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Local media outlets report the arrival of Air Force One, with President Bush on board, at Barksdale Air Force Base, near Shreveport, Louisiana (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001), even though the president’s location is meant to be a secret. [Salon, 9/12/2001; Rove, 2010, pp. 258] White House press secretary Ari Fleischer has given instructions to the pool of reporters on Air Force One to prevent them revealing the president’s whereabouts. He told the reporters they could only say they were at “an unidentified location in the United States.” He also told them to refrain from using their cell phones, and to not even turn their phones on, because the signals from them might allow someone to identify their location. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Salon, 9/12/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 110] Bush’s senior adviser, Karl Rove, who is traveling on Air Force One, will later recall, “The president’s whereabouts were a closely guarded secret, or at least we thought so.” However, Rove will describe, “Watching local Shreveport television on the final approach to Barksdale, we saw our plane appear, preparing to touch down with fighter escorts covering us.” Why a television crew is at Barksdale Air Force Base, and therefore able to film Air Force One landing there, is unclear. [Rove, 2010, pp. 258] Mark Rosenker, the director of the White House Military Office, who is traveling with the president on Air Force One, will suggest that the media “perhaps intercepted a message—whether it be by land line or whether it be by two-way radio on the ground—that we were on our way.” [White House, 8/29/2002] According to Rove, “An enterprising local TV news director had stationed a camera just off the base on the flight path.” Consequently, “Everyone now knew where the president was.” The Secret Service is alarmed, but, Rove will comment, “[I]t didn’t seem likely there was a terrorist cell operating in northwest Louisiana and armed with surface-to-air missiles.” [Rove, 2010, pp. 258] Shortly before Bush records a statement at the base, to be broadcast on television (see 12:36 p.m. September 11, 2001), Air Force personnel will inform the reporters traveling with the president that media outlets have reported that Air Force One has landed at Barksdale. The traveling White House staff will then rescind the instruction that the reporters cannot reveal their location. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Salon, 9/12/2001]
While President Bush is at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, officials there receive reports of unidentified aircraft heading toward the base. [American History, 10/2006 ] The FAA ordered that all airborne aircraft must land at the nearest airport at 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and by about 12:15 p.m., US airspace is clear of all civilian air traffic, with the exception of a small number of law enforcement and emergency operations aircraft (see 12:16 p.m. September 11, 2001). [US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure, 9/21/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 4/15/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 29] But for the entire time Bush is at Barksdale Air Force Base, Lieutenant General Thomas Keck, the commander of the 8th Air Force at Barksdale, and White House aides traveling with the president are receiving reports of unidentified aircraft flying toward the base. According to American History magazine, “Under Threatcon Delta, and what Keck’s staff already knew of the day’s shocking events, there was a low threshold for declaring any incoming plane or object a threat.” Therefore, Keck “made sure his staff kept him closely apprised of each questionable target.… If necessary, the commander was ready to give the order to fire on any plane that threatened the base.” Whether the suspicious aircraft are identified, and the reasons they are flying toward Barksdale ever discovered, is unstated. Barksdale Air Force Base is “already a prime target because of its key fleet of B-52s,” according to American History magazine. “Attack on the base by a hijacked airliner was never among the anticipated scenarios, however, so the base’s air security was light.” [American History, 10/2006 ] Administration officials will later tell the New York Times that around this time, there are two reports of international flights that are unaccounted for, and two domestic flights are seen as possible threats. [New York Times, 9/16/2001] Also while Bush is at Barksdale, a report is received that a high-speed object is heading for his ranch in Crawford, Texas, but this turns out to be a false alarm (see 1:05 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 117; Draper, 2007, pp. 142-143]
Raven Rock Mountain, the location of ‘Site R.’ [Source: Unknown]After arriving at the alternate military command center outside Washington, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz reports that the computer and communications systems there are hardly functioning. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ordered Wolfowitz to leave the Pentagon and relocate to the alternate command center—“Site R”—earlier on, and Wolfowitz was transported there by helicopter (see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 132; Vogel, 2007, pp. 441] Site R is located inside Raven Rock Mountain, about six miles north of Camp David, on the Pennsylvania-Maryland border. [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 11/2001] According to authors Patrick Creed and Rick Newman, it “was designed as a duplicate of the NMCC” (the National Military Command Center, inside the Pentagon). “If an attack took out the NMCC, or it needed to be evacuated for any reason, Site R would become the Pentagon’s primary command center.” Since joining the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1998 as its director of operations, Vice Admiral Scott Fry had “instituted regular drills and other measures to make sure Site R could rapidly get up to speed in an emergency, without glitches that might be fatal in a war setting.” [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 174] Yet when he calls the Pentagon from this alternate command center, Wolfowitz reports that “the computer and communication systems there functioned poorly or not at all.” He is, however, able to participate in video teleconference calls. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 132] These problems are not reported as causing any significant hindrance in the emergency response to the attacks. But Creed and Newman will comment: “The authority to order major military action rested jointly with the senior civilian leaders at both the White House and the Defense Department. Only they, together, could order troops to move, or missiles to fly. If the NMCC went down before Site R was up and running, the communications link required to utilize the nation’s military might be severed, for the first time since the system was put in place in 1947.” [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 174-175]
Two A-10 aircraft from Barksdale Air Force Base. [Source: Greg Steele / US Air Force]Because no fighter jets are available at Barksdale Air Force Base, the Air Force Reserve places two A-10 jets, which are intended for close air support of ground forces, on alert in order to defend the base and the president’s plane, Air Force One, which landed at Barksdale at 11:45 a.m. (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). Lieutenant General Thomas Keck, the commander of the 8th Air Force, is responsible for protecting President Bush and Air Force One from any attack while they are at his base, and he realizes something needs to be done to provide cover for Barksdale. He therefore calls Brigadier General Jack Ihle, the commander of the 917th Wing of the Air Force Reserve at Barksdale, and requests help. When Keck asks Ihle if he can provide “any kind of defense,” Ihle immediately answers, “You got it!” The Air Force Reserve at Barksdale has no fighters, but it does have A-10 Warthogs, which are twin-engine jet aircraft known as “tank killers,” because they can deliver heavy firepower against tanks and ground forces. Despite the plane’s relatively slow speed, the A-10’s “gun is deadly,” according to Keck. Two A-10s are therefore parked at the end of the base’s runway on cockpit alert, with crews ready to take off immediately if required. Keck will later recall, “We felt better having them there, and then NORAD sent over a couple of F-16s before long.” [American History, 10/2006 ; GlobalSecurity (.org), 7/7/2011] (Keck is presumably referring to the fighters launched by the Louisiana Air National Guard’s 159th Fighter Wing to follow Air Force One after it leaves Barksdale (see (1:45 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Filson, 2003, pp. 87; Associated Press, 12/30/2007] ) Two of the four F-16 fighters from the 147th Fighter Wing of the Texas Air National Guard that escorted Air Force One as it came in to land at Barksdale fly a combat air patrol overhead, while the other two are on the ground with Air Force One while the president is at the base, according to the Bombardier, the newspaper for Barksdale Air Force Base. [Bombardier, 9/8/2006 ]
United Airlines finally issues a press release confirming that Flight 175 has crashed, nearly three hours after this aircraft hit the World Trade Center (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). The release states, “United Airlines has now confirmed that two of its aircraft have crashed.” These include “United Flight 175, a Boeing 767 aircraft, [that] departed from Boston at 7:58 a.m. local time, bound for Los Angeles, with 56 passengers onboard, two pilots and seven flight attendants.” [United Airlines, 9/11/2001] United Airlines previously issued a press release, at 11:17, confirming the crash of Flight 93 (see 11:17 a.m. September 11, 2001), but this had stated that the airline was, at that time, only “deeply concerned” about Flight 175. [United Airlines, 9/11/2001] However, at 9:22, the United Airlines System Operations Control manager had issued an advisory to all the airline’s facilities, stating that Flight 175 had been in an accident in New York (see 9:22 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 26] And Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, will later claim that United confirmed to the center that Flight 175 was down, “within two or three minutes” (see (9:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006]
President Bush at Barksdale Air Force Base, accompanied by Lieutenant General Thomas Keck.
[Source: White House]President Bush is provided with a high level of security when he gets off Air Force One at Barksdale Air Force Base, near Shreveport, Louisiana, and is promptly driven to a conference center on the base from where he makes a brief phone call. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Newseum et al., 2002, pp. 164; Rove, 2010, pp. 258-259] Air Force One landed at Barksdale at 11:45 a.m. and was immediately surrounded by Air Force personnel in full combat gear, with their rifles drawn (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 9/11/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] Bush remained on board while a retractable set of stairs was lowered for him to leave the plane by.
Reporters Updated on President's Actions - A dark blue Dodge Caravan now pulls up next to these stairs, and a Secret Service agent and two Air Force officers take positions at the bottom of the stairs. The Dodge then pulls away, perhaps 40 feet back from the plane, and is swept inside and outside with dogs. Some members of the president’s staff come down the stairs from the plane. White House press secretary Ari Fleischer approaches the pool of reporters who have been traveling on Air Force One and who are waiting under the plane’s left wing for the president to disembark. Fleischer gives them a brief update on the president’s actions during the flight and adds: “You will see [the president] disembark here shortly. He will head inside and that’s all I’m going to indicate at this moment. You will have additional information shortly.” Fleischer then answers several questions from the reporters.
President Gets off Plane and into Minivan - Bush then descends from Air Force One. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 111] The Shreveport Secret Service office has been mobilized to oversee security arrangements while the president is at Barksdale. However, there is no presidential limousine waiting to drive Bush away from the plane. [Rove, 2010, pp. 258] Normally the president’s armored limousine would be flown in ahead of time on a military transport plane, but there has been no time to get it to Barksdale. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 112] Bush instead gets into the Dodge Caravan, which is being guarded by a Humvee with a .50-caliber machine gun on top. [Rove, 2010, pp. 258] White House chief of staff Andrew Card gets in with him. The media and some of Bush’s staff, including his senior adviser, Karl Rove, and his communications director, Dan Bartlett, get into an Air Force minibus. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 112]
Bush Taken to Conference Center on Base - The Dodge then drives off at high speed. Bush will later recall that it “blasted off down the runway at what felt like 80 miles an hour. When the man behind the wheel started taking turns at that speed, I yelled, ‘Slow down, son, there are no terrorists on this base!’” [Bush, 2010, pp. 132] The Humvee pulls out behind the Dodge, and the airman manning the machine gun on top cocks his weapon and puts a live round in the chamber. The minibus carrying the reporters follows moments later. [Rove, 2010, pp. 258-259] The small motorcade drives to the Dougherty Conference Center, a two-story building on the base. At the stroke of noon, Bush and his aides enter the building. A car blocks the driveway and several armed soldiers stand guard while the president is inside. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 112]
Bush Speaks to Vice President - Bush and his aides are met by Colonel Curtis Bedke, the commander of the 2nd Bomb Wing, and Lieutenant General Thomas Keck, the commander of the 8th Air Force, apparently as they are entering the conference center. [2d Bomb Wing, 6/30/2002 ; American History, 10/2006 ] Inside, Bush picks up a telephone and speaks briefly with Vice President Dick Cheney, who is at the White House. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 112] Bush tells Keck he needs to get to a secure phone. Keck says there is one in his office, but this is in a different building on the base. [American History, 10/2006 ] The pool of reporters waits in the parking lot outside the conference center for about 10 minutes while the president is inside. Bush and his staff finally come out at 12:11 p.m., to be taken to the 8th Air Force headquarters building (see (12:11 p.m.-1:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 112]
Entity Tags: Barksdale Air Force Base, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Dan Bartlett, Curtis M. Bedke, Ari Fleischer, Thomas Keck, George W. Bush, Andrew Card, Karl C. Rove, US Secret Service
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
The FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, is informed that a Korean Airlines plane is a possible hijacking, although the aircraft is in fact fine. [CNN, 8/14/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 256-257] Korean Airlines Flight 85, a Boeing 747 with 215 people on board, is on its way from Seoul, South Korea, to New York. It is heading for a refueling stop in Anchorage, Alaska, and is currently several hundred miles west of Alaska, over the North Pacific.
Pilots Sent Message Signifying Hijacking - The alarm has been raised by ARINC, a Maryland company that airlines pay to transmit text messages to and from their planes. In response to the morning’s terrorist attacks, the company had begun scanning every communication it had transmitted on this day, in a search for other hijacked aircraft. It found a message sent by the pilots of Flight 85 to the Korean Airlines headquarters at 11:08 a.m. that included the letters “HJK,” which is the code signaling a hijacking. ARINC officials are concerned the message was a coded plea for help, and so alert the FAA to it. In response to this notification, the FAA informs air traffic controllers in Anchorage of the suspicious flight, and alerts NORAD to it (see (12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 8/12/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 257]
Reason for Message Unclear - The reason the Flight 85 pilots used the code for a hijacking in their ARINC message when their plane is not hijacked is unclear. Korean Airlines administrator Michael Lim will suggest the “HJK” code was intended as a question rather than a warning, but this was unclear in the message because pilots are unable to type question marks into ARINC messages. [Anchorage Daily News, 9/8/2002] David Greenberg, the Korean Airlines operations chief, will say the pilots’ message was “innocent, part of a routine discussion on where to divert the flight after airspace in the United States had been closed.” He will add that the pilots used the hijack code “to refer to the hijackings that day.” [USA Today, 8/12/2002] Author Lynn Spencer will similarly suggest that the crew of Flight 85 had “simply been trying to relay to controllers their awareness of the hijackings on the East Coast.” She will add: “It was an odd idea for the pilots to have, and contrary to their training. But for whatever reason—perhaps because of some language or communication barrier, or some training failure—they made a very dangerous bad call.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 279]
Flight 85 Redirected to Canada - At 1:24 p.m., the pilots of Flight 85 will set their plane’s transponder to indicate that the flight has been hijacked (see 1:24 p.m. September 11, 2001). The plane will be directed away from Anchorage (see (Shortly After 1:24 p.m.) September 11, 2001) and escorted by fighter jets to Whitehorse Airport in Canada, where it lands at 2:54 p.m. (see 2:54 p.m. September 11, 2001). Only then will officials be able to confirm that the aircraft has not been hijacked (see September 12, 2001). [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/12/2001; Yukon Government, 11/13/2001, pp. 16, 18 ; USA Today, 8/12/2002]
Mount Weather. [Source: Department of Homeland Security]Congressional leaders are evacuated from Washington and flown to Mount Weather, a secret and secure bunker in Virginia, where they remain until late in the afternoon. [Los Angeles Times, 9/12/2001; Washington Post, 1/27/2002; ABC News, 9/15/2002] The Capitol building was evacuated shortly after the Pentagon was hit (see 9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). Most of the leadership teams of both parties subsequently assemble at the Capitol Police building. [Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 112] Around late morning or early afternoon, orders are given to take them to a secure location outside Washington. The Congressional leaders return to outside the Capitol building, and from there are flown by military helicopter to Mount Weather. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002] Each is allowed to bring one staff member with them. [Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 114] The Mount Weather Emergency Operations Facility in Bluemont, Virginia, is located 48 miles—about 20 minutes journey by air—from Washington. [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 11/2001; ABC News, 9/15/2002] It was originally built to serve as the new seat of government if there was a nuclear war. [ABC News, 9/11/2001] The underground complex contains about 600,000 square feet of floor space, and can accommodate several thousand people. [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 11/2001] It has extensive communication systems linking it to the nationwide network of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) bunkers, relocation sites, and the White House Situation Room. [Center for Land Use Interpretation Newsletter, 3/2002] Members of Congress taken to the facility include House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX), House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX), House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-MO), House Minority Whip David Bonior (D-MI), Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS), Assistant Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and Senate Minority Whip Don Nickles (R-OK). [Hastert, 2004, pp. 10] Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL) was taken there earlier on (see (9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bamford, 2004, pp. 80-81] The Congressional leaders will remain at Mount Weather until later in the afternoon, and then return to the Capitol around 6:00 p.m. (see (Between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 9/15/2002; Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 116; Hastert, 2004, pp. 10] The decision to send them outside Washington on this day has its roots in a top secret program dating back to the cold war, which serves to ensure the “Continuity of Government” (COG) in the event of an attack on the US (see 1981-1992). [United Press International, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/11/2002; Mann, 2004, pp. 138-139] Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke activated the COG plan shortly before 10:00 a.m. this morning (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Clarke, 2004, pp. 8]
Entity Tags: Richard Gephardt, Harry Reid, David Bonior, Mount Weather, Tom DeLay, Dick Armey, Tom Daschle, Don Nickles, Trent Lott
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline, Civil Liberties
One day after 9/11, the New York Times will report that FBI agents in Florida investigating the hijackers quickly “descended on flight schools, neighborhoods and restaurants in pursuit of leads.” At one flight school, “students said investigators were there within hours of Tuesday’s attacks.” [New York Times, 9/13/2001] Also on September 12, the Times will report, “Authorities said they had also identified accomplices in several cities who had helped plan and execute Tuesday’s attacks. Officials said they knew who these people were and important biographical details about many of them. They prepared biographies of each identified member of the hijack teams, and began tracing the recent movements of the men.” [New York Times, 9/13/2001] In September 2002, 9/11 victim’s relative Kristen Breitweiser, testifying before the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, will cite these news reports and will ask, “How did the FBI know exactly where to go only a few hours after the attacks? How did they know which neighborhoods, which flight schools and which restaurants to investigate so soon in the case?… How are complete biographies of the terrorists, and their accomplices, created in such short time? Did our intelligence agencies already have open files on these men? Were they already investigating them? Could the attacks of September 11th been prevented?” [US Congress, 9/18/2002] In at least some cases, it appears that US intelligence did quickly access existing files on the hijackers. The Washington Post reports, “In the hours after Tuesday’s bombings, investigators searched their files on [Satam] Al Suqami and [Ahmed] Alghamdi, noted the pair’s ties to [Nabil] al-Marabh and launched a hunt for him.” A top Customs official claims that by checking flight manifests and comparing them with other information such as watch lists, he is able to determine the names of all 19 hijackers by 11:00 a.m.(see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 9/21/2001]
Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, when asked what the 9/11 attacks means for relations between the US and Israel, replies, “It’s very good.” Then he edits himself: “Well, not very good, but it will generate immediate sympathy.” [New York Times, 9/12/2001] A week later, the Village Voice states, “From national networks to small-town newspapers, the view that America’s terrible taste of terrorism will finally do away with even modest calls for the restraint of Israel’s military attacks on Palestinian towns has become an instant, unshakable axiom.… Now, support for Israel in America is officially absolute, and Palestinians are cast once again as players in a global terrorist conspiracy.” [Village Voice, 9/19/2001]
Within hours of the 9/11 attacks, Jerome Hauer, director of New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) from 1996 to 2000, appears on CBS News with Dan Rather. Rather asks him if pre-positioned explosives could have been used to bring down the Twin Towers. Hauer discounts the possibility, saying: “[M]y sense is that just the velocity of the plane and the fact that you have a plane filled with fuel hitting that building that burned, that the velocity of the plane certainly had an impact on the structure itself. And then the fact that it burned and you had that intense heat probably weakened the structure as well. And I think it was simply the planes hitting the buildings and causing the collapse.” [CBS News, 9/11/2001] Why Hauer already believes the plane crashes and subsequent fires alone caused the collapses is unclear. In fact, when he testifies before the 9/11 Commission in 2004, he will be asked whether OEM had, before 9/11, conducted “any planning for what would be the response if a commercial or a private plane were to accidentally [hit] either the World Trade Center or some other building in New York City?” He will reply: “We had aircraft crash drills on a regular basis. The general consensus in the city was that a plane hitting a building… was that it would be a high-rise fire” (see 1996-September 11, 2001). Yet he will not say that the building collapsing had been considered a possibility. [9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004] Rather also asks Hauer if the attacks could have been carried out without state sponsorship. Hauer replies: “I’m not sure I agree that this is necessarily state-sponsored. It… certainly has the fingerprints of somebody like bin Laden.” [CBS News, 9/11/2001]
Personnel from several agencies searching for evidence at the Pentagon. [Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation]Beginning shortly before midday on September 11, 2001, and continuing until September 12, the FBI conducts a careful search across the grounds of the Pentagon, looking for remnants of the aircraft that hit the building. [PBS, 9/12/2001; Washington Post, 9/12/2001; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 159] FBI Special Agent Tom O’Connor is in charge of the initial evidence recovery operation at the Pentagon. His first priority is to locate and gather all the airplane parts and other pieces of evidence from the lawn on the west side of the building. He sends out all available agents to conduct a grid search. The lawn is divided into quadrants, and then agents walk back and forth, sticking a small flag near any evidence they find, getting the evidence photographed in its place, and then scooping it into a bag. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 180] Arlington police officers, military personnel, and others also participate in the search. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 159] They also look for evidence across grass and roadways several hundred yards from the Pentagon. [PBS, 9/12/2001] Some pieces of the aircraft that hit the Pentagon are found nearly 1,000 feet away from the building, on the other side of Washington Boulevard. Thousands of tiny pieces of aluminum have also carried forward over the Pentagon, into its center courtyard. Other pieces of debris landed on its roof, along with body parts from at least one victim. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 29] According to the Defense Department’s book about the Pentagon attack, the searchers find “many scraps and a few personal items widely scattered on the grass and heliport. Plane remnants varied from half-dollar size to a few feet long.” [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 159] Authors Patrick Creed and Rick Newman will describe: “Agents found what looked like a big Plexiglas windowpane on the lawn, which might have been part of an airplane window, except it was too big.… Somebody suggested it could be one of the blast-proof windows from the Pentagon, somehow blown 500 feet from the building.” [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 180]
Norton Schwartz. [Source: US Department of Defense]The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) launches fighter jets in response to a Korean Airlines passenger jet that is mistakenly suspected of being hijacked. [CNN, 8/14/2002; Air Force Magazine, 7/2009] Korean Airlines Flight 85 is a Boeing 747 bound from Seoul, South Korea, to New York, and currently heading for a refueling stop in Anchorage, Alaska. For reasons that are unclear, its pilots entered the code signaling a hijacking into a text message they sent to their airline at 11:08 a.m. The FAA was alerted to this, and it in turn alerted NORAD (see (Shortly Before 12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 8/12/2002]
Fighters Launched from Alaska Base - Lieutenant General Norton Schwartz, the commander of the Alaskan NORAD Region, will later recall: “Given what had happened on the East Coast, it was entirely plausible to me this was an analog on the West Coast. So naturally, we took this seriously.” Schwartz orders Elmendorf Air Force Base, near Anchorage, to launch two F-15 fighter jets armed with missiles to intercept and shadow Flight 85. [Anchorage Daily News, 9/8/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 257] The jets belong to the 3rd Wing. [Commemorative Air Force, Inc., 4/2/2008 ] Schwartz’s instructions for the fighter pilots are: “Tail the aircraft.… Follow Flight 85 at a position out of sight of passengers. Follow so the four-man flight crew—and anyone in the cockpit with them—couldn’t see them either.” [Anchorage Daily News, 9/8/2002] The two jets will fly about a mile behind Flight 85, shadowing it so its crew and passengers do not realize there are fighters in close proximity. [Alaska Legislature. Joint Senate and House Armed Services Committee, 2/5/2002]
Canadian Fighters Launched - Two Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 fighter jets are also launched in response to Flight 85, although whether they take off before or after the 3rd Wing F-15s is unstated. [Anchorage Daily News, 9/29/2001] After Flight 85’s pilots refuse to confirm that their plane is not hijacked, Schwartz will threaten to have the plane shot down (see (Shortly After 1:24 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 278] The NORAD jets will escort Flight 85 until it lands at Whitehorse Airport in Canada at 2:54 p.m. (see 2:54 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/12/2001; USA Today, 8/12/2002]
David Israelite. [Source: Publicity photo]The plane carrying Attorney General John Ashcroft finally arrives in Washington, DC, landing at Reagan National Airport. [Washington Post, 9/28/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002 ] Ashcroft has wanted his plane, a small government Cessna jet, to return to Washington since he learned of the attacks in New York while flying out to Milwaukee (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001 and After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Newsweek, 3/10/2003; Ashcroft, 2006, pp. 115-118] Despite his plane being instructed to land on more than one occasion (see 10:40 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 11:11 a.m. September 11, 2001), Ashcroft has insisted on returning to the capital. [USA Today, 8/13/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 258, 272]
Plane Lands, Passengers Met by Agents with Machine Guns - Ashcroft’s plane has finally been cleared to land in Washington, and an F-16 fighter jet escorts it in to Reagan Airport. [Washington Post, 9/28/2001; 9/11 Commission, 12/1/2003] After touching down, the plane taxies to the tarmac near Signature Aviation, the private executive aircraft terminal. When Ashcroft and the other individuals with him get off, they are met by numerous agents, some with machine guns at the ready. Apparently concerned about possible snipers, the agents quickly cover Ashcroft with a bulletproof trench coat and pass out bulletproof vests to the others with him. All of them are hustled into a hangar, where several vans are waiting. Ashcroft and his deputy chief of staff, David Israelite, get into a heavily reinforced SUV, while their colleagues disperse to other vehicles.
Ashcroft Advised to Go to Classified Site - Ashcroft calls the White House Situation Room to ask where he should go to set up operations. He is connected to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who suggests that he head to the remote, classified site, where other Justice Department personnel have gone, until it is known if any more attacks are forthcoming. Ashcroft’s vehicle heads toward the site, but due to the roads being clogged with traffic, it turns around and goes instead to the FBI’s Strategic Information and Operations Center in Washington, where Ashcroft will spend much of the rest of the day. [9/11 Commission, 12/17/2003 ; Ashcroft, 2006, pp. 118-120, 129]
Conflicting Accounts of Landing Time - The time when Ashcroft’s plane lands at Reagan Airport is unclear. According to a 2002 FAA report, it lands “just before noon.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002 ] According to USA Today, it does not arrive in Washington “until afternoon.” [USA Today, 8/13/2002] And a federally funded report on the emergency response to the Pentagon attack will claim that an unidentified aircraft—later determined to be Ashcroft’s plane—is approaching Washington and leads to an evacuation of the Pentagon site at around 2:00 p.m. (see (2:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A30 ; Vogel, 2007, pp. 453] Ashcroft’s plane is one of the last aircraft to land in the United States on this day, according to the Washington Post. [Washington Post, 9/28/2001]
Jeffrey Scott Shapiro. [Source: University of Florida]Larry Silverstein, who recently took over the lease of the World Trade Center complex (see July 24, 2001), discusses possibly bringing down WTC Building 7 in a controlled demolition in a telephone conversation with his insurance carrier, according to a reporter who is at the WTC site this afternoon. [Fox News, 4/22/2010] WTC 7 is a 47-story office building located just north of the Twin Towers. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will say it suffered some structural damage (see 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001) when the North Tower collapsed (see 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001) and it has fires on several floors (see (10:28 a.m.-5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). It will collapse at 5:20 p.m., apparently becoming the first tall building ever to come down primarily as a result of fire (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. xxxv-xxxvi]
Silverstein Allegedly Wants WTC 7 Demolished - Investigative reporter Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, who is at the scene of the attacks in New York, will later recall: “Shortly before [WTC 7] collapsed, several NYPD officers and Con Edison workers told me that Larry Silverstein… was on the phone with his insurance carrier to see if they would authorize the controlled demolition of the building, since its foundation was already unstable and expected to fall. A controlled demolition would have minimized the damage caused by the building’s imminent collapse and potentially save lives.” Shapiro will add: “Many law enforcement personnel, firefighters, and other journalists were aware of this possible option. There was no secret.” [Fox News, 4/22/2010] Preparing a large building for demolition usually takes weeks, or even months. This time is spent on operations such as wrapping concrete columns to ensure pieces do not fly off. [Baltimore Sun, 2/26/1995; PBS NOVA, 12/1996; Construction Equipment Guide, 2/24/2005]
Discussion of Demolition Later Denied - Silverstein will later recall discussing WTC 7 over the phone with the commander of the New York Fire Department, and telling him, “We’ve had such terrible loss of life, maybe the smartest thing to do is pull it” (see After 12:00 Noon September 11, 2001), but a spokesman will subsequently claim that Silverstein was referring to withdrawing firefighters from the building, not bringing WTC 7 down with explosives. [US Department of State, 9/16/2005; BBC, 7/4/2008] At the end of a three-year investigation into the building’s collapse, NIST will say WTC 7 “did not collapse from explosives,” but critics will dispute this conclusion (see August 21, 2008). [Associated Press, 8/21/2008; New York Times, 8/21/2008]
The director of the Defense Intelligence Agency informs military leaders in the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon that al-Qaeda is responsible for the morning’s attacks. General Richard Myers, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will later describe: “At noon, Vice Admiral Tom Wilson, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, confirmed what everybody at the conference table had already surmised: The attacks had undoubtedly come from al-Qaeda.” [Myers, 2009, pp. 156] Later in the day, Wilson will inform General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, of a single piece of intelligence that had suggested a terrorist attack may have been imminent (see 5:40 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Myers, 2009, pp. 159]
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), a member of both the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, says he has just been “briefed by the highest levels of the FBI and of the intelligence community.” He says, “They’ve come to the conclusion that this looks like the signature of Osama bin Laden, and that he may be the one behind this.” [Salon, 9/12/2001]
Clay Johnson. [Source: National Institutes of Health]A number of senior government officials who left the White House or the Eisenhower Executive Office Building when these buildings were evacuated return to the White House and join other senior officials in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), the bunker below the East Wing. [Sewanee Today, 2/24/2003; Bridgeland, 2012, pp. 5; LBJ Presidential Library, 9/3/2013] The officials were among dozens of government employees who went to the office of DaimlerChrysler in Washington, DC, after they were evacuated from the White House or the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to it (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Anita McBride, the acting director of White House personnel, contacted the White House Situation Room and let officials there know who was with her at the DaimlerChrysler building, and arrangements were then made for a few senior officials to go back to the White House (see (Shortly After 9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Politico, 9/9/2011] These officials head from the DaimlerChrysler building to the White House around midday. [LBJ Presidential Library, 9/3/2013] They are escorted through downtown Washington by members of the Secret Service. [Lindsey, 2008, pp. 86; Crescent, 10/3/2011] The officials who go back to the White House include Nicholas Calio, assistant to the president for legislative affairs; Larry Lindsey, assistant to the president for economic policy; Albert Hawkins, secretary of Cabinet affairs; Clay Johnson, assistant to the president for presidential personnel; Tucker Eskew, director of the White House Office of Media Affairs; and Logan Walters, President Bush’s personal aide. [Draper, 2007, pp. 142; Crescent, 10/3/2011; Bridgeland, 2012, pp. 5] After arriving at the White House, the officials go to the PEOC, where they join Vice President Dick Cheney, members of the Cabinet, and other senior White House staffers. [Lindsey, 2008, pp. 86; Bridgeland, 2012, pp. 5]
An assessment is published, apparently by the FAA, which states that if an aircraft hijacking took place within the United States, it would be part of a suicide attack. This is according to John Hawley, who works for the FAA’s intelligence division as a liaison to the State Department. Hawley will tell the 9/11 Commission that on this day, a “strategic assessment” is published, which says that “if they”—presumably meaning terrorists—“conduct a hijacking domestically, it will be a suicide hijack.” It is unclear who publishes this assessment, but presumably it was produced by the FAA. Hawley will apparently provide no further details about the assessment. He “didn’t elaborate on this point,” the 9/11 Commission will state. [9/11 Commission, 10/8/2003 ; 9/11 Commission, 3/17/2004]
An engineer at the World Trade Center site correctly predicts that WTC Building 7 is going to collapse. Deputy Chief Peter Hayden of the New York Fire Department will later recall: “We had our special operations people set up surveying instruments to monitor and see if there was any movement of [WTC 7]. We were concerned of the possibility of collapse of the building. And we had a discussion with one particular engineer there, and we asked him, if we allowed it to burn could we anticipate a collapse, and if so, how soon?” The engineer apparently predicts correctly that WTC 7 will collapse and also the time it will take before it comes down. Hayden will recall, “He said yes and he gave an approximate time of five to six hours, which was pretty much right on the money because the building collapsed about 5 o’clock that afternoon.” Hayden will not reveal the name of this engineer. [BBC, 7/6/2008; Aegis Insurance Services, Inc. v. 7 World Trade Center Company, LP, 12/4/2013 ] WTC 7 will collapse at about 5:20 p.m. (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001), indicating that the engineer makes his prediction around midday or shortly after. [CNN, 9/12/2001]
The Pentagon finally informs those inside the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House that Flight 93 was not shot down by the US military. When they’d first learned of a plane going down in Pennsylvania, many of the people in the PEOC thought the military might have shot it down (see (10:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Newsweek, 12/31/2001; Washington Post, 1/27/2002] However, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice later recalls, “We couldn’t get an answer from the Pentagon” as to what had happened. In one call to the Pentagon, she’d insisted, “You must know. I mean, you must know!” [Hayes, 2007, pp. 339] It takes until about two hours after Flight 93 crashed for the Pentagon to confirm there was no shoot down. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] Several early news reports suggested that military fighter jets might have shot down an aircraft, perhaps Flight 93 (see 11:28 a.m.-11:50 a.m. September 11, 2001). And when F-15 pilot Daniel Nash returns to his base later in the afternoon after flying a combat air patrol over New York, he will be told that a military F-16 had shot down an airliner in Pennsylvania (see (Shortly After 2:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002]
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) sends a fax to the White House Situation Room, giving positive identification of the four hijacked aircraft involved in the morning’s attacks. However, two of the four flight numbers it provides are wrong. [Draper, 2007, pp. 143] Yet, by late morning, American Airlines and United Airlines had already issued press releases confirming that the four planes that crashed were flights 11, 175, 77, and 93 (see 11:17 a.m. September 11, 2001, (11:18 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and 11:53 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; United Airlines, 9/11/2001; United Airlines, 9/11/2001] Journalist and author Robert Draper will later comment that, while there is much heroism on September 11, the FAA’s erroneous fax is an example of how the day is also “marred by appalling haplessness.” [Draper, 2007, pp. 143]
At some point during the afternoon of 9/11, WTC leaseholder Larry Silverstein receives a phone call from the Fire Department commander, where they discuss the state of Building 7 of the WTC complex. Silverstein will discuss this call in a PBS documentary broadcast in 2002, saying that he told the commander, “You know, we’ve had such terrible loss of life, maybe the smartest thing to do is pull it. And they made that decision to pull and then we watched the building collapse.” [PBS, 9/10/2002] Some people suggest that by “pull it” Silverstein meant the deliberate demolition of the building. But a spokesman for Silverstein states that he was expressing “his view that the most important thing was to protect the safety of those firefighters, including, if necessary, to have them withdraw from the building.” [US Department of State, 9/16/2005] Yet this claim is contradicted by some accounts, according to which firefighters decided early on not to attempt fighting the fires in WTC 7 (see After 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001)(see (11:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to Haaretz, “In the afternoon of September 11, the Fire Department informed him that the smaller 7 World Trade Center building, which he owned, was going to collapse.” [Ha'aretz, 11/21/2001] Building 7 eventually collapses at around 5:20 in the afternoon (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001).
Several of the hijackers have tickets to continue from the destinations of their 9/11 flights. However, they do not take the flights, as all air traffic has been grounded in the US (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and they are presumed to have died in the 9/11 attacks. Flight 77 hijackers Nawaf and Salem Alhazmi, and Flight 175 hijackers Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, Mohand Alshehri, and Hamza Alghamdi are to fly from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Flight 93 hijacker Ahmed Alhaznawi is to continue from San Francisco to San Diego, whereas Ziad Jarrah is to continue to Las Vegas. Alghamdi also has tickets for flights later in September (see September 20-29, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 233, 238, 242 246, 288 ]
John Bridgeland. [Source: White House]John Bridgeland, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, and two other government officials head to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) headquarters in Washington, DC, where they discuss the government’s domestic response to the day’s terrorist attacks with FEMA officials. In the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, Bridgeland has been talking about the federal government’s domestic response to the attacks with Josh Bolten, the deputy White House chief of staff, and the two men have identified several questions that need to be answered. They want to know, in particular, how FEMA is responding. Bolten instructs Bridgeland to go to the White House Situation Room, grab Gary Edson, the deputy national security adviser, and then go with him to visit FEMA. Bridgeland and Edson are joined by Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, the director for combating terrorism on the National Security Council, and the three of them then head to FEMA headquarters.
FEMA Is a 'Blur of Activity' - Joseph Allbaugh, the director of FEMA, is currently away from Washington, having been at a conference in Big Sky, Montana (see September 8-11, 2001). But when they arrive at the headquarters, Bridgeland, Edson, and Gordon-Hagerty find the FEMA response to the attacks is already under way and Allbaugh’s staff is “a blur of activity.” Their dozens of questions are answered in detail by FEMA officials, led by Liz DiGregorio, the agency’s chief of staff.
FEMA Officials Describe Their Response to the Attacks - The FEMA officials, according to Bridgeland, say: “They had activated emergency operations to the highest level and had dispatched urban search and rescue teams, disaster medical teams, and disaster mortuary teams to New York and the Pentagon. They had deployed mobile emergency communications systems and were creating staging areas on the ground to manage the emergency response. They were also thinking ahead to what they should do to meet recovery needs—such as providing grants to first responders, public assistance grants, temporary housing, crisis counseling, help with funeral expenses, disaster unemployment assistance, and more.” The FEMA officials talk about using the US Army Corps of Engineers to help New York City remove debris, and they are considering ways of increasing the capacity of hospitals in New York. When the three White House officials leave FEMA headquarters, Bridgeland takes with him the “Emergency Declaration for the Release of Federal Aid to New York and Washington” for President Bush to sign. When they arrive back at the White House, Bridgeland gives this document to the staff secretary, who controls “all of the paper flow into the president.” [Bridgeland, 2012, pp. 6-8]
At FAA headquarters in Washington, DC, David Canoles, the FAA’s manager of air traffic evaluations and investigations, and his staff begin coordinating the collection of forensic evidence that might clarify how the morning’s attacks unfolded. They coordinate the capture and copying of radar track data showing the paths of the four hijacked planes, and obtain air traffic control voice tapes from every facility that had spoken with these planes. FAA Assistant Investigations Manager Tony Mello and other employees will work for most of the afternoon, all night, and part of the following day, gathering data and coordinating with the FBI, Secret Service, Defense Department, White House, and National Transportation Safety Board, making sure these other agencies receive as much evidence as is available. Radar tracks are crudely plotted, showing the flight paths of the four jets, and voice tapes are transcribed. Having been stuck in Chicago when the attacks occurred, (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001), Tony Ferrante, the manager of FAA investigations, will finally arrive at FAA headquarters at 5:00 a.m. on September 12. His first priority is “to ensure that the radar data and voice tapes from every location involved in the attack [are] put under lock and key as soon as possible,” presumably to be kept safe for any investigations. He looks at and listens to the relevant controller tapes, and begins constructing a detailed timeline of the four hijacked aircraft. Along with Tony Mello and others of his staff, Ferrante will spend several days working out the movements of the four planes. FAA radar experts Dan Diggins and Doug Gould will also spend days interpreting the radar tracks of the four planes, piecing together a detailed timeline of their actions from takeoff to crash. [Freni, 2003, pp. 74 and 76-77] The FAA will publish a fairly comprehensive chronology of the hijackings on September 17, though this will not be made public until September 2005. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 ; National Security Archive, 9/9/2005] Presently, it refers any media requests for flight patterns to Flight Explorer, a software company that makes charts of plane routes using information from the FAA’s radar system (see After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 9/13/2001] The US military has also started doing its own reconstructions of the radar data for the hijacked aircraft (see (11:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Los Angeles International Airport. [Source: Ric Francis/Associated Press]Los Angeles International Airport, the original destination of three of the aircraft hijacked in the morning’s terrorist attacks, is evacuated except for essential personnel. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001] Officials closed the airport at 9:25 a.m., but now police start evacuating it. For hours, heavily armed agents and bomb-sniffing dogs patrol the terminals. Dozens of Los Angeles Police Department officers and FBI agents search through the airport. A few areas are scrutinized with particular care, such as around a suspicious parcel in Terminal 4, where American Airlines flights usually arrive and take off. However, no bombs are found. [Los Angeles Times, 9/12/2001] While security is heightened at many US airports, the security precautions are particularly high at the Los Angeles and San Francisco airports (see 12:15 p.m. September 11, 2001), since these were the intended destinations of the four hijacked aircraft. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/12/2001]
CIA Director Tenet tells Defense Secretary Rumsfeld about an intercepted phone call from earlier in the day at 9:53 a.m. An al-Qaeda operative talked of a fourth target just before Flight 93 crashed. Rumsfeld’s assistant Stephen Cambone dictates Rumsfeld’s thoughts the time, and the notes taken will later be leaked to CBS News. According to CBS, “Rumsfeld felt it was ‘vague,’ that it ‘might not mean something,’ and that there was ‘no good basis for hanging hat.’ In other words, the evidence was not clear-cut enough to justify military action against bin Laden.” [CBS News, 9/4/2002] A couple of hours later, Rumsfeld will use this information to begin arguing that Iraq should be attacked, despite the lack of verified ties between al-Qaeda and Iraq (see (2:40 p.m.) September 11, 2001).
Barry Jennings, a City Housing Authority worker who had become trapped in World Trade Center Building 7, finds the building’s lobby in ruins as he is being rescued from it, and steps over what feels to him like dead bodies. [Dylan Avery, 2007] After the first plane hit the WTC, Jennings had gone up to the emergency command center on the 23rd floor of WTC 7 along with Michael Hess, New York’s corporation counsel (see (Shortly Before 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Dylan Avery, 2007] After heading down the stairs, the two men became trapped on the building’s eighth floor (see (Between 9:15 a.m. and 12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). Some time later, firefighters come into WTC 7 to help the two men out of the building. [UPN 9, 9/11/2001; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 109-110]
Lobby Is 'Total Ruins' - According to Jennings, when he gets down to the lobby, he is astonished to find it totally ruined. In a 2007 interview he will recall: “[W]hen I came in there, the lobby had nice escalators. It was a huge lobby.” But reaching it again, he asks the firefighter who is escorting him, “Where are we?” and the firefighter answers, “This was the lobby.” Jennings finds this “unbelievable,” and says, “You gotta be kidding me.” He will describe the lobby as being “total ruins.”
'Stepping over People' - Furthermore, Jennings steps over what may be dead bodies in the lobby. He will say: “[T]he firefighter that took us down kept saying, ‘Do not look down,’ and I kept saying, ‘Why is that?’ [He said,] ‘Do not look down.’ And, stepping over people. And you know you could feel when you’re stepping over people.” [Dylan Avery, 2007] Yet most people were evacuated from WTC 7 around 9:03 a.m., if not earlier (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 109] The very latest that people left the building, according to official accounts, was 9:30 a.m. (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 305] In a later interview, Jennings will clarify: “I never saw dead bodies.… [I]t felt like I was stepping over them but I never saw them.” The BBC will say, “There is no evidence that anyone died in Tower 7 on 9/11.” [BBC, 7/4/2008; BBC, 7/6/2008] According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), firefighters lead Jennings and Hess out of WTC 7 at around 12:10 p.m. to 12:15 p.m. (see 12:10 p.m.-12:15 p.m. September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 6/2004, pp. L-18 ]
Michael Hess. [Source: Harvard Law Bulletin]While most of Building 7 of the World Trade Center was evacuated around the time the South Tower was hit, if not earlier (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001), firefighters now find three individuals who have become trapped inside it, and lead them out of the building. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 6/2004, pp. L-18 ; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 109-110] Among these individuals are Barry Jennings, a City Housing Authority worker, and Michael Hess, New York’s chief lawyer who is also a longtime friend of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. The two had gone up to the 23rd floor emergency command center of the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management after the first attack occurred, but found it empty (see (Shortly Before 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 11/21/1997; Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Giuliani, 2002, pp. 20-21 and 244; Dylan Avery, 2007] They then headed downstairs but became trapped around the eighth floor by smoke and debris that filled the staircase. After breaking a window and calling for help, they were spotted by firefighters outside. When the firefighters go in, they also find a security officer for one of the businesses based in the building, who is trapped on the seventh floor by the smoke in the stairway. This officer headed up the building after the South Tower collapsed at 9:59, to check that all his personnel had left there (see (Shortly After 9:59 a.m.-12:10 p.m.) September 11, 2001). All three men are escorted out of the building. [Penn State Public Broadcasting, 3/1/2002; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 6/2004, pp. L-18 ; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 110; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 298-299 ]
President Bush is taken to the headquarters of the 8th Air Force at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, from where he calls government officials in New York and Washington, DC, prepares and records a speech to the nation, and watches television coverage of the terrorist attacks. [Salon, 9/12/2001; Associated Press, 10/2/2001; American History, 10/2006 ] After landing at Barksdale (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001), Bush was initially driven to a conference center on the base, where he made a brief phone call (see (11:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Newseum et al., 2002, pp. 164]
Bush Driven to 8th Air Force Headquarters - Bush emerges from there at 12:11 p.m. accompanied by his senior adviser, Karl Rove, his chief of staff, Andrew Card, his military aide, some other aides, and several Secret Service agents. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 112; American History, 10/2006 ] He is then driven to “Building 245” on the base—the headquarters of the 8th Air Force—in a small motorcade that also includes the pool of reporters who have been traveling with him on Air Force One. Inside the building, they all can see a sheet of paper that has been taped to a door, with words written in large black type, “Defcon Delta”—the highest possible state of military alert. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 112] Bush and his staff go to the office of Lieutenant General Thomas Keck, the commander of the 8th Air Force, where they get to work responding to the attacks.
Bush Watches TV, Makes Phone Calls - Bush watches the latest developments on a television in Keck’s office. He sees for the first time the footage, shown on CNN, of the World Trade Center towers collapsing. He tells Keck, “I don’t know who this is, but we’re going to find out and we’re going to go after them, and we’re not just going to slap them on the wrist.” There is a secure phone in Keck’s office, and Bush uses it to talk with Vice President Dick Cheney at the White House (see (12:58 p.m.-1:25 p.m.) September 11, 2001), Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon (see 1:02 p.m. September 11, 2001), and White House counselor Karen Hughes, who is also back in Washington. He also talks over the secure phone with New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, New York Governor George Pataki, and New York Senator Charles Schumer. [Associated Press, 10/2/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; American History, 10/2006 ]
Bush Prepares Speech to the Nation - Bush and Card together draft a speech to the nation that the president is going to record at the base, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. [Times-Picayune, 9/8/2002] However, according to journalist and author Bill Sammon, the speech is drafted by Bush’s press secretary, Ari Fleischer, who is with the president at Barksdale, and edited by Hughes, back in Washington. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 113] Once the speech is ready, Keck escorts Bush to the building’s conference room to be filmed delivering it. [American History, 10/2006 ] The reporters traveling on Air Force One go to the conference room after entering the 8th Air Force headquarters building, and are there when Bush records his speech at 12:36 p.m. (see 12:36 p.m. September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 9/11/2001]
Bush Informed of Intelligence about Attacks - Keck remains at Bush’s side for the entire time the president is in the 8th Air Force headquarters building. He works intently, monitoring base security and keeping up to date with the latest information from the 8th Air Force Command. He and his team keep Bush and his aides informed about the intelligence coming in via Air Force channels about the morning’s attacks and ongoing events. After nearly two hours at Barksdale, Bush and his entourage prepare to leave the base. Keck will accompany the president as he is driven back to Air Force One. [American History, 10/2006 ]
Entity Tags: US Secret Service, Charles Schumer, Ari Fleischer, Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Thomas Keck, Karen Hughes, Donald Rumsfeld, Karl C. Rove, Andrew Card, George W. Bush, George E. Pataki
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Garrett McKenzie. [Source: Rudi Williams]Photographers who are taking pictures at the Pentagon, to document the scene of the attack there in as close as possible to its original state, are told to limit what evidence they photograph. FBI Special Agent Tom O’Connor—who is in charge of the initial evidence recovery operation at the Pentagon—and his superiors have put out the word that it is unnecessary to document every piece of the airplane. This is because, reportedly, “the smaller fragments didn’t prove anything, except that there was an airplane there, which was obvious enough from other evidence.” FBI Special Agent Garrett McKenzie, who is coordinating the effort to photograph evidence at the Pentagon, pulls together a dozen photographers for a briefing. He instructs them: “We don’t need to photograph all the plane parts, only unique airplane parts or something specific. Like the pilot’s yoke, or anything with part of a serial number on it. If we have to prove what kind of plane this was, the serial numbers will be what we need.” [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 181-183]
The Navy Annex, located next to the Virginia State Police Barracks. [Source: Arlington County After-Action Report]The FBI establishes a command post for its response to the Pentagon attack at the Virginia State Police Barracks, overlooking the Pentagon. [Fire Engineering, 11/2002] Around midday, Assistant Special Agent in Charge Robert Blecksmith arrived at the Pentagon and took over from Special Agent Chris Combs as the FBI’s on scene commander. He had quickly decided that the area around the Arlington County Fire Department’s incident command post by the Pentagon was too crowded and lacked support facilities. He therefore decides it will be safer for the FBI to carry out its operations at the Virginia State Police Barracks, located next to the Navy Annex, a few hundred yards from the Pentagon. Along with Combs, Blecksmith establishes the FBI’s command post there, and starts moving the FBI up to it. The two men will spend most of the afternoon at the barracks, where they work on establishing a Joint Operations Center (JOC) at nearby Fort Myer. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A23 and C50 ; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 178] The JOC will open early the following morning (see September 12, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 161]
Due to the chaos and gridlock resulting from the morning’s attacks, the FBI is hampered in mobilizing its investigative operation at the Pentagon. Because the Pentagon is a crime scene, it is the FBI’s job to gather and document every piece of evidence there. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 177] Special Agent Chris Combs, the FBI’s representative at the crash site, has been setting up the FBI operation since arriving at 9:49 a.m. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A20 and 1-1 ; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 178] Since before 10:00 a.m., the bureau’s evidence recovery team has been arriving. But although every available agent has been paged, many are stuck in traffic, and it will take several hours before the entire FBI contingent makes it to the Pentagon. The FBI also has a fleet of sophisticated command vehicles and helicopters, plus other specialized equipment. But even though the crash site is within the “FBI’s backyard,” according to authors Patrick Creed and Rick Newman, by around 12:15 p.m. none of this has arrived yet. The bureau’s rapid-deployment gear, which includes everything needed to gather and document evidence, is stored in a warehouse in Washington, DC. But with traffic in the region at a standstill, it is almost impossible to get this through the streets to the Pentagon. Chris Combs asks his boss at the FBI’s Washington field office if any helicopters are available to get equipment to the Pentagon quickly. But several choppers at the FBI facility in Quantico, just 30 miles south of the Pentagon, are reserved for specific duties during government emergencies and are currently locked down. And according to Creed and Newman, other government helicopters the bureau relies upon for backup are tied up, though what they are being used for is unstated. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A22 ; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 177-179] Furthermore, NBC News has reported that the FBI’s top teams have been away from Washington for the last two days for a major training exercise in California (see 10:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). This means about 50 personnel, plus helicopters and equipment, are currently out of place and unavailable. [NBC 4, 9/11/2001]
San Francisco International Airport. [Source: CBS]San Francisco International Airport, the original destination of Flight 93, the fourth aircraft to be hijacked in the morning’s terrorist attacks, is evacuated except for essential personnel and shut down. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001] About 3,000 people are evacuated from the airport. [Associated Press, 9/12/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/12/2001] Bomb-sniffing dogs patrol the hallways. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001] While the other major Bay Area airports are also shut down, only San Francisco Airport evacuates its terminals and closes its access roads. [Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, 9/12/2001] Security is heightened at many US airports, but the security precautions are particularly high at the San Francisco and Los Angeles airports (see 12:04 p.m. September 11, 2001), since these were the intended destinations of the four hijacked aircraft. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/12/2001]
US airspace is clear of all civilian air traffic, with the exception of a small number of law enforcement and emergency operations aircraft. Otherwise, only military aircraft are airborne. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/18/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 4/15/2002; USA Today, 8/12/2002] The FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, announces that the airspace has been successfully shut down. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 269] At 9:26 a.m., the Command Center ordered a national ground stop that prevented any aircraft from taking off (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and at 9:45 a.m. it ordered FAA facilities to instruct all aircraft to land at the nearest airport (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Since then, about 4,500 commercial and general aviation aircraft have landed without incident. This is the first time ever that all civilian aircraft in the United States have been grounded. [US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure, 9/21/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002 ; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 29] Author Pamela Freni will later comment that this clearing of the skies was “a tremendous feat accomplished by a huge team that had never even practiced this part of the game before.” Frank Hatfield, the air traffic division manager for the FAA’s eastern region, will comment: “What we did on September 11 was done amazingly well. It was almost like World War II, the way the airplanes were handled.” [Freni, 2003, pp. 69] At 12:30 p.m., the FAA will report that there are 50 flights in US airspace, but none of them are reporting any problems. [CNN, 9/12/2001]
Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, who is in the White House Situation Room, is informed that Vice President Dick Cheney wants him to come down to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), located below the East Wing of the White House. Clarke heads down and, after being admitted by Cheney’s security detail, enters the PEOC. In addition to the vice president and his wife Lynne Cheney, the PEOC contains National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, political adviser Mary Matalin, Cheney’s chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, deputy White House chief of staff Josh Bolten, and White House counselor Karen Hughes. Clarke can see the White House Situation on a screen. But Army Major Mike Fenzel, who is also in the PEOC, complains to him, “I can’t hear the crisis conference [that Clarke has been leading] because Mrs. Cheney keeps turning down the volume on you so she can hear CNN… and the vice president keeps hanging up the open line to you.” Clarke later describes that Lynne Cheney is, like her husband, “a right-wing ideologue,” and is offering her advice and opinions while in the PEOC. When Clarke asks the vice president if he needs anything, Cheney replies, “The [communications] in this place are terrible.” His calls to President Bush keep getting broken off. By the time Clarke heads back upstairs to the Situation Room, it is 12:30 p.m. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 17-19]
Secretary of State Colin Powell learned of the attacks on the US while away in Peru, Lima (see (9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). During his seven-hour flight back to Washington, he is frustrated at being unable to communicate with other senior government leaders. In a March 2002 speech at the State Department, Powell will recall, “I never felt more useless in my life than on the morning of the 11th of September. Phones [were] gone because of what happened here and what happened to the [communications] system here in Washington. They couldn’t get a phone line through. I was able to get some radio communications—two radio spots on the way back—but for most of that seven-hour period, I could not tell what was going on here in my capital, and I’m the secretary of state!” [Telecom News, 2002, pp. 4-5 ; Verton, 2003, pp. 149-150] Powell is able to talk by radio with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. But, according to journalist Bob Woodward, any “real talk” between them “was hopeless.” [Woodward, 2002, pp. 10] Yet, in a 7:40 p.m. press briefing, State Department Deputy Spokesman Philip Reeker will claim that Powell “has been kept in the loop and informed all day.” [US Department of State, 9/11/2001]
Deena Burnett is visited at her home in San Ramon, California, by three FBI agents, and questioned about the calls she received from her husband, Tom Burnett, who was a passenger on Flight 93. Deena has now learned of the plane crashing in Pennsylvania, and a police officer staying with her informed her that this was her husband’s plane. The FBI agents spend over an hour with Deena, asking her about her husband and what he’d said in his four calls from Flight 93. [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 71-72 and 74-75] She describes to them how Tom called her using his cell phone and told her his flight had been hijacked. In his final call he’d described how a group of the passengers was going to “do something.” She says her husband was a former college football player and very intelligent, so if he’d concluded he was going to die, he would have taken action. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001 ] Deena remembers that she’d taken notes, writing down the details of her husband’s calls. But she does not want the agents to have these, saying, “You wouldn’t be able to read it anyway.” They do not take the notes with them when they leave. They will return later in the day and tell Deena specifically not to say anything to anyone—especially the media—about her cell phone conversations with her husband, because it is part of their investigation. [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 75 and 81]
Richard Rotanz. [Source: University of Delaware]Richard Rotanz, the deputy director of New York’s Office of Emergency Management, assesses the state of World Trade Center Building 7 and sees significant damage inside the building. [BBC, 7/6/2008; BBC, 10/17/2008] WTC 7 was damaged by the debris when the North Tower of the WTC collapsed at 10:28 a.m. (see 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 16] At around 12:30 p.m., according to the BBC, Rotanz and some other officials—whose identities are unstated—go into WTC 7 to see what condition the building is in. “At the time the building wasn’t safe, but we had to make an assessment just the same,” Rotanz will later tell the BBC. He will describe what he observes inside WTC 7, saying: “You could hear the building creak above us. You could hear things fall. You could hear the fire burning. You could see columns just hanging from the floors, gaping holes in the floors up above us.” He also sees “an elevator car that was blown out of its shaft” and is now “down the hall.” [BBC, 7/6/2008; BBC, 10/17/2008] The elevator car is “30 or 40 feet away from where the elevator shaft once was,” according to another account. [Aegis Insurance Services, Inc. v. 7 World Trade Center Company, LP, 12/4/2013 ] Rotanz and those with him soon leave the building. “We didn’t spend that long” inside WTC 7, Rotanz will say. Rotanz has also observed significant damage to the exterior of WTC 7 (see (After 10:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [BBC, 10/17/2008] At around 2:30 p.m., senior firefighters will make the decision to abandon the possibility of fighting the fires in WTC 7 (see (2:00 p.m.-2:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). The building will collapse at around 5:20 p.m. (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 111]
President Bush records a speech at Barksdale Air Force Base. [Source: Win McNamee / Reuters]President Bush delivers a short speech to the nation in a windowless conference room at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, which is recorded and will be broadcast on television about half an hour later. [Time, 9/14/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 113-117] Since arriving at Barksdale (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001), Bush has been spending time in the office of Lieutenant General Thomas Keck, the commander of the 8th Air Force (see (12:11 p.m.-1:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [American History, 10/2006 ] Bush will later recall that by 12:30 p.m., “it had been almost three hours since I had spoken to the country” (see 9:30 a.m. September 11, 2001) and he is “worried people would get the impression that the government was disengaged.” [Bush, 2010, pp. 133]
Bush Taken to Conference Room to Record Statement - A short statement to the nation has therefore been prepared for Bush to deliver. Keck escorts the president from his office to the conference room in the 8th Air Force headquarters building to record it. Bush is also accompanied to the room by his chief of staff, Andrew Card, his senior adviser, Karl Rove, his communications director, Dan Bartlett, his press secretary Ari Fleischer, and several Secret Service agents. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 113; American History, 10/2006 ] A hurried attempt has been made to prepare the room for the president’s speech. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325] Airmen have arranged three US flags behind the wooden lectern behind which Bush will speak, and have tried to add some lighting to brighten up the dark room. The reporters who have been traveling with the president on Air Force One went to the conference room after entering the 8th Air Force headquarters building, and are assembled there when Bush comes in. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; American History, 10/2006 ]
Tape of Speech Taken to Satellite Truck to Be Broadcast - Bush delivers his 219-word speech in precisely two minutes. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Woodward, 2002, pp. 19] After doing so, he leaves the room without acknowledging, or taking any questions from, the reporters in the room. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Newseum et al., 2002, pp. 165] Keck, who stays to watch Bush deliver the speech, then escorts the president back to his office. [American History, 10/2006 ] Master Sergeant Rich Del Haya, the officer in charge of the 8th Air Force public affairs office, is then called to the 8th Air Force headquarters building to collect the videotape of the speech. He runs out of the building with it, accompanied by a CBS network producer and reporter, and drives toward the base’s far north entrance. Gate officials contact a state trooper outside the base, who escorts the three to a satellite truck of the local CBS affiliate. [Times-Picayune, 9/8/2002] The recording of the president’s speech will be broadcast from the satellite truck at 1:04 p.m. (see 1:04 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 117]
Philip Perry. [Source: Cornell Law School]Liz Cheney, the eldest daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, her husband, and their children arrive at a secure government facility at Mount Weather, Virginia, where they have been taken by the Secret Service. Earlier on, Secret Service Special Agent Michael Seremetis, a member of the vice presidential protective division, instructed some of his colleagues to locate Liz Cheney, and then evacuate her and her children to the facility. By 10:55 a.m., Cheney and her children had made it to their home, and 20 minutes later they were being taken to Mount Weather by the Secret Service. Cheney’s husband, Philip Perry, arrived at the White House at around 11:20 a.m. [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001; United States Secret Service, 11/17/2001 ] Perry is the acting associate attorney general, the third-ranking official at the Justice Department. [US Department of Justice, 8/17/2001; Associated Press, 8/23/2001; US Congress. Senate, 5/19/2005] By 12:40 p.m., Secret Service agents were transporting him to Mount Weather. Cheney, her children, and the Secret Service agents with them arrive at Mount Weather at 12:45 p.m. Perry and the agents with him arrive there at 1.15 p.m. [United States Secret Service, 11/17/2001 ] The facility at Mount Weather is “a massive underground complex originally built to house governmental officials in the event of a full-scale nuclear exchange,” according to The Guardian. [Guardian, 8/28/2006] It is located in rural Virginia, 48 miles from Washington, DC. [Time, 12/9/1991] Cheney, Perry, and their children will remain there until 5:30 p.m., when they will be taken to Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland (see 5:30 p.m. September 11, 2001). [United States Secret Service, 11/17/2001 ] Congressional leaders are also taken to the facility at Mount Weather throughout the day, after being evacuated from Washington (see (9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Between Late Morning and Early Afternoon) September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 9/15/2002; Bamford, 2004, pp. 79-81]
President Bush spends most of his time at Barksdale Air Force Base arguing on the phone with Vice President Dick Cheney and others over where he should go next. The media are now starting to ask about the president’s whereabouts, and why he has not returned to Washington. “A few minutes before 1 p.m.,” Bush agrees to fly to Nebraska. As earlier, there are rumors of a “credible terrorist threat” to Air Force One that are said to prevent his return to Washington. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001] In addition, there are reports of other unaccounted for planes that are seen as possible threats: two international flights and two domestic ones. A senior administration official will later comment, “That’s a potential of four missiles in the air, and we were concerned that if Air Force One landed in a predictable place, one of those planes could hit it on the ground.” [New York Times, 9/16/2001] At 1:25, Bush speaks with his chief of staff Andrew Card and the head of the Secret Service detail. He tells them: “I want to go back home ASAP. I don’t want whoever this is holding me outside of Washington.” But the Secret Service agent replies, “Our people say it’s too unsteady still,” and Card adds, “The right thing is to let the dust settle.” Bush acquiesces. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 119] In a book about the Secret Service, author Philip Melanson will later comment on the president’s failure to promptly return to Washington: “If the president appeared less than resolute at any point… it was the fault of agents who were overzealous in their desire to protect him, administration sources have offered.” Yet, “The Service, whose first duty that day or any other day is to protect the president, has never publicly pointed out that Bush could have overruled them at any time and ordered Air Force One to Washington, DC.” [Melanson, 2002, pp. 326]
The FBI interviews Eric Gill, a security guard at Dulles Airport who may have encountered some of the 9/11 hijackers attempting to access aircraft the night before 9/11 (see Around 8:15 p.m. September 10, 2001). Gill tells the FBI his story, but the FBI fails to show him a video it has found of the hijackers passing through an airport security checkpoint on 9/11, even though it is shown to all his colleagues, except the partner he was on duty with when he saw the hijackers. The FBI also obtains video of two of the hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar and Salem Alhazmi, at Dulles on the day he says he saw another two of them, Nawaf Alhazmi and Marwan Alshehhi, but does not show this video to him and this video will not be publicly mentioned until 2008. It is unclear what the FBI does with logs for a door through which Gill says the hijackers would have passed, but they are not shown to Gill. Two days later, the FBI shows him poor quality photocopied pictures of the hijackers and Gill identifies two of them as the people he saw on September 10, but the FBI then loses interest in him, as they think one of the men he identifies hijacked a plane from Boston, not Dulles. Another man who may have seen the hijackers the night before 9/11, Khalid Mahmoud, is taken away by the INS and does not return, presumably because he has been deported. Gill will speak to a 9/11 Commission staffer on the telephone about 18 months later, but nothing will come of this. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 281 ; Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 38-40, 43-5]
Attorney General John Ashcroft arrives at the FBI’s Strategic Information and Operations Center (SIOC), located on the fifth floor of its Washington, DC, headquarters. [CNN, 11/20/1998; 9/11 Commission, 12/17/2003 ; Ashcroft, 2006, pp. 120] Ashcroft has returned to Washington after his scheduled engagement in Milwaukee had to be aborted due to the terrorist attacks (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Newsweek, 9/24/2001; Newsweek, 3/10/2003]
Ashcroft Heads to SIOC instead of Remote, Classified Site - After his plane landed at Reagan National Airport (see (12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001), Ashcroft was advised by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to head to the remote, classified site, where other Justice Department personnel had gone. But because the roads were clogged with traffic, at the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, Ashcroft and his deputy chief of staff, David Israelite, turned around and headed instead toward the SIOC. While on his way to the SIOC, Ashcroft ordered that senior Justice Department officials like Thompson, who was at the remote, classified site, meet him at the center. Ashcroft will later estimate that he arrives at the SIOC sometime between 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. [9/11 Commission, 12/17/2003 ; Ashcroft, 2006, pp. 118-120]
Sophisticated Command Center Can Manage Multiple Crises - The FBI’s new, upgraded SIOC officially opened in November 1998. [CNN, 11/20/1998; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1/18/2004] The windowless, high-tech command center is 30,000 square feet in size. [Ashcroft, 2006, pp. 120] It can seat 380 people, includes 20 rooms to support its operations, and is equipped with sophisticated computers and communications equipment. It functions as a 24-hour watch post, a crisis management center, and an information processing center. It is capable of handling up to five crises at once. [CNN, 11/20/1998; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1/18/2004] The SIOC was operational “[w]ithin minutes” of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, according to the FBI, and provides “analytical, logistical, and administrative support” for the FBI’s teams on the ground in New York, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2003] Ashcroft will remain at the SIOC throughout the day, along with most of the FBI and Justice Department’s top officials (see (2:00 p.m.-8:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Los Angeles Times, 9/12/2001; Ashcroft, 2006, pp. 129]
Shortly after the 9/11 attacks begin, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), at his Senate office, reportedly tells his aides, “This is war.” Within hours, McCain begins frequently appearing on television to discuss responding to the attacks. The New York Times will later say that McCain becomes “the leading advocate of taking the American retaliation against al-Qaeda far beyond Afghanistan. In a marathon of television and radio appearances, Mr. McCain recited a short list of other countries said to support terrorism, invariably including Iraq, Iran and Syria.” For instance, on the morning of September 12, he says on ABC News, “There is a system out there or network, and that network is going to have to be attacked.” He adds on MSNBC, “It isn’t just Afghanistan.” In a CNN interview some days later, he says, “Very obviously Iraq is the first country.” [New York Times, 8/16/2008]
At around 9:30 p.m., Afghanistan time (1:00 p.m., New York time), Taliban Foreign Minister Mullah Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil holds a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, and claims that the 9/11 attacks did not originate from Afghanistan. He reads a statement by Taliban leader Mullah Omar, which claims that Osama bin Laden also was not involved: “This type of terrorism is too great for one man,” the statement says. [New Yorker, 6/10/2002]
Members of President Bush’s staff decide to remove any nonessential passengers traveling with the president on Air Force One when it leaves Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, and determine that they will leave behind some congressmen, numerous White House staffers, and most of the journalists that have been accompanying them. [Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 118; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 145; Rove, 2010, pp. 259]
Reporters Traveling with President Reduced to Five - While the president’s staffers are preparing to leave Barksdale, Bush’s chief of staff Andrew Card pulls White House press secretary Ari Fleischer aside and tells him they need to reduce the number of people flying on the president’s plane. Usually, when the president flies, numerous personnel get to his destination ahead of him to prepare for his arrival, but at the present time, Bush’s support team is limited to those already on Air Force One. “Given the heightened sense of security,” Fleischer will later recall, “the Secret Service didn’t want the president to wait for the normal entourage to board the makeshift motorcade that would be assembled upon landing.” Card says the traveling White House staff is going to be reduced and the members of Congress on board will also be left behind at Barksdale, and he tells Fleischer to decrease the number of reporters flying with the president. Card wants the pool of reporters reduced from the current 13 to three, but agrees to Fleischer’s request to make it five. Fleischer decides the reporters that remain with them will be Ann Compton of ABC Radio, Sonya Ross of the Associated Press, Associated Press photographer Doug Mills, and a CBS cameraman and soundman. [Fleischer, 2005, pp. 145-146] White House assistant press secretary Gordon Johndroe passes on the bad news to the reporters. While they are waiting on a bus to be driven back to Air Force One, he comes on board and tells them there will only be five seats on the president’s plane for the media. [USA Today, 9/11/2001]
Reporters Angry at Being Left Behind - The reporters and nonessential personnel remaining at Barksdale Air Force Base will be standing on the tarmac and watching as Air Force One takes off from there, heading for its next destination (see 1:37 p.m. September 11, 2001). [National Journal, 5/3/2011] Some of the reporters will be angry at being left behind. As the president and his entourage are approaching the plane, Reuters correspondent Steve Holland will shout out to Fleischer, “Ari, what about us?” Another angry reporter will call out, “Who’s in charge here, the military or the civilians?” [White House, 8/8/2002; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 146]
'Skeleton Crew' Remaining on Air Force One - As well as the eight reporters, others removed from the plane include Representatives Adam Putnam (R-FL) and Dan Miller (R-FL), Bush’s senior education adviser Sandy Kress, Bush’s personal aide Blake Gottesman, and several Secret Service agents. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/2001] Fleischer will recall that after the nonessential passengers have been left behind, those who continue on Air Force One are just “a skeleton crew.” [White House, 8/8/2002] Those remaining at Barksdale will be escorted to a building and stay there until another plane flies them from the base back to Washington, DC, later in the afternoon (see (3:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/2001]
Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, Adam Putnam, Andrew Card, Ann Compton, Steve Holland, US Secret Service, Gordon Johndroe, Sonya Ross, Blake Gottesman, Doug Mills, Barnett A. (“Sandy”) Kress, Dan Miller
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
GTE customer service supervisor Lisa Jefferson had spoken with Flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer for 13 minutes before his plane crashed (see 9:45 a.m.-9:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). Before heading home from work at 1 p.m., she is questioned by phone by three FBI agents, who asked her scores of questions about her conversation with Beamer. Later in the afternoon, an FBI agent phones her at home. He provides her with several numbers to call, should she remember further details about her conversation with Beamer. He also tells her to maintain secrecy about the call. Jefferson later describes, “In fact, he stressed the importance of keeping the matter under wraps.” [Jefferson and Middlebrooks, 2006, pp. 61-62 and 69] It is not until three days later that the FBI first releases information on the call, and that Beamer’s wife learns of it (see September 14, 2001). [Beamer and Abraham, 2002, pp. 185-186] It is unclear why the FBI wants it kept secret until then. Phone calls made by several other passengers from Flight 93 will be reported within a day of the attacks. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; San Francisco Chronicle, 9/12/2001; Washington Post, 9/12/2001]
From Barksdale Air Force Base, President Bush speaks with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld informs the president that it had been an American Airlines plane that hit the Pentagon. Previously, there had been a question as to whether it was hit by a smaller plane or a helicopter. [New Yorker, 9/25/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 116] Rumsfeld also tells Bush, “This is not a criminal action. This is war.” Washington Times reporter Rowan Scarborough later reflects, “Rumsfeld’s instant declaration of war… took America from the Clinton administration’s view that terrorism was a criminal matter to the Bush administration’s view that terrorism was a global enemy to be destroyed.” [Washington Times, 2/23/2004] Bush reportedly tells Rumsfeld that there will “be a counterattack and that the military [will] not be hamstrung by politics the way it had been in Vietnam.” He says to Rumsfeld, “It’s a day of national tragedy and we’ll clean up the mess. And then the ball will be in your court and [incoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] Dick Myers’s court to respond.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 116]
A short pre-recorded statement is broadcast on television, in which President Bush tells the nation that all appropriate security measures are being taken, and he assures people that “the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts.” [CNN, 9/12/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 117] The 219-word statement, lasting two minutes, was recorded about half an hour ago in a conference room at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana (see 12:36 p.m. September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Woodward, 2002, pp. 19]
Bush Says US Will Find and Punish Terrorists - Bush begins: “Freedom itself was attacked this morning by faceless cowards. And freedom will be defended.” He continues: “Make no mistake: The United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts.” He reassures the public that he has been in contact with his colleagues in Washington, DC, and they “have taken all appropriate security precautions to protect the American people. Our military at home and around the world is on high alert status, and we have taken the necessary security precautions to continue the functions of your government.” He says, “[W]e will do whatever is necessary to protect America and Americans.” He concludes his statement, saying: “The resolve of our great nation is being tested. But make no mistake: We will show the world that we will pass this test. God bless.” [CNN, 9/11/2001; White House, 9/11/2001]
Bush Remains at Base after Speech Is Broadcast - After the president’s statement was recorded, Rich Del Haya, a military public relations officer at Barksdale, brought the videotape of it to a TV satellite truck outside the base. A technician there put the tape into a deck to be broadcast. However, the uplink failed twice. Finally, the third broadcast goes out to American TV screens. TV anchors emphasize that the president’s remarks are recorded, not live. “The implication,” journalist and author Bill Sammon will later write, “was that the White House had purposely delayed the airing of the tape in order to get a head start on the president’s next secret destination.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 117; Times-Picayune, 9/8/2002] The 9/11 Commission Report will similarly state that “for security reasons,” Bush’s statement “was taped and not broadcast live.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325] But according to Sammon: “[T]he tape delay had been a function of mere logistics—there were no cables available at Barksdale for a live feed on such short notice. In fact, Bush remained at Barksdale more than half an hour after his taped speech was aired.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 117]
Bush's Delivery of Statement Is 'Not Reassuring' - Some commentators will later be critical of Bush’s performance in delivering his statement. Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward will write: “The president’s eyes were red-rimmed when he walked in. His performance was not reassuring. He spoke haltingly, mispronouncing several words as he looked down at his notes.” [Woodward, 2002, pp. 19] Howard Fineman of Newsweek will call the speech “the low point” in the president’s war on terrorism. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 116] Bush will comment that the “sentiment” of his speech “was right, but the setting—a sterile conference room at a military base in Louisiana—did not inspire much confidence.” [Bush, 2010, pp. 133]
Logan Walters. [Source: SCF Partners]While he is at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, President Bush receives an intelligence report from the US Strategic Command (Stratcom), informing him that a high-speed object is heading for his ranch in Crawford, Texas. It is already more than 45 minutes since US airspace had been cleared of all aircraft except military and emergency flights (see 12:16 p.m. September 11, 2001). Bush orders an underling to notify everyone at the ranch about this. [New Yorker, 9/25/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 117; CBS News, 9/11/2002] In the White House Situation Room, they are also informed of the rogue aircraft. Logan Walters, who is Bush’s personal aide, calls the ranch’s caretaker and tells him, “Get as far away from there as you can.” Senior national security official Franklin Miller then receives a phone call informing him that a combat air patrol (CAP) has been established over the ranch. [Draper, 2007, pp. 142] (A CAP is an aircraft patrol with the purpose of intercepting and destroying hostile aircraft before they reach their targets. [US Department of Defense, 4/12/2001] ) Miller heads to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House to ask Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley about the CAP. Both men agree that it seems unnecessarily excessive. When Miller returns to the Situation Room, he sets about calling off the CAP, but finds that it wasn’t even established to begin with, and that, furthermore, the report of a rogue aircraft was a false alarm. [Draper, 2007, pp. 143] A threat to Air Force One had allegedly been received earlier on (see (10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but this too is later deemed to have been a false alarm. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554]
A Ryder truck. [Source: Ryder]Personnel in NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC) in Colorado are informed that a truck, or a number of trucks, carrying men who appear to be Arabs is heading up the mountain toward the CMOC, but the apparent threat will turn out to be a false alarm. [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; BBC, 9/1/2002] A NORAD representative describes what CMOC personnel are told over the Pentagon’s air threat conference call, saying, “We just received some intel that eight Ryder vans may be en route to the Cheyenne Mountain complex.” [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001] According to some accounts, though, only one vehicle—not eight—is reportedly heading toward the CMOC and this is carrying a number of Arab-looking men. CMOC personnel receive “an input that there [is] a yellow transport truck coming up the hill with seven Islamic folks in the front cab,” Lieutenant Colonel William Glover, the commander of NORAD’s Air Warning Center, will later recall. [BBC, 9/1/2002] According to Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine, there is a “rumor” going around the CMOC about a “Ryder rental truck full of explosives,” driven by “Arab-looking men,” that is “targeting the mountain.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002] The source of the information about the truck, or trucks, supposedly approaching the CMOC is unstated.
Blast Doors Are Reportedly Shut due to the Threat - The massive blast doors leading to the CMOC are closed in response to this apparent threat, according to the NORAD representative on the air threat conference call (see (10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He says over the conference call, “Cheyenne Mountain is closing [the] blast doors in response to [a] possible threat of eight Ryder trucks en route from downtown to the Cheyenne Mountain complex.”
Threat Is a False Alarm - The supposed threat will turn out to be a false alarm. The NORAD representative will later report over the conference call: “I previously briefed [about a] possible eight Ryder trucks en route to Cheyenne Mountain. That threat has been negated. That is no longer a threat.” He will be asked if the report about the trucks was “an accurate assessment” or if someone had to “neutralize the force,” presumably meaning military action had to be taken against the trucks. The NORAD representative will answer simply, “We have no more details at this time.” It is unclear when CMOC personnel are alerted to the truck, or trucks, that is supposedly heading their way. The NORAD representative on the air threat conference call first mentions the trucks shortly after he reported that an unidentified aircraft had been spotted flying toward President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas. [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001] Bush was told about this aircraft at 1:05 p.m. (see 1:05 p.m. September 11, 2001), which was presumably around the time that NORAD was alerted to it. [New Yorker, 9/25/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 117] CMOC personnel presumably therefore learn about the truck, or trucks, supposedly heading their way shortly after 1:05 p.m.
Just hours after the terrorist attacks on Washington and New York, neoconservative writer and former CIA asset Michael Ledeen writes an op-ed at the National Review’s website attacking the more moderate “realists” in the Bush administration. Ledeen urges someone in the White House to remind President Bush that “we are still living with the consequences of Desert Storm [referencing the decision not to overthrow Saddam Hussein in 1991—see February 1991-1992 and September 1998] when his father and his father’s advisers—most notably Colin Powell and Brent Scowcroft—advised against finishing the job and liberating Iraq.” Ledeen is clearly implying that Iraq is responsible for the attacks, and that Bush should “correct” his father’s mistake by invading Iraq. [Unger, 2007, pp. 215]
Anchorage Air Route Traffic Control Center. [Source: FAA]The pilots of a Korean Airlines passenger jet that is due to land in the US and is considered a possible hijacking, switch their plane’s transponder to transmit the code signaling a hijacking, even though the plane has not been hijacked. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 277-278] Korean Airlines Flight 85 is a Boeing 747 bound from Seoul, South Korea, to New York, and which is currently heading for a refueling stop in Anchorage, Alaska. For reasons that are unclear, the plane’s pilots included the code signaling a hijacking in a text message they sent to their airline at 11:08 a.m. The FAA was notified of this and alerted controllers at its Anchorage Center to the suspicious flight (see (Shortly Before 12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). The FAA also alerted NORAD, which launched fighter jets to follow the aircraft (see (12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Anchorage Daily News, 9/29/2001; USA Today, 8/12/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 257]
Pilots Send Signal Indicating a Hijacking - Flight 85 entered the Anchorage Center’s airspace at around 1:00 p.m. The air traffic controller there who is handling the flight queried the pilots to determine whether their plane had been hijacked. He used a code word when speaking to them, as a way of covertly asking if the plane was hijacked, in case the crew was unable to speak openly over the radio. However the pilots offered no reassurance that their plane was secure. Instead, at 1:24 p.m., they switch the plane’s transponder (a device that sends information about an aircraft to controllers’ radar screens) to “7500”: the universal code that means a plane has been hijacked. This action sets off “a frenzy of activity,” according to USA Today. Within minutes, Alaska’s governor orders the evacuation of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, as well as the evacuation of federal buildings and all large hotels in Anchorage.
FAA Wants Flight to Remain on Current Course - However, officials at the FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, are unconvinced that Flight 85 has been hijacked, and advise the Anchorage Center controllers not to redirect it. The Command Center is in contact with Korean Airlines headquarters, which is emphatically stating it has received no indication that Flight 85 is in trouble. Ben Sliney, the national operations manager at the Command Center, urges the Anchorage Center controllers to keep seeking clarification from Flight 85’s pilots about the status of their aircraft. [USA Today, 8/12/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 277-278] But NORAD will instruct the controllers to direct the plane away from Anchorage (see (Shortly After 1:24 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Anchorage Daily News, 9/8/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 278] Flight 85 will continue transmitting the hijack code from its transponder until it lands in Canada at 2:54 p.m. (see 2:54 p.m. September 11, 2001). Only then will officials be able to confirm that the flight has not been hijacked (see September 12, 2001).
Reason for False Alarm Unclear - No clear explanation will be given as to why the pilots of Flight 85 switch their transponder to the hijacking code. In August 2002, USA Today will state: “To this day, no one is certain why the pilots issued the alert.… The Korean pilots may have misinterpreted the controller’s comments as an order to reset the transponder.” [USA Today, 8/12/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 278-279] Korean Airlines officials will say the pilot of Flight 85 believed that controllers at the Anchorage Center were directing him to send out the hijack signal. Administrator Michael Lim will say: “Our captain was following their instruction. They even told the captain to transmit code 7500, hijack code. Our captain, who realized how serious it is, they were just following instructions.” However, the airline will refuse to make available a tape recording of conversations between the pilot and its officials on the ground in Anchorage. [Anchorage Daily News, 9/29/2001]
The commander of the Alaskan NORAD Region (ANR) orders air traffic controllers to redirect a Korean Airlines passenger jet that is mistakenly suspected of being hijacked, and warns that he will have the aircraft shot down if it refuses to change course. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 278]
Korean Jet Indicating Hijacking - Korean Airlines Flight 85 is a Boeing 747 heading to New York, and which is currently due to land in Anchorage, Alaska, for a refueling stop. Although Flight 85 has not been hijacked, its pilots have given indications that the plane has been hijacked (see (Shortly Before 12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001 and 1:24 p.m. September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 8/12/2002] NORAD has been alerted, and Lieutenant General Norton Schwartz, the ANR commander, has ordered fighter jets to take off and follow the aircraft (see (12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Anchorage Daily News, 9/29/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 257]
Commander Threatens Shootdown - While the FAA wants Flight 85 to remain on its current course, ANR wants it redirected. Controllers at the FAA’s Anchorage Center repeatedly query the pilots, yet they give no reassurance that their plane has not been hijacked. Therefore, Schwartz decides he has had enough. He orders the Anchorage Center controllers to turn the aircraft, and says that if it refuses to divert and remains on its current course, he will have it shot down. [USA Today, 8/12/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 278] At some point, presumably around this time, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien is contacted and gives his authorization for Flight 85 to be shot down if necessary (see (Shortly After 1:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Globe and Mail, 9/12/2002]
Plane Redirected to Remote Airport - Following Schwartz’s order, a controller instructs Flight 85 to head about 100 miles north of Anchorage, fly east, and then turn southeast for Yakutat, a fairly remote airport with a runway long enough to land the 747. As requested, the plane changes course, which shows those on the ground that its pilot is still in control.
NORAD Decides to Land Plane in Canada - However, weather conditions in Yakutat are deteriorating, and it is unclear whether that airport’s navigational aids and on-board maps are adequate to guide the plane over the risky mountainous terrain. Furthermore, FAA controllers discover that Flight 85 has less than an hour’s worth of fuel remaining. ANR personnel brainstorm over what to do, and decide to have the plane land at Whitehorse Airport in Canada’s Yukon Territory. Schwartz contacts the Canadian authorities and they agree to this. [Alaska Legislature. Joint Senate and House Armed Services Committee, 2/5/2002; Anchorage Daily News, 9/8/2002] Escorted by the fighter jets, Flight 85 will head to Whitehorse Airport and land there at 2:54 p.m. (see 2:54 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 278]
In the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the East Wing of the White House, numerous key officials are assembled, including Vice President Dick Cheney, his chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, White House counselor Karen Hughes, and others. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 18-19] A technician informs Libby that levels of carbon dioxide in the room have climbed too high. Libby remembers that excessive carbon dioxide can affect a person’s judgment, and arranges to have any non-essential personnel—comprising various lower-level aides—removed from the room. [Newsweek, 12/31/2001] According to journalist and author Stephen Hayes, it is in fact David Addington, the vice president’s general counsel, who asks the lower-level officials to leave. [Hayes, 2007, pp. 343]
Deena Burnett, whose husband Tom Burnett was on Flight 93, is told by United Airlines it isn’t aware this plane has crashed. Deena had earlier on learned of an aircraft crashing in Pennsylvania, and a police officer with her informed her that this was her husband’s flight. Yet in her own book, published in 2006, Deena Burnett will describe that she now calls “United Airlines and asked about Flight 93. ‘Were there any survivors?’” She will recall: “They said they didn’t know the plane had even crashed. They suggested I call back or they would contact me when they knew something.” According to her own description, Deena appears to make this call shortly before 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time, meaning close to 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time. [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 71-72 and 79] Yet by 10:15 a.m. ET, United Airlines’ headquarters had confirmed that an aircraft had crashed in Pennsylvania, and believed this was Flight 93 (see (10:07 a.m.-10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 47] And at 11:17 a.m. ET, the airline had issued a press release confirming the crash of Flight 93 (see 11:17 a.m. September 11, 2001). [United Airlines, 9/11/2001] At what time Deena Burnett hears back from United Airlines after making this call is unstated.
President Bush and Laura Bush with their dogs, Barney and Spot. [Source: White House]Laura Bush, the president’s wife, is told by her Secret Service agents to be prepared to leave Washington, DC, for several days, and members of her staff then go to the White House to fetch some of her belongings. [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 203] Bush is at the Secret Service headquarters in Washington, where she was brought for her own safety (see (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Kessler, 2006, pp. 136] At the headquarters, there is “a debate over what to do with [President Bush] and what to do with me,” the first lady will later recall. Her Secret Service agents tell her “to be prepared to leave Washington for several days at least.” To help her prepare, several members of her staff briefly return to the White House and collect some of her belongings. They are escorted there at about 1:30 p.m., according to Noelia Rodriguez, Bush’s press secretary. Sarah Moss, Bush’s assistant, collects some of the first lady’s clothes. John Meyers, Bush’s advance man, collects the Bush family dogs, Spot and Barney, and the family cat, India. While they are at the White House, the first lady’s staffers also collect their own purses and keys. The Secret Service agent with them instructs them: “Be fast. Run. Get your things.” The staffers then return to the Secret Service headquarters. However, Bush and those with her at the headquarters subsequently learn that the president will be returning to Washington today (see (4:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001 and (4:33 p.m.) September 11, 2001). It will therefore be decided that the first lady can stay in the capital. She will be taken to the White House at 6:30 p.m. (see 6:30 p.m. September 11, 2001). [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 203]
After taking off from Barksdale Air Force Base (see 1:37 p.m. September 11, 2001), President Bush calls Mike Morell, his CIA briefer, to his cabin near the front of the plane. He asks Morell who he thinks is responsible for the attack. Morell replies, “I would bet everything on bin Laden.” He lists some of bin Laden’s previous attacks: the 1998 attacks on the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen. Bush asks about the Palestinian extremist group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Morell says it is unlikely this group could be responsible for the day’s attack, as PFLP simply doesn’t have the capability for something like this. Bush asks how long it will take to know if bin Laden is to blame. Based on previous attacks, Morell says, it will probably be a matter of days. Bush says that if anything definitive is learned about the attack, he wants to be the first to know. [Kessler, 2003, pp. 195; Tenet, 2007, pp. 165-166]
Air Force One departs Barksdale Air Force Base. [Source: Reuters]Air Force One takes off from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana to fly President Bush to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. While Bush has been at Barksdale, base personnel have refueled Air Force One and restocked it with provisions for its continuing journey, on the basis that it may have to serve as the president’s flying command center for the foreseeable future. [Associated Press, 10/2/2001; 2d Bomb Wing, 6/30/2002 ; BBC, 9/1/2002]
Reduced Number of Passengers on Board - For security reasons, the number of people traveling on Air Force One has been reduced (see (1:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Fleischer, 2005, pp. 145-146] Those continuing with the president include Bush’s chief of staff Andrew Card, his senior adviser Karl Rove, his communications director Dan Bartlett, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, and assistant press secretary Gordon Johndroe. The number of Secret Service agents accompanying the president has been reduced, as has the number of reporters. The five remaining journalists are Ann Compton of ABC Radio, Sonya Ross of the Associated Press, Associated Press photographer Doug Mills, and a CBS cameraman and sound technician. [Salon, 9/12/2001; Associated Press, 9/12/2001]
President Given Thumbs-up by Airmen - Lieutenant General Thomas Keck, the commander of the 8th Air Force, has been at Bush’s side for most of his time at Barksdale, and accompanies the president as he is being driven across the base to Air Force One. The president passes a row of B-52 bombers and is given a thumbs-up by the planes’ crew members. Keck explains to Bush that this means the troops “are trained, they’re ready, and they’ll do whatever you want them to.” Military police salute and other Air Force crew members cheer the president as he passes them. [American History, 10/2006 ]
Fighter Escort Rejoins Air Force One - Air Force One is being guarded by soldiers with their guns drawn when Bush reaches it, and a pack of military dogs is patrolling the tarmac. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 117-118] After the plane takes off, two F-16 fighter jets pull up alongside it to provide an escort. [American History, 10/2006 ] These are presumably the same fighters, belonging to the 147th Fighter Wing of the Texas Air National Guard, that escorted Air Force One as it came in to land at Barksdale (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Filson, 2003, pp. 87; Bombardier, 9/8/2006 ]
Destination Chosen Due to 'Continuity of Government' Plan - Bush’s destination, Offutt Air Force Base, is home to the US Strategic Command (Stratcom), which controls the nation’s nuclear weapons. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Woodward, 2002, pp. 19] Bush will later say the decision to head there was based on Offutt’s “secure housing space and reliable communications.” [Bush, 2010, pp. 133] The base’s secure teleconferencing equipment will allow the president to conduct a meeting of his National Security Council later in the afternoon (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 119; Woodward, 2002, pp. 19, 26] According to the 9/11 Commission Report, Offutt has been chosen as the president’s next destination “because of its elaborate command and control facilities, and because it could accommodate overnight lodging for 50 persons. The Secret Service wanted a place where the president could spend several days, if necessary.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325] But according to White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke, the decision to head to Offutt instead of back to Washington, DC, was due to a plan called “Continuity of Government.” This program, which dates back to the Reagan administration, originally planned to set up a new leadership for the US in the event of a nuclear war. It was activated for the first time shortly before 10:00 a.m. this morning (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 4/7/2004; ABC News, 4/25/2004]
Entity Tags: Dan Bartlett, Barksdale Air Force Base, Thomas Keck, Ann Compton, Ari Fleischer, Doug Mills, George W. Bush, Gordon Johndroe, US Secret Service, 147th Fighter Wing, Sonya Ross, Karl C. Rove, Andrew Card, Richard A. Clarke
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
An F-15 from the 159th Fighter Wing. [Source: Louisiana National Guard]Fighter jets belonging to the Louisiana Air National Guard’s 159th Fighter Wing are launched in order to accompany Air Force One after it takes off from Barksdale Air Force Base. [Filson, 2003, pp. 87; Associated Press, 12/30/2007] The 159th Fighter Wing is located at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans, in Belle Chasse, Louisiana. [GlobalSecurity (.org), 1/21/2006]
SEADS Scrambles Fighters - Although the wing is not one of NORAD’s alert units around the US, NORAD’s Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS) scrambles four of its fighters around the time President Bush is leaving Barksdale Air Base on board Air Force One (see 1:37 p.m. September 11, 2001). The fighters had already been loaded with live missiles by the time Air Force One landed at the base (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). According to weapons officer Major Jeff Woelbling, “As we were all watching the news, the wing leadership decided to configure our jets and get ready.”
Military Unaware of Air Force One's Route - At the time Air Force One leaves Barksdale, SEADS is unaware of its next destination. Lieutenant Colonel Randy Riccardi, the commander of the 122nd Fighter Squadron, which is part of the 159th Fighter Wing, will later recall, “When Air Force One took off out of Barksdale, we were scrambled because SEADS didn’t know his route of flight.” Riccardi will add: “We were in a four-ship and turned north toward Barksdale and the president was already airborne. We were 300 miles behind him since SEADS didn’t know where he was going.” The 159th Fighter Wing jets will accompany Air Force One until it is near Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001). They then turn around and return to base. [Filson, 2003, pp. 87] When Air Force One landed at Barksdale, it was already being escorted by jets from the 147th Fighter Wing of the Texas Air National Guard (see (After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Those jets will continue escorting the president’s plane until it reaches Washington, DC. [Galveston County Daily News, 7/9/2005; Bombardier, 9/8/2006 ]
The chief fire officer who has been assigned to take charge of operations at WTC Building 7 meets with his command officer, to discuss the condition of this building and the fire department’s capabilities for controlling the fires in it. A deputy fire chief who has just been in WTC 7, inspecting up to its 7th or 8th floor, reports that there was a lot of fire inside and the stairway was filling with smoke. The fire chiefs discuss the situation and identify the following conditions:
WTC 7 has suffered damage caused by falling debris from the Twin Towers, and they are uncertain about its structural stability.
There are large fires on at least six floors.
They do not have enough equipment available for conducting operations in the building, such as hoses, standpipe kits, and handie-talkies.
There is no water immediately available for fighting the fires. (However, this concern is apparently contradicted by reports that two or three fireboats are moored nearby, specifically to provide water-pumping capacity for the WTC site.)
Therefore, at around 2:30 p.m., fire officers decide to completely abandon WTC 7 and a final order is given to evacuate the site. Firefighters and other emergency workers will be withdrawn from the surrounding area (see (4:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001), and Building 7 collapses later in the afternoon (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Firehouse (.com), 9/17/2001; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 110-111]
The FBI’s Minneapolis office asks for permission to interview Zacarias Moussaoui a few hours after the end of the 9/11 attacks, but permission is denied, apparently on the grounds that there is no emergency. On 9/11, the office’s counsel, Coleen Rowley, seeks permission from the Acting US Attorney to question Moussaoui about whether al-Qaeda has any further plans to hijack airliners or otherwise attack the US. The next day she asks again; this time the request is sent to the Justice Department. Such questioning would not usually be permitted, but Rowley argues that it should be allowed under a public safety exception. However, permission is denied and Rowley is told that the emergency is over so the public safety exception does not apply. Rowley will later comment: “We were so flabbergasted about the fact we were told no public safety emergency existed just hours after the attacks that my boss advised me to document it in a memo which became the first document in the legal subfile of the FBI’s ‘Penttbom’ case.” [Huffington Post, 5/2/2007] Some sources will suggest that Moussaoui was to be part of a second wave of attacks (see September 5, 2002). He is also an associate of shoe bomber Richard Reid, who will attempt to blow up an airliner later this year (see Mid-2000-December 9, 2000 and December 22, 2001).
The emergency operations facility in Mount Weather, Bluemont, Virginia (the entrance is shown on the left and the interior blast door is shown on the right). This is one of the Continuity of Government bunkers used on 9/11. [Source: ABC News] (click image to enlarge)It is later revealed that only hours after the 9/11 attacks, a US “shadow government” is formed. Initially deployed “on the fly,” executive directives on Continuity of Government in the face of a crisis that date back to the Reagan administration are put into effect. Approximately 100 midlevel officials are moved to underground bunkers and stay there 24 hours a day. Presumably among them are a number of FAA managers, members of a designated group of “shadow” managers, who slip away from their usual activities around midday. Officials rotate in and out of the shadow government on a 90-day cycle. While the measure is initially intended only as a temporary precaution, due to further assessment of the risk of terrorism, the White House will decide to make it a permanent feature of “the new reality.” A senior official tells CNN that major factors are the concern that al-Qaeda could have gained access to a crude nuclear device, and the “threat of some form of catastrophic event.” However, this same official will admit that the US has no confirmation, and “no solid evidence,” that al-Qaeda has such a nuclear device, and says that the consensus among top US officials is that the likelihood of this is “quite low.” When the existence of the shadow government is later revealed, some controversy will arise because it includes no Democrats. In fact, top congressional Democrats will remain unaware of it until journalists break the story months later. [CNN, 3/1/2002; Washington Post, 3/1/2002; CBS News, 3/2/2002; Freni, 2003, pp. 75]
On September 11—after the 9/11 attacks are over—the New York FBI office learns that one of the hijackers was Khalid Almihdhar. One of the FBI agents at the office, Steve Bongardt, had attempted to get permission to search for Almihdhar in late August, but was not allowed to do so. He wrote an e-mail on August 29 (see August 29, 2001) predicting that “someday someone will die… the public will not understand why we were not more effective and throwing every resource we had at certain ‘problems.’” He will later testify that upon seeing Almihdhar’s name on one of the passenger flight manifests, he angrily yells, “This is the same Almihdhar we’ve been talking about for three months!” In an attempt to console him, his boss replies, “We did everything by the book.” Now that Bongardt is allowed to conduct a basic Internet search for Almihdhar that he had been denied permission to conduct before 9/11, he finds the hijacker’s address “within hours.” [Washington Post, 9/21/2002; US Congress, 12/11/2002] The FBI field office in San Diego also was not notified before 9/11 that Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi had been put on a no-fly watch list on August 24, 2001 (see September 4-5, 2001). Bill Gore, the FBI agent running the San Diego office on this day, will later make reference to the fact that Alhazmi’s correct phone number and address were listed in the San Diego phone book, and say: “How could [we] have found these people when we didn’t know we were looking for them? The first place we would have looked is the phone book.… I submit to you we would have found them.” [US Congress, 12/11/2002]
James Schwartz. [Source: Arlington County, Virginia]Firefighting and other operations are severely disrupted when the Pentagon site is evacuated due to a report of an unidentified aircraft heading toward the Pentagon. Firefighters have to abandon their equipment and run several hundred yards to protected areas. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A16 and A30 ] Assistant Fire Chief James Schwartz orders the evacuation after the control tower at Washington’s Reagan National Airport notifies the Arlington County Emergency Communications Center (ECC) of an inbound aircraft that is not identifying itself and is heading up the Potomac River at a high rate of speed. It is not known if this is a hijacked plane, but no aircraft other than military jets are now supposed to be in the air. The ECC then notifies Schwartz at the Pentagon. By the time he orders the evacuation, the aircraft is reportedly just two minutes away. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A30 and A52 ; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 187] At one point, the controllers at Reagan Airport are reporting that the plane has disappeared from radar, though they do not say why they think this is. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 191]
Approaching Aircraft Is 'Friendly' - The unidentified aircraft is soon determined to be “friendly.” [Fire Engineering, 11/2002; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 193] According to the Arlington County After-Action Report, it turns out to have been a government aircraft flying Attorney General John Ashcroft back to Washington. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A30 and C52 ; Vogel, 2007, pp. 453] However, a 2002 FAA report will state that Ashcroft’s plane landed in Washington “just before noon” (see (12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002 ] If that report is correct, then the identity of the approaching aircraft is unclear.
Emergency Operations Disrupted - The firefighters and other emergency responders return to the Pentagon and resume their activities, but the evacuation has significantly disrupted firefighting operations, giving fires in some areas 30 minutes to gain ground. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A16 ; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 193-194] The FBI’s evidence recovery operation has also been disrupted. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 191]
Evacuation Avoidable, Caused by Loss of FBI Presence - This evacuation is later determined to have been avoidable, and only necessary because of the loss of a senior FBI presence at the incident command post (ICP) at the Pentagon, which means there is no way for the ICP to verify whether the approaching aircraft is “friendly” or not. This loss is due to the FBI having relocated to the Virginia State Police Barracks shortly after midday (see (12:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001). The Arlington County After-Action Report will later conclude, “Friendly aircraft, carrying US government executives and escorted by fighter aircraft, should not have been cause for evacuation.” A previous evacuation of the Pentagon site due to reports of an approaching unidentified aircraft occurred around 10:15 a.m. (see (10:15 a.m.-10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and a third similar evacuation will occur on the morning of September 12 (see (10:00 a.m.) September 12, 2001). [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A30-A31 ; Fire Engineering, 11/2002]
The three F-16 fighter jets that launched from Langley Air Force Base to defend Washington, DC (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) land back at their base after flying a combat air patrol (CAP) over the capital. The flight lead, Major Dean Eckmann, was refueling on a tanker when the order came for the three fighters to return to base. The two other pilots, Captain Craig Borgstrom and Major Brad Derrig, immediately headed back to Langley and Eckmann joined them shortly after. [Leslie Filson, 2002; Longman, 2002, pp. 222; Spencer, 2008, pp. 277]
Fighters Kept Planes Away from Washington - During the four hours they were over Washington, the three F-16s, which belong to the 119th Fighter Wing of the North Dakota Air National Guard, kept aircraft away from the capital. According to Borgstrom, they only had to intercept a few planes. He will say: “It wasn’t intercept upon intercept. It was one here and, maybe 50 minutes later, one here. There was not a lot of it.” Borgstrom will recall that the three fighters were alone in flying a CAP over Washington for about the first hour, but were then joined by other aircraft “from all over the place.” By the time they headed back to Langley Air Force Base, Borgstrom will say that he “personally counted 17 other fighters in the CAP.” [Leslie Filson, 2002]
Pilots Learn Details of Attacks - The three pilots had been unaware of precisely why they were scrambled and did not realize the threat was from hijacked planes (see (9:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 45] They only learn the details of the terrorist attacks after landing back at Langley. Borgstrom is surprised to see over a dozen trailers carrying missiles lined up near the runway. He will recall, “I thought, ‘What the heck is going on?’” because, “At this point, I still didn’t know it was airliners” that were involved in the attacks. [Leslie Filson, 2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 277] According to Eckmann, it is only after they land that the three pilots learn about the World Trade Center towers collapsing. Eckmann learns of the collapses in a phone call with his wife. [Leslie Filson, 12/6/2002] Borgstrom asks his crew chief, “What else did they get?” As Borgstrom will later recall, the crew chief says he isn’t sure, “but he thought there was some others,” presumably meaning more planes and targets involved. Borgstrom recalls, “So at that point I was like, oh no, a really terrible thing has happened.” [Leslie Filson, 2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 277] According to Eckmann, the three pilots only learn about Flight 93 on the following day, September 12. [Leslie Filson, 12/6/2002]
The FBI’s Strategic Information and Operations Center. [Source: FBI]Attorney General John Ashcroft spends most of the rest of the day at the FBI’s Strategic Information and Operations Center (SIOC), after arriving there in the early afternoon (see (Between 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 12/17/2003 ; Ashcroft, 2006, pp. 129] The SIOC, which is located on the fifth floor of the FBI’s headquarters in Washington, DC, functions as a 24-hour watch post and crisis management center. The huge, windowless center can seat 380 people, and is equipped with sophisticated computers and communications equipment. [CNN, 11/20/1998; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1/18/2004]
FBI Director Briefs Ashcroft - Ashcroft will later recall that when he arrives at the SIOC, the place is “teeming with people, abuzz with activity, voices and papers everywhere, with dozens of people coming in and out with bits and pieces of new information moment by moment.” Numerous rows of computer screens are “filled with data, and eight large video display screens were being monitored constantly.” Ashcroft is met by FBI Director Robert Mueller, who briefs him on what is so far known regarding the terrorist attacks.
Priority Is to Clear the Skies - During his initial period at the SIOC, Ashcroft will recall, the “overriding priority” is to make sure all commercial aircraft are on the ground. There are also concerns about some planes that have landed and individuals on them who might have been hijackers, and concerns about securing airports so that flights can get up and running again as soon as possible. [9/11 Commission, 12/17/2003 ; Ashcroft, 2006, pp. 120-121]
SIOC Is 'the Place to Be to Get Information' - Most of the leading Justice Department and FBI officials remain at the SIOC throughout the day. Other officials in the center along with Ashcroft and Mueller include Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff, and Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner James Ziglar. [Los Angeles Times, 9/12/2001; US Department of Justice, 9/12/2001] According to Ashcroft, the SIOC is “the place to be to get information, and so everyone wanted to be there.” [9/11 Commission, 12/17/2003 ] Ashcroft will later recall, “I spent the hours, days, and most of the first weeks, months, after the attack on the United States in the [SIOC].” He will add, “That day, in those early hours, the prevention of terrorist attacks became the central goal of the law enforcement and national security mission of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” [CNN, 5/30/2002]
The driver of a refueling truck at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, mistakenly concludes that one of the three F-16 fighter jets that launched from the base to defend Washington, DC (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and that recently landed back there (see (2:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001) shot down Flight 93. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 277]
One Fighter Launched without Missiles - One of the F-16s that took off from Langley Air Force Base was piloted by Captain Craig Borgstrom. However, Borgstrom was not one of the two pilots at the base on “alert” duty this morning. Consequently, he had taken off in a third, spare fighter in response to the call for help (see (Between 9:10 a.m. and 9:23 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Unlike the F-16s belonging to the two pilots on alert duty, Borgstrom’s plane carried no missiles. [Christian Science Monitor, 4/16/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 118-119]
Driver Thinks Borgstrom Shot Down Flight 93 - One of the alert pilots, Major Brad Derrig, will later recall, “Confusion arose because Borgstrom had no missiles when he took off and that was noticed when he landed.” [9/11 Commission, 12/1/2003] The driver of a refueling truck, who is unaware that Borgstrom had taken off without any missiles, now notices that Borgstrom’s plane has no missiles hanging from its wings. According to author Lynn Spencer, the driver “knows that United 93 has gone down and now he surmises who took it down.” The following day, the driver will voice his suspicion to Borgstrom, and Borgstrom will clarify to him what actually happened. But, according to Spencer, “in the interim, a rumor is started that makes its way onto the Internet and will haunt the pilots for years to come,” that Flight 93 was shot down. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 277]
Other Evidence Indicates Shootdown - However, there are other factors that lead to the suspicion that Flight 93 was shot down by the US military. For example, a number of early news reports—published hours before the three fighters landed back at Langley—stated the possibility of a plane having been shot down (see 11:28 a.m.-11:50 a.m. September 11, 2001), and what appears to be debris from a plane is discovered far away from the main Flight 93 crash site (see (Before 10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and September 13, 2001). [TCM Breaking News, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/13/2001; Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/2001; Mirror, 9/12/2002]
The three fighter pilots that launched from Langley Air Force Base to defend Washington, DC (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) sign a letter in which they confirm that they did not shoot down any aircraft on 9/11. At some point after the pilots, who belong to the 119th Fighter Wing of the North Dakota Air National Guard, land their fighter jets back at base (see (2:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001), one of them, Captain Craig Borgstrom, speaks over the phone with Major General Larry Arnold, the commanding general of NORAD’s Continental US Region (CONR). According to Borgstrom, who will later recall that Arnold phones him either on September 11 “or in [the] next day or two,” the CONR commander requests “a detailed, in writing, accounting of what happened that day.” Consequently, as another of the three pilots—Major Brad Derrig—will recall, “all three pilots signed a letter to 1st Air Force certifying that they had not shot down an aircraft.” Borgstrom will say he believes that “ammunition records were checked” as a part of the response to the 1st Air Force. [9/11 Commission, 12/1/2003; 9/11 Commission, 12/1/2003] Some early news reports suggested the possibility of a plane having been shot down by the US military (see 11:28 a.m.-11:50 a.m. September 11, 2001), and what appears to be debris from a plane is discovered far away from the main Flight 93 crash site (see (Before 10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and September 13, 2001). [TCM Breaking News, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/13/2001; Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/2001; Mirror, 9/12/2002] But in later interviews with the media and the 9/11 Commission, the three 119th Fighter Wing pilots will state that they received no orders to shoot down a commercial airliner, and did not shoot down any planes on 9/11. [New York Times, 11/15/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 222; 9/11 Commission, 12/1/2003; 9/11 Commission, 12/1/2003; 9/11 Commission, 12/1/2003]
Logo of the International Islamic Relief Organization. [Source: International Islamic Relief Organization]A man is questioned by the police after being noticed behaving suspiciously near the Capitol building in Washington, DC, and found to belong to an organization with links to terrorism. Suspicions are raised about the man after he is observed following members of the press around the Capitol building and trying to listen in on their conversations. The man is subsequently held by the Capitol Police and questioned. His name is found to be “Shaykh M. Zacharias,” according to an FAA log. He is a member of the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), is employed by a non-governmental organization in Nairobi, Kenya, and is “somehow connected” to the bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi in August 1998 (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). The police have permission to search his hotel room, according to the FAA log. Further details of what, if anything, inquiries into the man discover are unstated. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001] The IIRO, of which he is a member, is a charity funded by the Saudi Arabian government and private Saudi individuals. [Emerson, 2002, pp. 157] Police believe it is a front for financing terrorism. [Los Angeles Times, 6/24/2002]
The two F-15 fighter jets that launched from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in response to the hijacked Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) land back at their base after flying a combat air patrol (CAP) over New York City. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; Filson, 10/2/2002] The F-15s, which belong to the 102nd Fighter Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, are piloted by Major Daniel Nash and Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy. [Rosenfeld and Gross, 2007, pp. 35]
Fighters Intercepted about 100 Aircraft - Duffy and Nash’s job during the CAP was to identify and divert all aircraft from the Manhattan area. Duffy will later recall, “We would pull up next to them and tip our wings or fly across in front of them to get them to leave the area.” [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; 9/11 Commission, 1/7/2004 ] He will say that during their time flying over Manhattan, “All of the sudden, you get contacts coming toward the city that are unidentified and aren’t talking to anybody, and we were getting real nervous.” [Filson, 10/22/2002] Duffy will estimate that the two fighters intercepted and escorted about 100 aircraft in total, including emergency, military, and news helicopters, plus dozens of small private planes whose pilots were unaware of the attacks on New York. Some of those pilots had seen the smoke over the city and decided to investigate. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002]
One Fighter over Manhattan at All Times - Duffy and Nash had alternated their responsibilities, so that one of them would remain over Manhattan at all times while the other would intercept aircraft or be refueled by a tanker plane over the ocean (see (Shortly After 9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). After flying the CAP for about two hours, they were joined by a couple more F-15s from Otis Air Base (see (11:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). While those jets flew at around 18,000 feet, Nash and Duffy remained at around 10,000 feet. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002; Filson, 10/2/2002; Filson, 10/22/2002; 9/11 Commission, 1/7/2004 ] Eventually, after several hours flying over Manhattan, Nash and Duffy were ordered to return to their base.
Base Hectic with Activity - Upon landing, they find that Otis Air Base is very different to how it was when they took off. Rows and rows of their unit’s fighters are lined up near the runway, surrounded by about 100 maintenance personnel who are frantically working to prepare the aircraft for battle. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 273-274] Armed security officers in flak jackets are guarding every entrance to the base; personnel are swarming in the buildings; and officers are trying to locate all the reserve pilots.
Pilot Learns of Pentagon Attack - The two fighter pilots had been poorly informed about what was going on regarding the terrorist attacks, and were only told in passing by an air traffic controller that there had been an attack in Washington (see (8:53 a.m.-10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). After he gets out of his plane, Nash is informed by a crew member that an aircraft crashed into the Pentagon. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002; Michael Bronner, 2006] Nash and Duffy subsequently go to their unit’s “intelligence shop” and describe what they have done since taking off from the base hours earlier. [Filson, 10/2/2002]
No relatives of the Flight 93 passengers are waiting at San Francisco International Airport at the time when the plane is scheduled to have arrived there. A counseling center has been set up at the airport for any relatives that might show up, and dozens of clergy members gave gathered at United Airlines’ VIP lounge to await the families. San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown has arranged to come and meet them. But at 11:15 a.m. Pacific Time (2:15 p.m. Eastern Time), when Flight 93 was scheduled to arrive, no family members have shown up, nor have any arrived by midday (3:00 p.m. ET). Willie Brown cancels his trip to meet the families when it appears none will show up. Knight Ridder will suggest the reason no relatives have come is that United Airlines employees contacted many of them before they left home. [Associated Press, 9/12/2001; Knight Ridder, 9/12/2001] Also, United Airlines publicly confirmed that Flight 93 had crashed several hours earlier (see 11:17 a.m. September 11, 2001), so passengers’ relatives may have realized for themselves what has happened by now. [United Airlines, 9/11/2001] Another possible factor could be that many of the passengers—at least 16 out of a mere 33—were not originally scheduled to be on Flight 93, and only arranged to be on it at the last minute or switched from another flight (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001-Early Morning September 11, 2001), so their relatives may not initially realize they had been on the plane. [New York Times, 9/11/2002] In contrast, some relatives of passengers on the other three hijacked planes have gone to Los Angeles International Airport, the destination of those planes: The New York Times will describe “a few grieving relatives” there, and the Associated Press describes, “In Los Angeles, several dozen relatives met grief counselors at an airport hotel.” [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001]
One of the pilots of the two F-15s from the 102nd Fighter Wing that took off in response to the hijacked Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) is told by a colleague that the military has shot down an aircraft over Pennsylvania. After the fighter pilots, Major Daniel Nash and Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, land at Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, having spent the past few hours flying a combat air patrol over New York (see (2:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001), a “bunch of people” at the base start telling them “what was going on,” Nash will later recall. A crew chief tells Nash that an F-16 fighter jet shot down a fourth airliner over Pennsylvania. Nash will comment, “Obviously that wasn’t true, so there were lots of rumors floating around.” [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002; Filson, 10/2/2002] Some early news reports suggested the possibility of a plane having been shot down by the US military (see 11:28 a.m.-11:50 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Forbes, 9/11/2001; TCM Breaking News, 9/11/2001] But the Pentagon has by now informed the White House that the military did not shoot down Flight 93 over Pennsylvania (see (Shortly After 12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; MSNBC, 9/11/2002]
The FAA announces that there will be no commercial air traffic in the United States for at least a day. According to CNN, the FAA says this operating status will remain until noon on September 12, “at the earliest.” [CNN, 9/12/2001; CBS News, 2002, pp. 15]
Two sections from RumsfeldÃ¢Â€Â™s notes, dictated to Stephen Cambone. [Source: Defense Department]Defense Secretary Rumsfeld aide Stephen Cambone is taking notes on behalf of Rumsfeld in the National Military Command Center. These notes will be leaked to the media nearly a year later. According to the notes, although Rumsfeld has already been given information indicating the 9/11 attacks were done by al-Qaeda (see 12:05 p.m. September 11, 2001) and he has been given no evidence so far indicating any Iraqi involvement, he is more interested in blaming the attacks on Iraq. According to his aide’s notes, Rumsfeld wants the “best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] at same time. Not only UBL [Osama bin Laden].… Need to move swiftly.… Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.” [CBS News, 9/4/2002; Bamford, 2004, pp. 285] In a 2004 book, author James Moore will write, “Unless Rumsfeld had an inspired moment while the rest of the nation was in shock, the notes are irrefutable proof that the Bush administration had designs on Iraq and Hussein well before the president raised his hand to take the oath of office.” [Moore, 3/15/2004, pp. 18]
New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani announces that the New York City subway and bus service has been partially restored. [CNN, 9/12/2001]
The entrance to the Offutt Air Force Base’s bunker, very far underground. Bush officials are seen here entering it on 9/11. [Source: CBC]Having left Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana at around 1:30 p.m. (see 1:37 p.m. September 11, 2001), Air Force One lands at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Nebraska. President Bush stays on the plane for about ten minutes before entering the United States Strategic Command bunker at 3:06 p.m. [Salon, 9/12/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001] Offutt Air Force Base appears to be the headquarters of the US Strategic Command (Stratcom) exercise Global Guardian that was “in full swing” at the time the attacks began (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). While there, the president spends time in the underground Command Center from where Global Guardian was earlier being directed, being brought up to date on the attacks and their aftermath. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002; Washington Times, 10/8/2002]
Don Nickles. [Source: Publicity photo]Vice President Dick Cheney talks with Congressional leaders who have been taken to a secure bunker outside Washington, and tells them they cannot return to the capital. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; Lott, 2005, pp. 221-222] A number of top members of the House and Senate leaderships were evacuated to the Mount Weather Emergency Operations Facility in Bluemont, Virginia, during the morning and early afternoon (see (9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Between Late Morning and Early Afternoon) September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 9/15/2002]
Cheney Controls Information - In the middle of the afternoon, the vice president makes a conference call from the White House to a number of groups, including these Congressional leaders. As Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) will recall, Cheney “told us what he knew: that it was a terrorist attack; that it was carried out by al-Qaeda and directed by Osama bin Laden; that thousands were dead in New York, and hundreds more at the Pentagon. Though some concerns still existed, the immediate danger had abated.” [Lott, 2005, pp. 221] Cheney also says the president has been moving around since the time of the attacks, and is now at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. [Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 115-116]
'We Control the Helicopters' - When the leaders say they want to leave the bunker and return to Washington, Cheney refuses. According to the Washington Post, his reason is that there are still terrorist threats and there is no way to guarantee their security. Senator Don Nickles (R-OK) complains, “We’re a separate branch of government—why do we need the approval of the White House?” Cheney replies, “Don, we control the helicopters.” [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
Cheney Initially Does Not Allow Congressional Leaders to Return - Cheney then initiates three or four private conversations, one of which is with Trent Lott. Lott says: “I want to go back to the Capitol. That’s where we belong.” But again Cheney replies, “No.” However, later in the afternoon, the Congressional leaders decide to return to Washington, and permission is arranged for this (see (Between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Hastert, 2004, pp. 10; Lott, 2005, pp. 221-222] It is unclear exactly when Cheney holds this conference call. If it takes place while Bush is at Offutt, as Cheney indicates, this would place it between 2:50 p.m. and around 4:30 p.m. But from around 3:15 until 4:00, Cheney participates in the president’s video conference call with his principal advisers (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001), so it is unclear if Cheney talks to the Congressional leaders before or after this. [CNN, 9/12/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326]
James L. Jones. [Source: US Marine Corps]The Navy establishes a new command center at the Navy Annex in Arlington, Virginia, after its original command center was destroyed in the attack on the Pentagon. The original Navy Command Center, located on the first floor of the Pentagon, provided Navy leaders with timely information and intelligence about operations around the world. But it was destroyed, and many of its personnel died, when the Pentagon was hit (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 1/20/2002; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 133] Reportedly, 70 percent of the Navy’s spaces in the Pentagon were damaged or destroyed in the Pentagon attack. [Navy Times, 10/1/2001]
Navy Invited to Join Marines at Navy Annex - General James Jones, the commandant of the Marine Corps, therefore invited several of his Navy counterparts and their staffs to co-locate with the Marine Corps at the Navy Annex. [Sea Power, 1/2002] The Navy Annex is a huge building located a few hundred yards uphill from the Pentagon. It has enough room for 6,000 employees. Currently, about 100 Navy personnel work in it, and most of the space is used by the Marine Corps. [American Forces Press Service, 9/24/2001; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 14; GlobalSecurity (.org), 5/7/2011] It is the location of the Marine Corps Command Center. [Sea Power, 1/2002] Admiral William Fallon, the vice chief of naval operations, has consequently made arrangements for the Navy’s leadership and support personnel to move to the Navy Annex. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 133]
Building Manager Unhappy about Moving People to Navy Annex - At around 3:00 p.m., Coneleous Alexander, a building manager at the Navy Annex, learns from one of the Marine Corps administrative managers of the plan to relocate the Navy Command Center to his building. The new command center will be set up in an area on the fourth floor that, Alexander will later say, “had been demolished for use by the build out for ballistic missiles.” [Naval Historical Center, 12/21/2001] It is unclear from Alexander’s account whether he means that missiles are being stored at the Navy Annex, or is referring to the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, which has been housed at the Navy Annex since February this year. [US Department of Defense, 11/30/2001; US Air Force Academy, 5/2/2002] Alexander is unsure whether it is a good idea to move personnel to the Navy Annex. One reason for his uncertainty, he will say, is “the ballistic missiles” being there. He thinks a better choice would be to move people to Henderson Hall, the Marine Corps headquarters, which is located next to the Navy Annex.
Only Mission-Essential Personnel Allowed into Building - All the same, Marines start moving equipment into the Navy Annex, and maintenance crews set up portable air conditioners and exhaust fans for the Navy’s new command center there. It is decided that, due to the fear of another attack, only mission-essential personnel may enter the building. [Naval Historical Center, 12/21/2001; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 133] While some Navy staffs will be able to promptly return to their spaces at the Pentagon, others have to temporarily move to offices at locations that, as well as the Navy Annex, include the Washington Navy Yard and Northern Virginia’s Crystal City office complex. [Navy Times, 10/1/2001]
President Bush takes part in a video teleconference at Offutt Air Force Base. Chief of Staff Andrew Card sits on his left, and Admiral Richard Mies sits on his left.
[Source: White House]At Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, President Bush convenes the first meeting of the National Security Council since the attacks occurred. [Woodward, 2002, pp. 26] He begins the video conference call from a bunker beneath the base. He and Chief of Staff Andrew Card visually communicate directly with Vice President Cheney, National Security Adviser Rice, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, CIA Director Tenet, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, and others. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; ABC News, 9/11/2002; Washington Times, 10/8/2002] According to Clarke, Bush begins the meeting by saying, “I’m coming back to the White House as soon as the plane is fueled. No discussion.” But according to Condoleezza Rice, he begins with the words, “We’re at war.” Clarke leads a quick review of what has already occurred, and issues that need to be quickly addressed. Bush asks CIA Director Tenet who he thinks is responsible for the day’s attacks. Tenet later recalls, “I told him the same thing I had told the vice president several hours earlier: al-Qaeda. The whole operation looked, smelled, and tasted like bin Laden.” Tenet tells Bush that passenger manifests show that three known al-Qaeda operatives had been on Flight 77. According to Tenet, when he tells the president in particular about Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar (two of the alleged Flight 77 hijackers), Bush gives Mike Morell, his CIA briefer, “one of those ‘I thought I was supposed to be the first to know’ looks.” (Other evidence indicates the third al-Qaeda operative whose name is on the passenger manifest would be Salem Alhazmi (see 9:53 p.m. September 11, 2001).) Tenet tells the meeting that al-Qaeda is “the only terrorist organization capable of such spectacular, well-coordinated attacks,” and that “Intelligence monitoring had overheard a number of known bin Laden operatives congratulating each other after the attacks. Information collected days earlier but only now being translated indicated that various known operatives around the world anticipated a big event. None specified the day, time, place or method of attack.” Richard Clarke later corroborates that Tenet had at this time told the president he was certain that al-Qaeda was to blame. Yet only six weeks later, in an October 24, 2001 interview, Rice will claim differently. She will say, “In the first video conference, the assumption that everybody kind of shared was that it was global terrorists.… I don’t believe anybody said this is likely al-Qaeda. I don’t think so.” Tenet also relays a warning the CIA has received from French intelligence, saying another group of terrorists is within US borders and is preparing a second wave of attacks. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld briefs on the status of US forces, and states that about 120 fighters are now above US cities. [Woodward, 2002, pp. 26-27; Clarke, 2004, pp. 21-22; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326 and 554; Tenet, 2007, pp. 169] The meeting reportedly ends around 4:00-4:15 p.m. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Washington Times, 10/8/2002]
Entity Tags: Norman Mineta, Osama bin Laden, Richard Armitage, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Richard A. Clarke, National Security Council, George W. Bush, George J. Tenet, Donald Rumsfeld, Andrew Card, Al-Qaeda, Condoleezza Rice
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
A US Airways airliner. [Source: Public domain]A US Airways plane that is flying to the United States from Madrid, Spain, is incorrectly suspected of being hijacked. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; White House, 10/24/2001] It is stated over an FAA teleconference that the White House has reported this suspicious aircraft, which is heading to Philadelphia International Airport, and the military is scrambling fighter jets in response to it. [Federal Aviation Administration, 1/2/2002 ] NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) was alerted to the plane by US Customs and the FBI, according to a NORAD representative on the Pentagon’s air threat conference call (see 9:37 a.m.-9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). NORAD has been unable to locate the aircraft on radar, according to the NORAD representative. [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001] Accounts conflict over whether the plane is US Airways Flight 930 or Flight 937. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 1/2/2002 ]
Plane Is Reportedly Transmitting the Hijack Signal - Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, who is in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, will later recall that when those in the PEOC learn of the suspect flight, “we got word that it was only 30 minutes or so outside of US airspace.” According to Libby, the plane’s transponder is transmitting the code for a hijacking: He will say it is reported that the flight has been “showing hijacking through some electronic signal.” [White House, 11/14/2001] However, according to the NORAD representative on the air threat conference call, the plane’s transponder has not been “squawking” the code for a hijacking. “We do not have squawk indication at this point,” he has said.
Plane Is Reportedly Diverted to Pittsburgh - An FAA representative on the air threat conference call apparently says an e-mail has been sent from the suspicious aircraft, stating that the plane is being diverted to Pittsburgh, although the FAA representative’s communications are distorted and therefore unclear. [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001]
President Says Fighters Can Shoot Down the Plane - President Bush discusses the suspicious US Airways flight with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld over the air threat conference call after landing at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001) and Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR), listens in. [Filson, 2003, pp. 87-88] Rumsfeld wants Bush to confirm that fighters are authorized to shoot down the plane if it is considered a threat to a city in the US. “The reason I called… was just to verify that your authorization for the use of force would apply as well in this situation,” he says. Bush replies, “It does, but let us make sure that the fighters and you on the ground get all the facts.” [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001]
Plane Is on the Ground in Spain - After a time, it will be found that the plane is not a threat and is on the ground in Spain. Arnold will be called by Colonel Robert Marr, the battle commander at NEADS, and told, “We just talked to the airline and that aircraft is back on the ground in Madrid.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 88] According to Libby, “It turned out that, I think, it was only 35 minutes out of Spanish airspace, not out of our airspace.” [White House, 11/14/2001] Reggie Settles, the FAA representative at NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center in Colorado, will be informed by US Airways that Flight 937 in fact never existed. However, he will be told, there is a US Airways Flight 911, which “took off from Madrid,” but “has turned back and returned to Madrid,” and “is not en route to the United States.” [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001]
President Decides to Leave Offutt after the Concerns Are Resolved - After he learns that the suspicious plane is back in Spain, Arnold will pick up the hot line and tell Bush: “Mr. President, this is the CONR commander.… No problem with Madrid.” According to Arnold, Bush will reply, “Okay, then I’m getting airborne.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 88] Bush will take off from Offutt aboard Air Force One at around 4:30 p.m. (see (4:33 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/12/2001] Numerous aircraft are incorrectly suspected of being hijacked on this day (see (9:09 a.m. and After) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 28; Newhouse News Service, 3/31/2005] The US Airways flight from Madrid is the last of these, according to Arnold. [Code One Magazine, 1/2002]
Entity Tags: Larry Arnold, Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, North American Aerospace Defense Command, US Airways, Robert Marr, Reggie Settles, White House, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Northeast Air Defense Sector, US Customs Service
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Ben Sliney, the national operations manager at the FAA’s Herndon Command Center, announces that the last of the aircraft inbound to the United States has landed. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 279] At 10:21 a.m., the FAA ordered the diversion of all international flights inbound to the US (see 10:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). Most flights that were close to US shores then headed for Canada, while other flights headed back to the airports they had come from. [Time, 9/14/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002 ] In total, 239 diverted aircraft have landed at Canadian airports. Most of them had been heading to the US from Europe. [NAV Canada, 7/22/2005]
A Boeing 757 takes off from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, to fly a group of reporters, congressmen, White House staffers, and Secret Service agents to Washington, DC. [Salon, 9/12/2001; Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/2001; Rove, 2010, pp. 259; National Journal, 5/3/2011] The group consists of individuals considered nonessential passengers that had been traveling on Air Force One, whom members of President Bush’s staff decided to leave behind when the president’s plane departed from Barksdale (see (1:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). It includes eight reporters, two congressmen, numerous White House staffers, and several Secret Service agents. After Air Force One took off from the base earlier in the afternoon to fly the president to his next destination (see 1:37 p.m. September 11, 2001), these individuals were escorted to a building, where they remained until the plane arrived for them. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/2001; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 145] Blake Gottesman, Bush’s personal assistant, who was among those left behind at Barksdale, was given the task of getting the group back to Washington. He has been able to commandeer a Boeing 757 from the Air Force’s Special Missions Fleet. [Rove, 2010, pp. 259] This plane was sent from Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, to Barksdale. [Rochester Review, 9/2004] It is painted with the “United States of America” label, and has an office, a private cabin, and all-first class seats. It has in fact been used previously as Air Force One. [USA Today, 9/11/2001] About two hours after the president and his entourage left Barksdale, the plane takes off from the base with the group of former Air Force One passengers on board. [Newseum et al., 2002, pp. 165] It lands at Andrews Air Force Base around 5:00 p.m. [Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/2001; National Journal, 5/3/2011] Reuters correspondent Arshad Mohammed, who is on the plane, will later comment, “It’s sort of amazing that they got us back to DC that same day when planes were locked down all over the country.” [Newseum et al., 2002, pp. 165]
Yaron Shmuel, one of the five Israelis found in the van. [Source: Public domain via Israeli television]The FBI issues a BOLO (be on lookout) bulletin for three suspicious men who were seen leaving the New Jersey waterfront minutes after the first hijacked plane hit the WTC (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). Law enforcement officers in the greater New York City area are warned in a radio dispatch to watch for a “vehicle possibly related to New York terrorist attack.” The bulletin reads, in part: “White, 2000 Chevrolet van…with ‘Urban Moving Systems’ sign on back seen at Liberty State Park, Jersey City, NJ, at the time of first impact of jetliner into World Trade Center…. Three individuals with van were seen celebrating after initial impact and subsequent explosion. FBI Newark Field Office requests that, if the van is located, hold for prints and detain individuals.” The van is located a short time later and five men inside it are arrested (see 3:56 p.m. September 11, 2001). [CounterPunch, 2/7/2007]
Robert J. Darling. [Source: Robert J. Darling]Government and military officials in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House learn that the FBI’s crisis response team wants to be flown from California back to Washington, DC, and, because of the team’s crucial role in responding to terrorism, they arrange a flight for it as a matter of priority. [Darling, 2010, pp. 73-75] The FBI’s Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG) arrived in California the previous day for a week of field training (see September 10, 2001) and was therefore stranded away from Washington when the terrorist attacks occurred this morning (see 10:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [NBC 4, 9/11/2001; Darling, 2010, pp. 75]
FBI San Francisco Office Arranges to Get Team to Washington - Two agents belonging to the CIRG learned of the attacks when the FBI’s San Francisco field office phoned them just before 9:00 a.m. (Eastern time) and alerted them to the events in New York. The agents quickly went to the field office, where Bruce Gebhardt, the special agent in charge, gave them the details of what had happened, and told them to get their team together and head to the San Francisco airport. Gebhardt said that although US airspace was closed to all commercial air traffic (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he would do what he could to get the CIRG transported back to Washington as soon as possible. The team members therefore packed their gear and went to the airport. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 8/18/2004; Darling, 2010, pp. 75-76]
Transporting Unit Home Becomes 'Priority' at White House - In the PEOC, Colonel Michael Irwin, the director of operations for the White House Military Office, is called by a senior member of the FBI, who requests airlift support for the CIRG. The request is quickly passed to Joe Hagin, the White House deputy chief of staff. Hagin hands it back to Irwin and says: “I want you to get these folks back to DC immediately! Let the military know this is a White House priority.” The task of getting the CIRG back to Washington is then passed to Major Robert Darling, the White House Military Office airlift operations liaison officer, who is also in the PEOC. It becomes his “number-one mission priority.” The CIRG is the unit that coordinates the FBI’s rapid response to crisis incidents, including terrorist attacks. Therefore, “It made perfect sense,” Darling will later comment, “that the president would want them home and at the ready, given the day’s events.”
United Airlines Offers to Provide Aircraft - After learning that the FBI has essential personnel trying to return to Washington, United Airlines quickly offers its services. If the White House can authorize an aircraft to fly under the Special Assignment Air Mission designator, the airline says, it will provide the required aircraft and crew immediately. With the approval of Hagin and a phone call to NORAD, United Airlines Flight 8811 is authorized to transport the CIRG back to Washington. “Within the hour” of this authorization being given, according to Darling, the CIRG members will take off from San Francisco and head back to Washington (see Late Afternoon September 11, 2001). [Darling, 2010, pp. 73-76]
White House adviser Karen Hughes briefly speaks to the media and says President Bush is at an undisclosed location, taking part in a video conference. This is possibly the only in-person media appearance by any Bush administration official since the attacks and until a news conference by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld at 6:40 p.m. [CNN, 9/12/2001]
The white van used by five Israeli agents as they were leaving New York on 9/11.Five Israelis are arrested for “puzzling behavior” related to the WTC attacks. Shortly after an FBI lookout bulletin was issued for a van with the words “Urban Moving Systems” written on the side, officers with the East Rutherford Police Department in New Jersey stop the van after matching the license plate number with the one given in the bulletin. According to the police report, Officer Scott DeCarlo and Sgt. Dennis Rivelli approach the van and demand the driver exit the vehicle. The driver, Sivan Kurzberg, does not obey after being asked several more times, so the police physically remove Kurzberg and four other men from the van and handcuff them. They have not been told the reasons for their arrest, but Kurzberg tells them, “We are Israeli. We are not your problem. Your problems are our problems. The Palestinians are the problem.” Again before the police have made any mention of the 9/11 attacks, another one of the arrested men says, “[W]e were on the West Side Highway in New York City during the incident.” In fact, it will later be determined they were on the roof of a building at Liberty State Park, watching and videotaping the first crash into the WTC (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Bergen Record, 9/12/2001; Ha'aretz, 9/17/2001; CounterPunch, 2/7/2007] The FBI and additional police quickly arrive. They shut down the section of Route 3 in East Rutherford where the van was stopped and evacuate a nearby hotel as a security precaution. [Bergen Record, 9/12/2001] One man is found with $4,700 in cash hidden in his sock, another has two foreign passports on him, and a box cutter is found in the van. [ABC News, 6/21/2002] Another has pictures of the men standing with the burning wreckage of the WTC in the background. [Forward, 3/15/2002] All five identify themselves as Israeli citizens and claim to be working for the New Jersey-based Urban Moving Systems company. In addition to the driver Sivan Kurzberg, the others are identified as Paul Kurzberg (Sivan’s brother), Oded Ellner, Omer Marmari, and Yaron Shmuel. The men are detained but not charged. [Forward, 3/15/2002; ABC News, 6/21/2002] The next day it will be reported that “bomb-sniffing dogs reacted as if they had detected explosives.” An investigator high up in the Bergen County law enforcement hierarchy will say in 2006, “There are maps of the city in the car with certain places highlighted…. It looked like they’re hooked in with this [referring to the 9/11 attacks]. It looked like they knew what was going to happen.…It looked like they knew what was going to happen when they were at Liberty State Park.” [Bergen Record, 9/12/2001] The FBI will later conclude at least two of the five are Mossad agents and that all were on a Mossad surveillance mission. The FBI interrogates them for weeks. [Forward, 3/15/2002] They are held on immigration violation charges, but will be released 71 days later (see November 20, 2001). [ABC News, 6/21/2002]
Entity Tags: Yaron Shmuel, Sivan Kurzberg, Urban Moving Systems, World Trade Center, Paul Kurzberg, Scott DeCarlo, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Dennis Rivelli, Omer Marmari, Oded Ellner, Israel Institute for Intelligence and Special Tasks (Mossad)
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
While President Bush is conducting a video conference with his principal advisers from a bunker beneath Offutt Air Force Base (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001), most of the people accompanying him are waiting in a conference room across the hallway. Among this group is Bush’s senior adviser Karl Rove. Rove later claims that, around this time, there are rumors that more planes remain unaccounted for. He says that, while “they’ve accounted for all four [hijacked] planes,” there are still concerns that “they’ve got another, I think, three or four or five planes still outstanding.” [New Yorker, 9/25/2001] However, according to the FAA, there are no such reports, and the White House and Pentagon had been quickly informed when US skies were completely cleared at 12:16 p.m. White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett later says he does not know from where Rove got the information about the additional unaccounted-for planes. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004] But according to tapes of the operations floor at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector later obtained by Vanity Fair, “False reports of hijackings, and real responses, continue well into the afternoon, though civilian air-traffic controllers had managed to clear the skies of all commercial and private aircraft by just after 12 p.m.” (See 10:15 a.m. and After September 11, 2001). [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] Despite the Secret Service’s advice that he should remain at Offutt, the president announces around this time that he is returning to Washington (see (4:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001).
Within hours of the 9/11 attacks, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, Alec Station, is tasked to come up with actions that can be taken immediately to strike back at al-Qaeda. According to Michael Scheuer, the first head of Alec Station, one of the most promising ideas considered is to ask other countries to raid Islamist charity fronts and seize computers and documents. Scheuer will later assert that the “suggested raids would have netted far more relevant data on how the [charity front-al-Qaeda link] worked than we ever had before.” However, he claims the White House rejects the idea because of concerns that it would offend Muslim popular opinion. [Scheuer, 2008, pp. 306]
Later in the day of 9/11, weapons are found planted on board three US airplanes. A US official will say, “These look like inside jobs.” Time magazine will later report, “Sources tell Time that US officials are investigating whether the hijackers had accomplices deep inside the airports’ ‘secure’ areas.” [Time, 9/22/2001] Penetrating airport security does not appear to have been that difficult: Argenbright, the company in charge of security at all the airports used by the hijackers, had virtually no security check on any of its employees, and even hired criminals and illegal immigrants. Security appears to be particularly abysmal at Boston’s Logan Airport, even after 9/11. [Boston Globe, 10/1/2001; CNN, 10/12/2001] An FAA official had similar concerns about two other security contractors at Logan Airport: Huntleigh USA, a subsidiary of ICTS International NV, a large Israeli security company, and Globe Aviation. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Christian Science Monitor, 1/8/2002; 9/11 Commission, 3/11/2004, pp. 6 ]
Van Harp. [Source: US Department of Defense]Van Harp, the head of the FBI’s Washington, DC, field office, is away from the capital in South Carolina for his summer vacation, and has to be flown back to Washington in an FBI plane to help respond to the terrorist attacks. [Washington Post, 3/4/2002; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C45, C47 ; 9/11 Commission, 12/15/2003 ] Harp took command of the Washington field office (WFO) as its new assistant director in charge in July this year. [Washington Post, 4/18/2003; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2010] But on this day he is in Hilton Head, South Carolina, on vacation with his wife, children, and grandchildren. He learned of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center when his secretary, Donna Cummings, paged him shortly after the attack occurred. Harp then called Cummings and she told him what had happened. He switched on the television in time to see the second plane crashing into the WTC, and had known then that he needed to return to Washington.
FBI Granted Permission to Send Plane to Collect Harp - Because all planes have been grounded across the US (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001), the FBI initially arranged for state troopers in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia to drive Harp back to Washington. But the bureau was then able to get special permission from the FAA to send an aircraft to fly Harp home. [Kessler, 2002, pp. 424; Washington Post, 3/4/2002; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C47 ] The FBI therefore sent one of its aircraft to collect Harp from Hilton Head Airport. The small, single-engine plane received clearance to take off from Manassas Regional Airport, 30 miles west of Washington, at around 2:30 p.m. The time when it lands in Hilton Head is unstated, as is the time when it lands back at the Manassas airport. From the Manassas airport, Harp drives to an FBI command post at Washington Dulles International Airport and then arrives at the WFO sometime later in the afternoon. He will stay at the field office until 2:20 a.m. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; Kessler, 2002, pp. 424; Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002, pp. G-2, S-41 ]
Three of Office's Four Leaders Absent - The WFO is the second largest of the FBI’s 56 field offices in terms of staffing. It comprises 657 agents and 650 professional support staff. Serving under Harp, three special agents in charge (SACs) direct the office’s administrative and technical, criminal investigations, and national security divisions. However, of the WFO’s four senior leaders, only SAC Arthur Eberhart, the head of the administrative and technical division, was present at the office when the terrorist attacks took place. SAC Ellen Knowlton, who headed the criminal investigative division, was recently reassigned to FBI headquarters, and so her position is currently vacant. SAC Timothy Bereznay was only recently appointed to head the national security division, and so he has not yet reported to the WFO. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C3, C45 ; 9/11 Commission, 12/15/2003 ; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 4/6/2006] The WFO will be one of the key FBI offices involved in the fight against terrorism following the 9/11 attacks. [Washington Post, 4/18/2003]
CNN reports US officials say there are “good indications” that Osama bin Laden is involved in the attacks, based on “new and specific” information developed since the attacks. [CNN, 9/12/2001]
Brian Stafford. [Source: Publicity photo]President Bush reportedly had begun his video conference call with the National Security Council (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001) by announcing, “I’m coming back to the White House as soon as the plane is fueled. No discussion.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 21] Toward the end of this meeting, around 4 p.m., Secret Service Director Brian Stafford tells Bush, “Our position is stay where you are. It’s not safe.” The Secret Service reportedly wants to keep the president where he is, at Offutt Air Force Base, overnight, and—according to some later accounts—indefinitely. To Stafford’s surprise, Bush ignores his advice and tells him, “I’m coming back.” Leaving the meeting, Bush tells his staff, “We’re going home.” [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 123; Woodward, 2002, pp. 28] Bush adviser Karl Rove later claims that, around this time, there are concerns that several planes still remain unaccounted for (see (4:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001).
Building 7 of the World Trade Center, located across the street from the Twin Towers, caught fire after the initial attacks on the WTC. [CNN, 9/12/2001] By 4:10 in the afternoon, CNN had reported it being on fire (see 4:10 p.m. September 11, 2001). Subsequently it is reported that WTC 7 is in danger of collapsing or may have already collapsed. At around 4:15 p.m., CNN reports, “We’re getting information that one of the other buildings… Building 7… is on fire and has either collapsed or is collapsing… now we’re told there is a fire there and that the building may collapse as well.” About 12 minutes later, BBC reporter Greg Barrow, who is in New York, appears on the BBC radio channel Five Live and says, “We are hearing reports from local media that another building may have caught light and is in danger of collapse.” He adds, “I’m not sure if it has yet collapsed but the report we have is talking about Building 7.” Around this time, the area around Building 7 is being evacuated, apparently because senior firefighters have determined it is in danger of collapsing (see (4:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). At 4:53, based on the earlier reports, the Radio Five Live show’s presenter will incorrectly claim that Building 7 has already collapsed, saying, “Twenty-five minutes ago we had reports from Greg Barrow that another large building has collapsed just over an hour ago.” [BBC, 3/2/2007] Starting at 4:54, BBC television will also begin reporting that Building 7 has already collapsed (see 4:54 p.m.-5:10 p.m. September 11, 2001). In fact, it does not do so until 5:20 (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001).
Fred Simms. [Source: Con Edison]After the fire department informs it that Building 7 of the World Trade Center could collapse, New York power company Con Edison shuts off power to this building. [9/11 Commission, 2/26/2004 ] Con Edison has a major electrical substation on the first and second floors of WTC 7. [New York Times, 9/11/2002; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 5] Its representatives who had been in WTC 7 did not think that the building would come down. But, at 4:15 p.m., Con Edison emergency field manager Fred Simms speaks to the New York Fire Department and then tells his company’s headquarters that the fire department thinks WTC 7 will collapse. The fire department then asks Con Edison to shut down the power to WTC 7, which it does. [City of New York, 6/13/2002; 9/11 Commission, 2/26/2004 ] Electric power to Con Edison’s lower Manhattan substation at WTC 7 is shut off at 4:33 p.m. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 303 ] Also around this time, people are evacuated from the area around WTC 7, due to concerns that the building could collapse (see (4:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Kansas City Star, 3/28/2004] WTC 7, a 47-story tower located just to the north of the main WTC complex, will come down at 5:20 p.m. (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. xxxv] The Con Edison electrical substation below it will be destroyed in this collapse. [New York Times, 9/11/2002]
After President Bush leaves his video conference, other top leaders continue to discuss what steps to take. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke asks what to do about al-Qaeda, assuming they are behind the attacks. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage states, “Look, we told the Taliban in no uncertain terms that if this happened, it’s their ass. No difference between the Taliban and al-Qaeda now. They both go down.” Regarding Pakistan, the Taliban’s patrons, Armitage says, “Tell them to get out of the way. We have to eliminate the sanctuary.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 22-23]
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