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Workers involved in the cleanup at Ground Zero find that much of the World Trade Center towers and their contents have been pulverized to dust. Charlie Vitchers, a construction superintendent who oversees the operation, says, “Apart from recoveries, we didn’t find one thing. Nothing. Not even a file cabinet.… As we were working on the pile, people were saying, ‘We’re not finding anything.’” He adds, “We weren’t going to find anything that was made out of wood. But you think we would have found a computer.… We found cell phones. We found shoes. But with regard to furniture, nothing, not a thing, not a desk, not a wall panel.… [F]or the most part there was nothing in the pile of debris that was recognizable.” Crane operator Bobby Gray says, “I don’t remember seeing carpeting or furniture. You’d think a metal file cabinet would make it, but I don’t remember seeing any, or phones, computers, none of that stuff. There were areas where there were no fires, which is not to say that they didn’t experience tremendous heat anyway. But even in areas that never burned we didn’t find anything.” He comments, “It was just so hard to comprehend that everything could have been pulverized to that extent. How do you pulverize carpet or filing cabinets?” [Stout, Vitchers, and Gray, 2006, pp. 143-144] According to Greg Meeker of the US Geological Survey, “Six million sq ft of masonry, 5 million sq ft of painted surfaces, 7 million sq ft of flooring, 600,000 sq ft of window glass, 200 elevators, and everything inside came down as dust” when the towers collapsed. “The only thing that didn’t get pulverized was the WTC towers’ 200,000 tons of structural steel.” [Chemical and Engineering News, 10/20/2003] Some people will later claim that this complete pulverization of the WTC is evidence of the towers having been brought down deliberately, using explosives. [Griffin, 2004, pp. 26; Griffin and Scott, 2006, pp. 46-47]
The White House’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) dictates the content of EPA press releases to the EPA’s Public Information Officer in a series of emails. “100 percent of what CEQ added was added: 100 percent of what CEQ deleted was deleted,” an internal EPA investigation will later report. [Jenkins, 7/4/2003 ]
Firefighting operations at the Pentagon are disrupted when the crash site there is evacuated in response to a report of an approaching unidentified plane. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A16 and A30 ; Fire Engineering, 11/2002] Air traffic controllers at Washington’s Reagan National Airport have noticed an aircraft on their radar scopes that is not identifying itself and is flying fast up the Potomac River. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 333] They notify the Arlington County Emergency Communications Center, which passes the information on to Assistant Fire Chief James Schwartz, the incident commander at the Pentagon, and he orders the evacuation. Firefighters have to abandon their operations and run several hundred yards to protected areas. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A16 and C52 ] The unidentified aircraft is soon determined to be “friendly,” and firefighters then return to work. [Fire Engineering, 11/2002; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 335] The plane was a government aircraft with FEMA Director Joseph Allbaugh on board. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A30 and C52 ] The Pentagon was similarly evacuated two times on September 11, due to false alarms over reports of unidentified aircraft heading for Washington (see (10:15 a.m.-10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (2:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Fire Engineering, 11/2002]
A map of the Flight 93 debris field. [Source: Pittsburgh Tribune- Review]Investigators say they have found debris from the Flight 93 crash far from the main crash site. A second debris field centers around Indian Lake about three miles from the crash scene, where eyewitnesses report seeing falling debris only moments after the crash. More debris is found in New Baltimore, some eight miles away. Later in the day, the investigators say all that debris likely was blown there. [CNN, 9/13/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/13/2001] Another debris field is found six miles away, and human remains are found miles away. State police and the FBI have cordoned off an area where there is plane debris, about six to eight miles from the main crash site. After all of this is discovered, the FBI still “stresses” that “no evidence [has] surfaced” to support the idea that the plane was shot down. [CNN, 9/13/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/13/2001] A half-ton piece of one of the engines is found 2,000 yards away from the main crash site. This was the single heaviest piece recovered from the crash. [Philadelphia Daily News, 12/28/2001; Independent, 8/13/2002] Days later, the FBI says the wide debris field was probably the result of the explosion on impact. The Independent nevertheless later cites the wide debris field as one of many reasons why widespread rumors remain that the plane was shot down. [Independent, 9/20/2001]
Flight 93’s flight data recorder, found at the crash site in Shanksville. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]Around 4:50 p.m. on September 13, investigators discover the flight data recorder from Flight 93, one of the plane’s two “black boxes.” It is buried about 15 feet down in the main crater at the crash site, near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Around 8:25 p.m. the following evening, the other ‘black box’—the plane’s cockpit voice recorder—is found about 25 feet below ground in roughly the same spot. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/13/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/15/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 217] The flight data recorder monitors airplane functions like its speed and altitude, while the cockpit voice recorder picks up conversations in the plane’s cockpit. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/14/2001] Both are mounted in a plane’s tail. They are encased in very strong materials, like titanium, and insulated so as to withstand a crash impact. [BBC, 9/15/2001] Wells Morrison, the FBI’s second in command at the Flight 93 crash scene, later comments, “It was strange. The black boxes are right next to each other on the aircraft, but one was found thirteen feet deeper into the crater than the other.… We were surprised, quite honestly, that we didn’t find them sooner.” [Kashurba, 2002, pp. 109 and 115] The cockpit voice recorder is sent to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in Washington, and then on to its manufacturer, Honeywell, to try to extract information from it. [CBS News, 9/16/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 11/4/2001] It is supposedly the only one from the four hijacked flights to have survived the crash impact and ensuing fire. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 456] In April 2002, the 31-minute recording from it is played in private to victims’ relatives (see April 18, 2002). It will be played in public for the first time in April 2006, during the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui (see April 12, 2006). [CNN, 4/13/2006]
Robert Green, head of the AVIRIS program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, informs Roger Clark, the astrophysicist who heads the US Geological Survey (USGS)‘s portion of the AVIRIS program in Denver, that NASA will permit the USGS team to use AVIRIS in an attempt to determine the chemical composition of the dust and debris that resulted from the collapse of the World Trade Center (see September 12, 2001). The crew will mount the unit to a de Havilland Twin Otter prop plane owned by NASA, which will make several passes over the WTC and surrounding area. “The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy… signed off on the flight. And the Air Force [has] agreed not to shoot the Twin Otter down,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch will later report. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/2002]
EPA Administrator Christie Whitman announces that the EPA is monitoring levels of airborne contaminants in and around the area of Manhattan. She says that samples so far are “reassuring about potential exposure of rescue crews and the public to environmental contaminants.” The tests “found either no asbestos or very low levels of asbestos.” In Brooklyn, which is directly in the WTC smoke plume’s path (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001), she says that “levels of lead, asbestos and volatile organic compounds in air samples… were not detectable or not of concern.” [Environmental Protection Agency, 9/13/2001] However, her statements contradict results from transmission electron microscopy (TEM) tests that were conducted the previous day (see (September 12, 2001)).
The New York City Department of Health (DOH) issues its second alert since the fall of the towers. The update, titled, “Terrorist Attack at the World Trade Center in New York City: Medical and Public Health Issues of Urgent Concern,” warns the Manhattan public: “Asbestos was used in the construction of the World Trade Center. Tests performed indicate that asbestos may be present in an area marked by Worth St. to the North, Centre and Nassau Sts. to the East, and Exchange and Thames Sts. to the South.” [New York City Department of Health, 9/13/2001] The DOH report goes on to say that the “health risk posed by a single exposure of short duration is very low” and that the “risk to persons who have not been present in the affected area following the disaster is also thought to be extremely low.” [New York City Department of Health, 9/13/2001]
Late in the evening of September 13, 2001, search and rescue operations at the Pentagon have to be temporarily suspended when—after firefighters thought they had the crash site under control—a sizeable fire breaks out, sending smoke hundreds of feet into the air. [CNN, 9/13/2001; Associated Press, 9/14/2001; CNN, 9/14/2001; NPR, 9/14/2001] The fire erupts in the pile of debris at the impact area where the aircraft hit the Pentagon, and is apparently caused by a “hot spot” that reignited. Fire commanders had been concerned about the smoke coming from the pile earlier in the evening, yet there is no engine available to extinguish any fire. There was an engine by the pile all through the day, but this left at the end of the day shift. Because of tightened security, the engine due to replace it is taking longer than usual to arrive. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 389 and 393] The order goes out: “We need everybody to evacuate. The building is on fire again.” Firefighters and workers for agencies such as the FBI and FEMA evacuate, either to the lawn in front of the crash site or the Pentagon’s center courtyard. Yet the fire appears to be contained in the rubble pile, with little danger of spreading. One worker questions: “So why are they stopping us? Why can’t we keep working?” [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 393-394 and 400-401] Eventually, a fire truck arrives to tackle the blaze. About two hours after it first flared up, the fire is out and recovery workers can continue their activities. [CNN, 9/14/2001; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 394-395 and 401] Firefighting and other rescue operations were also significantly disrupted three times during September 11-12, due to false alarms over unidentified aircraft approaching Washington (see (10:15 a.m.-10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (2:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001, and (10:00 a.m.) September 12, 2001). [Fire Engineering, 11/2002]
EPA administrator Christie Whitman recommends that New Yorkers who evacuated their homes after the collapse of the World Trade Center “vacuum everything, including air conditioning filters, and wipe all surfaces with a damp cloth,” Newsweek reports. [Newsweek, 9/14/2001; Jenkins, 7/4/2003 ] The recommendation is made despite two studies completed for the EPA in 1993 demonstrating that HEPA vacuums do not effectively remove asbestos from carpets and upholstery (see 1993) and that vacuuming actually increases asbestos levels in the air during use (see 1993).
Phillip Landrigan, chairman of the Department of Community and Preventive Medicine at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, and a leading expert on occupational diseases, tells the Minnesota Star Tribune that acute exposure to dust and soot could cause bronchitis, eye injuries and asthma-like breathing difficulties in the short term. Landrigan says that workers who inhale the dust increase their risk of developing life-threatening asbestos-related lung diseases, like mesothelioma, an incurable cancer. [Star Tribune (Minneapolis), 9/14/2001]
A fact sheet issued by the New York City Department of Health states that dust and ash from the WTC collapse contains “trace amounts of asbestos” and denies that short term exposure poses a health risk. “Based on the asbestos test results received thus far, the general public’s risk for any short or long term adverse health affects are extremely low,” the notice claims. [New York City Department of Health, 9/22/2001]
At the Flight 93 crash site, an excavator digs through the soil where the plane impacted. [St. Anthony Messenger, 9/6/2006] It takes scoops of dirt and dumps them into a high-lift bucket, which takes the dirt to a flagged off area and slowly dumps it there. A couple of FBI men then search through it with their hands. Occasionally, the excavator digs into a “hot spot” in the earth, causing a small fire. The Shanksville Volunteer Fire Department has to be called in to extinguish these fires. [Kashurba, 2002, pp. 56 and 128] The cause of the ‘hot spots’ is unknown.
EPA spokeswoman Bonnie Bellow says, “There’s nothing at this point that indicates that business can’t resume” in the Wall Street area on Monday as scheduled. [Newsday, 9/15/2001 ]
US Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy G. Thompson announces after meetings in New York with NY State Governor George Pataki and NYC Mayor Rudolph Giuliani that the CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) will send 35 EIS officers to New York hospitals to assist “health officials and physicians monitor diseases, conduct a medical and health needs assessment, identify existing health problems, such as dust or allergic reactions, determine if there are new medical needs, and if already deployed resources are better used elsewhere.” [US Department of Health and Human Services, 9/14/2001]
The New York City Department of Environmental Protection recommends in a memo to building owners in Lower Manhattan that they use the polarized light microscopy (PLM) method to determine the asbestos contamination level in their buildings instead of transmission electron microscopy (TEM) which is far more accurate (see November 20, 1990). [Wall Street Journal, 5/9/2002 ]
Flight 77’s damaged cockpit voice recorder. [Source: FBI]At around 3:40 a.m., investigators at the Pentagon recover the two “black boxes” from Flight 77. [Washington Times, 9/14/2001] These boxes are the plane’s flight data recorder and its cockpit voice recorder. [BBC, 9/15/2001] Some news reports claim they are found by two Fairfax County firefighters, Carlton Burkhammer and Brian Moravitz, as they comb through debris near the impact site. [Washington Post, 9/19/2001; Newsweek, 9/28/2001] But according to Arlington County spokesman Dick Bridges, members of the FBI’s evidence response team find them. [PBS, 9/14/2001; Washington Post, 9/14/2001] Authors Patrick Creed and Rick Newman will later clarify that Burkhammer and Moravitz find an object initially believed to be one of the black boxes, but closer inspection reveals it to be just “a charred chunk of machinery.” Subsequently, FBI photographer Jennifer Hill finds the cockpit voice recorder in a stack of rubble while assisting searchers. Thirty minutes later, a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) expert locates the flight data recorder in the same area. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 396-397 and 400-402] But Allyn Kilsheimer, a structural engineer who helps coordinate the emergency response at the Pentagon, later claims he had “found the black box,” which, he says, he had “stepped on… by accident.” [GW Magazine, 3/2002; Popular Mechanics, 3/2005] Washington FBI agent Christopher Combs says, “Somebody almost threw [the black boxes] away because they didn’t know what they looked like.” [Disaster News Network, 10/30/2002]
Conflicting Accounts of Where Boxes Are Found - According to Dick Bridges, the two recorders are discovered “right where the plane came into the building.” [Associated Press, 9/14/2001] But the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Pentagon Building Performance Report, released in 2003, will claim that the flight data recorder was found “nearly 300 ft into the structure.” [Mlakar et al., 1/2003, pp. 40 ] In Creed and Newman’s account, the recorders are found in the Pentagon’s middle C Ring, near the “punch-out” hole made by the impacting aircraft. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 400-402]
Boxes Taken Away for Analysis - The boxes are taken to the NTSB’s laboratory in Washington, where data is extracted from the flight data recorder, but they are reclaimed by the FBI later on in the morning. [Washington Times, 9/14/2001; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 402] A flight data recorder tracks an airplane’s flight movements for the last 25 hours, while the cockpit voice recorder contains radio transmissions and sounds from the cockpit for the last 30 minutes of its flight. Both are mounted in the tail of an aircraft and are encased in very strong materials like titanium. According to American Airlines and United Airlines, the black boxes aboard Flight 77 and the other hijacked planes were modern solid-state versions, which are more resistant to damage than older magnetic tape recorders. [Associated Press, 9/15/2001; BBC, 9/15/2001] FBI Director Robert Mueller later says that Flight 77’s data recorder has provided altitude, speed, and other information about the flight, but the voice recorder contained “nothing useful.” [CBS News, 2/25/2002] The 9/11 Commission will describe the cockpit voice recorder as being “badly burned and not recoverable.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 456] According to CBS News, preliminary information shows that the cockpit voice tape “appears to be blank or erased.” [CBS News, 9/16/2001] The two black boxes from Flight 93 are also recovered around this time (see September 13-14, 2001).
President Bush issues a proclamation declaring, “A national emergency exists by reason of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, New York, New York, and the Pentagon, and the continuing and immediate threat of further attacks on the United States.” The national emergency, he states, has existed since September 11. [US President, 9/17/2001] In furtherance of this proclamation, he authorizes the Pentagon to call up 50,000 reservists to active duty for homeland defense and recovery missions. [CNN, 9/14/2001; Associated Press, 9/15/2001; US President, 9/17/2001] On September 12, 2002, Bush will announce that, “[b]ecause the terrorist threat continues,” this national emergency will continue for an additional year. [US President, 9/16/2002] It will be renewed again in the years up to and including 2008 (see August 28, 2008), which is Bush’s last full year in office. [White House, 9/10/2004; White House, 9/8/2005; White House, 9/5/2006; White House, 9/12/2007; White House, 8/28/2008]
CBS News announces that “contrary to early reports, US Air Force jets did get into the air on Tuesday while the attacks were under way.” According to this new account, the first fighters got airborne toward New York City at 8:52 a.m. [CBS News, 9/14/2001] The day before this announcement, acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers in Congressional testimony stated that the first fighters got airborne only after the Pentagon was hit at 9:37 a.m. (see September 13, 2001). [US Congress, 9/13/2001] NORAD spokesman Marine Corps Major Mike Snyder also claimed no fighters launched anywhere until after the Pentagon was hit. [Boston Globe, 9/15/2001] Four days later, the official NORAD timeline is changed to include this new account. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001] New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani later testifies before the 9/11 Commission that he found out from the White House at about 9:58 a.m. that the first fighters were not launched toward New York City until twelve minutes earlier—9:46 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004] This would correspond to Myers’ and Snyder’s accounts that no fighters are scrambled until after the Pentagon is hit. But the 9/11 Commission later agrees with this CBS report and by their account the first fighters launch around 8:52. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
The FAA’s New York Center receives an e-mail, directing it to retain all data and records for September 11, yet one of the center’s managers will later ignore this directive and deliberately destroy a tape on which six of the center’s air traffic controllers recalled their interactions with two of the hijacked aircraft. [New York Times, 5/6/2004; Washington Post, 5/6/2004; Air Safety Week, 5/17/2004]
Directive Intended to Preserve Records - The directive has been issued by the air traffic evaluations and investigations staff at the FAA’s headquarters in Washington, DC. This staff is the FAA’s policy authority on aircraft accident and incident investigations. According to its manager, the intent of the directive is to preserve all voice communications, radar data, and facility records that would have been returned to service after the normal 15-day retention period.
E-mail Says Retain All Records - The directive is communicated to the New York Center in an e-mail from the FAA’s eastern region quality assurance manager. The e-mail states: “Retain and secure until further notice ALL administrative/operational data and records.… If a question arises whether or not you should retain the data, RETAIN IT.” It includes a phone number to call, should the recipients have any questions. [US Department of Transportation, 5/4/2004 ]
Manager Disregards Directive - Both Mike McCormick, the New York Center manager, and Kevin Delaney, the center’s quality assurance manager, who was instructed to tape-record the controllers’ witness accounts on September 11 (see 11:40 a.m. September 11, 2001), receive this e-mail. Yet Delaney does not follow the directive, as he will subsequently destroy the tape with the controllers’ statements on (see Between December 2001 and February 2002). [9/11 Commission, 10/1/2003 ; US Department of Transportation, 5/4/2004 ; Air Safety Week, 5/17/2004]
Two Reasons for Ignoring Directive - Delaney will later give Department of Transportation investigators two reasons why he ignores the directive. Firstly, he will say he did not consider it to apply to the tape of the controllers’ statements, “because he felt the tape had been created in violation of FAA air traffic policy.” Secondly, he will claim the directive “could not have been intended to apply to the tape-recorded statements, since the region and FAA headquarters did not know of the tape’s existence” (see September 12, 2001-October 2003). [US Department of Transportation, 5/4/2004 ] However, Air Safety Week will state that, according to “experienced criminal investigators,” “[w]hether higher authorities were aware or not, [and] whether the tape was a temporary or permanent record, is immaterial.” [Air Safety Week, 5/17/2004]
E Team crisis management software. [Source: Police Magazine]New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is much aided in its recovery efforts at Ground Zero when it starts using a little-known piece of emergency management software, which it only purchased last month and that was originally going to be launched on September 17. [Wall Street Journal, 10/23/2001; Wired News, 11/2/2001] The software, called E Team, helps organizations to “prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters and emergencies of all types.” [California Technology Ventures, 10/16/2001] It was created by E Team Inc., a company based in Canoga Park, California. [e-ProWire, 5/22/2002] The New York City OEM only bought E Team in August (see August 2001). It installed the software on computers in its Emergency Operations Center in World Trade Center Building 7 (WTC 7) and intended to launch the system on September 17. [Wall Street Journal, 10/23/2001; Wired News, 11/2/2001]
Engineers Put Together New System to Manage Recovery Operation - The OEM was in contact with E Team Inc. executives within a few hours of the attacks on the WTC on September 11. [Wall Street Journal, 10/23/2001; e-ProWire, 5/22/2002] E Team Inc. employees reportedly suspected in advance that WTC 7—which housed the computers on which their software was installed—would collapse. Matt Walton, the company’s CEO, will later recall: “We knew that tower number 7 was probably not going to make it. We contacted the [New York City] mayor’s office and told them we would put up the New York databases on our own servers.” [Wired News, 11/2/2001] That night, a group of E Team Inc. engineers gathered at the company’s headquarters in Canoga Park, and put together a system on the company’s servers using data that the New York City OEM had sent to the company to prepare for the launch of the E Team system on September 17. By September 12, the engineers had the system ready for use. [Wall Street Journal, 10/23/2001]
System Goes into Operation at New Command Center - For the first couple of days after 9/11, the OEM had to coordinate its recovery efforts on paper or using e-mail, because its emergency management computer systems were destroyed when WTC 7 collapsed on the afternoon of September 11 (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). An OEM spokesman will comment, “It became apparent that we needed very sophisticated technology to effectively handle the crisis.” [Wired News, 11/2/2001] Then, on September 14, the E Team system goes into operation at the OEM’s temporary command center at Pier 92 on the Hudson River, where several server computers have been set up to run the software and 200 workstations are connected to the system. [Wall Street Journal, 10/23/2001; e-ProWire, 5/22/2002] Troy Armstrong and John Hughes, two senior E Team Inc. employees who are distinguished emergency management professionals, are installed at the temporary command center. They are supplemented with three additional E Team Inc. employees.
System Plays Key Role in Recovery Operation - The main initial uses of E Team in response to the 9/11 attacks are resource management and situation reporting, but over time the system will also be used for incident reporting, asset tracking, action planning, and logistics. [California Technology Ventures, 10/16/2001] E Team tracks everything related to the recovery efforts at Ground Zero. It enables emergency responders to monitor the location of fires, personnel, supplies, and trucks. It also handles resource requests. [Wired News, 11/2/2001; e-ProWire, 5/22/2002] It makes the recovery operation “much more efficient,” according to Lieutenant Colonel John Flanagan of the New York Army National Guard. [Wall Street Journal, 10/23/2001] In total, more than 1,700 individuals from over 200 organizations will use the E Team system at the height of the rescue and recovery efforts. [Council of the City of New York, 8/2002, pp. 22 ]
After Flight 77’s flight data recorder is recovered from the Pentagon wreckage (see September 14, 2001), Fox News reports that investigators say they are getting “good, solid readings” from it. According to this data, “the plane was going 345 miles per hour when it crashed.” [Fox News, 9/15/2001] Firefighters involved in the Pentagon recovery effort are also told the flight data recorder showed Flight 77 was traveling at 345 mph when it hit the Pentagon. [Washington Post, 9/19/2001] However, days later, CBS News reports that it has seen “new radar evidence” pertaining to Flight 77, and quotes unnamed sources describing the plane’s descent toward the Pentagon. CBS says the aircraft had “plowed into the Pentagon at 460 mph.” [CBS News, 9/21/2001] But when the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) publishes its “Flight Path Study” for Flight 77 in February 2002, this gives a significantly higher speed. The NTSB study is “based on information obtained from various sources of recorded radar of the subject aircraft,” along with “information from the flight data recorder.” It states, “The airplane accelerated to approximately 460 knots (530 miles per hour) at impact with the Pentagon.” [National Transportation Safety Board, 2/19/2002, pp. 2 ] The 9/11 Commission will later accept this figure in its final report. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 10 and 455] Yet this is 185 mph faster than the speed earlier claimed to have been revealed by the flight data recorder. The reason for this discrepancy is unknown. All of these alleged speeds are above the Federal Aviation Administration’s speed limit of 287.5 mph for aircraft flying below 10,000 feet. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 2/24/2002]
Thermal hot spots detected by satellite on September 16, 2001. Red and orange indicate the hottest locations. The World Trade Center Twin Towers footprint is in the lower center and the center of World Trade Center Building 7 is in the upper right.
[Source: USGS]In response to requests from the Environmental Protection Agency, through the US Geological Survey, NASA flies a plane over the site of the WTC complex, equipped with a remote sensing instrument called AVIRIS. AVIRIS is able to remotely record the near-infrared signature of heat. Analysis of the data it collects indicates temperatures at Ground Zero of above 800 degrees Fahrenheit, with some areas above 1,300 degrees. On September 16, dozens of “hot spots” are seen, but by September 23, only four or five remain. [US Geological Survey, 11/27/2001; US Geological Survey, 10/2002 ] Robert Shaler, the scientist who leads the forensic examination by the New York City medical examiner’s office to identify 9/11 victims, later will state that the “DNA in the bodies” of WTC victims “was in pretty bad shape. These bones were exposed to extreme temperatures.” [US News and World Report, 12/5/2005] Don Carson, a hazardous materials expert, later will say, “There are pieces of steel being pulled out [of the WTC rubble] that are still cherry red. It’s like the charcoal that you put in your grill.… You light it and it stays hot.” [New York Daily News, 11/1/2001] And Dr. Jonathan Barnett, a member of FEMA’s WTC investigation team, will describe steel members in the debris pile that appear to have been partly evaporated in extremely high temperatures. [New York Times, 11/29/2001] Despite the WTC rubble being pumped with an almost constant jet of water, eventually totaling thousands of gallons, almost 12 weeks after 9/11 at least one fire is still burning, making it the longest-burning structural fire in history. [New Scientist, 12/3/2001; CBS News, 12/19/2001] As well as the hot spots, numerous witnesses describe molten metal being found at Ground Zero (see September 12, 2001-February 2002).
Logo of the New York State Emergency Management Office. [Source: New York State Emergency Management Office]Investigators searching the debris of the collapsed World Trade Center towers are reported to have detected a signal from one of the black boxes from the planes that crashed into the WTC on September 11, although government officials will later say that these two planes’ black boxes were never found. [New York State Emergency Management Office, 9/18/2001 ; Philadelphia Daily News, 10/28/2004] The two “black boxes” carried by all commercial aircraft—the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder—can provide valuable information about why a plane crashed. [CBS News, 2/25/2002; PBS, 2/17/2004] A report published today by the New York State Emergency Management Office states that “[i]nvestigators have identified the signal from one of the black boxes in the WTC debris.” [New York State Emergency Management Office, 9/18/2001 ] Furthermore, a team from the Army’s Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) arrived at Ground Zero on September 13 “and scoped the area using classified signal equipment,” according to Federal Computer Week magazine, and according to Toni Quiroz, chief of the computer networking branch at CECOM, “The team managed to get some signals that could have emanated from the black boxes.” Quiroz will add, however, that “it was never determined if they were the recorders.” [Federal Computer Week, 9/16/2002] But a report published by the New York City Office of Emergency Management on September 25 will state that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been “[u]nable to detect any ‘pinging’ from either ‘black box’” at Ground Zero. [New York City Office of Emergency Management, 9/25/2001 ] A firefighter and a volunteer who are involved in the recovery effort at Ground Zero will say they helped federal agents find three of the four black boxes in the WTC debris (see October 2001). [Swanson, 2003, pp. 108; Philadelphia Daily News, 10/28/2004] But the 9/11 Commission Report will state that the black boxes from the planes that crashed into the WTC “were not found” and the FBI will, in 2004, make the same claim. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 456; Philadelphia Daily News, 10/28/2004]
Dr. Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl examines steel from the World Trade Center. [Source: University of California, Berkeley]An engineer investigating the remains of the World Trade Center sees melted girders and other evidence that the towers experienced extreme temperatures on 9/11. Dr. Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl is a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. He specializes in studying structural damage done by earthquakes and terrorist bombings. [Chronicle of Higher Education, 12/7/2001; CBS News, 3/11/2002] He arrives in New York on September 19 to conduct a two-week scientific reconnaissance of the collapsed towers, hoping to gain an understanding of how they had come down. His project is one of eight financed by the National Science Foundation to study the WTC disaster. [New York Times, 10/2/2001; Berkeleyan, 10/3/2001; US Congress. House. Committee on Science, 3/6/2002] He examines numerous pieces of steel taken from Ground Zero. [Chronicle of Higher Education, 12/7/2001] Astaneh-Asl will describe the WTC as “the best-designed building I have ever seen.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/22/2001] Yet he notices unusual warping and other damage in its remaining steel:
At a recycling center in New Jersey, he sees 10-ton steel beams from the towers that look “like giant sticks of twisted licorice.” [Chronicle of Higher Education, 12/7/2001] He shows the San Francisco Chronicle a “banana-shaped, rust-colored piece of steel” that has “twisted like toffee during the terrorist attack.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/22/2001]
He later recalls, “I saw melting of girders in [the] World Trade Center.” [PBS, 5/10/2007]
He notes that steel has bent at several connection points that had joined the floors of the WTC to the vertical columns. He describes the connections as being smoothly warped, saying, “If you remember the Salvador Dali paintings with the clocks that are kind of melted—it’s kind of like that.” He adds, “That could only happen if you get steel yellow hot or white hot—perhaps around 2,000 degrees.” [Chronicle of Higher Education, 12/7/2001]
Astaneh-Asl says that steel flanges have been reduced “from an inch thick to paper thin.” [Berkeleyan, 10/3/2001]
He finds a foot-long twisted shard of steel that is “like a piece of bread, but it was high-strength steel.” He comments, “I haven’t seen anything like this [before].” [Berkeley Daily Planet, 10/20/2001]
He finds “severely scorched [steel] members from 40 or so floors below the points of impact [by the planes].” He believes this is the result of the planes having destroyed the elevator walls, thereby allowing burning jet fuel to pour down into the building, igniting fires hundreds of feet below the impact floors. [CBS News, 3/12/2002]
He says that, in some places, the fireproofing used to protect the WTC steel has “melted into a glassy residue.” [New York Times, 10/2/2001]
Astaneh-Asl sees a charred I-beam from WTC Building 7, which collapsed late in the afternoon of 9/11. “The beam, so named because its cross-section looks like a capital I, had clearly endured searing temperatures. Parts of the flat top of the I, once five-eighths of an inch thick, had vaporized.” [New York Times, 10/2/2001]
Other individuals will report seeing molten metal in the remains of the World Trade Center in the weeks and months after 9/11 (see September 12, 2001-February 2002), and data collected by NASA reveals dozens of “hot spots” (some over 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit) at Ground Zero (see September 16-23, 2001). But Thomas Eagar—an engineering professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—later comments that the “temperature of the fire at the WTC [on 9/11] was not unusual, and it was most definitely not capable of melting steel.” [Eagar and Musso, 12/2001] Yet Astaneh-Asl will later put forward the “tentative” conclusion, “The collapse of the [Twin Towers] was most likely due to the intense fire initiated by the jet fuel of the planes and continued due to burning of the building contents.” [Astaneh-Asl, 11/30/2003 ] Astaneh-Asl is a member of the team assembled by the American Society of Civil Engineers to investigate the World Trade Center site after 9/11 (see September 12, 2001), though he will resign from this because he disagrees with its decision to keep findings secret until the initial inquiry has been completed. [New York Times, 10/2/2001; Associated Press, 9/6/2002]
Two weeks after 9/11, engineers Pablo Lopez and Andrew Pontecorvo are walking in the B2 basement level at the ruins of the World Trade Center, towards where the North Tower stood. They discover a “solid, rocklike mass where the basement levels of the tower had been,” and see “the recognizable traces of twenty floors, very much like geologic strata revealed by a road cut, compressed into a ten-foot vertical span. In one place, the steel decks of half a dozen floors protruded like tattered wallpaper, so close together that they were almost touching where they were bent downward at the edge. Nothing between the decks was recognizable except as a rocky, rusty mishmash. In a few places what might have been carbonized, compressed stacks of paper stuck out edgewise like graphite deposits.” As New York Times reporters James Glanz and Eric Lipton describe, Lopez and Pontecorvo have found “where the vanished floors [of the tower] had gone. They had not just fallen straight down. The forces had been so great and the floors so light that they had simply folded up like deflated balloons.” Furthermore, they see the massive core columns of the tower, which are over two feet wide and made of four-inch thick steel plate, appearing to have suffered “a compound fracture: the upper sections looked as if they had been kicked, with incalculable fury, about a foot south of the sections they were resting on.” Lopez remarks, “Can you imagine the force?” [Glanz and Lipton, 2004, pp. 292-293] At some later time, ironworker Danny Doyle, who is also working at Ground Zero, finds that floors of the South Tower have been compressed into a formation like what happened with the North Tower’s. He discovers “a distinct mound of debris set into the pile, about six feet high, with strands of wire and pieces of rebar sticking out. It looked like layers of sediment that had turned into rock and been lifted up on some mountainside.… Here were ten stories of the South Tower, compacted into an area of about six feet.” [Glanz and Lipton, 2004, pp. 310]
An emergency preparedness conference was originally scheduled, prior to 9/11, to take place some time this month at the World Trade Center. It was going to include a discussion on terrorism. Reportedly, “One of the topics they were going to talk about was the danger of collapsing buildings.” Further details, such as who was organizing the event, are unknown. [Florida Times-Union, 9/12/2001]
The local vice president of the air traffic controllers’ union checks with a manager at the FAA’s New York Center whether anyone has listened to an audio tape that was recorded on September 11, on which several controllers recalled their experiences of the attacks, and is assured that the tape is going to be destroyed. [US Department of Transportation, 5/4/2004 ]
Union Vice President Asks about Tape - Within a few hours of the 9/11 attacks, Kevin Delaney, the New York Center’s quality assurance manager, tape-recorded witness statements from six controllers at the center that had been involved in handling or tracking two of the hijacked aircraft (see 11:40 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 10/1/2003 ; Washington Post, 5/6/2004; Air Safety Week, 5/17/2004] On at least two occasions over the following few months, the local vice president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA)—the controllers’ union—asks Delaney whether anyone has listened to the tape of those statements. (Delaney will later recall that he speaks with the union vice president about the tape in October 2001 and again in February 2002.)
Delaney Says He Will Destroy Tape - Delaney, who is the custodian of the tape, assures the union vice president that no one has listened to the tape, and it is not going to be provided to anyone. He also says he will “get rid of it” once the center’s formal accident package, which will include the controllers’ written statements about the 9/11 attacks, has been completed (see November 2001-May 2002). [US Department of Transportation, 5/4/2004 ]
Center Manager Gave Similar Assurance - Before the taping of the six controllers commenced on September 11, New York Center manager Mike McCormick had given similar assurances to Mark DiPalmo, the local NATCA president. DiPalmo agreed to the recording going ahead on the condition that the tape would only be a temporary record until written statements were obtained, after which it would be destroyed (see (Shortly Before 11:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 10/1/2003 ; US Department of Transportation, 5/4/2004 ; New York Times, 5/6/2004]
Tape-Recording Statements Not Standard Procedure - The Washington Post will report that, according to union officials representing air traffic controllers, the tape-recording of controllers’ accounts of an accident is almost unheard of, and the normal procedure is for controllers to provide written statements after reviewing radar and other data. [Washington Post, 5/7/2004]
A poster to help law enforcement officers locate the missing ‘black boxes’ in the WTC debris. [Source: FBI / Smithsonian Institution]Three of the four black boxes from Flight 11 and Flight 175 are found this month, according to two men who work extensively in the wreckage of the World Trade Center, but the public is not told. New York City firefighter Nicholas DeMasi will mention the discovery of the black boxes in a book published in 2003. He will claim to have driven federal agents on an all-terrain vehicle during their search and state that they found three of the four missing black boxes. The Philadelphia Daily News will report on the story in 2004 when another recovery worker, volunteer Mike Bellone, backs up DeMasi’s account and claims to have seen one of the black boxes. Spokesmen for the FBI and the New York City Fire Department will deny the claims of these two workers. [Swanson, 2003, pp. 108; Philadelphia Daily News, 10/28/2004] But in 2005, CounterPunch will report: “A source at the National Transportation Safety Board, the agency that has the task of deciphering the data from the black boxes retrieved from crash sites—including those that are being handled as crimes and fall under the jurisdiction of the FBI—says the boxes were in fact recovered and were analyzed by the NTSB. ‘Off the record, we had the boxes,’ the source says. ‘You’d have to get the official word from the FBI as to where they are, but we worked on them here.’” An NTSB spokesperson will deny that the FBI ever gave the NTSB the black boxes. [CounterPunch, 12/19/2005] On September 18, it was reported that investigators had detected a signal from one of the black boxes in the debris at Ground Zero (see September 18, 2001). [New York State Emergency Management Office, 9/18/2001 ] But the 9/11 Commission Report will state that the black boxes from Flight 11 and Flight 175 “were not found.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 456]
It is reported that soil and groundwater around the spot where Flight 93 crashed show no signs of jet fuel contamination. About a week after 9/11, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) started taking soil samples from the 50-foot hole dug around the crash crater, to check for contamination by the plane’s fuel and other hazardous materials. Three test wells have also been sunk to monitor groundwater. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/17/2001; WTAE-TV, 10/2/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/3/2001] According to the National Transportation Safety Board, Flight 93 had about 37,500 lb of fuel remaining when it crashed. [National Transportation Safety Board, 2/13/2002, pp. 8 ] Some of the first people who arrived at the crash site reported that there was an “incredibly strong” and “overpowering” smell of jet fuel in the air. [Longman, 2002, pp. 213; Kashurba, 2002, pp. 32, 40, 43 and 64] Yet, so far, no contamination has been found in either the soil or the groundwater. Betsy Mallison, a spokeswoman for the DEP, says that whether it burned away or evaporated, much of the jet fuel spilled at the site seems to have dissipated. [WTAE-TV, 10/2/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/3/2001] DEP Secretary David Hess says most of the hazardous fluids must have been consumed by the crash’s fire. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/17/2001] Yet some of the first people who arrived at the site say they only saw a very small fire, if any at all, at the crash crater. [Longman, 2002, pp. 213; McCall, 2002, pp. 30-31]
Despite the fact that two US senators, Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), had letters laced with anthrax mailed to their offices (see October 6-9, 2001), the Bush administration’s response is, as later characterized by author Frank Rich, lackadaisical. “Bush said little about it,” Rich will write in 2006, instead “delegating the problem to ineffectual Cabinet members like [Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy] Thompson and the attorney general, John Ashcroft. The rank incompetence of these two Cabinet secretaries, at most thinly disguised by a veneer of supercilious officiousness, was farcical. They were Keystone Kops, in the costumes of bureaucrats, ready at any time to slip on a banana peel.” [Rich, 2006, pp. 34-35]
Pier 25 on the Hudson River. [Source: Larry Lerner / FEMA]Recovery workers find what appears to be one of the black boxes from Flight 11 or Flight 175—the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11—while they are working near Ground Zero, but FBI agents who inspect the object deny that it is one of these devices. [Keegan and Davis, 2006, pp. 94-96] The two black boxes carried by all commercial aircraft—the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder—can provide valuable information about why a plane crashed. Although they are called “black” boxes, they are in fact painted bright orange. [CBS News, 2/25/2002; PBS, 2/17/2004] Since the initial days of the recovery effort at Ground Zero, finding the black boxes from Flight 11 and Flight 175 has been a priority, due to the critical information they might hold. Many posters with photos of a plane’s black boxes have been put up around the WTC site so workers will recognize these devices if they turn up in the debris.
Operating Engineer Thinks He Has Found a Black Box - Today, an operating engineer notices an object that looks like it could be one of the black boxes while he is scraping up a load of debris at Pier 25 on the Hudson River. [Keegan and Davis, 2006, pp. 94] At Pier 25, near Ground Zero, debris from the WTC site is being loaded onto barges and transported to the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island. [New York Daily News, 1/6/2002; APWA Reporter, 3/2004] The operating engineer thinks the object is the same shape as a black box. It is too blackened and charred, though, for him to determine if it is painted orange, like a plane’s black boxes are. He stops operations at the pier so he can get the opinion of the crane operator there. The crane operator agrees that the object looks like a plane’s black box and says its discovery should be reported. The operating engineer therefore makes a call to report the find and is put through to Lieutenant Ed Moss of the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD).
Police Officers Think the Unearthed Object Is a Black Box - After the operating engineer tells him about the discovery, Moss heads to Pier 25 with his colleague, Lieutenant Bill Doubrawski. He examines the object and he too thinks it is one of the black boxes. Excitedly, he contacts Lieutenant William Keegan, who is in charge of the PAPD’s nighttime rescue and recovery operation at Ground Zero. Talking over a secure phone line, Moss tells Keegan: “I think we found one of these things. I’m looking at the diagram. I think this is it.” Moss says Doubrawski agrees with his assessment. He describes the object as being “[h]ard as a rock, not orange,” and looking “like it was torched, all blackened.” Keegan says he wants to see the object and heads to Pier 25 to examine it.
Senior Police Officer Agrees with His Colleagues' Assessment - When he arrives there, he compares the object to some photos of a plane’s black boxes and agrees that it appears to be one of these devices. “The object found on the pier was absolutely close enough to the pictures available to us to notify the FBI without delay,” Keegan will later write. The PAPD officers arrange for some FBI agents who are working at Ground Zero to come to the PAPD command post to see the object.
FBI Agents Think the Object Is a Black Box but Then Change Their Minds - Around 20 to 30 minutes later, two FBI agents arrive at the command post. The agents examine the object that has been discovered and compare it to a diagram of a plane’s black box. They then say words to the effect of “Wow, this looks like it” and “It’s the same shape,” according to Keegan. However, after looking at the object for a few more minutes, they apparently change their minds. “We don’t think it’s a black box,” one of them tells the PAPD officers. In response, Keegan asks: “So it’s okay to throw it back on the barge? You’re clearing it?” The other agent quickly replies, “No, no, we’re going to take it with us.” The two FBI agents then leave the command post, taking the object with them. Keegan and his colleagues will subsequently never receive any information from the FBI, regarding whether the object really is one of the black boxes. [Keegan and Davis, 2006, pp. 94-96] The 9/11 Commission Report will state that the black boxes from the planes that crashed into the WTC “were not found.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 456] But firefighter Nicholas DeMasi, who works extensively in the wreckage of the WTC, will say he helped federal agents recover three black boxes at Ground Zero (see October 2001). [Swanson, 2003, pp. 108; Philadelphia Daily News, 10/28/2004]
The Bank of Nova Scotia gold vault, located under WTC Building 4, is examined in late October 2001.
[Source: Leslie E. Robertson and Associates]Workers at Ground Zero discover large amounts of gold and other precious metals stored below the ruins of the WTC. As debris is removed they are able to access parts of the 16-acre WTC basement, which drops 70 feet below ground level. Precious metals are stored in numerous vaults within this area. The London Times says the quantity of these “has been a carefully guarded secret,” but estimates $750 million of gold and silver in vaults belonging to the Comex metals trading division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. There appears to have been an attempt, since 9/11, to break into a Comex vault containing $200 million of precious metals belonging to the Bank of Nova Scotia. A government official involved in the recovery work says, “It looked like they used a blowtorch, a crowbar,” but a bank spokeswoman denies there has been any attempted break-in. The banks later states that “All of the silver, gold, platinum, and palladium stored in its vaults at 4 World Trade Center” has been relocated to a depository in Brooklyn. Other gold is discovered in a service tunnel below WTC 5. According to the London Times, this was being transported through the tunnel on the morning of 9/11 (see (Before 9:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Daily News, 10/31/2001; London Times, 11/1/2001; New York Times, 11/1/2001; Reuters, 11/17/2001]
An air traffic controller at the FAA’s New York Center who was recorded recalling her actions during the 9/11 attacks is denied a request to listen to her taped statement, possibly while she is preparing a written statement about the attacks. [US Department of Transportation, 5/4/2004 ] Six controllers at the New York Center who communicated with, or tracked, two of the hijacked aircraft on 9/11 were recorded later that day giving their personal accounts of what happened (see 11:40 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 5/6/2004] Mike McCormick, the center’s manager, told the union official representing these controllers that they would be able to use their taped statements to help them prepare written ones (see (Shortly Before 11:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Controller Told No One Can Hear Tape - However, when one of the controllers asks to listen to her own oral statement, she is told by Kevin Delaney—the New York Center’s quality assurance manager, who is the tape’s custodian—that the tape is not meant for anyone to hear. It is unclear if the controller wants to hear the tape to help her prepare a written statement about the attacks. According to a 2004 report by the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (see May 6, 2004), she asks “to listen to the tape in preparing her written statement.” The five controllers that were recorded on September 11 who subsequently provide written statements prepare those statements within three weeks of 9/11 (see (Between September 11 and October 2, 2001)), but, according to Delaney, this controller asks to listen to the tape in November 2001, which would be after the written statements are provided.
Controller Requests Tape Again in 2003 - The tape of the controllers’ statements will be destroyed at some point between December 2001 and February 2002 (see Between December 2001 and February 2002), without any of the controllers having listened to it. The controller who requests to hear her own recorded statement will again ask to listen to the tape around September or October 2003, when she is to be interviewed by the 9/11 Commission, but, as it has already been destroyed by then, the tape cannot be located. [US Department of Transportation, 5/4/2004 ; Air Safety Week, 5/17/2004]
The FAA’s New York Center submits a “formal accident package” of evidence relating to the 9/11 attacks to FAA headquarters in Washington, DC, but a manager at the center deliberately excludes from it an audio tape on which several air traffic controllers recalled their experiences with the hijacked aircraft. [US Department of Transportation, 5/4/2004 ; Washington Post, 5/6/2004] This tape was created on September 11, shortly after the attacks occurred, when six controllers at the New York Center who communicated with, or tracked, two of the hijacked aircraft were recorded giving their personal accounts of what happened (see 11:40 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 5/6/2004] The tape was then logged into the center’s formal record of evidence. [US Department of Transportation, 5/4/2004 ]
Evidence Package Required for Air Accidents - FAA policy requires that a formal accident package be provided for all aircraft accident investigations, including military investigations, when FAA air traffic facilities were, or may have been, involved in the accident. A formal accident package must include “all pertinent records, personnel statements, transcriptions of voice recordings, charts, operation letters, letters of agreement, and facility memoranda.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 8/16/2000 ] Kevin Delaney, the New York Center’s quality assurance manager, has had an argument with FAA headquarters over whether the events of 9/11 should be declared an aircraft accident or an incident. Less information needs to be provided in an incident package than in an accident package. But as the 9/11 attacks are deemed an accident, Delaney is supposed to provide the names of everyone involved in them, including those that died at the World Trade Center. He must also provide transcripts and other information relating to the status of the aircraft involved, which would not be included in an incident package. [9/11 Commission, 9/30/2003 ]
Package Returned for Extra Work - The New York Center submits its formal accident package to FAA headquarters in November 2001, but the package is returned to the center the following month for additional work. It is re-sent and finalized in May 2002.
Delaney Decides to Omit Tape - The formal accident package includes written statements about the 9/11 attacks that have been provided by controllers whose accounts were recorded on the audio tape (see (Between September 11 and October 2, 2001)). But Delaney makes a conscious decision not to also include that tape in the package. His reason for this, he will later say, is that including it would mean losing control of the tape, thereby being unable to keep a promise he made to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association that he would “get rid of” it (see October 2001-February 2002). At some point after the initial submission of the package, between December 2001 and February 2002, Delaney deliberately destroys the tape of the controllers’ statements (see Between December 2001 and February 2002). [US Department of Transportation, 5/4/2004 ]
New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani angers firefighters when he decides to severely reduce the number of them that can search for remains at Ground Zero. Until now, up to 300 firefighters at a time have been involved in the search and recovery effort. Giuliani’s decision will mean no more than 25 at a time can do so in future. The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) later alleges that, also at this time, Giuliani makes “a conscious decision to institute a ‘scoop-and-dump’ operation to expedite the clean-up of Ground Zero in lieu of the more time-consuming, but respectful, process of removing debris piece by piece in hope of uncovering more remains.” So far, the bodies or remains of 101 firefighters have been recovered, out of the 343 who died at the World Trade Center on 9/11. According to the IAFF, the mayor refuses to even meet with local union presidents about the decision. Due to the ensuing public outcry, Giuliani will modify his policy and allow firefighters back on the pile at Ground Zero. The remains of another 113 firefighters will subsequently be found. The IAFF later alleges that “the mayor’s switch to a scoop-and-dump coincided with the final removal of tens of millions of dollars of gold, silver and other assets of the Bank of Nova Scotia that were buried beneath what was once the towers” (see (Mid-October-mid November 2001)). “Once the money was out, Giuliani sided with the developers that opposed a lengthy recovery effort, and ordered the scoop-and-dump operation so they could proceed with redevelopment.” [Firefighting News (.com), 3/8/2007; Bloomberg, 3/9/2007; Associated Press, 3/10/2007] IAFF President Harold Schaitberger later says, “in my opinion, it was more important for him [to] find the gold than it was to continue to find and recover remains.” [MSNBC, 7/12/2007]
Dr. Antonio Banfi. [Source: Public domain]A letter containing anthrax is mailed to Dr. Antonio Banfi, a pediatrician in Santiago, Chile. Although the return address is Orlando, Florida, the postmark is Zurich, Switzerland. The letter is sent via DHL, which uses a Swiss bulk mail shipper in New York and a Swiss postmark. Unlike the anthrax letters with US addressees, the letter to Chile is mailed in a business envelope and has a typewritten return address, a business in Florida. Dr. Banfi receives the letter, but finds it suspicious and gives it to the Chilean authorities. No one is known to have been infected with the material contained in the letter. The letter baffles American and Chilean officials because, according to the New York Times, “as they dig deeper, nothing quite adds up.” The New York Times article states, without direct evidence and with ambiguous citation of unnamed “officials” from either Chile or the US, that the anthrax strain most likely originated in Chile, despite the Swiss origin of the letter. The strain is reported to be a different one than used in the US attacks, and is said to be similar to a strain in Turkey. Dr. Banfi says he has no strong political views or known enemies. [New York Times, 11/29/2001]
A sample of WTC steel eroded and corroded due to eutectic formations. [Source: FEMA]The Journal of the Minerals, Metals and Materials Society (JOM) reports that the examination of a beam from the remains of WTC Building 7—which collapsed late in the afternoon of 9/11 (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001)—has revealed “unexpected erosion” of the steel. The article states: “The formation of the eutectic mixture of iron oxide and iron sulfide lowers the temperature at which liquid can form in this steel. This strongly suggests that the temperatures in this region of the steel beam approached around 1,000°C, forming the eutectic liquid by a process similar to making a ‘blacksmith’s weld’ in a hand forge.” [Barnett, Biederman, and Sisson, 12/2001] The New York Times will call this “perhaps the deepest mystery uncovered in the investigation.” [New York Times, 2/2/2002] FEMA’s World Trade Center Building Performance Study, released in May 2002 (see May 1, 2002), will add that the same “unusual erosion patterns” have been observed in a sample of the remaining structural steel from one of the Twin Towers. It will state, “This sulfur-rich liquid penetrated preferentially down grain boundaries of the steel, severely weakening the beam and making it susceptible to erosion.” FEMA is unable to explain this phenomenon, saying, “The severe corrosion and subsequent erosion… are a very unusual event. No clear explanation for the source of the sulfur has been identified.… It is possible that this is the result of long-term heating in the ground following the collapse of the buildings. It is also possible that the phenomenon started prior to collapse and accelerated the weakening of the steel structure.” [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. C-1 - C-13] Despite FEMA’s call for further research, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will make no mention of the eutectic formations in its final report into the WTC collapses, released in late 2005, following its three-year investigation. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 13]
A manager at the FAA’s New York Center deliberately destroys an audio tape that was made on September 11, on which several of the center’s air traffic controllers recounted their interactions with the hijacked aircraft. [New York Times, 5/6/2004; Washington Post, 5/7/2004] Within hours of the 9/11 attacks, Kevin Delaney, the New York Center’s quality assurance manager, was instructed to make the tape recording, on which six controllers at the center involved in handling or tracking two of the hijacked aircraft recalled their experiences of what happened (see 11:40 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 10/1/2003 ; Washington Post, 5/6/2004; Air Safety Week, 5/17/2004]
Crushes Cassette, Cuts Tape into Small Pieces - But a few months later, some time between December 2001 and February 2002, Delaney destroys the tape. He will later recall that he does so by “crushing the cassette case in his hand, cutting the tape into small pieces, and depositing the pieces in trash cans throughout the center.” A Department of Transportation (DOT) report in 2004 will point out, “It is clear [Delaney] went to great lengths to destroy the tape so that it would never leave the center intact.”
Superiors Not Consulted - Delaney disposes of the tape of his own volition, and without consulting his superiors. However, Mike McCormick, the New York Center manager, will later say that, had Delaney asked for his permission to destroy the tape, he would have given it, since he viewed the tape as only a temporary record.
Two Reasons for Destroying Tape - Delaney will later tell DOT investigators that he destroys the tape for two reasons. Firstly, he considers the creation of the tape to have been contrary to FAA policy for aircraft accidents and incidents, which requires that handwritten statements be made after controllers are able to review certain materials, such as radio transmissions and radar data. (The DOT investigators will dispute this conclusion (see May 6, 2004).) He therefore feels the tape is of limited value relative to the controllers’ written statements (see (Between September 11 and October 2, 2001)). Secondly, Delaney feels the controllers were distressed on 9/11, and therefore not in the correct frame of mind to properly consent to the taping. He bases this assessment partly on what he has seen on television crime shows, about due process and legal rights associated with investigations. But the 2004 DOT report will state, “Under FAA policy, and as supported by air traffic policy experts at FAA headquarters, the tape should have been considered an original record and retained for five years.” A former criminal investigator will comment, “Ray Charles [the blind musician] could see that this was a cover-up.”
Others Not Notified - Delaney destroys the tape without anyone having listened to, copied, or transcribed it. He will not inform the New York Center’s management that he has destroyed the tape until he is asked about it in September 2003, following inquiries by the 9/11 Commission. Materials the New York Center prepares for submission to the Commission will even include a chain-of-custody index that mistakenly indicates the tape still exists. And prior to an investigation by the DOT’s Office of Inspector General in late 2003 and early 2004, apparently no one outside the New York Center will be aware of the existence of the tape, or of its destruction.
Union Told Tape Would Be Destroyed - Delaney previously assured the local vice president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) that he would “get rid of” the tape once the center’s formal accident package had been completed (see October 2001-February 2002). (This package has now been submitted to FAA headquarters (see November 2001-May 2002).) But Delaney will tell DOT investigators that he did not feel under any pressure from NATCA to destroy the tape. McCormick made a similar agreement with the local NATCA president, that the tape would be destroyed after written statements had been obtained from the controllers (see (Shortly Before 11:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but Delaney is unaware of this.
No Regrets - Delaney apparently has no subsequent regrets about destroying the tape. He will later say that, under similar circumstances, he would again follow the same course of action. [US Department of Transportation, 5/4/2004 ; Air Safety Week, 5/17/2004]
Joseph Trombino. [Source: Family photo]An armored truck that was parked in the basement of the World Trade Center on the morning of 9/11 is discovered by recovery workers, who find that diamonds and bonds worth over a million dollars are inexplicably missing from it. The Brink’s armored truck was driven down to the underground receiving platform of the North Tower sometime before 8:46 a.m. on September 11, to deliver $14 million in cash. As well as this cash, the vehicle was carrying negotiable bonds and diamonds.
Driver Stayed with His Truck after Flight 11 Hit the WTC - Its driver, Joseph Trombino, waited while his three fellow guards dropped off the cash with some Bank of Nova Scotia guards, who put the money into canvas carts to be taken to a vault. Trombino was still in his vehicle when Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). His fellow guards were subsequently evacuated from the tower. But instead of leaving, Trombino stayed with his vehicle, perhaps to protect the cargo or because he expected his colleagues to return. At 9:15 a.m., he called Brink’s and reported that a police officer had told him to move his truck because the tower was unstable. He also reported that the building was shaking and water was cascading down. He was killed when the North Tower collapsed, at 10:28 a.m. (see 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Recovery Workers Discover the Armored Truck - Now, over three months later, a recovery team unearths part of the roof of Trombino’s truck in the wreckage of the WTC. Sergeant Kevin Murphy of the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) calls Lieutenant William Keegan, who is in charge of the PAPD’s nighttime rescue and recovery operation at Ground Zero, and tells him about the find. Keegan, in turn, contacts Brink’s to alert it to the discovery of one of its vehicles. Brink’s says it will send someone to the WTC site as soon as possible and mentions that the truck contains over a million dollars’ worth of valuables, comprising $250,000 in diamonds and $750,000 in negotiable bonds. The company also says the truck’s driver—Trombino—is still missing. Keegan then heads to the WTC site and a Brink’s supervisor also goes there.
Diamonds and Bonds Are Missing from the Truck - Once enough rubble has been removed to see inside the truck, Keegan and the other workers notice that the cab is empty. Keegan will later wonder if Trombino sought refuge under his truck when the Twin Towers collapsed, got into the back of it for safety, or left the vehicle and tried to get up to the street. Keegan wants to get into the back of the truck to remove the valuables from there. To get inside, the workers cut into a section of the roof with a circular saw and peel it back to create an opening. PAPD officer Tony Demeri is then lowered down through the hole. But after he carries out a full inspection, Demeri reports that the truck is empty, with no bonds or diamonds to be found. [New York Times, 9/17/2001; Chicago Tribune, 9/22/2001; Keegan and Davis, 2006, pp. 147-149] Trombino’s wife, Jean Trombino, will say in January 2002 that although her husband’s body has been recovered, she hasn’t been told where it was found. [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 1/2/2002] Brink’s will report in 2014 that the body was found near the water fountain between the Twin Towers, in the WTC plaza, along with Trombino’s messenger bag. [Brink's Blog, 9/10/2014] The canvas carts filled with the $14 million that Trombino delivered on September 11 will be discovered in the rubble of the WTC in February 2002. However, Keegan will write in 2006, “Neither the bonds nor the diamonds have ever been recovered.” [Keegan and Davis, 2006, pp. 149]
A firefighter trade magazine with ties to the New York Fire Department calls the investigation into the collapse of the WTC a “half-baked farce.” The article points out that the probe has not looked at all aspects of the disaster and has had limited access to documents and other evidence. “The destruction and removal of evidence must stop immediately.” The writer, Bill Manning, states, “I have combed through our national standard for fire investigation, NFPA 921, but nowhere in it does one find an exemption allowing the destruction of evidence for buildings over 10 stories tall.” He concludes that a growing number of fire protection engineers have theorized that “the structural damage from the planes and the explosive ignition of jet fuel in themselves were not enough to bring down the towers.” Yet, “[a]s things now stand and if they continue in such fashion, the investigation into the World Trade Center fire and collapse will amount to paper- and computer-generated hypotheticals.” [Fire Engineering, 1/2002; New York Daily News, 1/4/2002]
World Trade Center Building 7, which collapsed late in the afternoon of 9/11, had contained two independently supplied and operated fuel systems for emergency power. The fuel had been in several storage tanks low down in the building. In March and April, two 11,700-gallon tanks that had been located under the building’s first floor loading dock and operated by Silverstein Properties are removed from the collapse site. They show no evidence of fuel leakage. FEMA says that approximately 20,000 gallons of fuel are subsequently recovered from them, which is about 85 percent of their total capacity. In early May, two 6,000-gallon tanks that had been owned by Salomon Smith Barney and were also located below the loading dock are recovered. These were always kept full for emergencies and would have been full on 9/11. Yet now they are damaged and appear to be empty. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), “Some fuel contamination was found in the gravel below the tanks and sand below the slab on which the tanks were mounted, but no contamination was found in the organic marine silt/clay layer underneath.” Shyam Sunder, lead investigator of NIST’s WTC investigation, will state that this “suggests that this fuel… could have been consumed in the building.” This finding “allows for the possibility, though not conclusively, that the fuel may have contributed to a fire on Floor 5” of WTC 7. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 5-15; Associated Press, 6/6/2002; Newsday, 6/6/2002; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 4/5/2005 ; New York City Council, 9/8/2006 ] Some people have speculated that the diesel fuel stored in WTC 7 may have played a role in its collapse (see March 2, 2002). However, FEMA says, “Although the total diesel fuel on the premises contained massive potential energy, the best hypothesis has only a low probability of occurrence.” WTC 7 housed another 6,000-gallon tank between its second and third floors, which was meant to fuel generators that would supply backup power to the mayor’s 23rd-floor emergency command center (see June 8, 1999). Currently, no data are available on the condition of this tank. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 5-16 and 5-31]
A New York Times article theorizes that diesel fuel tanks were responsible for the collapse of Building 7 of the WTC. It collapsed at 5:20 p.m. on 9/11, even though it was farther away from the Twin Towers than many other buildings that remained standing (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). It was the first time a steel-reinforced high-rise in the US had ever collapsed in a fire. One of the fuel tanks had been installed in 1999 (see June 8, 1999) as part of a new “Command Center” for Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. [New York Times, 3/2/2002; Dow Jones Business News, 9/10/2002] However, in interviews, several Fire Department officers who were on the scene say they were not aware of any combustible liquid pool fires in WTC 7. [Fire Engineering, 9/2002] And, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), between 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on 9/11, “No diesel smells [were] reported from the exterior, stairwells, or lobby areas” of WTC 7. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 6/2004, pp. L-22 ] Curiously, given all the Wall Street scandals later in the year, Building 7 housed the SEC files related to numerous Wall Street investigations, as well as other federal investigative files. All the files for approximately 3,000 to 4,000 SEC cases were destroyed. Some were backed up in other places, but many were not, especially those classified as confidential. [New York Law Journal, 9/17/2001] Lost files include documents that could show the relationship between Citigroup and the WorldCom bankruptcy. [Street, 8/9/2002] The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission estimates over 10,000 cases will be affected. [New York Law Journal, 9/14/2001] The Secret Service had its largest field office, with more than 200 employees, in WTC 7 and also lost investigative files. Says one agent: “All the evidence that we stored at 7 World Trade, in all our cases, went down with the building.” [Tech TV, 7/23/2002] The IRS and Department of Defense were also tenants, along with the CIA, which, it has been revealed, had a secret office in Building 7. [CNN, 11/4/2001; New York Times, 11/4/2001; Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 5-2; New York Magazine, 3/20/2006] A few days later, the head of the WTC collapse investigation says he “would possibly consider examining” the collapse of Building 7, but by this time all the rubble has already been removed and destroyed. [US Congress, 3/6/2002]
A structural engineer who was a member of the team assembled by the American Society of Civil Engineers to investigate the World Trade Center site after 9/11 complains about the decision to rapidly destroy the remaining structural steel from the collapsed WTC buildings. Dr. Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl is a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California at Berkeley, and specializes in studying structural damage done by earthquakes and terrorist bombings. [Chronicle of Higher Education, 12/7/2001; CBS News, 3/11/2002; Associated Press, 9/6/2002] He had come to New York a week after 9/11 to examine the collapsed towers, hoping to gain an understanding of how they had come down (see September 19-October 2001). [New York Times, 10/2/2001; US Congress. House. Committee on Science, 3/6/2002] However, New York City officials had decided early on to quickly transport the remaining structural steel to scrap yards, to be shipped abroad and melted down for reuse (see Shortly After September 11, 2001). As CBS News now reports, “As a result, Astaneh has almost certainly missed seeing crucial pieces before they were cut up and sent overseas.” Astaneh-Asl complains: “When there is a car accident and two people are killed, you keep the car until the trial is over. If a plane crashes, not only do you keep the plane, but you assemble all the pieces, take it to a hangar, and put it together. That’s only for 200, 300 people, when they die. In this case you had 3,000 people dead.” He says: “My wish was that we had spent whatever it takes, maybe $50 million, $100 million, and maybe two years, get all this steel, carry it to a lot. Instead of recycling it, put it horizontally, and assemble it. You have maybe 200 engineers, not just myself running around trying to figure out what’s going on. After all, this is a crime scene and you have to figure out exactly what happened for this crime, and learn from it.” However, he adds, “My wish is not what happens.” [CBS News, 3/12/2002] Astaneh-Asl previously told the New York Times that the scrap steel from the WTC was “worth only a few million dollars, a tiny fraction of the billions of dollars the cleanup will cost.” Yet the knowledge that could be gained from it “could save lives in a future disaster.” [New York Times, 10/2/2001]
Joel Kupferman of the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project collects dust samples at 150 Franklin Street at the request of one of the building’s tenants. He sends three samples to a lab which tests the dust for asbestos using transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The lab finds asbestos levels of 1.2, 1.4 and 1.8 percent. In September (see Shortly after September 17, 2001), the tenants had cleaned the building according to instructions provided by the city’s health department (see September 17, 2001). The building’s tenants—among them a family-run child care center—had relied on assurances from EPA and city officials that the downtown air was safe and consequently did not have the building professionally tested. After Kupferman notifies the city about these alarming results, the city tests the building using polarized light microscopy (PLM) on April 18 and does not find elevated asbestos levels. The city’s samples are retested by the EPA using transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and found to have an asbestos level ranging from 2 percent to 5 percent. “We recommended that [the building] be professionally cleaned,” EPA spokesperson Mary Mears later says. [New York Daily News, 5/2/2002; Wall Street Journal, 5/9/2002 ; Salon, 8/15/2003]
FEMA’s World Trade Center Building Performance Study. [Source: FEMA]FEMA releases its report of the WTC collapses. It concludes, “[W]ith the information and time available, the sequence of events leading to the collapse of each tower could not be definitively determined.” On Building 7: “The specifics of the fires in WTC 7 and how they caused the building to collapse remain unknown at this time.” [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002]
A brief ceremony marks the official ending of the cleanup and recovery effort at Ground Zero, eight months and 19 days after 9/11. As part of the ceremony, attended by thousands of people, a flatbed truck carries the last steel beam from the World Trade Center away from the site. The cleanup has been completed three months sooner than predicted and at a cost of $750 million. More than 108,000 truckloads of debris, comprising 1.8 million tons of steel and concrete, have been removed from the site. The debris was taken to the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island. Controversially, much of the steel was melted down or shipped out of the US for recycling (see September 12-October 2001). A small number of workers will remain at the site for a few more weeks, due to a delay by Deutsche Bank in letting firefighters search its high-rise at 130 Liberty Street. The final truckload of debris will be removed on June 24 and control of the site will be turned over to the New York Port Authority, which owns the land. Forensic investigators will continue sifting through debris at Fresh Kills, in the hope of finding and identifying more victims, until mid-July. [CBS News, 5/16/2002; CBS News, 5/30/2002; CNN, 5/30/2002; PBS, 5/30/2002; BBC, 7/15/2002; Glanz and Lipton, 2004, pp. 316-318; Stout, Vitchers, and Gray, 2006, pp. 219 and 226-227]
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)—an agency of the US Commerce Department’s Technology Administration—announces details of its forthcoming investigation into the collapses of the World Trade Center Twin Towers and Building 7 on 9/11. The NIST investigation aims “to investigate the building construction, the materials used, and the technical conditions that contributed to the outcome of the World Trade Center (WTC) disaster.” It also aims to examine the activities of building occupants and emergency responders on 9/11, studying such issues as emergency communications within the WTC, the movement of people during the evacuations, and issues around persons with disabilities. Leading technical experts from industry, academia, and other laboratories, alongside NIST’s own expert staff, will participate in the investigation. Expert professionals from the private sector will also be involved. Glenn Corbett, a fire science professor at John Jay College, says, “This is going to be the most extensive building disaster investigation ever performed.” [Associated Press, 8/21/2002; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 8/21/2002; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 8/3/2005] The investigation is formally authorized in October 2002, when the National Construction Safety Team Act is signed into law. The act, which gives NIST authorization to investigate major building failures in the US, is written largely as a result of the World Trade Center collapses. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 10/2/2002; New York Times, 5/8/2003] NIST’s investigation is originally proposed to last two years, with a budget of $16 million. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 8/21/2002] However, it eventually will last three years, with its final report into the collapses of the Twin Towers being released in October 2005 (see October 26, 2005). A previous analysis of the WTC collapses conducted by FEMA and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) was completed earlier in 2002 (see May 1, 2002), but this had a budget of just $1.1 million. By the time NIST starts its investigation, much of the crucial steel debris from the WTC collapses has already been destroyed (see September 12-October 2001). They later refer to there being a “scarcity of physical evidence that is typically available in place for reconstruction of a disaster.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. xxxvi]
Following the discovery of poison recipes during a series of raids on Islamist extremist fundraising networks (see September 26, 2002), British authorities hold a summit to discuss the problem of a potential terrorist attack by Islamist extremists. The meeting is attended by 200 officials from the security and intelligence services, senior civil servants, and key personnel in the transport industry, especially the London Underground. One of the possible scenarios outlined is an attack on the Underground using poison gas. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 239]
Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) conducts a survey of the cities and towns in New York State. Of those polled, 70 percent have not received any money at all from the federal government for their emergency crews and first responders—the nation’s front line of defense against terrorist attacks (see Early 2004). New York City police officials asked for $900 million in preparedness funds, and received $84 million—less than a tenth of what was requested. When the preparedness funds are studied on a per capita basis, the disparities are striking, and suspect. New York City, bastion of liberal Democrats (and the target of two of the four 9/11 hijacked jetliners) received $5.87 per person in funds—49th out of 50 major US cities. The city receiving the highest payout is New Haven, Connecticut ($77.82 per person), home of Yale University and the alma mater of three generations of Bushes. Key cities in Florida, where Jeb Bush is governor, also do well, with Miami receiving $52.82 per person, Orlando receiving $47.14, and Tampa receiving $30.57 per person. A harbor on Martha’s Vineyard, where many Republican and Democratic lawmakers vacation, received almost a million dollars in security funding; the harbormaster said, “Quite honestly, I don’t know what we’re going to do [with it], but you don’t turn down grant money.” [Carter, 2004, pp. 21]
In a letter to US Congressman Henry A. Waxman, the Commanding Lieutenant General of the US Army, Robert B. Flowers, says that the contract awarded to Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR) also includes work concerning the “operation” of Iraqi oil facilities and “distribution” of Iraqi oil products. [Flowers, 5/2/2003 ]
Insulated trusses in the World Trade Center.
[Source: Gilsanz Murray Steficek]At a press briefing in New York City, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) releases a 122-page progress report on its investigation into the WTC collapses. NIST began its study in August 2002 (see August 21, 2002). Investigators say they believe that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, who built the Twin Towers, failed to carry out vital tests to establish how the buildings would cope with a major fire. They have been unable to find evidence that tests were conducted on the fireproofing material used in the buildings. Their report also states that in 1969, builders directed contractors to coat the WTC floor supports with half an inch of spray-on fireproofing. In 1999, the Port Authority issued guidelines to triple the thickness of the fireproofing, and by 9/11, about 30 floors in the upper areas of the two towers had been upgraded. Almost all the floors in the impact zone of the North Tower had their fireproofing upgraded, while in the South Tower just the 78th floor—the lowest in its impact zone—had been upgraded. As the New York Times states, though, “investigators took great care… to say they were nowhere close to definitively determining how and why the towers collapsed after they were struck by hijacked airliners.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 5/2003, pp. 81 ; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 5/7/2003; Guardian, 5/8/2003; New York Times, 5/8/2003]
The US occupation begins a program called the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP). CERP utilizes seized funds from the regime of Saddam Hussein to initiate rapid, small-scale reconstruction projects. It contrasts with the massive design-build reconstruction projects being done by large firms such as Bechtel because it results in immediate, visible improvements that create grassroots support for the US military. The program involves having US military commanders meet with local Iraqi leaders to assess potential projects aimed at alleviating community problems. One of the most welcomed contributions of the CERP are the thousands of jobs that it creates. Military commanders will later say that the “benefit received from CERP funds far outweighs the amount [of funds] provided” and that “funding minor efforts such as repairs to houses and buildings are helping to stabilize areas in Iraq.” The Iraq reconstruction inspector general will later claim in a recommendation for smaller scale reconstruction projects that CERP “and similar initiatives in Iraq proved the value of relatively small, rapidly executable projects that meet immediate local needs and thereby have the salutary effect of enhancing relations with local communities.” As of September 30, 2005, it will only have received about $1.4 billion in funding. [Bowen, 7/2006, pp. 82-88, 94 ] Analysts will later find that time periods when the CERP ran out of funds were fraught with surges in violence and US troop deaths. Bremer and the CPA will be criticized by nation-building experts for their neglect of the program and for putting free market ideology and a large-scale construction projects over simpler efforts to restore basic services to Iraqis at a quick pace. [Christian Science Monitor, 1/29/2004]
The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, under the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, drafts a proposal that would shift the authority for releasing emergency declarations concerning public health, safety and the environment from federal regulatory agencies to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB). [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1/12/2004; Washington Post, 1/15/2004; Baltimore Sun, 12/19/2004] “Under this proposal, the White House would decide what and when the public would be told about an outbreak of mad cow disease, an anthrax release, a nuclear plant accident or any other crisis,” an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explains. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1/12/2004] Additionally, the White House office wants the OMB to reside over a centralized peer review process charged with vetting “any scientific or technical study relevant to regulatory policy” produced by the regulatory agencies. The OMB would have the power to reject or accept the outcome of such peer reviews. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1/12/2004; Washington Post, 1/15/2004; Baltimore Sun, 12/19/2004] Commercial permit applications, however, would not be subject to review. Alan Morrison, a lawyer for Public Citizen, commenting on the exception, notes, “If you want to build a dam, or dump a chemical… you evidently don’t need to have peer-reviewed science.” Academic experts who are recipients of grants from an agency whose work is being reviewed would be barred from serving on the review board. But there would be no restrictions against using experts from private industry. [Baltimore Sun, 12/19/2004] Though the administration claims that the proposed change reflects President Bush’s commitment to “sound science,” critics say the measure would allow political interests to impede the creation of new regulations by subjecting them to a never-ending process of review and analysis. They also warn that the review process could easily become balanced in favor of industry. Backers of the administration’s proposal include the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, Ford Motor Co., the American Chemistry Council, the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (whose members include regulated mining concerns), and Syngenta, a pesticide company. Opponents of the plan include a number of former regulators from the administrations of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton including former labor secretary Robert B. Reich, former EPA administrators Russell Train and Carol M. Browner, heads of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration under Carter and the elder Bush; and Neal Lane, who was director of the National Science Foundation under Clinton and head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. [Washington Post, 1/15/2004; Baltimore Sun, 12/19/2004]
At the end of a two-day meeting to discuss the progress of their investigation of the WTC collapses on 9/11, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) investigators say that early tests on steel beams recovered from the World Trade Center showed they met or were stronger than design requirements. NIST has collected 236 pieces of steel from the wreckage of the towers. Tests have found that the steel beams exceeded requirements to bear 36,000 pounds per square inch, and were often capable of bearing around 42,000 pounds per square inch. Lead investigator Shyam Sunder says that if further testing corroborates these findings, this will rule out weak steel as a factor in the collapses. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 8/26/2003; Associated Press, 8/28/2003] The final report of the NIST investigation, released in 2005, will corroborate this finding: “Overall, approximately 87 percent of all perimeter and core column steel tested exceeded the required minimum yield strengths specified in design documents. Test data for the remaining samples were below specifications, but were within the expected variability and did not affect the safety of the towers on September 11, 2001.” It also will point out: “Of the more than 170 areas examined on 16 perimeter column panels, only three columns had evidence that the steel reached temperatures above 250°C.… Only two core column specimens had sufficient paint remaining to make such an analysis, and their temperatures did not reach 250°C.… Using metallographic analysis, NIST determined that there was no evidence that any of the samples had reached temperatures above 600 °C.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 89-90]
Franklin Miller. [Source: The Cohen Group]A national security official who worked alongside counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke on September 11 openly disputes Clarke’s account of events in the White House Situation Room on 9/11. [Sydney Morning Herald, 3/31/2004] Clarke has put forward his account in the dramatic first chapter of his just-published book Against All Enemies, which has already topped the Amazon.com bestsellers list. [Reuters, 3/26/2004; Los Angeles Times, 3/30/2004] His critic, Franklin Miller, is a senior aide to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who admits that he was often a bureaucratic rival of Clarke. Miller tells the New York Times that almost none of the conversations described in the first chapter of Clarke’s book match his own recollection of events. [New York Times, 3/30/2004]
In his book, Clarke recalls the Secret Service requesting fighter escorts to protect Air Force One after it took off from Sarasota, Florida, where the president had been visiting an elementary school. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 6] However, Miller says a young aide in the Situation Room had in fact made this request to him. He had initially told the aide he had seen too many movies, but after reconsidering had asked Rice whether to call up fighter support and she told him to go ahead. [New York Times, 3/30/2004]
Clarke’s book claims that Miller had urged Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to take a helicopter out of the burning Pentagon and Rumsfeld responded, “I am too goddamn old to go to an alternate site.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 8-9] Miller says he never spoke to Rumsfeld on 9/11. [New York Times, 3/30/2004]
Clarke recounts how the Situation Room Deputy Director Ralph Seigler had called out, “Secret Service reports a hostile aircraft 10 minutes out,” left the room, and then returned soon after to report, “Hostile aircraft eight minutes out” (see (After 10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Clarke, 2004, pp. 9-10] Yet Miller and Sean McCormack, the spokesman of the National Security Council who was also in the Situation Room that morning, do not recall this. They say that Seigler himself denies making such an announcement, though Seigler declines to be interviewed by the New York Times about it. [New York Times, 3/30/2004]
Clarke claims that at one point he had gathered his staff from the Situation Room around him and told them to leave for their own safety, but they declined (see (Shortly After 9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He had written that Miller then “grabbed a legal pad and said, ‘All right. If you’re staying, sign your name here,’” so a list could be e-mailed out of the building. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 12] But Miller says, “That paragraph was a complete fiction,” adding that he made no such statement. According to Miller, Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley had instructed the staff members to keep the Situation Room running and there had never been any question about whether they could stay or go. [New York Times, 3/30/2004]
Miller says Clarke “did a hell of a job that day. We all did.” But he says Clarke’s account is “a much better screenplay than reality was.” The New York Times is unable to contact Clarke to get his response to Miller’s allegations. [New York Times, 3/30/2004]
The 9/11 Commission’s staff team that is investigating the emergency response on 9/11 comes to the conclusion that New York City was, in author Philip Shenon’s words, “shockingly ill-prepared for the attacks.” It is clear to the investigators that former Mayor Rudy Giuliani was largely responsible for what went wrong.
Two Major Problems - One problem was that New York’s emergency command center, based on the 23rd floor of World Trade Center 7, was knocked out early in the attacks, leaving the emergency response without a focal point, and the police and fire departments set up separate command posts (see (9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (9:50 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and (After 10:28 a.m.-12:00 pm.) September 11, 2001). The command center, sometimes referred to as “Rudy’s bunker,” was criticized when it was built precisely because this problem was foreseen (see June 8, 1999). In addition, the radios used by firefighters in the World Trade Center failed to work on 9/11. The same problem was encountered during the response to the 1993 WTC bombing (see February 26, 1993), but the solution that was implemented—a repeater to boost the radios’ signal—did not work on the day of the attacks. This problem was especially grave, as many firefighters were instructed to flee the about-to-collapse towers, but did not hear the instruction due to the poor radio system and died as a result (see (Between 9:59 a.m. and 10:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Tempering Criticism - However, the team, led by former New Jersey attorney general John Farmer, is aware that Giuliani’s image as a global hero after the attacks could complicate matters. Shenon will describe their thinking: “But would the Commission be willing to take on the most popular political figure in the country—the president-in-waiting, it seemed?… [Giuliani] was a hero, the embodiment of everything Americans wanted to believe about themselves about 9/11.” Therefore, “Farmer and his team always qualif[y] their criticism of the former mayor.” Nevertheless, the Commission’s two staff statements issued during the hearings about this topic in New York will be extremely critical of Giuliani. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 347-350]
The first of two days of 9/11 Commission hearings in New York is overshadowed by a row between commissioner John Lehman and two subordinates of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and former Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen. Despite Giuliani’s hero status after the attacks, the Commission’s staff discovered serious errors in New York’s preparations for a potential terrorist attack before 9/11 (see Before May 17, 2004), but realized the commissioners had to be sensitive in how these errors were handled in public (see May 17, 2004).
Aggressive Beginning - When Lehman has his turn to put questions to a panel, he makes an aggressive beginning, saying that New York’s police, fire, and Port Authority police departments are the finest in the world but also “the proudest,” and adds, “But pride runneth before the fall.” He then calls the command, control, and communications “a scandal,” and says the emergency response system was “not worthy of the Boy Scouts, let alone this great city.” This draws some applause from the crowd and Lehman adds: “I think it’s a scandal that the fire commissioner has no line authority. It’s a scandal that there’s nobody that has clear line authority and accountability for a crisis of the magnitude that we’re going to have to deal with in the years ahead. It’s a scandal that after laboring for eight years, the city comes up with a plan for incident management that simply puts in concrete this clearly dysfunctional system.”
Counterattack - Kerik and Von Essen, both now partners in Giuliani’s consulting firm, push back. Von Essen says: “I couldn’t disagree with you more. I think that one of the criticisms of this committee has been statements like you just made, talking about scandalous procedures and scandalous operations and rules and everything else. There’s nothing scandalous about the way that New York City handles its emergencies.… You make it sound like everything was wrong about September 11th or the way we function. I think it’s outrageous that you make a statement like that.” Kerik and Von Essen also make similar comments for the press after the hearing, when Von Essen calls Lehman’s questioning “despicable” and adds, “If I had the opportunity, I probably would have choked him because that’s what he deserved.”
Chance to Meaningfully Question Giuliani Lost - The commissioners and the Commission’s staff immediately realize Lehman has destroyed any chance the Commission had of getting to the bottom of why things went badly with the emergency response in New York on 9/11. Author Philip Shenon will comment: “Any hope of forcing Giuliani to answer hard questions the next day had evaporated. The dynamic would now turn in Giuliani’s favor.”
Lehman Claims He Was Set Up - According to Shenon: “[Lehman] was certain he had been set up by Kerik and Von Essen on behalf of Giuliani. He suspected they had come to the hearing with a script. They were waiting for the right question from one of the commissioners that would allow them to launch a pre-scripted fusillade of insults back at the Commission, turning the hearing into an us-versus-them fight that the city’s tabloids would devour.” [Shenon, 2008, pp. 351-354]
John Farmer. [Source: Publicity photo]The team of investigators on the 9/11 Commission that is investigating the events of the morning of September 11 comes to believe that a key part of Vice President Dick Cheney’s account is false. The team, led by John Farmer, is convinced that the decision to authorize the military to shoot down threatening aircraft on 9/11 was made by Cheney alone, not by President Bush. According to journalist and author Philip Shenon: “If Farmer’s team was right, the shootdown order was almost certainly unconstitutional, a violation of the military chain of command, which has no role for the vice president. In the absence of the president, military orders should have been issued by Defense Secretary [Donald] Rumsfeld, bypassing the vice president entirely.”
No Evidence - Other than Cheney’s own account of his actions that morning, and a subsequent attempt Bush made to confirm this account, the team has found no evidence that the president was involved in making the shootdown decision before Cheney issued the order, and much evidence that he was unaware of this decision. Shenon will describe: “Even in moments of crisis, the White House keeps extraordinary records of communications involving Bush and his senior staff; every phone call is logged, along with a detailed summary of what happened during the call.… But for 9/11, the logs offered no evidence of a call between Cheney and Bush in which Bush authorized a shootdown. And Farmer’s team reviewed more than just one set of communications logs. There were seven of them—one maintained by the White House telephone switchboard, one by the Secret Service, one by the Situation Room, and four separate logs maintained by military officers working in the White House.” [Shenon, 2008, pp. 265-266]
Issued by Cheney - The Commission believes Cheney issued the shootdown order between around 10:10 a.m. and 10:15 a.m. on 9/11, in response to reports of an aircraft heading toward Washington (see (Between 10:10 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 41]
No Notes - Yet deputy White House chief of staff Josh Bolten, who was with Cheney at the time, had reportedly “not heard any prior conversation on the subject [of shooting down aircraft] with the president.” As Newsweek describes: “Nor did the real-time notes taken by two others in the room, Cheney’s chief of staff, ‘Scooter’ Libby—who is known for his meticulous record-keeping—or Cheney’s wife, Lynne, reflect that such a phone call between Bush and Cheney occurred or that such a major decision as shooting down a US airliner was discussed.… National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and a military aide said they remembered a call, but gave few specifics.” [Newsweek, 6/20/2004] The notes of White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who had been on Air Force One with the president, show no reference to a shootdown order until several minutes after Cheney issued it (see 10:18 a.m.-10:20 a.m. September 11, 2001).
"Completely Understandable" - Daniel Marcus, the general counsel of the 9/11 Commission, will later say he thought: “[I]n many ways, it would have been completely understandable for Cheney to issue a shootdown order without authorization from Bush. Whatever the constitutional issues, it would have been difficult to second-guess Cheney about a decision to save the White House from destruction if a suicide hijacker was bearing down on the capital and there were only seconds to act.” Yet, as Marcus will recall, Cheney’s staff is “obsessed with showing that he didn’t give the order.” [Shenon, 2008, pp. 266-267]
Cheney Angry - White House lawyers will subsequently lobby the 9/11 Commission to amend its treatment of the shootdown issue in one of its staff reports (see June 15, 2004). [Newsweek, 6/20/2004] And, on this same issue, an angry Cheney will try to get the 9/11 Commission Report changed just before it is released (see Shortly Before July 22, 2004). [Shenon, 2008, pp. 411-412]
White House lawyers send an angry letter to the 9/11 Commission, which causes the Commission to water down its staff report account of Vice President Dick Cheney’s actions on September 11. [Newsweek, 6/20/2004] Members of the team of investigators on the 9/11 Commission examining the events of the morning of 9/11 believe that a key part of Cheney’s account, regarding the shootdown order, is false (see (Mid 2004)). [Shenon, 2008, pp. 265] The Commission has found that Cheney issued the shootdown order, but he and President Bush have stated that this was only after the president had authorized the shooting down of threatening aircraft during a phone call between the two men. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 40-41] However, the Commission has found “no documentary evidence for this call.” Newsweek learns that “some on the Commission staff [are], in fact, highly skeptical of the vice president’s account and made their views clearer in an earlier draft of their staff report.” Some staffers “flat out didn’t believe the call ever took place.” But when the early draft was circulated among the Bush administration, it provoked an angry reaction. White House spokesman Dan Bartlett will say, “We didn’t think it was written in a way that clearly reflected the accounting the president and vice president had given to the Commission.” In a series of phone calls and a letter from its lawyers, the White House forcefully lobbies the Commission to change the language in its report. According to Newsweek, “Ultimately the chairman and vice chair of the Commission, former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean and former representative Lee Hamilton… agreed to remove some of the offending language. The report ‘was watered down,’ groused one staffer.” [Newsweek, 6/20/2004] The amended staff report will be presented days later, on June 17, at the final round of the Commission’s public hearings. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; New York Times, 6/17/2004] Cheney will again be angry at how the Commission has dealt with the shootdown issue in its final report, and tries to get this report changed on the eve of its release (see Shortly Before July 22, 2004). [Shenon, 2008, pp. 267]
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) issues a progress report on its investigation into the World Trade Center collapses. Since 2002, NIST has been investigating the collapses of the Twin Towers and WTC Building 7 (see August 21, 2002). The progress report includes its “working hypothesis” for the collapse of WTC 7. This was a 47-story building, located about 350 feet from the north side of WTC 1, which collapsed completely at around 5:20 in the afternoon of 9/11. The report claims that “fire appears to have played a key role” in the collapse, though it points out, “No fire was observed or reported in the afternoon on floors 1-5, 10, or above Floor 13.” It also says, “there may have been some physical damage on the south side of the building.” NIST summarizes its working hypothesis of the WTC 7 collapse as follows:
“An initial local failure at the lower floors (below Floor 13) of the building due to fire and/or debris induced structural damage of a critical column (the initiating event), which supported a large span floor bay with an area of about 2,000 square feet.”
“Vertical progression of the initial local failure up to the east penthouse, as large floor bays were unable to redistribute the loads, bringing down the interior structure below the east penthouse.”
“Horizontal progression of the failure across the lower floors… triggered by damage due to the vertical failure, resulting in the disproportionate collapse of the entire structure.”
NIST claims this hypothesis “is consistent with all evidence currently held by NIST, including photographs and videos, eyewitness accounts and emergency communication records,” but says it “will be revised and updated as results of ongoing, more comprehensive analyses become available.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 6/2004, pp. L1, L3, L17, L34, L38, L51-L52 ; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 6/18/2004] NIST will release its final reports on the collapses of the Twin Towers in October 2005 (see October 26, 2005). As of mid-2007, it has yet to release a final report on the collapse of WTC 7. In early 2006, Dr. S. Shyam Sunder, who is the lead investigator for NIST’s WTC investigation, will admit, “truthfully, I don’t really know” what caused WTC 7 to collapse. He will add, “We’ve had trouble getting a handle on building no. 7” (see March 20, 2006). [New York Magazine, 3/20/2006] An earlier report on the WTC collapses, released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in May 2002, had been inconclusive on what caused WTC 7 to collapse, and stated that “Further research, investigation, and analyses” were necessary (see May 1, 2002). [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 5-31]
Vice President Dick Cheney is furious that the 9/11 Commission is going to conclude in its final report that it does not believe he has been telling the full truth about his actions on the morning of September 11, and tries to get the report rewritten on the eve of its release. Since late June, each completed chapter of the 9/11 Commission Report has been forwarded to the White House for a declassification review by a team of intelligence specialists assembled by White House chief of staff Andrew Card. According to author Philip Shenon, “Cheney and his counsel, David Addington, [are] outraged by the Commission’s timeline on Cheney’s actions on September 11—and the clear suggestion that Cheney had issued an unconstitutional shootdown order that morning without Bush’s knowledge or approval.” Members of the Commission’s staff had become convinced that the decision to authorize the military to shoot down threatening aircraft was made by Cheney alone, not by President Bush (see (Mid 2004)). A few days before the 9/11 Commission Report is to be released, an angry Cheney phones Thomas Kean, the chairman of the Commission. Cheney complains, “Governor, this is not true, just not fair.” He says he finds it startling that the Commission does not accept his word and that of President Bush: “The president has told you, I have told you, that the president issued the order. I was following his directions.” Cheney demands that the relevant sections of the report be rewritten. Kean promises that he will ask the Commission’s staff to review the material about the shootdown order again before the report is published. According to Shenon, “no major changes” are subsequently made in response to Cheney’s complaint. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 265 and 411-412] The White House had previously successfully lobbied the Commission to water down one of its staff reports that dealt with the shootdown authorization (see June 15, 2004). [Newsweek, 6/20/2004]
Kevin Ryan. [Source: Public domain]Kevin Ryan, the laboratory director at Environmental Health Laboratories Inc., which is a subsidiary of Underwriters Laboratories Inc., writes an e-mail to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)—the agency currently investigating the WTC collapses—in which he challenges the official theory regarding the WTC collapses. According to Ryan, Underwriters Laboratories Inc. was the company that certified the steel components used in the construction of the World Trade Center, and it had been agreed that the samples it certified met all requirements. His e-mail states, “This story just does not add up. If steel from [the Twin Towers] did soften or melt, I’m sure we can all agree that this was certainly not due to jet fuel fires of any kind, let alone the briefly burning fires in those towers.” His e-mail is published on the Internet, and generates interest on many websites. Days later, Kevin Ryan is fired because, according to a company spokesman, he “expressed his own opinions as though they were institutional opinions and beliefs” of Underwriters Laboratories. According to Underwriters Laboratories, “there is no evidence” that any firm tested the materials used to build the towers. They also say that Ryan was not involved in any way with their fire protection division, which had conducted testing at NIST’s request. [South Bend Tribune, 11/22/2004]
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which is conducting an investigation into the WTC collapses on 9/11, releases three new reports. Investigators say that the Twin Towers would probably have remained standing if the fireproofing material that surrounded the buildings’ structural steel had not been stripped away when the planes hit. Their report states that “[t]he jet fuel, which ignited the fires, was mostly consumed within the first few minutes after impact. The fires that burned for almost the entire time that the buildings remained standing were due mainly to burning building contents and, to a lesser extent, aircraft contents, not jet fuel.” However, they claim, without the loss of fireproofing during the planes’ impacts, the heat from the fires would have been insufficient to cause the buildings to collapse. They say that although the architects had in 1964 tested the impact of a Boeing 707 airplane crashing into the 80th floor of one of the towers, they never envisioned the intense fires that ensued. NIST also reports that the time taken by survivors from the North Tower to descend a flight of stairs was about double the slowest evacuation speed estimated in a standard fire engineering text. They state: “approximately 87 percent of the WTC tower occupants, including more than 99 percent below the floors of impact, were able to evacuate successfully.” However, they say, if each tower had been full when they were hit, as many as 14,000 people could have died. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 4/5/2005; Associated Press, 4/5/2005; New York Times, 4/5/2005; Associated Press, 4/6/2005]
Based upon its three-year investigation of the WTC collapses, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) calls for changes in the planning, construction, and operation of skyscrapers. NIST releases 43 draft reports, totaling about 10,000 pages, for public comments. These include 25 pages of recommendations, intended to learn from 9/11 and make building occupants and emergency responders safer in any future disasters. NIST’s inquiry has been conducted by more than 200 technical experts and contractors, and had two main parts: to look at the causes of the collapses and to identify weaknesses in building codes. Their recommendations include specific improvements to building standards, codes and practices; changes to evacuation and emergency response procedures; and research to help prevent future building failures. NIST does not have the authority to change building codes, but hopes to influence the policies of local authorities. The cost of implementing their recommended changes would add an estimated extra 2 to 5 percent to the development costs of buildings. Some are critical of their recommendations. Structural engineer Jon Magnusson, whose firm is the descendant of the company that designed the Twin Towers, says, “They are leading the public down the wrong path. They are saying we are going to fix the codes in order to deal with Sept. 11th. The physics say that you can’t do that.” [New York Times, 6/22/2005; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 6/23/2005; Associated Press, 6/24/2005] The New York Times points out that between 1989 and 1999, only five civilians had been killed in some 6,900 reported high-rise office building fires within the US. [New York Times, 6/24/2005] NIST will release its final report on the Twin Towers collapses four months later (see October 26, 2005).
The City of New York releases a large volume of records from 9/11. These include over 12,000 pages of oral histories—testimonies from 503 firefighters, paramedics, and emergency medical technicians involved in the 9/11 emergency response—and about 15 hours of radio communications between dispatchers and firefighters. The oral histories were gathered in informal interviews by the New York City Fire Department, beginning in October 2001. This was on the order of then Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen, who said he wanted to preserve the accounts before individual memories faded. However, these histories were never subsequently used for any official purpose. [New York Times, 8/12/2005; BBC, 8/13/2005; Guardian, 8/13/2005; Newsday, 8/13/2005] The New York Times, under the freedom of information law, originally sought the records in February 2002. Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration refused the request, claiming their release would jeopardize the prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui, and violate firefighters’ privacy (see July 23, 2002). The newspaper, joined by some 9/11 victims’ relatives, consequently sued the city, and in March 2005 the state’s highest court ruled that the city had to release the oral histories and recordings, but could edit out potentially painful and embarrassing portions. The city had also initially refused investigators from the 9/11 Commission and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) access to the records, but relented following threats of legal action. [Associated Press, 8/12/2005; New York Times, 8/12/2005; Guardian, 8/13/2005] Analyzing the oral histories, the New York Times strongly criticizes the lack of information that firefighters received on 9/11: “[F]irefighters in the [north WTC tower] said they were ‘clueless’ and knew ‘absolutely nothing’ about the reality of the gathering crisis.” It continues: “Of 58 firefighters who escaped the [North Tower] and gave oral histories, only four said they knew the South Tower had already fallen. Just three said they had heard radio warnings that the North Tower was also in danger of collapse. And some who had heard orders to evacuate debated whether they were meant for civilians or firefighters.” [New York Times, 9/9/2005]
President Bush declares an emergency for Louisiana, and orders federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts in the affected area. This declaration activates the National Response Plan, and authorizes FEMA to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures to save lives, protect property and public health and safety for parishes in the storm’s path and to minimize or avert the threat of a catastrophe in multiple parishes. Bush’s declaration authorizes FEMA to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, including specifically, “[m]easures undertaken to preserve public health and safety and to eliminate threats to public or private property.” In response to this declaration, FEMA Director Michael Brown appoints William Lokey as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area. [White House, 8/27/2005; US Department of Homeland Security, 9/7/2005] . As Governor Blanco will later note, this pre-impact declaration is extremely unusual. The last time a president issued a pre-impact declaration was when Hurricane Andrew was bearing down on Florida in 1992. [CNN, 8/27/2005] Note that while President Bush’s emergency declaration identifies 39 parishes, it does not identify the parishes in Katrina’s path, apparently due to a clerical error. [Knight Ridder, 9/11/2005] This omission has no practical effect, and a corrected declaration will be issued on Monday. [US Department of Homeland Security, 9/7/2005]
Note 1 - Reuters will later incorrectly report that Bush appoints William Lokey as the Federal Coordinating Officer, and will imply that such action is somehow unusual. [Reuters, 9/15/2005] In fact, as reflected in the official Federal Register entry, and in the White House release, Brown appoints Lokey as the coordinating officer for Louisiana. This appointment is consistent with standard practice: For each declared emergency, a different (lower level) individual is appointed as the federal coordinating officer.
Note 2 - Knight Ridder (and other news media) will later incorrectly report that Bush failed to trigger the federal government’s responsibility, and that it is not triggered until DHS Secretary Chertoff’s August 31 announcement that the Katrina disaster is an “Incident of National Significance.” [Knight Ridder, 9/11/2005; Knight Ridder, 9/15/2005] In fact, Bush’s declaration (a) effectively authorizes FEMA to provide a full and immediate federal response to the unfolding crisis, and (b) makes the crisis an “Incident of National Significance.” [US Department of Homeland Security, 12/2004] , at 7 (“Note that while all Presidentially declared disasters and emergencies under the Stafford Act are considered Incidents of National Significance, not all Incidents of National Significance necessarily result in disaster or emergency declarations under the Stafford Act.”); [US Department of Homeland Security, 9/7/2005] (granting FEMA full authority to respond to the emergency.) The strategy behind DHS Secretary Chertoff’s much ballyhooed—and inaccurate—August 31 announcement
[ that his declaration triggers for the first time a coordinated federal response to states and localities overwhelmed by disaster remains unclear at this time. ]
Alabama Governor Bob Riley orders the evacuation of residents south of Interstate 10 in Mobile County and in low-lying areas of Baldwin County due to the significant threat posed by Hurricane Katrina. The evacuation for areas in Baldwin County goes into effect at 1:00 pm and the evacuation order for areas south of I-10 in Mobile County goes into effect at 1:30 pm. [Alabama, 8/28/2005]
Approximately 10,000 residents are now sheltering in the New Orleans Superdome. The Louisiana National Guard has delivered three truckloads of water and seven truckloads of MREs, which it expects is sufficient to provision 15,000 people for up to three days, according to Col. Jay Mayeaux, Deputy Director of Louisiana Homeland Security Office of Emergency Preparedness. [Times-Picayune Blog, 8/28/2005 Sources: Jay Mayeaux] More than 600 people with medical needs are housed at the dome. [Associated Press, 8/29/2005] Some 200-550 National Guard members are inside the Superdome providing security and water. Other Guard engineers will be in the dome to monitor the structural integrity of the facility. ( [MacCash and O.Byrne, 8/29/2005] reports 200 Guard members on duty; [Advocate (Baton Rouge), 9/9/2005] reports 400 Guard members on duty; and [Associated Press, 8/29/2005] reports 5500 Guard members on duty.
Note - Reports vary regarding the number of residents in the Superdome this evening. One contemporaneous report indicates that 26,000 people are sheltered there. [Times-Picayune Blog, 8/28/2005] A few hours from now, the same paper will report that the dome is sheltering more than 30,000 people. [Times-Picayune Blog, 8/29/2005] However, the next morning, the same paper will report that approximately 8,000-9,000 people are there, citing Doug Thornton, General Manager of the Superdome. [Associated Press, 8/29/2005 Sources: Doug Thornton] FEMA Director Michael Brown will tell National Public Radio tomorrow morning that 9,000-10,000 people are sheltered there. [National Public Radio, 8/29/2005 Sources: Michael D. Brown] See also, [ABC, 8/29/2005; CBS News, 8/29/2005] .
When Hurricane Katrina strikes New Orleans, the Louisiana National Guard almost immediately loses all forms of communication, according to Lt. Col. Schneider. Louisiana State Police also lose communications as well, according to Sgt. Lawrence McLeary, a state police officer in the Baton Rouge emergency center: “We lost contact with our personnel there. We lost contact with our troupe on the north shore, located in Mandeville. So we had—I mean, it was a pretty tense time, because we had no idea what was taking place in those areas.” The landlines are no longer operable. Cell phone towers have toppled; some are under water. Power is out and so it is impossible to recharge battery-operated radios. Guard generators, which could have charged these devices, are in either Iraq or Baton Rouge, according to a National Public Radio report. [National Public Radio, 9/9/2005 Sources: Pete Schneider, Lawrence McLeary] FEMA emergency officials will wait days to receive working satellite phones. [Los Angeles Times, 9/11/2005]
Speaking at the New America Foundation, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, argues that power in Washington has become so concentrated, and the inter-agency processes within the Federal government so degraded, that the government is no longer capable of responding competently to threatening events—whether such events are natural disasters or international conflicts. He describes how successive administrations over the last five decades have damaged the national security decision-making process and warns that new legislation is desperately needed to force transparency on the process and restore checks and balances within the federal bureaucracy. The process has hit a nadir with the Bush administration, he says, whose secrecy and disregard for inter-agency processes has resulted in disastrous policies, such as those toward Iraq, North Korea, and Iran, and the policies that resulted in the prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib. “Fundamental decisions about foreign policy should not be made in secret,” he says. “You don’t have this kind of pervasive attitude out there unless you’ve condoned it.” He says, “[T]he case that I saw for four-plus years was a case that I have never seen in my studies of aberrations, bastardizations, and perturbations in the national-security [policy-making] process.” This approach to government also contributed to the failures in responding to hurricanes Katrina and Rita. “Decisions that send men and women to die, decisions that have the potential to send men and women to die, decisions that confront situations like natural disasters and cause needless death or cause people to suffer misery that they shouldn’t have to suffer, domestic and international decisions, should not be made in a secret way.” His speech includes a very direct and open attack on the Bush administration. “What I saw was a cabal between the Vice President of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made. And then when the bureaucracy was presented with those decisions and carried them out, it was presented in such a disjointed incredible way that the bureaucracy often didn’t know what it was doing as it moved to carry them out.” Wilkerson contrasts the current president with his father, George H.W. Bush, “one of the finest presidents we have ever had,” who, in Wilkerson’s opinion, understood how to make foreign policy work. Wilkerson likens George W. Bush’s brand of diplomacy to “cowboyism” and notes that he was unable to persuade US allies to stand behind his policies because “it’s hard to sell shit.” He explains that Bush is “not versed in international relations and not too much interested in them either. There’s a vast difference between the way George H. W. Bush dealt with major challenges, some of the greatest challenges at the end of the 20th century, and effected positive results in my view, and the way we conduct diplomacy today.” Wilkerson lays the blame for the Abu Ghraib detainee abuse directly at the feet of the younger Bush and his top officials, whom Wilkerson says gave tacit approval to soldiers to abuse detainees. As for Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser and now Powell’s successor at the State Department, she was and is “part of the problem.” Instead of ensuring that Bush received the best possible advice even if it was not what Bush wanted to hear, Rice “would side with the president to build her intimacy with the president.” Wilkerson also blames the fracturing and demoralization of the US military on Bush and his officials. Officers “start voting with their feet, as they did in Vietnam,” he says, “and all of a sudden your military begins to unravel.” Wilkerson is particularly scathing in his assessment of the Pentagon’s supervisor of the OSP, Douglas Feith, one of the original members of the Cabal. Asked if he agrees with General Tommy Franks’s assessment of Feith as the “f_cking stupidest guy on the planet.” Wilkerson says, “Let me testify to that. He was. Seldom in my life have I met a dumber man. And yet, after the [Pentagon is given] control, at least in the immediate post-war period in Iraq, this man is put in charge. Not only is he put in charge, he is given carte blanche to tell the State Department to go screw themselves in a closet somewhere.…That’s telling you how decisions were made and…how things got accomplished.” [American Strategy Program, 10/19/2005; Financial Times, 10/20/2005; Inter Press Service, 10/20/2005; Salon, 10/27/2005]
James Quintiere. [Source: University of Maryland]During a House Science Committee hearing on the key findings and recommendations of the National Institute of Standard and Technology (NIST) investigation into World Trade Center collapse, a fire expert raises several concerns. James Quintiere is a professor of fire protection engineering at the University of Maryland, with over 35 years of experience in fire research. He’d worked in the fire program at NIST for 19 years, and is a former chair of the International Association for Fire Safety Science, which is the principal world forum for fire research. In his statement presented at the hearing, Quintiere lists several specific concerns that he’d submitted to NIST, but which were never acknowledged or answered. These include:
“Why were not alternative collapse hypotheses investigated and discussed as NIST had stated repeatedly that they would do?”
“Spoliation of a fire scene is a basis for destroying a legal case in an investigation. Most of the steel [from the WTC] was discarded.… A careful reading of the NIST report shows that they have no evidence that the temperatures they predict as necessary for failure are corroborated by findings of the little steel debris they have.”
“NIST used computer models that they said have never been used in such an application before and are the state of the art.… But the validation of these modeling results is in question.”
“The critical collapse of WTC 7 is relegated to a secondary role.… Why has NIST dragged on this important investigation?”
Quintiere also complains, “In my opinion, the WTC investigation by NIST falls short of expectations by not definitively finding cause, by not sufficiently linking recommendations of specificity to cause, by not fully invoking all of their authority to seek facts in the investigation, and by the guidance of government lawyers to deter rather than develop fact finding.” [US Congress. House. Committee on Science, 10/26/2005]
The 43 NIST reports ran to over 10,000 pages. [Source: NIST]The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) issues the final report of its three-year, $16 million study into the WTC collapses on 9/11. NIST has produced over 10,000 pages of findings, and its report includes 30 recommendations for improving building safety, such as having wider stairwells and structurally hardened elevators for use in emergencies. The recommendations are mostly the same as those outlined in an earlier draft of the report (see June 23, 2005). [Engineering News-Record, 10/27/2005; New York Times, 10/27/2005] NIST has made some amendments and clarifications, though, based upon nearly 500 comments received during a six-week public review period. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 10/26/2005] NIST’s theory about what caused the Twin Towers to collapse remains the same as that described in its previously released findings (see October 19, 2004). However, the NIST’s account only examines events up to the initiation of each collapse; the investigation “does not actually include the structural behavior of the tower after the conditions for collapse initiation were reached and collapse became inevitable.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 82] NIST makes no mention of molten metal found at the collapse site in the weeks and months after 9/11, which has been described in numerous reports (see September 12, 2001-February 2002). The “NIST found no corroborating evidence for alternative hypotheses suggesting that the WTC towers were brought down by controlled demolition using explosives planted prior to September 11, 2001.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 146] Members of Congress are critical of NIST’s recommendations, saying they are not detailed enough, or adequately documented, to be rapidly incorporated into standard building code publications. [New York Times, 10/27/2005] According to Glenn Corbett, a technical adviser to NIST and fire science professor at John Jay College, NIST is not aggressive enough to carry out major forensic investigations. He says, “Instead of a gumshoe inquiry that left no stone unturned, I believe the investigations were treated more like research projects in which they waited for information to flow to them.” [Associated Press, 10/26/2005; US Congress, 10/26/2005 ] NIST will release its final report on the collapse of Building 7 of the WTC separately, at a later date. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. xiii]
The Department of Homeland Security awards a contract to Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root to establish what the $385 million contract describes as “temporary detention and processing capabilities.” Journalist Christopher Ketcham will comment: “The contract is short on details, stating only that the facilities would be used for ‘an emergency influx of immigrants, or to support the rapid development of new programs.’ Just what those ‘new programs’ might be is not specified.” [Radar, 5/2008]
The US embassy in Baghdad under construction. [Source: London Times]A US Inspector General’s report into reconstruction in Iraq finds that although $22 billion had been spent, water, sewage, and electricity infrastructure still operate at prewar levels. Oil production is also significantly below prewar levels. Task Force Shield, a $147 million to train Iraqi security personnel to protect key oil and electrical sites failed to meet its goals. A fraud investigation is under way to find out why. Less than half the water and electricity projects have been completed and only six of 150 planned health clinics have been completed. By contrast, the US embassy under construction in Baghdad is the only big US building project in Iraq on time and within budget. The embassy, estimated to cost $592 million, will consist of 21 large buildings instead a 102-hectare (42-acre) site, and will be bigger than the small nation of Vatican City. The London Times comments, “The question puzzles and enrages a city: how is it that the Americans cannot keep the electricity running in Baghdad for more than a couple of hours a day, yet still manage to build themselves the biggest embassy on Earth?” [London Times, 5/3/2006]
President Bush issues a classified presidential directive updating the nation’s secretive post-disaster “National Continuity Policy.” The highly classified Continuity of Government (COG) and Continuity of Operations (COOP) plans are designed to keep the government functioning in times of national emergency. Bush’s presidential directive, officially titled National Security Presidential Directive 51 (NSPD-51)/Homeland Security Presidential Directive 20 (HSPD-20), is described by the Boston Globe as a “special kind of executive order that can be kept secret.” The non-classified portion of the directive is posted quietly on the White House website, with no explanation. The document states, “It is the policy of the United States to maintain a comprehensive and effective continuity capability composed of Continuity of Operations and Continuity of Government programs in order to ensure the preservation of our form of government.” The directive orders executive branch officials to establish a wide range of special protocols to keep the government running during an emergency. The directive stresses the importance of relocating to alternative facilities, delegating powers to emergency leaders, and securing and allocating the nation’s vital resources. According to NSPD-51, the special emergency plans should be ready to go at a moment’s notice, and incorporated into the daily operations of all executive departments and agencies. The special emergency protocols are designed for any “catastrophic emergency,” which NSPD-51 defines as “any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the US population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions.” Incidents falling into this category would not be limited to hostile attacks, the document makes clear, but would also include “localized acts of nature” and “accidents.” The new plan centralizes post-disaster planning in the White House, and appears to limit the powers of the legislative and judicial branches in times of emergency. The directive creates the position of national continuity coordinator, which is to be held by the assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism. The secretary of homeland security and the national continuity coordinator are to oversee the development and implementation of the continuity plans. [Washington Post, 5/10/2007; US President, 5/14/2007 ; Progressive, 5/18/2007; Boston Globe, 6/2/2007]
Conservative Commentators Warn of 'Dictatorial Powers' - Conservative commentator Jerome Corsi says the directive appears to give the president a legal mechanism to seize “dictatorial powers” since it would not require consultation with Congress about when to invoke emergency powers, or when to relinquish them. It is also noted that the new plan does not explicitly acknowledge the National Emergencies Act, which gives Congress the authority to override the president’s determination that a national emergency still exists. James Carafano, a homeland security specialist at the Heritage Foundation, says that the lack of an explanation for the unexpected directive is “appalling.” [Boston Globe, 6/2/2007]
In July and then again in August, Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR), a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, asks for access to the “classified annexes” of the Bush administration’s Continuity of Government (COG) program. DeFazio became interested in the topic because of Homeland Security Presidential Directive 20 (also known as NSPD-51), issued in May 2007, which reserved for the executive branch the sole authority to decide what constitutes a national emergency and to determine when the emergency is over. In a press release issued in August, DeFazio says he is concerned the NSPD-51 COG plans are “extra-constitutional or unconstitutional.” Around the same time, he tells the Oregonian: “Maybe the people who think there’s a conspiracy out there are right.” However, the documents will not have been released by May 2008. Some time soon after this, Congressional sources will say DeFazio has apparently abandoned his effort to get to the bottom of the classified annexes. However, DeFazio’s chief of staff will say he soon intends to ask for a classified briefing. [Radar, 5/2008]
Donald Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence, tells a conference of intelligence officials that the government needs new rules about how to balance privacy rights and investigative needs. Since many people routinely post details of their lives on social-networking sites such as MySpace, he says, their identity should not require the same protection as in the past. Instead, only their “essential privacy,” or “what they would wish to protect about their lives and affairs,” should be veiled. Commenting on the speech, the Wall Street Journal will say that this is part of a project by intelligence agencies “to change traditional definitions of how to balance privacy rights against investigative needs.” [Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 10/23/2007 ; Wall Street Journal, 3/10/2008] According to some accounts, the prime repository of information about US citizens that the government has is a database known as Main Core, so if the government collected more information about citizens, the information would be placed in or accessed through this database (see 1980s or Before).
A fire erupts in Vice President Dick Cheney’s ceremonial offices in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building while White House press secretary Dana Perino is answering questions about the destruction of CIA interrogation videos, at approximately 9:15 in the morning, next door at the White House. White House spokesperson Emily Lawrimore says she is unaware of any documents or artwork lost in the fire. DC fire department spokesman Alan Etter says that smoke came from an electrical closet on the second floor, which may have been the location of the fire’s cause. Perino says the fire may have originated in the electrical closet or a phone bank. The vice president’s working office is located in the West Wing of the White House, whereas the Eisenhower Executive Office Building houses the Office of Management and Budget, staff of the National Security Council, other agencies, and the ceremonial offices of the vice president. The adjacent office of the vice president’s political director Amy Whitelaw is heavily damaged in the fire, according to Cheney spokesperson Lea Anne McBride. [CBS News, 12/19/2007; Associated Press, 12/19/2007; Los Angeles Times, 12/20/2007]
National security lawyer Suzanne Spaulding says that the constitutional question of whether the US government can examine a large array of information about citizens contained in its databases (see 1980s or Before) without violating an individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy “has never really been resolved.” She adds that it is “extremely questionable” to assume Americans do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy for data such as the subject-header of an e-mail or a Web address from an Internet search, because those are more like the content of a communication than a phone number. “These are questions that require discussion and debate,” she says. “This is one of the problems with doing it all [collecting data on citizens] in secret.” [Wall Street Journal, 3/10/2008]
To assist in the merger of Bear Stearns Companies, Inc. and JP Morgan Chase & Co., the US Federal Reserve authorizes the New York Fed to form Maiden Lane LLC, a Delaware limited liability company. Once established, Maiden Lane is extended credit by the Fed to acquire certain Bear Stearns assets. Maiden Lane funds the purchase of the Bear Stearns asset portfolio of mortgage related securities, residential and commercial mortgage loans, and associated hedges through senior and subordinate loans of approximately $29 billion from the New York Fed, and a much smaller amount, approximately $1.15 billion, from JP Morgan Chase. As of March 14, 2008, the asset portfolio has an estimated fair value of approximately $30 billion. [Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 3/2008]
A new investigation modeled on the Church Committee, which investigated government spying (see April, 1976) and led to the passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA - see 1978) in the 1970s, is proposed. The proposal follows an amendment to wiretapping laws that immunizes telecommunications companies from prosecution for illegally co-operating with the NSA. A detailed seven-page memo is drafted outlining the proposed inquiry by a former senior member of the original Church Committee.
Congressional Investigative Body Proposed - The idea is to have Congress appoint an investigative body to discover the full extent of what the Bush White House did in the war on terror that may have been illegal and then to implement reforms aimed at preventing future abuses—and perhaps to bring accountability for wrongdoing by Bush officials. Key issues to investigate include:
The NSA’s domestic surveillance activities;
The CIA’s use of rendition and torture against terrorist suspects;
The U.S. government’s use of military assets—including satellites, Pentagon intelligence agencies, and U2 surveillance planes—for a spying apparatus that could be used against people in the US; and
The NSA’s use of databases and how its databases, such as the Main Core list of enemies, mesh with other government lists, such as the no-fly list. A deeper investigation should focus on how these lists feed on each other, as well as the government’s “inexorable trend towards treating everyone as a suspect,” says Barry Steinhardt, the director of the Program on Technology and Liberty for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Proposers - The proposal is a product of talks between civil liberties advocates and aides to Democratic leaders in Congress. People consulted about the committee include aides to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers (D-MI). The civil liberties organizations include the ACLU, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and Common Cause. However, some Democrats, such as Pelosi, Senate Intelligence Committee chairman John D. Rockefeller (D-WV), and former House Intelligence chairwoman Jane Harman (D-CA), approved the Bush administration’s operations and would be made to look bad by such investigation.
Investigating Bush, Clinton Administrations - In order that the inquiry not be called partisan, it is to have a scope going back beyond the start of the Bush administration to include the administrations of Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan. The memo states that “[t]he rise of the ‘surveillance state’ driven by new technologies and the demands of counter-terrorism did not begin with this administration.” However, the author later says in interviews that the scope of abuse under George W. Bush would likely be an order of magnitude greater than under preceding presidents.
'Imagine What We Don't Know' - Some of the people involved in the discussions comment on the rationale. “If we know this much about torture, rendition, secret prisons, and warrantless wiretapping despite the administration’s attempts to stonewall, then imagine what we don’t know,” says a senior Democratic congressional aide who is familiar with the proposal. Steinhardt says: “You have to go back to the McCarthy era to find this level of abuse. Because the Bush administration has been so opaque, we don’t know [the extent of] what laws have been violated.” “It’s not just the ‘Terrorist Surveillance Program,’” says Gregory Nojeim from the Center for Democracy and Technology. “We need a broad investigation on the way all the moving parts fit together. It seems like we’re always looking at little chunks and missing the big picture.”
Effect on Presidential Race Unknown - It is unknown how the 2008 presidential race may affect whether the investigation ever begins, although some think that Democratic candidate Barack Obama (D-IL), said to favor open government, might be more cooperative with Congress than his Republican opponent John McCain (R-AZ). However, a participant in the discussions casts doubt on this: “It may be the last thing a new president would want to do.” [Salon, 7/23/2008]
The United States Federal Reserve has lent Wall Street’s largest investment bank billions of dollars, as the credit crisis threatens to spiral into a full-blown banking crisis. In developments currently rocking the world’s financial markets, the Fed and rival Wall Street bank, JP Morgan Chase, are funneling emergency loans to Bear Stearns, whose exposure to battered credit markets has led to a crisis of confidence in its ability to continue trading. In accelerating numbers, clients and trading partners are pulling business from Bear Stearns, after rumors of its solvency began circulating. During a last-minute conference call with investors, management at the investment bank warned that its emergency lending facility with the Federal Reserve has failed to staunch the bleeding. “We have been subject to a significant amount of rumor and innuendo in the past week,” says Bear Stearns chief executive Alan Schwartz. “We attempted to provide some facts but, in the market environment, the rumors intensified and a lot of people wanted to act to protect themselves first from the possibility that the rumors were true, and wait till later for the facts.” Bear Stearns appears most fragile of Wall Street’s major investment banks, since the July 2007 collapse of two internal hedge funds, providing initial clues about the scale of the unfolding credit crisis. Shares across the banking sector plunge as analysts fear that the Fed’s willingness to intervene suggests that Bear’s future is pivotal to the banking system, and that its failure precipitates losses that may cascade through its trading partners. Bear Stearns stocks are in freefall, closing down 47 percent. Pierre Ellis at New York’s Decision Economics said, “Clearly the Fed is addressing what they feel is a systemic risk very aggressively.” [Belfast Telegraph, 3/15/2008]
Vice President Dick Cheney, on a trip to the Middle East, meets with Saudi King Abdullah on Abdullah’s horse farm for about four hours. Cheney also meets with his long-time friend, Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Nuaimi. The conversations between the men are not reported in any depth; a senior US official says the discussions are “confidential and private.” Cheney will then leave for discussions with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. [Agence France-Presse, 3/22/2008] Interestingly, after Cheney’s meeting with the Saudi leaders, the Saudi Shura Council, the governmental group that implements the decisions of the Saudi leadership, plans to secretly meet to discuss “national plans to deal with any sudden nuclear and radioactive hazards that may affect the kingdom following experts’ warnings of possible attacks on Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactors,” according to the Saudi newspaper Okaz. A leading Saudi agency, the King Abdul-Aziz City for Science and Technology, has prepared a plan to deal with the probability of radiation hazards in case of any unexpected nuclear attacks on Iran. [Deutche Presse-Agentur, 3/22/2008] Certainly a swift and massively destructive US strike against Iran is possible. Author and military expert William Arkin wrote in 2005 that the US could strike Iranian targets within about 12 hours from the time President Bush gave the final order (see January 25, 2005). Arkin quoted Lieutenant General Bruce Carlson, commander of the 8th Air Force, as saying that his fleet of B-2 and B-52 bombers were on, essentially, perpetual alert: “We have the capacity to plan and execute global strikes,” Carlson said. He added that his forces were the US Strategic Command’s “focal point for global strike” and could execute an attack “in half a day or less.” [Washington Post, 5/15/2005] And in 2006, reporter Seymour Hersh noted that US Air Force planning groups had drawn up detailed lists of Iranian targets as part of the military’s plan to launch major air attacks against Iran. Teams of US combat troops had clandestinely entered Iran to collect targeting data and to establish contact with anti-government ethnic minority groups; US warplanes were making repeated practice “nuclear delivery” runs near the Iranian border in preparation for air strikes. [New Yorker, 4/17/2006]
Constitutional lawyer Bruce Fein, formerly an associate deputy attorney general under President Ronald Reagan, says that the legality of the Main Core database, which contains a list of enemies primarily for use in national emergencies (see 1980s or Before), is murky: “In the event of a national emergency, the executive branch simply assumes these powers”—the powers to collect domestic intelligence and draw up detention lists, for example—“if Congress doesn’t explicitly prohibit it. It’s really up to Congress to put these things to rest, and Congress has not done so.” Fein adds that it is virtually impossible to contest the legality of these kinds of data collection and spy programs in court “when there are no criminal prosecutions and [there is] no notice to persons on the president’s ‘enemies list.’ That means if Congress remains invertebrate, the law will be whatever the president says it is—even in secret. He will be the judge on his own powers and invariably rule in his own favor.” [Radar, 5/2008]
Former CIA officer Philip Giraldi is interviewed by journalist Christopher Ketcham about the Main Core database, which apparently contains a list of potential enemies of the US state. Giraldi does not know any definite information about the database, but he speculates that it must be contained within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS): “If a master list is being compiled, it would have to be in a place where there are no legal issues”—the CIA and FBI would be restricted by oversight and accountability laws—“so I suspect it is at DHS, which as far as I know operates with no such restraints.” Giraldi notes that the DHS already maintains a central list of suspected terrorists and says it has been freely adding people who pose no reasonable threat to domestic security. “It’s clear that DHS has the mandate for controlling and owning master lists. The process is not transparent, and the criteria for getting on the list are not clear.” Giraldi continues, “I am certain that the content of such a master list [as Main Core] would not be carefully vetted, and there would be many names on it for many reasons—quite likely including the two of us.” [Radar, 5/2008]
Former national security official Norman Bailey admits publicly and on the record that the PROMIS database and search application has been given to the NSA. As Salon magazine points out: “His admission is the first public acknowledgement by a former US intelligence official that the NSA used the PROMIS software.” Bailey also says that the application was given to the Treasury Department for a financial tracking project in the early 1980s that also involved the National Security Council (see 1982-1984). Bailey worked for US governments from the Ronald Reagan era until the George W. Bush administration and, in addition to the 1980s tracking program, he headed a special unit within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence focused on financial intelligence on Cuba and Venezuela in 2006 and 2007. [Salon, 7/23/2008]
What Radar magazine describes as a “knowledgeable source” claims that 8 million Americans are now listed in the Main Core database as potentially suspect. Main Core is a database of enemies of the state established several decades before as a part of the Continuity of Government (COG) program (see 1980s or Before). In the event of a national emergency, the suspects could be subject to, for example, heightened surveillance, tracking, direct questioning, or even detention. [Radar, 5/2008]
In his last full year in office, President Bush announces that he is again renewing the national emergency he proclaimed in response to the 9/11 attacks (see September 14, 2001). Bush issues a notice that states: “Because the terrorist threat continues, the national emergency declared on September 14, 2001, and the powers and authorities adopted to deal with that emergency, must continue in effect beyond September 14, 2008. Therefore, I am continuing in effect for an additional year the national emergency I declared on September 14, 2001, with respect to the terrorist threat.” [White House, 8/28/2008] The national emergency has been renewed on a yearly basis since 2001. [US President, 9/16/2002; White House, 9/10/2004; White House, 9/8/2005; White House, 9/5/2006; White House, 9/12/2007]
US taxpayers express their lack of support of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP—see October 3, 2008) bailout bill to members of Congress, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and the Senate and House budget committee chairs—Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Barney Frank (D-NY), respectively—with phone calls, emails, and faxes, initially rallying the power and the numbers to defeat the bill that some call “a historic swindle.” [The Nation, 9/19/2008] According to the Congressional Quarterly, “[Senator Lindsey] Graham (R-FL) said that the deluge of public e-mails and telephone calls was comparable to several of the most contentious issues of the last decade.” Graham adds:
“It’s somewhere between impeachment and immigration.… This is intense, but I’ve seen worse.” [Congressional Quarterly, 9/28/2008]
AIG logo. [Source: American International Group (AIG)]In an historic move, the federal government bails out insurance corporation AIG with an $85 billion loan, giving control of the firm to the US government. After resisting AIG’s overtures for an emergency loan or other intervention to prevent the insurer from falling into bankruptcy, the government decided AIG, like the now-defunct investment bank, Bear Stearns, was “too big to fail” (see March 15, 2008). The US government will lend up to $85 billion to AIG. In return, the government gets a 79.9 percent equity stake in warrants, called equity participation notes. The two-year loan will carry a LIBOR interest rate plus 8.5 percentage points. LIBOR, the London InterBank Offered Rate, is a common short-term lending benchmark. The bailout comes less than a week after the government allowed a large investment bank, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., to fold (see September 14, 2008). As part of the loan agreement, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson insists that AIG’s chief executive, Robert Willumstad, steps aside. Willumstad will be succeeded by Edward Liddy, the former head of insurer Allstate Corp (see September 18, 2008). [Wall Street Journal, 9/16/2008] Shares in AIG drop to $3.75 on the news. [Bloomberg, 3/5/2009]
House of Representatives bill 1424, known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), passes by a slim margin in both Congressional houses, and is immediately signed into law by President Bush. [White House, 10/3/2008]
To facilitate AIG’s ability to complete its corporate restructuring, the New York Federal Reserve, as authorized by the US Federal Reserve, creates Maiden Lane II LLC and Maiden Lane III LLC to fund the purchase of certain multi-sector collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) from certain AIG Financial Products Corporation (AIGFP) counterparts. The Asset Portfolio purchase will be made in two stages, with Maiden Lane II LLC lending AIG $26.8 billion on November 25, 2008, and Maiden Lane III LLC lending AIGFP and its counterparties $2.5 billion on December 18, 2008 (see March, 2008). [Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 11/10/2008]
Detroit’s Big Three CEOs testify for more than two hours in a hearing before the Senate Banking Committee, using dire language to describe the financial straits that are threatening to bankrupt their companies. Chrysler LLC CEO Robert Nardelli says that without immediate help, his company could be forced into bankruptcy. “We cannot be confident that we will be able to successfully emerge,” he says. General Motors (GM) Corporation’s CEO, Rick Wagoner, adds that the failure of the industry would be “catastrophic,” causing the loss of 3 million jobs. Ford Motor Company CEO Alan Mulally tells the committee that if one of the automakers failed, the whole industry could be disrupted. “You’re here to get life support,” says ranking minority member Richard Shelby (R-AL). “Why aren’t you making money? How would you pay this money back?”
Financial Losses Worse than Originally Believed - The automakers say that their financial losses were worse than they at first thought, with Nardelli testifying that his company ran through $5 billion this year, including $3.3 billion in the third quarter, with only $6.1 billion on hand to last through the end of the year. Wagoner says that his firm would spend $15 billion by the end of 2008, and another $10 billion in 2009. Wagoner wants $10-$12 billion for GM, while Mulally and Nardelli want $7 billion for their respective corporations. Both Wagoner and Nardelli say that their companies will run out of money in a matter of months. One senator asks if the automakers would be willing to make monthly status reports on cash flow if the Senate agrees to the loan. Nardelli offers to take $1 a year as salary compensation; neither Mulally nor Wagoner did not make the same commitment. Nardelli also committed to Chrysler’s agreeing to consider new fuel efficiency standards. “We’d be open to any requirements,” he says.
Already Cut Costs, Moved to Restructure - The automakers testify how aggressively they have moved to cut costs, restructure, and revamp their product lines to be more competitive with foreign rivals, and say their companies were making progress until they were derailed by the credit crisis that has stalled the global economy and dried up consumer confidence. Auto sales are at their lowest level in at least 15 years, they say, dropping nearly 32 percent in October. As a testament to the seriousness of their financial crisis, the three automakers assure the committee that they would spend the requested $25 billion in the United States; however, they refuse to say that they would not come back for further bailout funding. Wagoner testifies that GM has cut $9 billion in costs since 2005. He touts labor agreements with the United Auto Workers that will further cut wage and health care expenses, and says that improvements in designing and manufacturing vehicles as well as developing fuel-saving technologies will also assist in reining in manufacturing costs. “As a result of these and other actions, we are now matching—or besting—foreign automakers in terms of productivity, quality and fuel economy,” he says. Wagoner assures the committee that the company was moving quickly to right its business. “We have more work to do in all aspects of our business,” Wagoner said. “This is hard stuff.” He said that GM would use some of the money to pay suppliers and pay for part of the Chevrolet Volt program.
UAW President Grilled - In his own testimony, United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger ranks the relative financial health of the Big Three as Ford being the most solvent, with Chrysler at number two, while General Motors may be at or near insolvency by the end of 2008. The UAW chief faces tough questions as well, as Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) pushes back on union work rules and the jobs bank. “I understand Mr. Gettelfinger has done a good job on behalf of all workers not working and being paid,” Corker says, calling the practice unacceptable in other businesses.
Disagreement among Democrats, Republicans - Democrats support a plan to subtract $25 billion from the $700 billion Wall Street bailout package, known as the Troubled Asset Recovery Program (TARP), while Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has joined the White House call to speed up money previously authorized for the automakers through an Energy Department loan program. “To basically change the qualifications of the money that we have already appropriated is a sound way to go forward,” said McConnell. House Democrats and many environmentalists oppose the use of the Energy Department loan, since it is approved only for projects that lead to significant fuel efficiency improvements. Carl Levin (D-MI) says that in order to get a bill, Republicans must write language that explains how they would quickly get $25 billion from the Energy Department program to automakers. But Levin is realistic about the long road they face. “Progress: No. Effort: Hell, yes. Big-time effort,” he says. “We haven’t seen progress and won’t see progress until we see the language from those who want to see the [Energy Department] funds.” Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) says she will “very reluctantly” agree to reworking the retooling loans if that was the only way to get help now. Other Senate allies of the auto industry, including Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Ken Salazar (D-CO), opposed the proposal to shift $25 billion from TARP. “I’m not sure we want to throw good money after bad,” Salazar says. Max Baucus (D-MT), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, says it will be nearly impossible to make a deal before Congress adjourns for the year later this week. “Reading the tea leaves, I just don’t think it’s going to happen,” Baucus says. “There’s not enough time given the opposition of the White House and opposition of the other side of the aisle.” Corker echoes the belief that nothing would get done this year, calling the hearings “the first step in a loan application.”
Further Hearings Slated - The CEOs will return to Capitol Hill for a hearing before the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday, November 25. [Detroit News, 11/19/2008]
Entity Tags: United Auto Workers, Ford Motor Company, Debbie Stabenow, Chrysler, Carl Levin, Alan Mulally, General Motors, Senate Banking Committee, Max Baucus, Rick Wagoner, Robert Nardelli
Timeline Tags: Global Economic Crises
According to Jim Rogers, the co-founder of the Quantum Fund along with billionaire financier George Soros, the federal government’s efforts to fix the sector are “wrongheaded.” During a teleconference at the Reuters Investment Outlook 2009 Summit, Rogers says that the government’s $700 billion rescue package for the sector doesn’t address how banks manage their balance sheets, and rewards weaker lenders with new capital. More than two dozen banks have received infusions from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), and some TARP funds are being used for acquisitions. [White House, 10/3/2008] “Without giving specific names, most of the significant American banks, the larger banks, are bankrupt, totally bankrupt,” says Rogers, now a private investor. “What is outrageous economically and is outrageous morally is that normally in times like this, people who are competent and who saw it coming and who kept their powder dry go and take over the assets from the incompetent,” he continues. “What’s happening this time is that the government is taking the assets from the competent people and giving them to the incompetent people and saying, now you can compete with the competent people. It is horrible economics.” [Reuters, 12/11/2008]
The Bush administration updates the secretive Continuity of Government (COG) program, which is designed to ensure the survival of the federal government during disasters. Federal emergency responsibilities are consolidated within the White House Military Office, a move designed to simplify the government’s response procedures. Under the changes, the Department of Defense and the Bush administration take over parts of the program from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). According to the New York Times, “Under the revamped structure, the White House Military Office, which reports to the office of the White House chief of staff, has assumed a more central role in setting up a temporary ‘shadow government’ in a crisis.” According to the Times, the move comes after “months of heated internal debate about the balance of power and the role of the military” in a time of crisis. “Supporters of the plan inside the Bush White House, including Vice President Dick Cheney’s office, saw the erratic response to the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005 as a mandate for streamlining an emergency response process they considered clunky because it involved too many agencies.” Officials opposed to the plan argue the new structure places “too much power in the hands of too few people.” They also perceive the changes to be “part of the Bush administration’s broader efforts to enhance the power of the White House.” Supporters of the plan originally wanted to take the changes further, but according to the Times, “concerns about the perception of growing military influence in the emergency process set off an internal struggle, and the White House decided not to move ahead with a more ambitious proposal to give the power of the purse to the military arm, rather than FEMA, for budgeting the emergency operations, one official said.” A spokesman for the Pentagon will later describe the changes as a “minor tweaking” of the system. The changes are authorized by President Bush’s National Security Presidential Directive 51 (NSPD-51), which was signed in May 2007 (see May 9, 2007). [New York Times, 7/27/2009]
New York University economist Nouriel “Dr. Doom” Roubini and Western Europe Finance and Banking analyst Elisa Parisi-Capone of RGE Monitor release new estimates for expected loan losses and writedowns on US originated securitizations:
Loan losses on a total of $12.37 trillion unsecuritized loans are expected to reach $1.6 trillion. Of these, US banks and brokers are expected to incur $1.1 trillion.
Mark-to-market writedowns based on derivatives prices and cash bond indices on a further $10.84 trillion in securities reached $1.92 trillion. According to flow-of-funds data, about 40% of these securities (and losses) are foreign-held. US banks and broker dealers are assumed to incur a share of 30-35%, or $600-700 billion in securities writedowns.
US-originated assets’ total loan losses and securities writedowns are expected to reach about $3.6 trillion. The US banking sector is exposed to half of this figure, or about $1.8 trillion (i.e. $1.1 trillion loan losses + $700bn writedowns).
As of the third quarter of 2008, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation-insured banks’ capitalization is $1.3 trillion; as of the same period, investment banks had $110bn in equity capital. Roubini and Parisi-Capone say that past recapitalization through the first release of the TARP funds for $230bn, and private capital of $200bn leaves the US banking system very nearly insolvent, should loss estimates materialize.
In order to restore safe lending, additional private and/or public capital of approximately $1 to 1.4 trillion is needed, thus calling for a comprehensive solution along the lines of a “bad bank” proposed by policymakers, or an outright restructuring through a new resolution trust corporation (RTC).
In September 2008, Roubini proposed a solution for the banking crisis that also addresses the root causes of the financial turmoil in the housing and the household sectors. The HOME (Home Owners’ Mortgage Enterprise) program combines an RTC to deal with toxic assets, a homeowners loan corporation to reduce homeowners’ debt, and a reconstruction finance corporation to recapitalize viable banks.
They concluded that total financial system losses will likely hit $3.6 trillion, half of which, according to Roubini, “will be borne by US firms,” and that the losses will overwhelm the US financial system which, in the third quarter of 2008, had a capitalization of $1.3 trillion in commercial banks and $110 billion in investment banks. [Bloomberg, 1/20/2009; AFP Reporter, 1/22/2009] Since September 7, 2006, Dr. Roubini, an economics professor at New York University, has been known as “Dr. Doom” after telling an audience of economists at the International Monetary Fund that an economic crisis was brewing in the coming months and years. He warned that the United States was likely to face a once-in-a-lifetime housing bust, an oil shock, sharply declining consumer confidence and, ultimately, a deep recession, and laid out a bleak sequence of events: homeowners defaulting on mortgages, trillions of dollars of mortgage-backed securities unraveling worldwide and the global financial system shuddering to a halt. These developments, he said, could cripple or destroy hedge funds, investment banks and other major financial institutions like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. [New York Times Magazine, 8/15/2008]
US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner announces a much bigger plan to rescue the US financial system than previously predicted or envisioned, including a much greater government role in markets and banks since the 1930s (see March 15, 2008). Although the administration provides few details, one central portion of the plan that investors most desired to learn about creates bad banks that rely on taxpayer and private investor funds to purchase and hold bad assets racked up by the banks from subprime mortgages, derivatives, and credit defaults. An additional focal point of the plan stretches the final $350 billion that the Treasury may use for the bailout, relying on the Fed’s capability to create money. This last tranche of funding allows the government to be involved in the management of markets and banks. For example, with the credit markets, the administration and the Fed propose to expand a lending program that spends as much as $1 trillion as a replacement for the $1.2 trillion decline between 2006 and 2008 for the issuance of securities backed primarily by consumer loans. The third component of the plan gives banks new capital to lend, but banks that receive new government assistance will have to cut the salaries and perks of their executives and limit dividends and corporate acquisitions. Banks must also publicly declare more information about their lending practices. With the newly proposed Treasury requirements, banks will have to give monthly statements on how many new loans they make, yet the plan stops short of ordering banks to issue new loans or requiring them to account in detail for the federal money. The Obama administration’s commitment to flood the banking system with funds will combine the $350 billion left in the bailout fund; the rest of the money will be from private investors and the Federal Reserve. Some market observers, along with some federal legislators and economists, criticize the plan for its lack of details. [New York Times, 2/10/2009]
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