo]Having returned to the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort after his morning jog, President Bush meets for a brief chat in his penthouse suite with Manatee County Sheriff Charlie Wells, Sarasota County Sheriff Bill Balkwill, Sarasota Police Chief Gordon Jolly, and Manatee County Sheriff’s Colonel Ken Pearson. Wells later recalls the president was “totally unsuspecting about what is to happen.… It looked like, to me, he’s saying, ‘Glad to see you, but I’m ready to get on to the school and meet the kids.’” The four law enforcement officials will later travel to the Sarasota school in the president’s motorcade. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 36; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/2002]
A helicopter and its crew that are always on standby for “contingency” missions in the Washington area are away from base early this morning conducting a traffic survey, but apparently return at some point before the Pentagon is hit. The crew belongs to the 12th Aviation Battalion. [US Army Center for Military History, 11/14/2001 ; Army Center of Military History, 11/14/2001 ] The 12th Aviation Battalion is stationed at Davison Army Airfield at Fort Belvoir, located 12 miles south of the Pentagon. It is the aviation support unit for the Military District of Washington, and operates UH-1 “Huey” and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. [Military District of Washington, 8/2000] According to a chief warrant officer with the unit, the 12th Aviation Battalion has “two crews that are always on standby for any kind of contingency mission.” It is one of these crews that is “out flying around doing a traffic survey.” [Army Center of Military History, 11/14/2001 ] The exact time period during which the crew and their helicopter are away from base is unstated, but they apparently return to Davison Airfield before 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon is hit (see Shortly Before 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [US Army Center for Military History, 11/14/2001 ] They will be the first crew with the battalion to take off in support of the rescue operations at the Pentagon once the unit’s aircraft are permitted to launch again following the attack. Others members of the 12th Aviation Battalion are also away from base this morning, for weapons training (see 8:46 a.m.-9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Army Center of Military History, 11/14/2001 ]
At Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, one of the pilots that will take off to defend Washington in response to the terrorist attacks (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) asks to be removed from “alert” status later this morning, so he and another pilot can participate in a training mission. [Associated Press, 8/19/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 116] Being on “alert” means that a pilot’s fighter jet is kept on the runway, armed, fueled up, and ready to take off within minutes if called upon. [Air Force Magazine, 2/2002; Bergen Record, 12/5/2003]
Pilot Requests 'Download' - The pilot, Major Dean Eckmann, calls NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) and requests that he be removed from alert status at 11:00 a.m. He wants to be able to join in with a scheduled training mission being conducted from Langley Air Force Base, along with another pilot from his unit, Captain Craig Borgstrom. (Borgstrom is not one of the unit’s alert pilots, but will take off along with Eckmann in response to the terrorist attacks.) According to author Lynn Spencer, such requests for removal from alert status—known as “download”—are customary, “since the detachment typically flies two training missions each week, and as long as the other NORAD alert sites on the East Coast—at Otis [Air National Guard Base] on Cape Cod and Homestead [Air Reserve Base] in Florida—are up on alert, the requests are generally approved.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 116 and 141-144]
Alert Duty Usually Uneventful - The alert unit at Langley Air Force Base is in fact part of the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 119th Fighter Wing, which has a small detachment at Langley, located away from the base’s central facilities. The unit is housed in two cramped buildings, and has just four aircraft and 18 full-time members of staff. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 114] According to journalist and author Jere Longman, being on alert duty is usually fairly uneventful for the pilots involved: “Protecting American airspace from attack was not a demanding job before September 11.… A week at Langley was a time to relax, watch television, work out, spend time on the computer, catch up on business. Like firemen, the pilots sat and waited for something to happen. When it did, they were usually scrambled to escort Navy jets with transponder problems to their home bases. Or to find doctors lost over the ocean in their Beechcraft Bonanzas. Or, occasionally, to sniff out drug runners. It was a sleepy job. Dozing for dollars, they called it.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 64]
From left to right: Senator Bob Graham (D), Senator Jon Kyl (R), and Representative Porter Goss (R). [Source: US Senate, National Park Service, US House of Representatives]Around 8:00 a.m., on September 11, 2001, ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed is at a breakfast meeting at the Capitol with the chairmen of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) and Representative Porter Goss (R-FL), a 10-year veteran of the CIA’s clandestine operations wing. Also present at the meeting are Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and the Pakistani ambassador to the US, Maleeha Lodhi, as well as other officials and aides. (Goss, Kyl, and Graham had just met with Pakistani President Pervez Mushrraf in Pakistan two weeks earlier (see August 28-30, 2001)). [Salon, 9/14/2001; Washington Post, 5/18/2002] Graham and Goss will later co-head the joint House-Senate investigation into the 9/11 attacks, which will focus on Saudi government involvement in the 9/11 attacks, but will say almost nothing about possible Pakistani government connections to al-Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks (see August 1-3, 2003 and December 11, 2002). [Washington Post, 7/11/2002] Note that Senator Graham should have been aware of a report made to his staff the previous month (see Early August 2001) that one of Mahmood’s subordinates had told a US undercover agent that the WTC would be destroyed. Some evidence suggests that Mahmood ordered that $100,000 be sent to hijacker Mohamed Atta (see October 7, 2001).
Pakistan's Demands - Graham will later say of the meeting: “We were talking about terrorism, specifically terrorism generated from Afghanistan.” The New York Times will report that bin Laden is specifically discussed. [Vero Beach Press Journal, 9/12/2001; Salon, 9/14/2001; New York Times, 6/3/2002] The US wants more support from Pakistan in its efforts to capture bin Laden. However, Mahmood says that unless the US lifts economic sanctions imposed on Pakistan and improves relations, Pakistan will not oppose the Taliban nor provide intelligence and military support to get bin Laden. He says, “If you need our help, you need to address our problems and lift US sanctions.” He also encourages the US to engage the Taliban diplomatically to get them to change, instead of isolating them. Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid will later comment, “It was absurd for Mahmood to insist now that the Americans engage with the Taliban, when [Pakistan’s] own influence over them was declining and al-Qaeda’s increasing.”
Meeting Interrupted by 9/11 Attacks - Zamir Akram, an accompanying Pakistani diplomat, leaves the room for a break. While outside, he sees a group of Congressional aides gathered around a television set. As Akram walks up to the TV, he sees the second plane crashing into the World Trade Center. He immediately runs back to the meeting to the tell the others. But even as he gets there, a congressional aide comes in to say that Capitol Hill is being evacuated. The aide says, “There is a plane headed this way.” Mahmood and the rest of the Pakistani delegation immediately leave and attempt to return to the Pakistani embassy. But they are stuck in traffic for three hours before they get there. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 26-27]
Brenton Greene. [Source: National Communications System]CIA representatives give a briefing to a little-known government agency called the National Communications System (NCS) at a facility just outside Washington, DC, where they discuss the threat that international terrorists pose to the US’s telecommunications infrastructure. The NCS is a relatively small agency that works to ensure the uninterrupted availability of critical communications networks during times of national crisis. It will play an important role in the response and recovery efforts following the terrorist attacks in New York and at the Pentagon, when damage to the World Trade Center area severely impairs the local telecommunications infrastructure. [Verton, 2003, pp. 135-137; National Communications System, 2004, pp. 56 ]
Briefing Attended by Public and Private Sectors Representatives - The briefing is held at what journalist and author Dan Verton will call “a secure facility outside of Washington, DC.” Presumably this is the NCS’s National Coordinating Center in Arlington, Virginia. Attendees include Brenton Greene, the director of the NCS since April 2001, and representatives from seven other federal agencies and over 40 technology and communications companies that operate many of the US’s most critical communications networks. The representatives from the private sector, according to Verton, are all “senior executives from their respective companies, and all had government security clearances that granted them access to the most sensitive intelligence data pertaining to threats to the infrastructures that formed not only the lifelines of their businesses but the lifelines of the nation as well.”
CIA Outlines Threat to Telecommunications Infrastructure - Although Greene is a 25-year veteran of the Navy’s submarine force and is “used to classified briefings and operating in the shadows,” the current briefing, according to Verton, promises “to be different from any other he had taken part in.” The CIA representatives begin it at 8:00 a.m. by outlining the growing international terrorist threat to the US telecommunications infrastructure.
Terrorists Aware of Benefits of Targeting Telecommunications - Verton will describe that the briefing participants then agree that there is “a growing body of evidence relating to the increased sophistication in information warfare (IW) capabilities of foreign nations.” Additionally, a cyber-attack against computer systems in the US “would likely involve a major disruption of key telecommunications infrastructures serving other sectors of the economy, including banking and finance, electric power, and air traffic control.” Greene will later comment: “Everything runs on telecom. If it’s a major cyber-event, it’s going to have a physical tail. If it’s a major physical event, it’s going to have a cyber-tail.” The CIA representatives say that some terrorist organizations are also becoming aware of the potential offered by targeting the telecommunications infrastructure.
Briefing Continues despite News of First Crash - Shortly after 8:46 a.m., when the first plane hits the WTC, Navy Captain J. Katharine Burton enters the briefing room and whispers to Greene the news of what has happened. With no further information available and no evidence that the crash was anything more than an accident, Greene calmly passes on the news to the other people in the room, and then orders the briefing to continue. The CIA representatives therefore go on until news arrives of the second plane hitting the WTC at 9:03 a.m., and televisions are turned on to CNN, which is showing live coverage from New York. Greene will later recall: “It was clear then that there was some threat. When the second plane hit, I said: ‘I’m leaving. I need to go look at the implications of this.’” [Verton, 2003, pp. 135-139, 141]
9/11 Attacks Are 'the Most Significant Challenge' to the NCS - The NCS will play a key role in the government’s response to the 9/11 attacks, which result in severe damage and impairment to the telecommunications infrastructure serving the area around the WTC. [National Communications System, 2004, pp. 56 ] Greene will later recall that the destruction caused by the attacks becomes “the most significant challenge that the National Communications System had ever seen.” [Verton, 2003, pp. 151] The NCS’s National Coordinating Center is activated, and supports response and recovery efforts (see (8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). After leaving the briefing, Greene will head to his “Continuity of Government” site, from where the status of the communications network is constantly monitored, and priorities and repairs are coordinated. [9/11 Commission, 3/16/2004 ]
Thomas White. [Source: US Department of Defense]Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld hosts a breakfast meeting in his private dining room at the Pentagon. [Associated Press, 9/12/2001; US Department of Defense, 12/5/2001; 9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004] The meeting, which is attended by several members of Congress, is intended to discuss the Department of Defense’s Quadrennial Defense Review. As well as the secretary of defense, others in attendance include Rumsfeld’s senior military assistant, Navy Vice Admiral Edmund Giambastiani Jr.; Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz; Pete Geren, a special assistant to Rumsfeld; and Representatives John Mica (R-FL), Mark Steven Kirk (R-IL), Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Robin Hayes (R-NC), Doug Bereuter (R-NE), John Hostettler (R-IN), Kay Granger (R-TX), John Shimkus (R-IL), Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA), and Christopher Cox (R-CA). [Powell Moore, 9/10/2001 ; Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 9/14/2001; Federal Computer Week, 3/31/2003; Vanity Fair, 5/9/2003; Powell Moore, 9/19/2003 ; US Department of Defense, 9/10/2004; American Forces Press Service, 9/8/2006] Secretary of the Army Thomas White, who is at the meeting, appears to say it is also attended by numerous key military figures, later telling PBS: “Don Rumsfeld had a breakfast, and virtually every one of the senior officials of the Department of Defense—service chiefs, secretary, deputy, everybody, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And as that breakfast was breaking up, the first plane had hit the World Trade tower.” [PBS Frontline, 10/26/2004; PBS, 10/26/2004] By “chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” White presumably means Richard Myers, who is the acting chairman on this day, in place of Henry Shelton who is out of the country (see 7:15 a.m. September 11, 2001). [American Forces Press Service, 9/8/2006] During the course of the meeting Rumsfeld predicts that some kind of “shocking” world event will occur in the near future (see (Before 8:46 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Most accounts suggest the meeting is adjourned soon after the time the first World Trade Center tower is hit, presumably around 8:50 a.m., though one report says it ends at about 9:00 a.m. Just prior to the meeting ending, Rumsfeld is handed a note informing him of the crash (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). Giambastiani also sees this note. Whether the other people in attendance are notified of the crash at this time is unknown. [US Department of Defense, 12/5/2001; US Department of Defense, 8/12/2002; PBS, 10/26/2004; American Forces Press Service, 9/8/2006] White will later recall, “We all went on with the day’s business,” after leaving the meeting. White heads off to give a speech at the nearby Army Navy Country Club. [PBS Frontline, 10/26/2004] Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Giambastiani return to their offices. [Vanity Fair, 5/9/2003; American Forces Press Service, 9/8/2006] The members of Congress leave the building. [Washington Post, 1/9/2002] If Myers is at the meeting, as White appears to say, he must head promptly to Capitol Hill, as he enters another meeting in the offices of Senator Max Cleland (D-GA) before the time when the second WTC tower is hit (see Shortly Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Armed Forces Radio And Television Service, 10/17/2001; American Forces Press Service, 10/23/2001]
Entity Tags: Richard B. Myers, Christopher Cox, Doug Bereuter, Kay Granger, Donald Rumsfeld, John Hostettler, Edmund Giambastiani, Mac Thornberry, Pete Geren, Paul Wolfowitz, Thomas E. White, Roger Wicker, Mark Steven Kirk, Robin Hayes, Randall (“Duke”) Cunningham, John Shimkus, John Mica
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Jeff Ford. [Source: Thomas Doscher / US Air Force]Personnel in NORAD’s operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, take part in a major Cold War-style training exercise called Vigilant Guardian, a war game in which the theoretical enemy is Russia. [9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004 ; Denver Post, 8/28/2011; Colorado Springs Gazette, 9/10/2011] All of NORAD, including its subordinate units (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), participates in the exercise. [Northeast Air Defense Sector, 8/23/2001; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/8/2011] More than 50 people in the NORAD Battle Management Center in Cheyenne Mountain take part. [Airman, 3/2002; Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System, 9/8/2011] Vigilant Guardian is an annual exercise and is scheduled to last two weeks. [Arkin, 2005, pp. 545; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/8/2011] It has been underway for several days. Those in the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC) have been participating in it “for at least three or four days,” according to Lieutenant Colonel Steven Armstrong, NORAD’s chief of plans and forces. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/9/2011]
Vigilant Guardian Is a 'Full-Blown Nuclear War' Exercise - Vigilant Guardian is a “transition to wartime operations command post exercise,” according to an information page for its participants. [Northeast Air Defense Sector, 8/23/2001] The 1st Air Force’s book about 9/11 will describe it as a “simulated air war.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 55] Lieutenant Colonel William Glover, the commander of NORAD’s Air Warning Center, will later recall that it involves NORAD “simulating war.… You know, attacks coming from the outside, Soviet-style bombers coming in, cruise-missile attacks, that type of thing.” [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/8/2011] Ken Merchant, NORAD’s joint exercise design manager, will tell the 9/11 Commission that Vigilant Guardian is a “full-blown nuclear war” exercise, and includes bomber response and intercontinental ballistic missile response. [9/11 Commission, 3/4/2004]
Russia Is Imagined Enemy - The theoretical enemy in the exercise is Russia. [Denver Post, 8/28/2011] According to the 9/11 Commission Report, the exercise “postulated a bomber attack from the former Soviet Union.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 458] Merchant will explain that “NORAD must use Russia in its exercises at the strategic level since no other country poses a great enough threat to NORAD’s capabilities and responsibilities.” [9/11 Commission, 3/4/2004]
Personnel Updated on Exercise during Shift Change - Armstrong will later recall that today starts off “like any other day. We came in thinking it would be a normal day… we did a standard shift changeover in the morning and we were getting right into where we were at in relation to the exercise.” He will describe that in a shift change during the exercise, “We’d say, ‘Okay, here’s what happened during the night shift (or the day shift),’ and we’d give each other an update, and then we’d start planning for whatever was on the agenda for that day.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/9/2011] According to the Denver Post, after commencing his shift, Armstrong “mapped out strategy in a chess game of ever-escalating scenarios, from strained diplomacy to the outbreak of conventional warfare that headed inexorably toward nuclear conflict” with Russia. [Denver Post, 8/28/2011]
B-1 Bomber Scheduled to Fly out over Pacific Ocean - The “planned big event for the day” in the exercise is “supposed to be a B-1 bomber that was flying out of Fairchild Air Force Base [in Washington State] and going out over the Pacific,” according to Jeff Ford, an Air Force lieutenant colonel who is working in the CMOC. Ford will add that there are “other things going on as part of the exercise, air exercise events, and then some scripted inputs that we were reacting to there in the Air Warning Center, whether it be unknown aircraft that we scramble aircraft for to intercept—or whatever.” [Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System, 9/8/2011]
Exercise Posture Allegedly Helps Response to Attacks - Vigilant Guardian will reportedly end after 9:03 a.m., when the second plane hits the World Trade Center (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and the CMOC personnel participating in it will then become involved in responding to the real-world attacks. [Airman, 3/2002; Toronto Star, 11/11/2008] Glover will claim that the CMOC’s response to the terrorist attacks benefits from the position the operations center is in for the exercise. He will say NORAD is “lucky” because “all the directorates such as operations, logistics, security, all those folks were up in the [Cheyenne] Mountain on an exercise posture.” He will add that “these are the same folks that we would bring up in case of contingencies or in time of going to war. So, in reality, I had all the guys up into the NORAD Battle Management Center that I needed to conduct the exercise as well as the contingency operations that happened on 9/11.” [Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System, 9/8/2011]
NORAD Monitoring Russian Exercise - NORAD was created in 1958, during the Cold War, to protect North American airspace against nuclear attacks from the Soviet Union. [New York Times, 4/25/2004; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 8/6/2004; Legion Magazine, 11/2004] According to the Toronto Star, “Whether it’s a simulation or a real-world event, the role of the [CMOC] is to fuse every critical piece of information NORAD has into a concise and crystalline snapshot.” [Toronto Star, 12/9/2001] As well as the Vigilant Guardian exercise, NORAD is currently in the middle of an operation called Northern Vigilance, with its fighter jets deployed to Alaska and Northern Canada to monitor an exercise being run by the Russian Air Force (see September 9, 2001). [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/9/2001] The battle staff members in Cheyenne Mountain are positioned to deal with both this operation and the exercise. [9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004 ]
Many aircraft at Andrews Air Force Base, which is just a few miles outside Washington, DC, are taking part in training exercises. James Ampey, an FAA air traffic controller who is currently on duty in the control tower at the base, will later recall that there are “an unusually high number of aircraft taking off and landing at Andrews [this] morning, because previously scheduled military exercises [are] underway.” [9/11 Commission, 7/28/2003 ] It is unclear what specific exercises these aircraft are participating in, and the exact time period Ampey is referring to.
Militarized 747 Involved in 'Global Guardian' Exercise - According to journalist and author Dan Verton, around the time of the Pentagon attack, “civilian and military officials [are] boarding a militarized version of a Boeing 747, known as the E-4B National Airborne Operations Center (NAOC), at an airfield outside of the nation’s capital. They [are] preparing to conduct a previously scheduled Defense Department exercise” (see (9:27 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Verton, 2003, pp. 143-144] This airfield is Andrews Air Force Base and the exercise being referred to is the US Strategic Command’s annual exercise, Global Guardian, for which three E-4Bs are launched (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001 and Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002; Flying K, 9/7/2012 ] Whether other aircraft that are taking off or landing at Andrews are participating in Global Guardian is unknown.
NORAD Exercise, 'Vigilant Guardian' - Another major exercise taking place this morning is called Vigilant Guardian. All of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is participating in it (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Newhouse News Service, 1/25/2002; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002] However, Andrews is not one of NORAD’s seven “alert” sites around the US. [Airman, 12/1999] And the 113th Wing of the District of Columbia Air National Guard, which is based at Andrews, is not part of the NORAD air defense force. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/2002; Filson, 2003, pp. 76] Furthermore, members of the 113th Wing have just returned from a major training exercise in Nevada (see Late August-September 8, 2001), and so, with only a few pilots and planes available, today is a “light flying day” for their unit. [9/11 Commission, 3/11/2004 ] Presumably the 113th Wing is therefore not currently participating in Vigilant Guardian or any other major exercises.
Numerous Units at Andrews - There are, however, many units at Andrews that may be participating in exercises. Among more than 60 separate organizations located at the base are units from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard. [DC Military (.com), 6/2001; GlobalSecurity (.org), 1/21/2006] These units include Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 321 (VMFA-321), which flies the F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet, and Naval Air Facility, Washington, DC, which has numerous aircraft available, including the F/A-18 Hornet. [DC Military (.com), 2/9/2001; DC Military (.com), 6/2001]
Andrews Units Respond to Attacks - DC Air National Guard fighters will later take off from Andrews to protect Washington in response to the morning’s attacks (see (10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001, 10:42 a.m. September 11, 2001, and 11:11 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/2002] And a member of VMFA-321 calls NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) at around 9:50 a.m. to offer his unit’s assistance in response to the attacks (see (9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 188]
The daily threat briefing at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) includes no indication of any increase in the terrorist threat level. Lieutenant Colonel Mark Stuart, an intelligence officer working in the NEADS battle cab, will tell the 9/11 Commission that for his threat briefing today, there is “‘zero’ intelligence available concerning any increase in the terrorist threat level.” He will say that a briefing two days ago, on September 9, similarly “contained nothing on the terrorist threat.” Stuart will say the last briefing at NEADS that mentioned the threat posed by Osama bin Laden was on July 14, “as part of the increased threat warning during summer 2001” (see July 14, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 10/30/2003 ; 9/11 Commission, 1/20/2004] NEADS, which is based in Rome, New York, will be responsible for coordinating the US military’s response to the hijackings later this morning (see 8:45 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006; Shenon, 2008, pp. 203]
Neil Bush. [Source: Office of George Bush]White House staffers are taking care of the activities of Neil Bush, a younger brother of President Bush, who has just spent the night at the White House. It is unclear why Neil Bush has been staying at the White House. When he later recalls the events of this morning, Gary Walters, the chief White House usher, will only say, “We… had had the president’s brother, Neil, there overnight, so we were taking care of his activities during the day, because he was going out for business.” [C-SPAN, 7/11/2011] After heading out for “business,” Neil Bush will return to the White House later this morning following the terrorist attacks. The Cincinnati Enquirer will report that he “arrived at the White House on the morning of September 11 and found ‘a war atmosphere,’ soldiers with machine guns at every turn.” [Cincinnati Enquirer, 1/29/2002] Details of Neil Bush’s activities later today are unclear. However, he will, like last night, spend tonight at the White House (see 11:08 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 134; New York Times, 9/11/2002] Neil Bush is a businessman who runs Ignite Learning, an educational software company he co-founded in 1999. [Cincinnati Enquirer, 1/29/2002; Washington Post, 12/28/2003] George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush, the parents of the president, also spent last night at the White House (see (8:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Andersen, 2002, pp. 2; CNN, 10/25/2003]
Former President George H. W. Bush, along with former First Lady Barbara Bush, leaves Washington, DC, by private jet, bound for a speaking engagement in St. Paul, Minnesota. The Bushes spent the previous night at the White House. They had flown to Washington the previous day to attend several meetings and a dinner. One of the meetings attended by the former president was the annual investor conference of the Carlyle Group, which was also attended by Shafig bin Laden, one of Osama bin Laden’s brothers (see (9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). They are later informed of the WTC attacks while on their jet. Due to all planes being grounded, they have to land in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. [CBS News, 11/1/2002; CNN, 10/25/2003; Newsweek, 10/27/2003]
An “emergency drill” has been scheduled for today, to take place on the 97th floor of the WTC South Tower. [New York Times, 3/31/2006; New York Times, 4/1/2006] A team of technology consultants from California is visiting investment firm Fiduciary Trust for this drill. (Fiduciary Trust has offices on the 97th floor.) [USA Today, 9/13/2001; Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 77; New York Times, 3/30/2006] No further details are reported as to what it entails, or who the technology consultants are. However, California-based software company Oracle Corp. will later report that six of its consultants were working on the 97th floor of the South Tower on 9/11 and are subsequently missing. So presumably these were the workers involved with the drill. [InfoWorld, 9/13/2001; Associated Press, 9/14/2001]
WTC leaseholder Larry Silverstein is supposed to be working today in the temporary offices of his company, Silverstein Properties, on the 88th floor of the North Tower. However, at his Park Avenue apartment, Silverstein’s wife reportedly “laid down the law: The developer could not cancel an appointment with his dermatologist, even to meet with tenants at his most important property.” [New York Observer, 3/17/2003; New York Magazine, 4/18/2005] He is therefore not at the WTC when it is hit, and first hears of the attacks when an associate calls him from the lobby of one of the WTC buildings. [Real Deal, 1/2004] Two of Silverstein’s children—his son, Roger, and daughter, Lisa—work for his company and have been regularly attending meetings with WTC tenants at Windows on the World (the restaurant at the top of the North Tower). Yet this morning they are running late. According to the New York Observer, “If the attack had happened just a little later, Mr. Silverstein’s children would likely have been trapped at Windows.” [New York Observer, 3/17/2003] Fifty-four of Silverstein Properties’ 160 staff are in the North Tower when it is hit, and four of them die. [Globe and Mail, 9/7/2002] Silverstein signed the lease on the WTC less than two months previously, and later will attempt to get $7 billion in insurance for the destruction of the towers (see July 24, 2001).
Flight 93 is delayed for 41 minutes on the runway at Newark Airport, New Jersey. It will take off at 8:42 a.m. [Newsweek, 9/22/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001; Boston Globe, 11/23/2001] Apparently, it has to wait in a line of about a dozen planes before it can take off. [USA Today, 8/11/2002] According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the delay is partly due to a fire at the airport the previous afternoon that had led to the runways being closed for 34 minutes. [CNN, 9/10/2001; Bergen Record, 9/11/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001] But the 9/11 Commission says it is “because of the airport’s typically heavy morning traffic.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 10] And the Boston Globe later reports that United Airlines “will not explain why” Flight 93 was delayed on the runway. [Boston Globe, 11/23/2001] NBC News comments, “That delay would give passengers on Flight 93 the time to realize that this was a suicide mission and the chance to thwart it.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2006] CNN adds that it therefore “likely saved the White House or the US Capitol from destruction.” [CNN, 9/11/2006]
Mike Morell. [Source: CIA]President Bush receives his daily intelligence briefing in his room at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort on Longboat Key, Florida, where he has just spent the night (see September 10, 2001), but the briefing includes nothing about terrorism. The President’s Daily Brief (PDB) is a summary of the most current intelligence reports from around the world. It is delivered to Bush each day by Mike Morell, a CIA analyst. [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 ; Bowden, 2012, pp. 4-5; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] It usually includes seven or eight items. Fifteen minutes are usually allotted for the briefing, although it often lasts longer than this.
Brief Arrived Late - The PDB today was, unusually, late to arrive. It was going to be sent from CIA headquarters, via the White House Situation Room, to the White House Communications Agency command post at the resort at 3:30 a.m. But at 4:30 a.m. it had not arrived and so Morell called CIA headquarters to see if there was a problem. He was told there wasn’t and the material had been sent at 3:30 a.m., as planned. He then phoned the command post and was assured that the brief would be brought to him soon. Morell therefore received the PDB after 4:30 a.m., which left him less than three hours to master its contents and select supplementary materials to show the president.
CIA Briefer Met the Situation Room Director to Prepare - Morell met Navy Captain Deborah Loewer, the director of the White House Situation Room, at 7:30 a.m. to compare the information they each planned to show the president during the briefing. At 7:55 a.m. the two went up to Bush’s suite. Shortly after 8:00 a.m. they enter the president’s room to give the briefing, and find Bush seated at a table with a cup of coffee and a newspaper. Andrew Card, Bush’s chief of staff, is also in the room for the briefing. Bush puts down his newspaper and asks, “Anything of interest this morning?”
Brief Includes No Terrorism-Related Items - Loewer goes first. She spends a couple of minutes updating Bush on the Middle East peace process. [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 ; Morell and Harlow, 2015, pp. 45-46; Priess, 2016, pp. 238-239] Morell then goes through the PDB with the president. The information in it today covers Russia, China, and the Palestinian uprising in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. [Bush, 2010, pp. 126; Bowden, 2012, pp. 5; Priess, 2016, pp. 239] There is nothing in it about terrorist threats. [Morell and Harlow, 2015, pp. 46; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] “On arguably the most important day in President Bush’s tenure, his intelligence briefing was uneventful,” Morell will later comment. [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 ] It takes Morell less than 10 minutes to go through the PDB with Bush, according to author David Priess. Bush then talks on the phone for a couple of minutes with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, in a call he has requested in response to some of the news Loewer has given him. [Morell and Harlow, 2015, pp. 46-47; Priess, 2016, pp. 239] He asks Rice to follow up on a few points. [Kessler, 2004, pp. 136; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Briefing Lasts 15 to 25 Minutes - The briefing is over by 8:25 a.m., according to Morell. [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 ; Morell and Harlow, 2015, pp. 47] It ends “close to 8:30,” Loewer will say. [Priess, 2016, pp. 239] But according to other accounts, the briefing lasts 15 minutes and so is over by around 8:15 a.m. (see 8:15 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Kessler, 2004, pp. 136; Bohn, 2015, pp. 213] After leaving Bush’s suite, Morell and Loewer will head down to take their places in the motorcade that is going to transport them to the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, which the president is scheduled to visit this morning. [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 ; Morell and Harlow, 2015, pp. 47; Priess, 2016, pp. 239]
In the event of a hijacking, all airline pilots are trained to key an emergency four-digit code into their plane’s transponder. This would surreptitiously alert air traffic controllers, causing the letters “HJCK” to appear on their screens. [CNN, 9/13/2001; Newsday, 9/13/2001; News (Portugal), 8/3/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 17-18] The action, which pilots should take the moment a hijack situation is known, only takes seconds to perform. [Christian Science Monitor, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001] Yet during the hijackings of flights 11, 175, 77, and 93, none of the pilots do this. [CNN, 9/11/2001]
The last routine communication takes place between air traffic control and the pilots of Flight 11 at 8:13 and 29 seconds. Boston Center air traffic controller Pete Zalewski is handling the flight, and instructs it to turn 20 degrees to the right. Pilot John Ogonowski immediately acknowledges the instruction, but seconds later he fails to respond to a command to climb to 35,000 feet. Zalewski repeatedly tries to reach the pilot over the next ten minutes, even using the emergency frequency, but gets no response (see 8:14 a.m.-8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). The 9/11 Commission concludes that Flight 11 is hijacked at 8:14, or shortly afterwards (see 8:14 a.m. September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 10/16/2001; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 4]
Shortly after air traffic controllers ask Flight 11 to climb to 35,000 feet, its transponder stops transmitting. A transponder is an electronic device that identifies a plane on a controller’s screen and gives its exact location and altitude. Among other vital functions, it is also used to transmit a four-digit emergency hijack code. Flight control manager Glenn Michael later says, “We considered it at that time to be a possible hijacking.” [Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/2001; MSNBC, 9/15/2001; Associated Press, 8/12/2002] Initial stories after 9/11 suggest the transponder is turned off around 8:13 a.m., but Pete Zalewski, the air traffic controller handling the flight, later says the transponder is turned off at 8:20 a.m. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] The 9/11 Commission places it at 8:21 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Colonel Robert Marr, head of NEADS, claims the transponder is turned off some time after 8:30 a.m. where the Flight 11 hijack was first detected a.m. [ABC News, 9/11/2002]
After Flight 11 fails to respond to an instruction from air traffic control to climb to 35,000 feet (see 8:13 a.m. September 11, 2001), the controller handling it, Pete Zalewski, tries to regain contact with the aircraft. Over the following ten minutes, he makes numerous attempts but without success. (Zalewski says he makes 12 attempts; the 9/11 Commission says nine.) He tries reaching the pilot on the emergency frequency. Zalewski later recalls that initially, “I was just thinking that it was, you know, maybe they—pilots weren’t paying attention, or there’s something wrong with the frequency.… And at first it was pretty much, you know, ‘American 11,’ you know, ‘are you paying attention? Are you listening?’ And there was still no response.” He says, “I went back to the previous sector to see if the pilot had accidentally flipped the switch back over on the—on the radio.” But as Zalewski is repeatedly unable to get any response from Flight 11, he recalls, “I even began to get more concerned.” However, Zalewski claims, it is not until he sees the plane’s transponder go off at around 8:21 that he suspects something is “seriously wrong,” and calls his supervisor for assistance (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). And it is not until about 8:25 that he realizes for sure that he is dealing with a hijacking (see (8:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). It is only then that Boston Center starts notifying its chain of command that Flight 11 has been hijacked (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 10/16/2001; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 18; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 7 and 10-11]
The 9/11 Commission will later conclude that Flight 11 is hijacked at 8:14 or shortly after. It will state, “Information supplied by eyewitness accounts indicates that the hijackers initiated and sustained their command of the aircraft using knives (as reported by two flight attendants); violence, including stabbing and slashing (as reported by two flight attendants); the threat of violence (as indicated by a hijacker in radio transmissions received by air traffic control); Mace (reported by one flight attendant); the threat of a bomb, either fake or real (reported by one flight attendant); and deception about their intentions (as indicated by a hijacker in a radio transmission received by air traffic control).” [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8] The Commission says, “We do not know exactly how the hijackers gained access to the cockpit; FAA rules required that the doors remain closed and locked during flight.… Perhaps the terrorists stabbed the flight attendants to get a cockpit key, to force one of them to open the cockpit door, or to lure the captain or first officer out of the cockpit. Or the flight attendants may just have been in their way.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 5] Pilots are trained to handle hijackings by staying calm, complying with any requests, and, if possible, dialing an emergency four-digit code on their plane’s transponder. It only takes a few seconds to dial this code. [CNN, 9/12/2001] Yet, as the Boston Globe notes, “It appears that the hijackers’ entry was surprising enough that the pilots did not have a chance to broadcast a traditional distress call” (see (8:13 a.m.-9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Boston Globe, 11/23/2001] The Los Angeles Times reports that, when flight attendant Amy Sweeney makes a phone call from the plane, she says the hijackers have “just gained access to the cockpit.” [Los Angeles Times, 9/20/2001] Yet her first attempted call is not until 8:22, and, according to official accounts, her first call that stays connected is at 8:25, well past when the 9/11 Commission says the hijacker takeover occurs. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9-10; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] According to an employee at the FAA’s Boston Center, Flight 11 is hijacked while it is over Gardner, Massachusetts, about 45 miles northwest of Boston. [Telegraph (Nashua), 9/12/2001; Associated Press, 9/13/2001]
Mike Hilliard. [Source: Mary Schwalm / North Andover Eagle-Tribune]The air traffic control tower at Logan International Airport in Boston is called by the FAA’s Boston Center and told that communication with Flight 11 has been lost, but when the tower supervisor looks at the plane through his binoculars, he can see nothing outwardly wrong with it. [North Andover Eagle-Tribune, 9/6/2011; CNHI News Service, 9/9/2011] Flight 11 took off from Logan Airport at 7:59 a.m. (see (7:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001). It was in communication with the Logan control tower before being passed on to the FAA’s Boston Center. All communications between the Logan tower and Flight 11 were routine, and tower operators received no indication that anything was wrong with the flight. [Boston Globe, 9/12/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 ; New York Times, 10/16/2001] But since the Boston Center instructed it to ascend to 35,000 feet, just before 8:14 a.m. (see 8:13 a.m. September 11, 2001), Flight 11 has failed to respond to all air traffic controller communications (see 8:14 a.m.-8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 ; New York Times, 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 7]
Tower Supervisor Sees Nothing Wrong with Flight 11 - The Boston Center now calls the Logan tower to alert it to the problem. “We got a call in the tower that communication with the plane had been lost,” Mike Hilliard, the tower supervisor, will later recall. Then, Hilliard will say, the radar room, which is on a level below the tower room, “called and asked if we could still see the plane.” Hilliard looks at the radar screen and can see Flight 11’s track. He then grabs his binoculars, looks out the window through them, and can see Flight 11, because the sun is reflecting off its aluminum fuselage. The aircraft is flying “at 15,000 feet, and he wasn’t trailing vapor or smoke,” Hilliard will recall. Hilliard therefore informs the radar room that he cannot see anything wrong with the plane.
Assistant Says, 'I Hope It's Not a Hijack' - One of Hilliard’s assistants then says to the supervisor, “I hope it’s not a hijack.” This gives Hilliard an uneasy feeling. He replies, “It better not be, because if they got the airplane that quick, it’s a team that took the airplane.” He says to his assistant that the problem with Flight 11 has “got to be mechanical,” and then adds, “Nobody can get a plane that quick.” [North Andover Eagle-Tribune, 9/6/2011; CNHI News Service, 9/9/2011] The 9/11 Commission will conclude that Flight 11 is hijacked at around 8:14 a.m. (see 8:14 a.m. September 11, 2001). Flight 175, the second plane to crash into the World Trade Center, takes off from Logan Airport at 8:14 a.m. (see 8:14 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 4, 7]
John Ogonowski. [Source: Associated Press]At some unknown point after the hijacking begins, Flight 11’s talkback button is activated, which enables Boston flight controllers to hear what is being said in the cockpit. It is unclear whether John Ogonowski, the pilot, activates the talkback button, or whether a hijacker accidentally does so when he takes over the cockpit. A controller later says, “The button [is] being pushed intermittently most of the way to New York.” An article later notes that “his ability to do so also indicates that he [is] in the driver’s seat much of the way” to the WTC. Such transmissions continue until about 8:38 a.m. [Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/2001; MSNBC, 9/15/2001] However, Ogonowski fails to punch a four-digit emergency code into the plane’s transponder, which pilots are taught to do the moment a hijack situation is known (see (8:13 a.m.-9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Christian Science Monitor, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/13/2001; Boston Globe, 11/23/2001]
Sandy Kress. [Source: Publicity photo]Sandy Kress, President Bush’s unpaid education adviser, meets with Bush in his hotel on Longboat Key, Florida, to brief him on their planned 9 a.m. visit to the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in nearby Sarasota. With them are Secretary of Education Rod Paige, Bush’s senior adviser Karl Rove, and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card. Kress goes over some key points for the talk Bush is due to give to the press after reading with the students at the school. However, Kress will later recall that the “president is a very punctual person,” and “I’ve never known him to be late.” Yet, “we finished the briefing on that fateful day, and we continued to talk for another ten minutes about people and politics in Texas. The time to leave came and passed.” Kress adds, “That struck me as unusual.” [Kessler, 2004, pp. 136-137; Dallas Morning News, 9/10/2006] According to the official schedule, the president is supposed to leave the resort at 8:30 a.m. for the drive to the school. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] Yet, according to one account, he will not leave until as late as 8:39 (see (8:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Times, 10/7/2002]
Sara Low. [Source: Family photo / Associated Press]According to a computer presentation put forward as evidence in the 2006 trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, an unknown person—or persons—makes four calls from Flight 11. These are at 08:16:50, 08:20:11, 08:25:31, and 08:28:33. The calls do not appear to have gone through properly: they are each described as “On button pressed, no call made.” Though the trial exhibit identifies the caller(s) only as “Unknown Caller,” other evidence suggests that at least one of the calls is made by—or on behalf of—Sara Low, who is one of the plane’s flight attendants. Her father, Mike Low, later says he learned from FBI records that his daughter had given her childhood home phone number in Arkansas to another of the flight attendants, Amy Sweeney, for her to report the hijacking. Low speculates that the reason his daughter gave this particular number was that she had just moved home, and so, in the stress of the hijacking, her childhood phone number was the only one she could remember. The Moussaoui trial presentation lists Sweeney as making five calls from the plane. However, it says these are all to the American Airlines office at Boston’s Logan Airport. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006; New York Times, 9/4/2007] Sara Low lets Sweeney use her father’s calling card in order to make these five calls from an Airfone (see 8:22 a.m.-8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). [New York Observer, 6/20/2004]
Vanessa Minter. [Source: Capitol Broadcasting Company]Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11, calls the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina, to report the emergency on her plane. Ong makes the call using an Airfone. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 5; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] Flight attendants know the reservations 800 number that she calls because they often call it to help passengers with reservations questions. Calls made to the number are routed to the first available phone station at one of several facilities, including the office in Cary. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 72-74; 9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 ; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8]
Ong Tells Agent, 'We're Being Hijacked' - The call is answered by Vanessa Minter, a reservation agent. The first thing Ong says is, “I think we’re being hijacked.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 453] Minter will later reflect: “There was something in her voice that said: ‘Okay, this isn’t funny. This isn’t a joke. This is real.’” [WRAL, 9/9/2011]
Resolution Agent Joins Call - Minter asks Ong to hold for a moment. She then phones the American Airlines international resolution desk, which is on the other side of the building. Winston Sadler, the resolution agent, answers, and Minter tells him she has a woman on the phone who is calling from an American Airlines flight that is being hijacked. Minter says she cannot find the “emergency button” on her phone, and Sadler notices that she seems panicked. He offers to take over the call, and so Minter transfers it to him. The phone system allows Sadler to be connected to Minter’s line while Minter remains on it.
Alarm Sent Out to Notify Supervisor - Realizing the seriousness of the situation, Sadler pushes the emergency button on his phone, which initiates a tape recording of Ong’s call and also sends out an alarm that notifies Nydia Gonzalez, a supervisor at the reservations office, to pick up the call. Gonzalez will join the call from Ong a short time later (see 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). Sadler will tell the FBI that as soon as he joins Ong’s call, he is convinced it is a genuine phone call from an airplane, because he is used to hearing the background noise that occurs in calls from airplane telephones, and he can hear such noise during Ong’s call. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 42-44; 9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 ; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 453]
Only First Four Minutes of Call Recorded - Ong’s call will last over 25 minutes, ending at around 8:44 a.m. or 8:45 a.m. (see (8:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and in it Ong will relay crucial information about what is happening on her plane. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] However, only the first four minutes of the call are recorded. This is because the recently installed recording system at the reservations office has a default time limit. The recording system it replaced did not have such a time limit. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 ; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8]
Betty Ong. [Source: The Eagle-Tribune]Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11, begins relaying information about the trouble on her plane to employees at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 5] Ong has just called the reservations office to report the hijacking of Flight 11, and is on the line with two employees there: Vanessa Minter and Winston Sadler (see 8:18 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 453]
Ong Describes Hijacking but Gives Wrong Flight Number - Ong tells Minter and Sadler: “The cockpit’s not answering, somebody’s stabbed in business class, and I think there’s Mace, that we can’t breathe.… I think we’re getting hijacked.” Sadler asks Ong what flight she is on and Ong replies, incorrectly, “Flight 12.” She says her plane just left Boston and is supposed to go to Los Angeles, and the pilots are not answering the phone in the cockpit. She says she is in the jump seat, 3R, which is at the back of the plane, behind the coach section. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 6, 8] However, Amy Sweeney, another flight attendant who makes a call from Flight 11, is in the next-to-last row of passenger seats in the coach section of the plane, and she will say that Ong is sitting next to her (see (8:32 a.m.-8:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Observer, 2/15/2004; New York Observer, 6/20/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 11]
Ong Says Two Flight Attendants Stabbed - Sadler asks Ong her name and she replies: “My name is Betty Ong. I’m number three [flight attendant] on Flight 11.” She says the number one flight attendant and the number five flight attendant have been stabbed. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6] These two attendants are Barbara Arestegui and Karen Martin. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 6] Ong says, “Nobody knows who stabbed who and we can’t even get up to business class right now, ‘cause nobody can breathe.” She also says: “We can’t get into the cockpit. The door won’t open.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6] Sadler takes notes of the call, using his computer “scratch pad.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 42-44] He notifies Ong of this, saying, “I’m taking it down, all the information.” He tells Ong, “We’re also, you know, of course, recording this.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6]
Ong Receiving Details of Hijacking from Colleague - During the entire conversation, Sadler will later recall, Ong seems to be talking to someone in the background and receiving information from them. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 42-44] This person is presumably Sara Low, another of the flight attendants, who was assigned to the front of the plane and so would have witnessed the hijacking when it happened. [Associated Press, 3/5/2009; New York Daily News, 3/6/2009; Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 9/11/2011] Ong will keep repeating herself during the call, Minter will recall, such as repeatedly mentioning the stabbings on her plane. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41] Nydia Gonzalez, a supervisor at the reservations office, has been alerted to the call and will soon join it (see 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 ; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 453]
Flight 11 starts to veer dramatically off course. It now heads in a northwesterly direction toward Albany, New York. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002]
Daniel Lewin. [Source: Akamai Technologies]An FAA memo written on the evening of 9/11, and later leaked, will suggest that a man on Flight 11 is shot and killed by a gun before the plane crashes into the World Trade Center. The “Executive Summary,” based on information relayed by a flight attendant to the American Airlines Operation Center, states “that a passenger located in seat 10B [Satam Al Suqami] shot and killed a passenger in seat 9B [Daniel Lewin] at 9:20 a.m.” (Note that since Flight 11 crashes at 8:46, the time must be a typographical error, probably meaning 8:20). A report in Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz on September 17 will identify Lewin as a former member of the Israel Defense Force Sayeret Matkal, Israel’s most successful Special Operations unit. [United Press International, 3/6/2002] Sayeret Matkal is a deep penetration unit that has been involved in assassinations, the theft of foreign signals intelligence materials, and the theft and destruction of foreign nuclear weaponry. It is best known for the 1976 rescue of 106 passengers at Entebbe Airport in Uganda. [New Yorker, 10/29/2001] Lewin founded Akamai, a successful computer company, and his connections to Sayeret Matkal will remain hidden until the gun story becomes known. [Guardian, 9/15/2001] FAA and American Airline officials will later deny the gun story and suggest that Lewin is probably stabbed to death instead. [Washington Post, 3/2/2002; United Press International, 3/6/2002] Officials assert that the leaked document was a “first draft,” and subsequently corrected, but decline to release the final draft, calling it “protected information.” However, an FAA official present when the memo is drafted will dispute the FAA’s claim, asserting that “[t]he document was reviewed for accuracy by a number of people in the room, including myself and a couple of managers of the operations center.” [WorldNetDaily, 3/7/2002] This unnamed official is probably Bogdan Dzakovic, a leader of the FAA’s “red team” conducting covert security inspections. He will later tell the 9/11 Commission: “There are serious indications that the FAA deceived the public about what happened on 9/11. On the afternoon of September 11, 2001, I was working in one of the FAA operations centers collecting information on details of what happened during the hijacking. We received information that a firearm was used on one of the hijacked aircraft.… That evening the administrator of FAA requested an executive summary covering the day’s activities, and this information about a gun was included in the summary. Days later, without any explanation or questioning of the summary’s author, the administrator publicly announced that no guns had been used in the hijacking. Several months passed when the press re-surfaced this issue. FAA’s initial response was that no so such executive summary existed. Later, when confronted with the document, FAA admitted the executive summary existed, but denied its accuracy. Sometime later I learned that another operations center also received a report that a firearm was used.… There were also reports of a possible explosive threatened on a flight.” [CBS News, 2/25/2002; 9/11 Commission, 5/22/2003; Village Voice, 2/8/2005]
Colonel Robert Marr, the battle commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), speaks over the phone with Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR), about the day’s training exercise. Marr is in the battle cab at NEADS, in Rome, New York, while Arnold is at the CONR headquarters at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. [9/11 Commission, 1/23/2004 ; 9/11 Commission, 2/2/2004 ] All of NORAD, including NEADS, is currently participating in the major annual exercise, Vigilant Guardian. [Northeast Air Defense Sector, 8/23/2001; Arkin, 2005, pp. 545; Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System, 9/8/2011] Marr has just been in a staff meeting, and now checks in with Arnold to make sure their communication lines are up and ready for the exercise. [Grant, 2004, pp. 19] Marr tells Arnold that the personnel on the NEADS operations floor are ready to begin the exercise. Marr will tell the 9/11 Commission that his “primary communication” on this day “is to higher headquarters,” presumably meaning Arnold. However, the two men are not on a continual open line. [9/11 Commission, 1/23/2004 ] Arnold will tell the Commission that he and Marr “did not stay on the line continually, but spoke when information needed to be passed,” throughout the day. [9/11 Commission, 2/3/2004 ]
Peggy Houck, a flight dispatcher at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, is contacted by an American Airlines flight and told that air traffic control has asked the aircraft to try to contact Flight 11. Houck is working at the desk for American Airlines’ transcontinental flights and is therefore the dispatcher responsible for Flight 11. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 5-7; 9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 ; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9] Under FAA rules, dispatchers licensed by the agency are responsible for following aircraft in flight. Once a plane is in the air, a dispatcher must monitor its progress, relay safety information to the captain, and handle any problems. American Airlines assigns a dispatcher to each of its flights. [Dallas Morning News, 6/13/2002; Sydney Morning Herald, 6/14/2002; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 86] Houck will later tell the FBI that the flight that calls her has sent a message to Flight 11 stating something along the lines of, “Good morning, ATC [air traffic control] wants you on [a certain radio frequency] and requests an acknowledgment,” but received no reply. Houck has, until now, had no direct contact with Flight 11 and the communication she receives from this other aircraft is the first indication she has of any problem on Flight 11. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 5-7; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9] Details of the aircraft that calls Houck are unclear. Houck will tell the 9/11 Commission, in 2004, that it is a “Seattle-Boston” flight. [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 ] However, interviewed by the FBI later today, she will refer to it as “another Boston flight,” suggesting that—like Flight 11—it had taken off from Logan International Airport in Boston. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 5-7] Houck, or another dispatcher at the SOC, will subsequently send an ACARS text message to Flight 11, but receive no response to it (see 8:23 a.m.-8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9]
FAAÃ¢Â€Â™s Boston Center [Source: ABC News]According to some reports, Boston flight control decides that Flight 11 has probably been hijacked, but apparently, it does not notify other flight control centers for another five minutes, and does not notify NORAD for approximately 20 minutes. [New York Times, 9/15/2001; Newsday, 9/23/2001] ABC News will later say, “There doesn’t seem to have been alarm bells going off, [flight] controllers getting on with law enforcement or the military. There’s a gap there that will have to be investigated.” [ABC News, 9/14/2001] (Note the conflicting account at 8:21 a.m. (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001)
Nydia Gonzalez. [Source: 9/11 Commission]Nydia Gonzalez, a supervisor at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina, joins a phone call between two employees at her office and Betty Ong, a flight attendant on the hijacked Flight 11. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8-9] Ong called the reservations office at 8:18 a.m. to report the hijacking (see 8:18 a.m. September 11, 2001), and has since then been talking to two employees there: Vanessa Minter and Winston Sadler. Sadler pushed the emergency button on his phone to alert personnel in the operations area of the reservations office, so that one of them could pick up the call from Ong. A colleague of Gonzalez’s initially picked up the call, but Gonzalez quickly takes over from them. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 453; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] Gonzalez, Minter, and Sadler are in different areas of the reservations office, but all three of them are able to monitor Ong’s call. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 ]
Supervisor Told of Stabbings on Flight 11 - The first thing Gonzalez says when she joins the call is: “This is operations. What flight number are we talking about?” Ong earlier told Minter and Sadler, incorrectly, that she was on “Flight 12,” not Flight 11 (see 8:19 a.m. September 11, 2001). Sadler therefore tells Gonzalez, “Flight 12.” Ong quickly corrects him, saying: “We’re on Flight 11 right now. This is Flight 11.… Boston to Los Angeles.” She also repeats information she previously gave to Minter and Sadler, saying, “Our number one [flight attendant] has been stabbed and our [number] five [flight attendant] has been stabbed.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6]
Supervisor Notifies Airline's Operations Center - Gonzalez is an operations specialist, and her responsibilities include monitoring any emergency situations with American Airlines flights and forwarding information to the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004 ; Spencer, 2008, pp. 17] She immediately realizes the seriousness of the situation on Flight 11 and therefore, while remaining connected to Ong’s call, phones the SOC on a separate line to notify it of the problem (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 ; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9] Gonzalez will later recall that she finds Ong to be “calm, professional, and in control throughout the call.” [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004 ] She will also say that during the time she is monitoring Ong’s call, she does not hear much commotion in the background. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 69-71]
Craig Marquis. [Source: American Airlines]Nydia Gonzalez, a supervisor at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina, calls the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, to notify it of the trouble on Flight 11. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9] Gonzalez, along with two of her colleagues, is currently on the phone with Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11 who called the reservations office at 8:18 a.m. to report that her plane had been hijacked (see 8:18 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 453; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] Realizing the seriousness of the situation, Gonzalez calls the SOC. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 ; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9] Her phone system is not set up to transfer calls, so she holds the phone on which she is monitoring Ong’s call to one ear while calling the SOC on another phone. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 17]
Gonzalez Says 'Everyone's Been Stabbed' on Flight 11 - Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the SOC, answers the call. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 ; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9] He says this is the “American Airlines emergency line,” and then says, “Please state your emergency.” After introducing herself, Gonzalez says, “I am monitoring a call in which Flight 11, the flight attendant is advising our reps that the pilot, everyone’s been stabbed.” She adds, “They can’t get into the cockpit is what I’m hearing,” and then tells Marquis: “I’ve got the flight attendant on the line with one of our agents.… I can go in on the line and ask the flight attendant questions.” Marquis replies, “I’m assuming they’ve declared an emergency.” He then says, “Let me get ATC [air traffic control] on here.” He tells Gonzalez to “stand by.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19] Marquis immediately starts an active log on the incident, reporting it as a flight emergency. This requires that he display all of the information that is available to him about Flight 11 on the monitors at his workstation. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 ]
Gonzalez Gets More Information from Ong - Gonzalez asks Ong more questions while Marquis is off the line. Ong says she is the number three flight attendant on her plane and she has phoned no one other than those at the reservations office. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6] Gonzalez tells Ong: “I’ve got security on the line.… So just bear with us.” Marquis then returns to the line and asks Gonzalez if Flight 11 is descending or “landing somewhere.” (Marquis will tell the 9/11 Commission that at the beginning of the call from Gonzalez, he is “wondering where [Flight 11] was going to be taken to land.”) Gonzalez replies, “[Ong] says they’re in the air.” She adds that she is talking to “Betty,” who is the number three flight attendant. This detail enables Marquis to cross-check the information Ong has provided with the crew manifest for Flight 11, thereby confirming that Ong’s plane is indeed Flight 11.
Marquis Unaware that Flight 11 Is Hijacked - Gonzalez then asks Marquis if there is a way that Ong can communicate with the pilots on her plane, because Ong has said that “she can’t get… into the cockpit.” Marquis replies, “Well maybe [the pilots are] busy.” (Marquis will tell the 9/11 Commission that, at this point, he is wondering “why Ong doesn’t bang on the door of the cockpit” to get the pilot’s attention. He will explain that he “did not assume the plane was hijacked with the information he had from Gonzalez at that time.”)
Gonzalez Learns that Hijackers Are in the Cockpit - Marquis says he will get hold of the American Airlines dispatcher in charge of Flight 11 and ask them to contact the pilot. He tells Gonzalez to “stand by” and then calls the dispatcher (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 ] While Marquis does this, Gonzalez continues talking to Ong, and Ong says the hijackers are in the cockpit (see 8:22 a.m.-8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 10] When Marquis comes back on the line, Gonzalez says to him, “Betty is telling me that the guys, there’s two men [that] are in the cockpit with the pilots.” Marquis tells Gonzalez, “I have the dispatcher contacting the crew right now… so I’ll keep you informed.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19]
Marquis Finds Call 'Tough' - Gonzalez calls the SOC at 8:27 a.m., according to an SOC chronology. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 ] But according to the 9/11 Commission Report, she makes the call at 8:21 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 5] Marquis will describe the call as “tough,” because he is unable to hear Ong directly. He wants the call from Ong to be transferred to him, he will say, but Gonzalez is unable to do this. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 ] While only the first four minutes of Ong’s call to the reservations office are recorded, all of Gonzalez’s call to the SOC is recorded. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9-10]
Tom Roberts. [Source: NBC News]Boston flight controller Pete Zalewski, handling Flight 11, sees that the flight is off course and that the plane has turned off both transponder and radio. Zalewski later claims he turns to his supervisor and says, “Would you please come over here? I think something is seriously wrong with this plane. I don’t know what. It’s either mechanical, electrical, I think, but I’m not sure.” When asked if he suspected a hijacking at this point, he replies, “Absolutely not. No way.” According to the 9/11 Commission, “the supervisor instructed the controller [presumably Zalewski] to follow standard operating procedures for handling a ‘no radio’ aircraft once the controller told the supervisor the transponder had been turned off.” Another flight controller, Tom Roberts, has another nearby American Airlines Flight try to contact Flight 11. There is still no response. The flight is now “drastically off course” but NORAD is still not notified. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Note that this response contradicts flight control manager Glenn Michael’s assertion that Flight 11 was considered a possible hijacking as soon as the transponder was discovered turned off.
American Airlines has problems contacting the FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, about the problems with its aircraft, according to four managers working at the airline’s System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, on this day. Craig Marquis, Craig Parfitt, Joe Bertapelle, and Mike Mulcahy will later tell the 9/11 Commission that American Airlines has “a hard time on 9/11 in getting in touch with Herndon.” They will say that “[p]recious minutes were lost in building the communications bridge” between the SOC and the Command Center. The cause of these communication problems is unknown. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 ] The SOC has known that there are problems on Flight 11 since 8:21 a.m., when Marquis received a call from a supervisor at the airline’s Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina, alerting him to a call that had been received from one of the plane’s flight attendants about the emergency taking place (see 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). Presumably the SOC starts trying to contact the FAA Command Center soon after receiving this call. It is known that the SOC will make contact with the Command Center at 9:16 a.m., if not earlier (see 9:16 a.m.-9:18 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9, 15] Bill Halleck, an air traffic control specialist at the SOC, is at least able to reach the FAA’s Boston Center regarding Flight 11 at 8:29 a.m. (see 8:29 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 5, 453] The four American Airlines managers will also tell the 9/11 Commission, “In the event that the [American Airlines] SOC was aware that it was the first to know about an incident [with an aircraft], the protocol would have been for the SOC manager on duty [i.e. Marquis] to have immediately autodialed to the Herndon manager on duty [i.e. Ben Sliney] with the information.” However, the FAA “knew what was going on because of the intercepted communications from the cockpit.” [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 ] (FAA air traffic controllers have been aware of problems with Flight 11 since around 8:14 a.m., when they lost communication with the plane (see 8:14 a.m.-8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), and they subsequently hear communications made by the hijackers on the plane, beginning at 8:24 a.m. (see 8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 18-19] )
Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11, tells employees at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina, that the hijackers on her plane are in the cockpit, and nobody is able to communicate with the cockpit. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6; American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9-10] Ong is on the phone with three employees at the reservations office—Vanessa Minter, Winston Sadler, and Nydia Gonzalez—and has been describing to them the trouble on her plane (see 8:19 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 5, 453]
Ong Says Flight Attendants Cannot Get into Cockpit - Ong now asks some people on her plane, presumably other flight attendants, “Can anybody get up to the cockpit?” Based on what they tell her, she says to the reservations office employees: “We can’t even get into the cockpit. We don’t know who’s up there.” Presumably referring to the pilots, Sadler says, “Well if they were shrewd, they would keep the door closed.” He asks Ong, “Would they [i.e. the pilots] not maintain a sterile cockpit?” Ong replies: “I think the guys [i.e. the hijackers] are up there. They might have gone there, jammed their way up there, or something.” She adds: “Nobody can call the cockpit. We can’t even get inside.” Ong previously mentioned that some people on her plane had been stabbed. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6] Gonzalez therefore asks her, “You’re saying that the guys that are doing the stabbing, they’re in the cockpit?” Gonzalez then asks, “How many people [i.e. hijackers] are we talking about?” Ong says two men are involved. Gonzalez asks Ong if she can describe them. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19] Ong has not seen the hijackers herself and so she cannot provide a description of them. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 69-71]
Passengers Unaware of Hijacking - Gonzalez asks, “How are the passengers?” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19] Ong says she believes the passengers in the coach section are unaware that their plane has been hijacked. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 42-44] Gonzalez will later recall her saying that the passengers “suspect something [is] going on, but [are] not aware of the situation.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 69-71] Gonzalez checks with Ong: “So this is all happening in first class? Coach is not aware of what’s going on?” She then tells Ong to “calm down,” and reassures her, saying: “We’ve got security on the line. We’re gonna do everything we can.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19]
Gonzalez Relays Information to Operations Center - Gonzalez has been relaying the information Ong provides to Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the American Airlines System Operations Control center in Fort Worth, Texas (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 ; Spencer, 2008, pp. 17-18] She now passes on some of the new information Ong has provided, letting Marquis know that Ong said two men are in the cockpit of Flight 11 with the pilots. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19]
Madeline ‘Amy’ Sweeney. [Source: Nashua Telegraph / Getty Images]Madeline “Amy” Sweeney, a flight attendant on Flight 11, makes two unsuccessful attempts at calling the American Airlines flight services office at Logan International Airport in Boston. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9-10; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] Flight 11 took off from Logan Airport at 7:59 a.m. (see (7:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 9/13/2001] The American Airlines flight services office at the airport manages the scheduling and operation of flight attendants. Attendants go there to check in for duty and fill in their pre-flight paperwork, among other things. The office’s phone number is well known to the American Airlines flight attendants who operate out of Logan Airport. [9/11 Commission, 1/25/2004 ; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9] Sweeney first tries phoning the flight services office at 8:22 a.m., but the call fails to connect. Her second attempted call, two minutes later, also fails to connect. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9-10; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] Sweeney tries making the calls from a passenger seat in the next-to-last row of the coach section of the plane. She makes the attempted calls on an Airfone, using a calling card given to her by Sara Low, another of the plane’s flight attendants. [New York Observer, 2/15/2004; New York Observer, 6/20/2004; Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 9/11/2011] Sweeney will finally reach the American Airlines flight services office on her third attempt to do so, at 8:25 a.m., and alert its staff to what is happening on her plane (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 57-58; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 10]
The American Airlines System Operations Control center in Fort Worth, Texas. [Source: American Airlines]Employees at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, send ACARS text messages to the pilots of the hijacked Flight 11, but receive no response. At 8:23 a.m., a flight dispatcher at the SOC sends an ACARS message to Flight 11. ACARS, meaning Aircraft Communications and Reporting System, is an e-mail system enabling company personnel on the ground to rapidly communicate with those in the cockpit of an in-flight aircraft. The message says: “Good morning.… ATC [air traffic control] looking for you on [radio frequency] 135.32.” No response is received from Flight 11. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9-10] It is unclear which dispatcher sends this ACARS message. Peggy Houck, the dispatcher responsible for Flight 11, will tell the 9/11 Commission, in 2004, that she tries to reach the flight “via the ACARS system” shortly after 8:20 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 ] However, when she is interviewed by the FBI later today, Houck will say that “another” American Airlines dispatcher, besides herself, “sent an ACARS message to Flight 11… based upon ATC’s attempts to contact Flight 11.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 5-7] At 8:25 a.m., Bob Marino, an American Airlines air traffic control specialist at the SOC, sends another ACARS message to Flight 11. This says: “Plz contact Boston Center ASAP.… They have lost radio contact and your transponder signal.” Again, no response is received from the plane. Subsequent ACARS messages sent to Flight 11 will also receive no reply. [9/11 Commission, 3/25/2004, pp. 14; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 10]
Pete Zalewski. [Source: NBC]Because the talkback button on Flight 11 has been activated, Boston Center air traffic controllers can hear a hijacker on board say to the passengers: “We have some planes. Just stay quiet and you’ll be OK. We are returning to the airport.” [Boston Globe, 11/23/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 19] Air traffic controller Pete Zalewski recognizes this as a foreign, Middle Eastern-sounding voice, but does not make out the specific words “we have some planes.” He responds, “Who’s trying to call me?” Seconds later, in the next transmission, the hijacker continues: “Nobody move. Everything will be OK. If you try to make any moves you’ll endanger yourself and the airplane. Just stay quiet.” [New York Times, 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; MSNBC, 9/9/2006] Bill Peacock, the FAA director of air traffic services, later claims, “We didn’t know where the transmission came from, what was said and who said it.” David Canoles, the FAA’s manager of air traffic evaluations and investigations, adds: “The broadcast wasn’t attributed to a flight. Nobody gave a flight number.” [Washington Times, 9/11/2002] Similarly, an early FAA report will state that both these transmissions came from “an unknown origin.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 ] Zalewski asks for an assistant to help listen to the transmissions coming from the plane, and puts its frequency on speakers so others at Boston Center can hear. Because Zalewski didn’t understand the initial hijacker communication from Flight 11, the manager of Boston Center instructs the center’s quality assurance specialist to “pull the tape” of the transmission, listen to it carefully, and then report back. They do this, and by about 9:03 a.m. a Boston manager will report having deciphered what was said in the first hijacker transmission (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; MSNBC, 9/9/2006] Fellow Boston controller Don Jeffroy also hears the tape of the hijacker transmissions, though he doesn’t state at what time. He says: “I heard exactly what Pete [Zalewski] heard. And we had to actually listen to it a couple of times just to make sure that we were hearing what we heard.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] At some point, Ben Sliney, the national operations manager at the FAA’s Herndon Command Center, gets word of the “We have some planes” message, and later says the phrase haunts him all morning. American Airlines Executive Vice President for Operations Gerard Arpey is also informed of the “strange transmissions from Flight 11” at some point prior to when it crashes at 8:46 a.m. [USA Today, 8/13/2002] Boston Center will receive a third transmission from Flight 11 about ten minutes later (see (8:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Boston flight control begins notifying the chain of command that a suspected hijacking of Flight 11 is in progress. Those notified include the center’s own facility manager, the FAA’s New England Regional Operations Center (ROC) in Burlington, Massachusetts, and the FAA Command Center in Herndon, Virginia (see 8:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 ; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 11] According to the 9/11 Commission, this is consistent with FAA protocol: “From interviews of controllers at various FAA centers, we learned that an air traffic controller’s first response to an aircraft incident is to notify a supervisor, who then notifies the traffic management unit and the operations manager in charge. The FAA center next notifies the appropriate regional operations center (ROC), which in turn contacts FAA headquarters.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 458] But according to Ben Sliney, the national operations manager at the FAA’s Command Center, “the protocol was in place that the center that reported the hijacking would notify the military.… I go back to 1964, where I began my air traffic career, and they have always followed the same protocol.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Yet Boston Center supposedly will not contact NORAD about Flight 11 until about 12 minutes later (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Already about ten minutes have passed since controllers first noticed a loss of contact with Flight 11 (see (8:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Boston reportedly also contacts several other air traffic control centers about the suspected hijacking at this time (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001).
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