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Witney Schneidman. [Source: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars]In 1999, State Department official Witney Schneidman is collecting information on the many civil wars and conflicts raging in Africa. He notices that the name of Victor Bout, a Russian arms dealer, keeps popping up in many conflicts. Sometimes Bout is even supplying both sides of a civil war. In early summer 1999, an NSA official gives Schneidman a “drop dead” briefing about Bout, based mostly on communications intercepts the NSA has on him. Photos show dozens of airplanes parked in an airport in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, all of them owned by Bout. Schneidman begins mobilizing other officials. By early 2000, he and National Security Council adviser Lee Wolosky create a team to apprehend Bout. While Bout remains little known to the general public, for many US officials he becomes the most wanted criminal in the world, aside from Osama bin Laden and his top aides. National Security Council official Gayle Smith will later comment, “You want to talk about transnational threats? We had [al-Qaeda’s bombing in] East Africa, global warming, and Victor Bout.” No other arms dealer has an operation anywhere near the size of Bout’s, and his links to the Taliban and al-Qaeda are a special concern (see 1998). But Bout is not doing any business in the US and is breaking no US laws, so the team cannot gather enough evidence to issue an arrest warrant for him. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke considers targeting Bout for rendition, which is a very rare practice before 9/11. But when the Bush administration takes power in early 2001, Bout is deemed a less important priority, and ultimately no effective action is taken against him prior to 9/11 (see Early 2001-September 11, 2001). [Farah and Braun, 2007, pp. 1-7]
Saudi Defense Minister Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud visits Pakistan and receives a tour of Khan Research Laboratories in Kahuta. Prince Sultan is accompanied on the tour by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The laboratories are the key facility in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 286]
A shipment of special aluminum for the A. Q. Khan network is seized in London by British customs. The shipment was arranged by Abu Bakr Siddiqui, a British-based supplier for the Khan network. Siddiqui’s company, Orland Europe Ltd., received the order in November 1998 from a Dubai-based facilitator for Khan’s network named Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir, but it had originated with Mohammad Farooq, director of foreign procurement at Khan Research Laboratories.
Siddiqui Warned - Customs learned of the order thanks to a tipoff from the British intelligence agency MI6. Customs agent Maxine Crook and a colleague called on Siddiqui in January 1999 to inform him that the export of some metals required a license, and, if there was any doubt, it was best to contact the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to check if one was required for a specific transaction. Crook also told Siddiqui that he should contact the DTI if he again did business with three companies with which he had previously traded, and that Dubai was a well-known “diversionary point” for goods going to “countries of concern” related to the smuggling of components for nuclear programs. Finally, Crook told Siddiqui he should consult the DTI about the current order for the aluminum. After the visit, Crook sent Siddiqui a letter summarizing the main points of the visit, and Siddiqui acknowledged the letter.
Seizure - Siddiqui went ahead with the order without asking for a license anyway, and customs officials seize it on the docks in London. A search of his home and office yields records of millions of dollars’ worth of equipment that has been shipped to Khan over the last decade, a brochure describing the uranium enrichment process, a photo of Siddiqui and Khan together, and a magazine with an article on Khan in which he said he wanted to “buy whatever we can from the international market” to support Pakistan’s nuclear program. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 178-180]
Following a raid on Abu Bakr Siddiqui, a supplier for A. Q. Khan’s nuclear proliferation ring (see May 7, 1999), British customs examines the evidence it has seized and realizes that the investigation is not a simple case of Siddiqui exporting specialized metals without a license, but that they have opened a much larger can of worms. The investigation, known as Operation Akin, is led by Atif Amin, a British-born Muslim of Pakistani descent assigned to a special counterproliferation team, and they question Siddiqui twice, learning a lot more about the Khan network in the process. Customs also arranges that if a contact of Siddiqui, the Dubai-based businessman Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir, enters Britain, he will be arrested. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 180-181]
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) minister for information, tours Pakistan. He meets with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan. He is also shown around Khan Research Laboratories, the main facility for producing nuclear weapons in Pakistan. According to the Pakistani newspaper Jasarat, the visit is directly linked to nuclear activities: “Prince Abdullah bin Zayed also asked Dr. Qadeer Khan what help he could give them. Dr. Qadeer replied that Pakistan would not present the atomic bomb or a missile on a platter but could train UAE manpower.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 286-287]
President Clinton signs the National Missile Defense Act of 1999 (NMDA), which states in its entirety, “It is the policy of the United States to deploy as soon as is technologically possible an effective National Missile Defense system capable of defending the territory of the United States against limited ballistic missile attack (whether accidental, unauthorized, or deliberate).” The NMDA mandates that the US will deploy some sort of missile defense system (see March 23, 1983 and January 29, 1991), but Clinton will refuse to order the system’s deployment in 2000, in part because it has failed its tests and in part because to deploy the system would require the US to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (see May 26, 1972), a move Clinton is unwilling to make. Clinton will acknowledge that the US makes its own national security decision, but will add, “We can never afford to overlook the fact that the actions and reactions of others in this increasingly interdependent world do bear on our security.” [US Senate, 7/22/1999; White House, 7/22/1999; Scoblic, 2008, pp. 173-174]
Randy Glass, holding a Stinger missile. [Source: David Friedman/ Getty Images]A group of illegal arms merchants, including an ISI agent with foreknowledge of 9/11, had met in a New York restaurant the month before (see July 14, 1999). This same group meets at this time in a West Palm Beach, Florida, warehouse, and it is shown Stinger missiles as part of a sting operation. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 3/20/2003] US intelligence soon discovers connections between two in the group, Rajaa Gulum Abbas and Mohammed Malik, Islamic militant groups in Kashmir (where the ISI assists them in fighting against India), and the Taliban. Mohamed Malik suggests in this meeting that the Stingers will be used in Kashmir or Afghanistan. His colleague Diaa Mohsen also says Abbas has direct connections to “dignitaries” and bin Laden. Abbas also wants heavy water for a “dirty bomb” or other material to make a nuclear weapon. He says he will bring a Pakistani nuclear scientist to the US to inspect the material. [MSNBC, 8/2/2002; NBC, 3/18/2003] According to Dick Stoltz, a federal undercover agent posing as a black market arms dealer, one of the Pakistanis at the warehouse claims he is working for A.Q. Khan. A Pakistani nuclear scientist, Khan is considered the father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and also the head of an illegal network exporting nuclear technology to rogue nations. [MSNBC, 1/14/2005] Government informant Randy Glass passes these warnings on before 9/11, but he claims, “The complaints were ordered sanitized by the highest levels of government.” [WPBF 25 (West Palm Beach), 8/5/2002] In June 2002, the US secretly indicts Abbas, but apparently they aren’t trying very hard to find him: In August 2002, MSNBC is easily able to contact Abbas in Pakistan and speak to him by telephone. [MSNBC, 8/2/2002]
The Space and Missile Systems Center announces that Lockheed Martin and Hughes Space & Communications Company have each been awarded a contract in connection with the development of the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) program. The two contracts are worth a total of $22 million. [US Air Force, 8/24/1999] According to a 2004 description of the program, Advanced Extremely High Frequency system is “a joint service satellite communications system that provides near-worldwide, secure, survivable, and jam-resistant communications for high-priority military ground, sea, and air assets.” The system will consist of three satellites, costing approximately $477 million each, that will be capable of “servicing up to 4,000 networks and 6,000 terminals” 24 hours a day. The first satellite is set to be launched in 2007. [US Air Force, 4/2004] The military will soon develop another system, Transformational Communications Satellite (TSAT), which promises to be much faster. AEHF will serve to provide a “smooth transition” from the military’s current system to TSAT. [US Congress, 2/25/2004 ]
In a party-line 48-51-1 vote, the US Senate decides not to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) that President Bill Clinton signed in 1996 (see September 24, 1996). The vote marks the first time in US history that the Senate has rejected an arms control treaty. The treaty, which needed a two-thirds vote for ratification, would have extended the current international ban on above-ground tests to underground testing as well, resulting in a total ban on all nuclear explosions. [CNN, 10/13/1999]
The June 9, 1999 Military Technical Agreement between the International Security Force (KFOR), Yugoslavia, and Serbia, ending NATO’s bombing campaign, creates a ground safety zone (GSZ), which is closed to the Yugoslav army and heavy weapons, and is five kilometers wide along the Serbia-Kosova border. The majorities in the nearby Serbian counties of Presheva, Bujanovic, and Medvegja are Albanian historically, though Albanians will not be the majority in Medvegja a few years later. The Liberation Army of Presheva, Medvegja, and Bujanovic, known by its Albanian acronym, the UCPMB (Ushtria Clirimtare e Presheves, Medvegjes dhe Bujanovcit), organizes to join the region with Kosova and uses the GSZ as a refuge. British journalist John Phillips will later suggest that the UCPMB was a provocation to help Slobodan Milosevic regain power or provoke a coup by the Yugoslav military. Others say that the UCPMB was created by the CIA or US State Department to destabilize Yugoslavia prior to the overthrow of Milosevic on October 6, 1999, but it is now out of control. According to a paper presented to the Conflict Studies Research Center at Sandhurst, England, the guerrillas show signs of American training: their method of marching, what they sing on the march, and their tactics—tactics that did not develop over the three years fighting in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Albanian scholar Paulin Kola will later quote an unnamed UCPMB officer who says, “If [the US military] ask us to fire three rounds tomorrow, that’s what we do.” The UCPMB also says it can get in touch with NATO. The guerillas are strong and publish their newspaper in US-occupied Gjilan, Kosova. At one point US forces will lose track of an alleged Albanian CIA operative originally arrested by the British and charged with bombing a bus. Nonetheless, Kola will say the UCPMB acts out of local Albanians’ historical desire to be included in Kosova and fear of Yugoslav vengeance. The UCPMB will emerge officially in January 2000. [Kola, 2003, pp. 372-375; Phillips, 2004, pp. 1-3, 10]
Entity Tags: Yugoslavia, John Phillips, Conflict Studies Research Centre, Central Intelligence Agency, Bosnia-Herzegovina, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Paulin Kola, Republic of Kosova, Slobodan Milosevic, Yugoslav Army, United Kingdom, United States of America, UCPMB, US State Department DUPLICATE
Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle
Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf discusses signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) with an aide. According to a later interview with the aide, lawyer Sharifuddin Pirzada, some time soon after he comes to power Musharraf asks, “Should we sign the NPT?” Pirzada replies, “If India signs we will sign too.” Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will comment, “India was planning to do nothing of the sort, so Pakistan’s unsecured nuclear weapons program passed into the hands of a military dictator.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 292]
Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood. [Source: BBC]Two retired Pakistani nuclear scientists create a charity to help the Taliban. The scientists, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Chaudiri Abdul Majeed, had both retired the year before after long and distinguished careers, and had both become radical Islamists. They set up a charity, Ummah Tameer-e-Nau (UTN), purporting to conduct relief work in Afghanistan, including helping to guide the Taliban on scientific matters. A number of pro-Taliban Pakistani generals and business leaders are on the board of directors, including Hamid Gul, a former director of the ISI. But not long after setting up an office in Kabul, the two scientists meet with Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden, and discuss weapons development. During a later visit, Mahmood provides one of bin Laden’s associates with information on how to construct a nuclear weapon. [Frantz and Collins, 2007, pp. 264-265; Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 310-311] The two scientists will have a more extensive meeting with bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri in August 2001, and will discuss how al-Qaeda can make a radioactive weapon (see Mid-August 2001). Shortly before 9/11, the CIA will learn of this meeting (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001), and also learn that UTN offered to sell a nuclear weapon to Libya, but the CIA will take no effective action against the group (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001). In late 2001, the Wall Street Journal will report that “One Pakistani military analyst said it was inconceivable that a nuclear scientist would travel to Afghanistan without getting clearance from Pakistani officials and being debriefed each time. Pakistan maintains a strict watch on many of its nuclear scientists, using a special arm of the Army’s general headquarters to monitor them even after retirement.” Furthermore, a former ISI colonel says the ISI “was always aware of UTN’s activities and had encouraged Dr. Mahmoud’s Afghanistan trips. He said the ISI learned last year that Dr. Mahmoud had recently discussed nuclear matters with Mr. bin Laden, and Dr. Mahmoud agreed not to do so again.” [Wall Street Journal, 12/24/2001] The US will finally freeze UTN’s assets in December 2001 (see Early October-December 2001).
A screenshot of Site Profiler. [Source: Digital Sandbox, Inc.]A software system commissioned by the Department of Defense determines that the Pentagon is vulnerable to a terrorist attack. The software, called Site Profiler, is being developed by Digital Sandbox, a company based in Reston, Virginia. [Guardian, 3/20/2003; Devlin, 2008, pp. 150; Pourret, Naim, and Marcot, 2008, pp. 253] Work on it began in response to the bombings of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in June 1996 (see June 25, 1996), and the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998 (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). [Digital Sandbox, Inc., 2000 ; Jha and Keele, 2012, pp. 40 ] Site Profiler is designed to provide site commanders with tools to assess terrorism risks, so they can develop appropriate countermeasures. It works by combining different data sources so as to draw inferences about the risk of terrorism. At some unspecified time in 2000, its developers hold sessions for expert review of the software. In these sessions, various experts suggest hypothetical threat scenarios. These scenarios are analyzed and the results are then presented to the experts. Due to time constraints, the initial evaluation focuses on scenarios the experts consider exceptional. One scenario that is evaluated involves a terrorist attack on the Pentagon using a mortar shot from the Potomac River. This scenario, the software’s developers will later write, is “intended to represent an exceptional case to stretch the limits of the model, rather than as a realistic scenario that might reasonably be expected to occur.” All the same, the results of the evaluation indicate “that the Pentagon [is] vulnerable to terrorist attack.” “In other words,” popular science writer Keith Devlin will comment, “the Pentagon was a prime terrorist target.” Devlin will write: “As we learned to our horror just a few months later, the Pentagon was one of the sites hit in the September 11 attack on the United States. Unfortunately, though understandably, neither the military command nor the US government had taken seriously Site Profiler’s prediction that the Pentagon was in danger from a terrorist attack.” Site Profiler will be delivered to all US military installations around the world in May 2001. [Devlin, 2008, pp. 150-151; Pourret, Naim, and Marcot, 2008, pp. 253]
SAIC logo. [Source: SAIC]In 2000, the US begins a secret project to train its special forces how to detect and disarm mobile biological weapons factories. One real mobile biological weapons factory is built, but not actually used to make weapons. US Delta Force units will use this factory in their training in the months before the 2003 Iraq war. The designer of the factory is Steven Hatfill, who will later be named as a suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001) before being exonerated in 2008. Hatfill’s role in making the factory is one reason why he is later suspected in the anthrax attacks, even though there is no evidence the factory makes anthrax or any other kind of biological weapon, as the different components in it are never connected. Hatfill helps build the factory while working for Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), a contractor for the US military and the CIA. He begins gathering parts to build it in 2000, and construction begins in September 2001, at a metalworking plant near Fort Detrick, Maryland. SAIC fires him in March 2002, after he fails to get a high-level security clearance and he comes under suspicion for the anthrax attacks. But Hatfill continues to work on the half-built factory on his own, for no pay, until it is finished later that year (see Autumn 2002). The factory is commissioned in 2000 apparently because US intelligence chooses to believe the claims of an Iraqi defector named Curveball, who falsely claims that Iraq has such mobile weapons factories (see January 2000-September 2001). [New York Times, 7/2/2003]
National Security Adviser Sandy Berger will later say that in early 2000 the National Security Council (NSC), the US military, and the CIA develops a “new technique for detecting Bin Laden.” Berger calls it “very promising as a way of determining where he would be if we had one strand of human intelligence.” The Los Angeles Times will comment, “But whether the new technique was some sort of high-tech homing device or silent surveillance craft is a question left to future generations.” The next two and a half pages of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry report discussing this technique are completely censored. [Los Angeles Times, 7/27/2003] Despite Berger’s implication that the US does not have human intelligence on bin Laden’s movements at this time, other accounts indicate that it does (see March-April 2001 and April 2001).
In Montreal, Canada, the Ad Hoc Working Group on Biosafety (BSWG) continues negotiations on the text of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB), the first protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The conference is the last in a series of BSWG discussions that began on February 22, 1999 in Cartagena, Colombia. It is attended by over 750 participants, representing 133 governments, NGOs, industry organizations, and the scientific community. The purpose of the protocol is to develop a set of international minimum safety standards for the regulation of trade in genetically engineered organisms (GMOs). The major points of contention during the negotiations relate to (1) the obligations of an exporter to inform importers of shipments containing GMOs, (2) the rights of an importer to reject GMO imports, and (3) whether CBD or World Trade Organization (WTO) regulations have primacy in cases where there is a conflict between the two. The two main negotiating blocks are the “Miami Group” (which includes the GMO-exporting countries of the US, Canada, Australia, Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay) on one side and the European Union and the Like Minded Group (which includes most developing countries) on the other. The Miami Group had formed earlier in Cartagena in order to prevent genetically modified agricultural commodities from being included within the scope of the Protocol, preferring that their regulation remain solely under the jurisdiction of the WTO. The delegates agree on a final draft during the early morning hours of January 29. [Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB), 6/5/1992; IISD Linkages, 2/18/2000; EAAP News, 8/2000; Genewatch, 3/24/2004; Convention on Biological Diversity, 2/26/2005; Biowatch, 3/26/2005] The Protocol will enter into force on September 11, 2003, ninety days after receiving its 50th ratification. [Convention on Biological Diversity, 2/26/2005]
Biodiversity Clearing-House - The CPB establishes a “Biodiversity Clearing-House” to facilitate the exchange of information on GMOs and to assist countries in the implementation of the Protocol. [Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB), 6/5/1992; Genewatch, 3/24/2004; Biowatch, 3/26/2005]
Advanced Informed Agreement (AIA) - The Protocol requires exporters of GMOs to seek permission from the importing country before the GMOs are exported. For most GMO exports, the exporter will be required to follow a set of procedures referred to as the “Advance Informed Agreement” (AIA). However, for GMOs intended for food, feed, or processing (LMO-FFPs), and not planting, a different, less rigorous notification system applies. For these types of GMOs the CPB only requires governments to notify the Biodiversity Clearing-House when they have decided to permit the use of a GMO in their own country and to supply certain information about it. This alternative notification system for food, feed, and processing GMOs was a concession negotiated by the GMO-exporting Miami Group. Pharmaceutical GMOs, GMOs-in-transit, and GMOs intended for use in a laboratory, are also subject to fewer, less stringent regulations. [Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB), 6/5/1992; Genewatch, 3/24/2004; Biowatch, 3/26/2005]
The Precautionary Principle - The CPB permits countries to restrict or ban a GMO if they believe there is a potential for the GMO to cause adverse affects. Conclusive scientific evidence is not necessary. “Lack of scientific certainty due to insufficient relevant scientific information and knowledge regarding the extent of the potential adverse effects of a living modified organism shall not prevent that Party from taking a decision, as appropriate, to avoid or minimize such potential adverse effects.” [Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB), 6/5/1992; Genewatch, 3/24/2004; Biowatch, 3/26/2005]
Multilateral Trade Agreements vs. Convention on Biological Diversity - The Cartagena Protocol contains provisions that address circumstances that would also be under the jurisdiction of certain trade agreements. But it does not address the issue of which set of regulations should take precedence, only stating that “trade and environment agreements should be mutually supportive with a view to achieving sustainable development.” [Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB), 6/5/1992; Biowatch, 3/26/2005]
CIA Director George Tenet forms a national security advisory panel that comprises a team of security analysts and is chaired by Admiral David Jeremiah. The panel is, in the words of authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, “asked to think the unthinkable.” The State Department’s WMD specialist Robert Gallucci is the official responsible for nuclear issues. Galluccci will comment: “It was all sources, all clearances.… I was the nuclear freak and got briefings set up on the nuclear terrorist thing. Every single scenario was extremely scary and entirely believable. There was lots and lots of intelligence. Put it this way, the US number one enemy was looking more and more like Pakistan.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 293]
During the course of an investigation into A. Q. Khan’s nuclear smuggling ring, British customs agent Atif Amin and Dubai policeman Alwari Essam visit a plastic bag manufacturer called Green Crest Industries (M.E.) Ltd. in Dubai. According to Amin, the visit is made because an entry in a suspect’s phone book listed a Dubai phone number for Khan that is registered to Green Crest. In addition, apartments and post office boxes rented for Khan by an associate named Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir appear to be linked to Green Crest. However, the manager and several other employees all deny any knowledge of Khan. At that point, another employee wanders past and says in Punjabi: “Sure we do. He has a flat and he comes here all the time.” Amin, who speaks Punjabi, understands the remark, as well as the manager’s sharp reply. The atmosphere turns hostile and the two investigators leave. Authors David Armstrong and Joe Trento will later talk to the company’s owner, Shaik Muhammad Farooq, who has a long history of dealings with Khan (see Late 1970s-1980s). Farooq will say that Green Crest had “absolutely no relationship” with Tahir, except that they had once swapped apartments in a Dubai building. However, when Farooq is asked later whether Khan ever visited Green Crest, he will curiously contradict himself as he replies: “He never visited our factories. He never visited our office. He never visited. Except sometimes he is there and he is inviting a lot of people including other businessman for dinner or so otherwise no. Absolutely baseless… I’m 100 percent sure he never visited us.” [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 184-5]
Investigators Atif Amin of British customs and Alwari Essam of the Dubai police learn that the A. Q. Khan nuclear procurement ring has shipped ring magnets, key components for building centrifuges, from Pakistan to Libya, via Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The discovery is made when they visit a company called Deepsea Freight Services, a shipping agency that had been used by Abu Bakr Siddiqui, the subject of a British customs investigation, to ship goods from Britain to two Khan front companies in Pakistan, United Engineering and Trading Co. and Allied Engineering. The manager at Deepsea, K. Hafeez Uddin, shows the two investigators files about the traffic and they find documents about shipments of goods from Siddiqui in Britain to Dubai-based businessman Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir, and then from Tahir to the Khan fronts in Pakistan. However, Amin then notices documents about shipments of the ring magnets from one of the front companies in Pakistan to Tahir in Dubai, and then on to Libya. The consignee for some of the ring magnet shipments is a company called Desert Electrical, a company the British intelligence service MI6 had warned Amin to avoid looking into (see March 2000). Amin asks to take the files, but Hafeez refuses permission, and also does not allow copies to be made, meaning the two investigators leave with no documentation. Hafeez will later make a series of contradictory statements about his business dealings with the Khan network, but a source on the British customs investigation will say, “The fact is that Deepsea received multiple shipments from Siddiqui and forwarded them on to Pakistan,” adding, “It also received multiple shipments from [Khan Research Laboratories]-related companies destined for Tahir’s front companies in Dubai.” [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 186-7]
At the 2000 Nuclear Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, a conference held once every five years to review and extend implementation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (see July 1, 1968), participating nations unanimously agree that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (see September 10, 1996) should be brought into force as one of the so-called “13 Steps” to strengthen international nonproliferation efforts. The Bush administration will immediately reject the idea upon taking office; it will reject the entire “13 Steps” construct, calling it an idea from a bygone era and therefore irrelevant. [Wulf, 11/2000; Scoblic, 2008, pp. 277]
Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir, a Malaysia-based associate of A. Q. Khan, pays $2 million into the account of Gulf Technical Industries (GTI), a Dubai-based company run by another of Khan’s associates named Peter Griffin. According to Griffin, Tahir told him the money was to pay for a workshop to manufacture spare parts for the Libyan oil industry (see August 1997), although in reality it is to pay for components for Libya’s nuclear weapons program. The workshop is understandably not built and Tahir regularly calls Griffin to ask him to transfer money to different accounts. Griffin will comment: “He’d say, ‘I promised to send some money, can you send it for me to [Gotthard] Lerch, to Gunes [Cire, both associates of Khan], to Nauman Shah [Khan’s son-in-law]?’” Griffin apparently does not ask any questions about the payments, of which there are at least nine. He will recall: “I did point out to Tahir at one stage that this money was coming out of the Libyan National Oil Company cash. He said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll pay you back,’ and he did. The only problem, as I realized to my cost later, was I had no paperwork for these deals. Nothing to protect myself with.” Griffin is suspicious, but having known Tahir for years, not unduly so: “I was asked later if it had not appeared unusual to use money set aside for one thing to pay off another, without making any official receipts. But I said: ‘Tahir was a good friend. It was like a mate asking to borrow a fiver.’ But since there was nothing in writing I could not prove that Tahir had lied to me. I was disappointed. I’d known Tahir since he was a kid.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 366-367]
Two lathes ordered by Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir, an associate of A. Q. Khan, are delivered to Dubai from Spain. The delivery is organized by another associate of Khan’s, Peter Griffin, who set up a company used by Khan’s network in Dubai in 1997 (see August 1997). “Again, he [Tahir] said they [the lathes] were for the Libyan National Oil Company,” Griffin will say. “They were 15.6 tons each, enormous machines as big as my living room, each costing $350,000. I delivered them to Dubai in July or August 2000. Tahir asked if I could rent some factory space and set them up so his clients could see them running.” However, the clients do not show up and Tahir calls a month later to say that the clients will take the lathes away. When the Khan network begins to unravel in early 2004, Griffin will learn that Tahir has told Malaysian authorities that the lathes were for the Libyan nuclear weapons program. Griffin will then investigate what happened to the lathes and learn from customs authorities in Dubai that Tahir had sent at least one of them to South Africa in November 2000, using a forged invoice from Gulf Technical Industries (GTI), a company owned by Griffin. Griffin will claim not to have known anything about the shipment to South Africa, but the freight is allegedly paid in Dubai by GTI. The delivery address is Tradefin Engineering, a metalworking company based in Vanderbijlpark, a town close to Johannesburg. Documents indicate the lathe remains in South Africa for 13 months, until it is shipped back to Dubai, apparently en route to Malaysia. Griffin will comment: “It was possible that it had been adapted while away in South Africa, modified to be able to perform very fine definition work, something it couldn’t do when it left my warehouse.” The lathe is dispatched to Malaysia in December 2001, apparently on the orders of a Mr. Hussain of GTI. However, Griffin will say that he does not employ anyone of that name and that the contact number Mr. Hussain gave was for SMB Distribution, a company owned by Tahir. Based on these events, authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will conclude that Tahir had attempted to frame Griffin for the deal. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 367]
The first Predator flight over Afghanistan on September 7, 2000 captures bin Laden circled by security in his Tarnak Farms complex. [Source: CBC]An unmanned spy plane called the Predator begins flying over Afghanistan, showing incomparably detailed real-time video and photographs of the movements of what appears to be bin Laden and his aides. It flies successfully over Afghanistan 16 times. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004] President Clinton is impressed by a two-minute video of bin Laden crossing a street heading toward a mosque inside his Tarnak Farms complex. Bin Laden is surrounded by a team of a dozen armed men creating a professional forward security perimeter as he moves. The Predator has been used since 1996, in the Balkans and Iraq. One Predator crashes on takeoff and another is chased by a fighter, but it apparently identifies bin Laden on three occasions. Its use is stopped in Afghanistan after a few trials, mostly because seasonal winds are picking up. It is agreed to resume the flights in the spring, but the Predator fails to fly over Afghanistan again until after 9/11. [Washington Post, 12/19/2001; Clarke, 2004, pp. 220-21] On September 15, 2001, CIA Director Tenet apparently inaccurately tells President Bush, “The unmanned Predator surveillance aircraft that was now armed with Hellfire missiles had been operating for more than a year out of Uzbekistan to provide real-time video of Afghanistan.” [Washington Post, 1/29/2002]
In Geneva, at the Conference on Disarmament, US Ambassador Robert T. Grey, Jr. says that US interest in weaponizing space will not spark an arms race and therefore efforts to establish the proposed Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) treaty would be “unwise,” “unrealistic,” and a waste of time. “The United States agrees that it is appropriate to keep this topic [PAROS] under review,” he says. “On the other hand, we have repeatedly pointed out that there is no arms race in outer space—nor any prospect of an arms race in outer space, for as far down the road as anyone can see.” The US and Israel are the only countries that oppose efforts to outlaw the weaponization of space. Members of the conference express concern that US intentions in space reflect its desire to achieve world hegemony. Grey adamantly denies that the US is motivated by such goals. “We reject allegations that actions or plans of the United States attest to a desire for hegemony, or any intent to carry out nuclear blackmail, or any supposed quest for absolute freedom to use force or threaten to use force in international relations.” He further asserts that this view has “no basis in reality,” because a limited National Missile Defense (NMD) would does “not give anyone ‘hegemony.’” He claims also that hegemony “is unattainable in any case” since the world is so diverse and complex. [US Department of State, 9/15/2000; Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 1/2001]
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il invites Clinton administration officials to Pyongyang, offering to sign a treaty banning the production of long-range missiles and the export of all missiles (see October 21, 1994). Secretary of State Madeleine Albright represents the US. Clinton administration officials at the negotiations between Albright and Kim acknowledge that the North Korean is, in reporter Fred Kaplan’s words, “clearly one of the world’s battier leaders,” yet they will recall his negotiations as quite sound. Clinton’s chief negotiator Robert Einhorn will later recall, “He struck me as a very serious, rational guy who knew his issues pretty well.” Albright’s policy coordinator, Wendy Sherman, will agree. “There were 14 unresolved issues, and he sat with the secretary, answering all her questions.” Einhorn will add: “When Albright presented him with the questions, at first he looked a little puzzled, as if he hadn’t known about them. Albright offered to give him time to look them over, but he said, ‘No, no, I can do this.’ He went down the list, one by one, and gave specific explanations. For example, on the question of missile exports, ‘Yes, I mean no exports of missiles of any range.’ And ‘Yes, I mean to ban the export of missile technology, not just the missiles.’ On issues where it was clear he didn’t want to be drawn out yet, he skipped over them. He understood where he wanted to be clear and where he wasn’t going to be.” The negotiations bear no fruit; Clinton chooses to spend the final weeks of his presidency working towards a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians, but, as Kaplan will write, “the stage was set for diplomatic progress—and, in the meantime, the [nuclear] fuel rods remained under lock and key.” [Washington Monthly, 5/2004] Those negotiations will be abandoned by the Bush administration (see Mid-January 2001 and March 7, 2001).
Damage to the USS Cole. [Source: Department of Defense]The USS Cole is bombed in the Aden, Yemen harbor by two al-Qaeda militants, Hassan al-Khamri and Ibrahim al-Thawar (a.k.a. Nibras). Seventeen US soldiers are killed and 30 are wounded. The CIA will later conclude that with just slightly more skilled execution, the attack would have killed 300 and sunk the ship. [ABC News, 10/13/2000; Coll, 2004, pp. 532; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 191] The Islamic Army of Aden (IAA) immediately takes credit for the attack. This is a Yemen-based Muslim militant group widely believed to have close ties to al-Qaeda (see 1996-1997 and After). [Guardian, 10/14/2000] The IAA statement is released by its spokesman, Abu Hamza al-Masri (see Early 1997, (June 1998), and December 28, 1998 and After). Abu Hamza says that the attack was timed to mark the anniversary of the execution of the IAA’s former commander (see October 17, 1999). [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 184] The prime minister of Yemen at the time of the bombing will say shortly after 9/11, “The Islamic Army was part of al-Qaeda.” [Guardian, 10/13/2001] The US soon learns the names of some al-Qaeda operatives involved in the attack, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Tawfiq bin Attash and Fahad al-Quso (see Early December 2000), and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri (see November-December 2000). 9/11 hijackers Ramzi bin al-Shibh (see October 10-21, 2000) and Khalid Almihdhar (see Around October 12, 2000) may also have been involved. This is a repeat of a previously attempted attack, against the USS The Sullivans, which failed and was apparently undetected (see January 3, 2000). [Los Angeles Times, 12/22/2002] The 9/11 Commission will later say the Cole bombing “was a full-fledged al-Qaeda operation, supervised directly by bin Laden. He chose the target and location of the attack, selected the suicide operatives, and provided the money needed to purchase explosives and equipment.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 190]
Entity Tags: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Khallad bin Attash, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Islamic Army of Aden, USS Cole, Osama bin Laden, Ibrahim al-Thawar, Khalid Almihdhar, Fahad al-Quso, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Hassan al-Khamri, Al-Qaeda
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Lee Wolosky. [Source: Center for American Progress]By the end of the Clinton administration, an effort by some US officials to arrest international arms dealer Victor Bout is gathering steam (see Early Spring 1999-2000). National Security Council (NSC) adviser Lee Wolosky has been gathering evidence of Bout’s airplanes being used to smuggle weapons and possibly drugs for the Taliban. Shortly after the Bush administration takes office, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, Wolosky, and other NSC deputies hold a briefing about Bout’s activities for Condoleezza Rice, the new national security adviser. Rice appears interested, and authorizes the NSC team to continue to pursue an attempt to get an arrest warrant for Bout strong enough to secure a conviction. [Farah and Braun, 2007, pp. 186-187] However, Rice focuses on diplomatic solutions and does not allow any actual covert action against Bout. The FBI also does not have an open investigation into Bout and does not appear particularly interested in him. “Look but don’t touch,” is how one White House official will later describe Rice’s approach. [New York Times Magazine, 8/17/2003; Farah and Braun, 2007, pp. 193] In late spring 2001, Wolosky briefs Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley about Bout and global organized crime. He receives a go-ahead to present a full briefing to President Bush on the topic, but no specific date is set. Wolosky is still trying to arrange a date when the 9/11 attacks occur. The Bush administration’s interest in Bout was already fading before 9/11, and after 9/11 the remaining interest in him is lost, despite Bout’s ties to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Wolosky soon quits. “We knew we were being phased out,” he will later say. [Farah and Braun, 2007, pp. 193-194] Bout moves to Russia not long after 9/11, but Rice decides that Russia should not be pressured about arms trafficking in general and Bout in particular. One source who talks to Rice claims that she reasons the US has “bigger fish to fry.” [New York Times Magazine, 8/17/2003]
The National Institute for Public Policy (NIPP) publishes a report arguing for a “smaller, more efficient, arsenal” of specialized weapons. The report claims that developing a new generation of smaller, tactical nuclear weapons is necessary for the US to maintain its deterrent. The report suggests that nuclear weapons could be used to deter “weapons of mass destruction (WMD) use by regional powers,” deter “WMD or massive conventional aggression by an emerging global competitor,” prevent “catastrophic losses in conventional war,” provide “unique targeting capabilities” (such as the use of “mini-nukes,” or “bunker-busters,” to destroy deep underground/biological weapons targets), or to enhance “US influence in crises.” Many of the report’s authors are later appointed to senior positions within the Bush administration, including Linton Brooks who becomes head of the national nuclear security administration overseeing new weapons projects, Stephen Hadley who is appointed deputy national security adviser, and Stephen Cambone who becomes undersecretary of defense for intelligence. [National Institute for Public Policy, 1/2001 ; Guardian, 8/7/2003] The document is said to influence the Pentagon’s controversial Nuclear Posture Review that is submitted to Congress a year later (see January 8, 2002).
The neoconservative National Institute for Public Policy (NIPP) issues a report calling for the increased reliance upon, and the broad potential use of, nuclear weapons in conflicts by the United States. The NIPP is a think tank headed by Keith Payne, who in 1980 coauthored an article arguing that the US could win a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. (Payne wrote that American casualties would be an “acceptable” twenty million or so.) The NIPP report is written by a group of hardline conservatives and neoconservatives, including veterans of the “Team B” exercises (see November 1976). The report advocates the deployment and potential use of nuclear weapons against an array of potential enemies, from geostrategic opponents such as Russia or China, to “rogue” nations such as Iran, Iraq, or North Korea, to non-national enemies such as an array of terrorist organizations. It argues that “low-yield, precision-guided nuclear weapons” be developed “for possible use against select hardened targets such as underground biological weapons facilities,” weapons later nicknamed “bunker-busters.” Nuclear weapons, the report states, can be used not only as deterrents to other nations’ military aggression, but as a means to achieving political and military objectives even against non-nuclear adversaries. President Bush will put Payne in charge of the nation’s Nuclear Posture Review (see December 31, 2001), and, upon its completion, will name Payne assistant secretary of defense for forces policy, in essence putting him in charge of nuclear force planning. Payne’s thinking will inform later nuclear planning (see January 10, 2003 and March 2005). [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 182-183]
A bipartisan commission chaired by former Senator Howard Baker (R-TN) and former Carter administration counsel Lloyd Cutler reports on the state of nuclear nonproliferation programs in Russia and its former Soviet client states. The report is bleak: it finds that Russia alone is in danger of becoming a “virtual ‘Home Depot’” of nuclear weapons and technology for terrorists seeking nuclear WMD. Russia has the equivalent of 80,000 nuclear weapons, mostly in fragments and in different locations, but all befitting the definition of “loose nukes.” “Imagine if such material were successfully stolen and sold to a terrorist like Osama bin Laden,” the report warns. Baker and Cutler recommend that the US triple its annual expenditure on its program to secure the weapons, from $1 billion to $3 billion. The threat of terrorists acquiring Russian nuclear technology is “the most urgent unmet national security threat to the United States today.” For various reasons, the report stirs little interest among the members of the incoming Bush administration. Many of the relevant programs, collectively known as cooperative threat reduction efforts, are run through the Pentagon, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has no interest in them. Author J. Peter Scoblic will later point out that the very idea of “cooperative threat reduction” is at odds with the conservative “us-versus-them” ideology. “Paying our former enemy to secure its own weapons so that we will not be threated by them does not constitute a clear, military, zero-sum situation,” Scoblic will write. Indeed, some conservatives, led by House Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA), mount an effort to scrap the programs entirely, arguing that they undermine US national security—by funding Russian efforts to secure and destroy so-called “loose nukes,” Hunter and his followers warn, the US is allowing Russia to spend more on its own weapons programs. The Bush administration will respond to the Baker-Cutler report by slashing funding for the cooperative threat reduction programs almost in half, and tripling funding for research into missile defense programs. Scoblic will write, “Rather than focusing on making it harder for terrorists to acquire nuclear weapons, the administration was devoting its resources to building defenses against what an intelligence community assessment had determined would be the least likely means by which a nuclear attack would be carried out against the United States.” After the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration will request $20 billion in emergency funding for homeland security; as Scoblic will write, “[n]ot a dollar of it was allotted to security upgrades for loose Russian nuclear material, even though the danger had certainly been brought to the president’s attention.” The administration will continue to oppose funding increases for the programs in the future. [Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, Department of Energy, 1/10/2001 ; Scoblic, 2008, pp. 205-206]
The Predator drone. [Source: US military] (click image to enlarge)Even before President Bush’s official inauguration, Clinton holdover counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke pushes National Security Adviser Rice and other incoming Bush officials to resume Predator drone flights over Afghanistan (originally carried out in September and October 2000) in an attempt to find and assassinate bin Laden. [Washington Post, 1/20/2002; CBS News, 6/25/2003] On January 10, Rice is shown a video clip of bin Laden filmed by a Predator drone the year before. [Washington Post, 1/20/2002] Aware of an Air Force plan to arm the Predator, when Clarke outlines a series of steps to take against al-Qaeda on January 25 (see January 25, 2001), one suggestion is to go forward with new Predator drone reconnaissance missions in the spring and use an armed version when it is ready. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004] The original Air Force development plan calls for three years of Predator testing, but Clarke pushes so hard that a Hellfire missile is successfully test fired from a Predator on February 16, 2001. The armed Predator will be fully ready by early June 2001 (see Early June-September 10, 2001). [CBS News, 6/25/2003; New Yorker, 7/28/2003] However, Rice apparently approves the use of the Predator but only as part of a broader strategy against al-Qaeda. Since that strategy will still not be ready before 9/11, the Predator will not be put into use before 9/11. [Associated Press, 6/22/2003]
The Commission to Assess United States National Security Space Management and Organization, chaired by Donald Rumsfeld, issues its report to Congress warning that the US military’s satellites are vulnerable to attack. The military has some 600 satellites that it depends on for photo reconnaissance, targeting, communications, weather forecasting, early warning and intelligence gathering. An attack on these satellites, or on those belonging to US businesses, would be disastrous for the US economy and military, the report says. The report argues that the US must establish a military presence in space to protect its assets from a “Space Pearl Harbor” and asserts that warfare in space is a “virtual certainty.” To counter this vulnerability, the commission recommends that the US develop “superior space capabilities,” including the ability to “negate the hostile use of space against US interests.” It must project power “in, from and through space,” the report says. The president should “have the option to deploy weapons in space to deter threats to and, if necessary, defend against attacks on US interests.” [Foreign Service Journal, 4/2001; MSNBC, 4/27/2001; Toronto Globe and Mail, 5/9/2001; US Congress, 11/11/2001; Agence France-Presse, 1/29/2004]
A few days before President Bush assumes the presidency, several Clinton administration officials provide incoming Secretary of State Colin Powell and incoming National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice with a briefing about the unresolved negotiations between the US and North Korea concerning North Korean missiles (see October 2000). Powell is clearly interested; Rice is just as clearly not interested. One Clinton official will later recall, “The body language was striking.” He will add: “Powell was leaning forward. Rice was very much leaning backward. Powell thought that what we had been doing formed an interesting basis for progress. He was disabused very quickly.” When Bush publicly announces his intention to abandon any negotiations with North Korea, and in the process publicly insults the leaders of both North and South Korea (see March 7, 2001), it becomes very clear that the US has changed its tone towards North Korea. Powell is another victim of public rebuke; he is forced to retract statements he has made saying the US will continue its negotiations (see March 7, 2001). [Washington Monthly, 5/2004]
Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley (R) and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz (L) speak to reporters in Moscow after taking part in negotiations with Russia regarding an anti-ballistic missile shield on May 11, 2001. [Source: Yuri Kochetkov/ Corbis]While still campaigning to become president, George W. Bush frequently argued the US should build an anti-ballistic missile shield (see October 12, 2000). After Bush is made president, the development of such a shield and getting out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty the US has signed that would prevent such a shield, becomes the top US security priority (see May 26, 1972 and December 13, 2001). Senior officials and cabinet members make it their top agenda item in meetings with European allies, Russia, and China. Five Cabinet-level officials, including Condoleezza Rice, travel to Moscow to persuade Russia to abandon the ABM Treaty. Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith is there on September 10 to make the same case. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/5/2004]
Ballistic Missiles 'Today's Most Urgent Threat' - In a major speech given on May 1, 2001, Bush calls the possible possession of missiles by rogue states “today’s most urgent threat.” [New York Times, 5/2/2001] In a June 2001 meeting with European heads of state, Bush names missile defense as his top defense priority and terrorism is not mentioned at all (see June 13, 2001). It will later be reported that Rice was scheduled to give a major speech on 9/11, in which, according to the Washington Post, she planned “to promote missile defense as the cornerstone of a new national security strategy, and [made] no mention of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, or Islamic extremist groups.” However, the speech will be cancelled due to the 9/11 attacks (see September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 4/1/2004]
Criticism and Controversy - Bush’s missile shield stance is highly controversial. For instance, in July 2001 a Guardian article is titled, “US Defies Global Fury Over Missile Shield.” [New York Times, 5/2/2001] Domestic critics suggest the missile shield could start a new arms race and cost over $500 billion. [Reuters, 5/3/2001]
Diverting Attention from Terrorism - Some argue that Bush’s missile focus is diverting attention from terrorism. For instance, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) tells Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at a June 2001 hearing that the US is spending too much money on missile defense and not “putting enough emphasis on countering the most likely threats to our national security… like terrorist attacks.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/5/2004] On September 5, 2001, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd writes: “And why can George W. Bush think of nothing but a missile shield? Our president is caught in the grip of an obsession worthy of literature” and notes that “sophisticated antimissile interceptors can’t stop primitive, wobbly missiles from rogue nations, much less germ warfare from terrorists.” [New York Times, 9/5/2001] On September 10, 2001, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE) warns that if the US spends billions on missile defense, “we will have diverted all that money to address the least likely threat, while the real threats come into this country in the hold of ship, or the belly of a plane.” In 2004, a San Francisco Chronicle editorial will suggest that if the Bush administration had focused less on the missile shield and had “devoted more attention, more focus and more resources to the terrorist threat, the events of Sept. 11 might have been prevented.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/5/2004]
President Bush hosts British Prime Minister Tony Blair at Camp David. Iraq is on the agenda. Bush and Blair tell reporters that they want to restructure the sanctions on Iraq through the United Nations, using what the White House calls “smart sanctions”—sanctions that are designed to constrain the Iraqi government without harming the Iraqi citizenry. The new sanctions are primarily aimed at tightening controls on “dual-use” goods, items that can be used for both civilian and military purposes, and to keep the regime from getting illicit funds from oil smuggling. Bush says: “A change in sanctions should not in any way, shape, or form, embolden Saddam Hussein. He has got to understand that we are going to watch him carefully and, if we catch him developing weapons of mass destruction, we’ll take the appropriate action. And if we catch him threatening his neighbors we will take the appropriate action.” In 2008, former Bush press secretary Scott McClellan will write: “Saddam was viewed more as a ‘problem’ to deal with than a ‘grave and gathering danger’ in the early days. Talk centered on if he was developing WMD, not that he was developing them.” [McClellan, 2008, pp. 93-94]
A close-up of the USS Greeneville, showing the gouges on her hull from the collision with the Ehime Maru. [Source: US Navy]The USS Greeneville, a fast-attack Los Angeles-class submarine, collides with the Japanese fishing training boat Ehime Maru, in the Pacific Ocean south of O’ahu, Hawai’i, sinking the vessel. Nine aboard the Ehime Maru are killed in the collision, including four high school students. [Honolulu Advertiser, 2/9/2001] The accident has political ramifications far beyond its immediate tragedy. The prime minister of Japan, Yoshiro Mori, will be forced to resign in part due to his callous response to the news. Already-fragile military relations between the US and Japan suffer further damage. And the accident is the first major foreign policy challenge for the new Bush administration. [Time, 4/15/2001] The next day Admiral Thomas Fargo, commander of the US Pacific Fleet, formally apologizes to the Japanese government and to the families of those killed in the collision. Fargo admits that the fault lay completely with the submarine, and says that the sub was surfacing after what is called an “emergency main ballast blow” when its stern collided with the fishing vessel. 16 civilians were on board, but initially the Navy fails to identify them, saying only that business leaders, lawmakers, and other notable civilians are routinely allowed on board naval vessels as part of the Navy’s community relations program. A Navy spokesman claims that the Greeneville’s mission is to support rescue operations. [Honolulu Advertiser, 2/10/2001] Secretary of State Colin Powell apologizes to the Japanese foreign minister the day afterwards; while National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice informs President Bush about the incident shortly after it happened, Bush chooses to let the State and Defense Departments handle the apologies and other official responses. [Gannett News Service, 2/11/2001] The Navy and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the collision, as will interested journalists, who will find that the Greeneville was on a mission to give what amounts to a pleasure cruise to a number of influential Republican corporate donors, mostly from the Texas oil and gas industries. Investigations find that some of those civilians were actually manning the controls of the submarine when it hit the Japanese vessel. (See February 14-April, 2001.)
Israeli troops use unknown poison gases on Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank on at least eight different occasions. The gases cause their victims to vomit, go into seizures and spasms, then collapse and lose consciousness. The symptoms last from a few hours to several weeks. Doctors who treat the patients say it is unlike the tear gas which has been used by Israeli forces in the past and suggest it may be nerve gas or at least a highly concentrated concoction of different tear gases. [Longley, 2001 ; Palestinian Centre for Human Rights Weekly Report, 2/15/2001; Palestinian Centre for Human Rights Weekly Report, 2/22/2001; Palestinian Centre for Human Rights Weekly Report, 3/7/2001; Palestinian Centre for Human Rights Weekly Report, 3/29/2001; Al-Ahram, 4/5/2001; Palestinian Centre for Human Rights Weekly Report, 4/5/2001; Media Monitors, 1/8/2003]
Retired US soldiers give weapons training to members of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), the Iraqi opposition group led by Ahmed Chalabi. The five-day training session takes place in College Station, Texas, and is said to only be the first round of training. The INC has a contract with the Guidry Group, a consulting firm comprised of ex-secret service agents, to learn diplomatic security. Previously, the US backed training for the INC, but limited it only to “non-lethal” activities such as public relations, emergency medical care, and war crimes investigations. But with the Bush administration newly in power, approval has been given to let the INC learn how to use 12-gauge shotguns, pistols, Kalishnikov rifles, and other fire-arms. Retired Gen. Wayne Downing says, “This is significant because this is the first lethal training. It is designed to protect, so the significance is that this is the first time they are being trained to do anything on this level.” Downing, who has been advising the INC for three years, calls the training “a drop in the bucket.” He adds, “This is not the training they will need to put together a liberation army. There you would need individual training, basic training, weapons training, involving anti tank weapons, machine guns, rockets and that sort of thing.” The Washington Post will later call Downing the INC’s “mentor and biggest cheerleader.” [United Press International, 2/12/2001; Washington Post, 11/20/2001]
Senior Bush administration officials begin to meet once a month to discuss Pakistan’s nuclear program. The officials are CIA Director George Tenet, his deputy John McLaughlin, Secretary of State Colin Powell, his deputy Richard Armitage, Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, and Robert Joseph, the National Security Council non-proliferation director. The participants at the meetings discuss what Pakistan is doing, including the fact that North Korea is a client of Pakistan, Pakistan is still doing nuclear business with Iran, it has offered to sell nuclear weapons to Iraq, and there are rumors of a deal between it and Libya. The meetings are arranged by Tenet and, according to Assistant Secretary of State for Non-Proliferation Robert Einhorn: “A very small number of people got involved. Any names added to the list had to be sanctioned personally by Tenet.” The group receives intelligence about Khan’s network derived from tracking flights and meetings, as well as intercepting letters and phone calls. “The CIA guys would grudgingly come over to share anything new with us policy types,” Einhorn will say. “State was always making the case to roll up the network now, to stop it doing more damage. The CIA would make a plausible case to keep watching, let the network run so eventually we could pick it up by the roots, not just lop off the tentacles. We’d debate and always decide to continue following. The policy people were nervous about leaving it too long.” Some of Einhorn’s colleagues accuse the CIA of being “addicted” to collecting information, although senior CIA analysts think they have a better understanding of the issues and should be allowed to decide. Einhorn will add that he goes to Armitage for get support for rolling up the network, but Armitage simply refers him to Joseph and nothing is done before Einhorn leaves the administration in September 2001. Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will comment: “The Bush administration was not interested in acting on Pakistan, or had no idea of how to act. They were far more interested in eliminating Pakistan’s clients: Iran, Iraq, Libya, and North Korea.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 303-304]
Entity Tags: National Security Council, Central Intelligence Agency, Colin Powell, John E. McLaughlin, US Department of State, Robert G. Joseph, Richard A. Clarke, George J. Tenet, Robert Einhorn, Richard Armitage, Stephen J. Hadley
Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network
Following a conference on the terrorist threat to the US arranged by counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke (see (March 2001)), President Bush receives a classified assessment concerning the threat. It states that Pakistan is one of the countries that represents the “highest risk” of enabling black-market sales of nuclear weapons. However, no significant action is taken based on the analysis. According to authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, Clarke apparently feels “isolated,” as if only he really understands what Pakistan is doing in terms of nuclear proliferation and where it might lead. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 305]
While President Bush is meeting with South Korean President Kim Dae Jung (see March 7, 2001), Secretary of State Colin Powell meets with reporters for an unusual public self-abasement. Powell admits that he misspoke the day before when he said that the US would resume negotiations between itself and North Korea (see October 2000 and Mid-January 2001). “There was some suggestion that imminent negotiations are about to begin,” Powell says. “I got a little too far forward on my skis.” [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 237]
Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan says researchers at Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) are developing a revolutionary new satellite launch vehicle. The claim appears in public in an interview with Khan published in the Urdu-language Muslim newspaper. It appears to be conceived as a counter to a series of negative stories about Khan and KRL recently planted in publications by Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf, who wishes to weaken Khan’s public standing. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 307]
Neoconservative journalist Lawrence Kaplan argues that the US must withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (see May 26, 1972) and immediately begin development of a new missile defense system (see March 23, 1983 and January 29, 1991). “[M]issile defense is about preserving America’s ability to wield power abroad,” Kaplan writes. “It’s not about defense. It’s about offense. And that’s exactly why we need it.” [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 176]
Musharraf and A. Q. Khan. (The date and location of the photo is unknown.) [Source: ABC News]Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf hosts a dinner at the Serena Hotel in Islamabad, where he gives a speech eulogizing A. Q. Khan. According to authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, the purpose of the speech is to “further placate” Khan following his ouster as head of Khan Research Laboratories. “The nation is grateful to you for what you have done for us, today and for all times to come,” says Musharraf. “You are our national hero and an inspiration to our future generations. Nobody can ever take that away from you and your place in history is assured. You will always be at the very top. We salute you and thank you from the depths of our hearts.” The speech is subsequently reprinted in all Pakistani newspapers. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 308, 519]
A map showing the location of the collision, and of the Hainan Island airfield where the crippled EP-3 landed. [Source: Military.com]A US EP-3 Aries II spy plane collides with a Chinese fighter jet over the South China Sea. The fighter crashes, killing the pilot; the EP-3 makes an emergency landing at a Chinese air base on China’s Hainan Island, a landing described as illegal by Chinese officials. 24 American crewmen—including three women and eight code-breakers—are taken into custody by the Chinese. The incident is the Bush administration’s first real foreign-policy crisis. [CNN, 4/2001; BBC, 4/5/2001] The precise location of the US plane is in dispute, with US officials saying that the plane was in international airspace when the collision occurred, and Chinese officials saying that the aircraft was over Chinese airspace. [PBS Frontline, 10/18/2001] Some military experts say that the crash is likely the fault of the Chinese pilot, who may have been engaging in what they call a pattern of “deliberate confrontation over the South China Sea, sending its fighter jets to harass American surveillance planes in international airspace.” [Capitalism Magazine, 4/9/2001] Navy Admiral Dennis Blair, commander of the US Pacific Command, supports the experts’ opinion on the Chinese pilots’ behavior towards US aircraft, telling the press, “I must tell you though that the intercepts by Chinese fighters over the past couple months have become more aggressive to the point we felt they were endangering the safety of Chinese and American aircraft. And we launched a protest at the working level. This is not a big deal, but we went to the Chinese and said, ‘Your aircraft are not intercepting in a professional manner. There is a safety issue here.’ So, this was a pattern of what we considered to be increasingly unsafe behavior.” Aviation expert Jim Eckes concurs: “Aviation protocol demands that the quicker plane take steps to avoid the larger, slower aircraft, which in this case was the EP-3 belonging to the US.” [CNN, 4/2/2001] Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) says that the Chinese pilot who died in the collision, Wang Wei, was known to have challenged US surveillance planes before, but this time Wei—who apparently died when he ejected from his aircraft and was pulled into the EP-3’s propellers—“exceeded his grasp.” The Chinese have a different story: “the immediate cause of the collision was the violation of flight rules by the US plane which made a sudden and big movement to veer towards the Chinese plane,” according to a Defense Ministry spokesman. “The US plane’s nose and left wing rammed the tail of one of the Chinese planes causing it to lose control and plunge into the sea.” Analysts from Jane’s Defense say that two Chinese F8 fighter planes “hemmed in” the larger, slower EP-3 in an attempt to make it change course, and thereby caused the collision; one source reports that one of the Chinese fighters was actually flying directly underneath the EP-3. [BBC, 4/5/2001] The aggressive and dangerous behavior of the Chinese pilots is later confirmed by the account of the collision by the pilot of the EP-3, Lieutenant Shane Osborn, who says, “He was harassing us.…The third time he hit us, is that an accident? I don’t know. Do I think he meant to hit us? No. I don’t think he meant to have his plane cut in two and go under the ocean. But his actions were definitely threatening my crew in a very serious manner and we all saw what happened.” [PBS Frontline, 10/18/2001] Almost immediately after the EP-3 lands, Chinese troops board the plane, ignoring a Pentagon warning to stay off the plane; on April 2, US ambassador to China Joseph Prueher confirms this, saying, “There is little doubt they have been over the airplane.” The EP-3 is filled with highly classified surveillance equipment. The US initially blames China for the crash; the Chinese say the opposite. President Bush’s demands that the plane and crew be returned immediately are ignored [CNN, 4/2001; Reuters, 4/4/2001] on April 2, Prueher says, “To date, we have been granted no access to either the crew or the aircraft,” and calls the lack of access “inexplicable and unacceptable.” [CNN, 4/2/2001] On April 11, the Chinese will return the US crew to American custody, but will retain the plane until July 2001 (see April 11, 2001).
The Bush administration conducts what it calls a policy review of US relations with North Korea (see October 2000, Mid-January 2001, and March 7, 2001). The review is led by neoconservative Robert Joseph, the National Security Council’s nonproliferation director and a harsh opponent of any negotiations with North Korea. The session concludes with an impossible hybrid of new policies: a “resolve” to continue negotiations along with a set of non-negotiable demands for North Korea that Joseph and other Bush officials know that nation will refuse to accept. One example is the demand that North Korea adopt “a less threatening conventional military posture,” even though US commanders in South Korea describe the military balance between North and South as stable. The new policy also demands “improved implementation” of the 1994 Agreed Framework accord (see October 21, 1994), in essence a list of further concessions from North Korea without any concessions in return. Another demand is for “100 percent verification” of any missile deal, a practical impossibility. The policy also seems to imply that the US will no longer honor the Framework’s agreement that the US will not military threaten North Korea. President Bush does promise unspecified “reward[s]” if the North Koreans agree to his demands, but, unsurprisingly, the demands are roundly rejected. [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 237]
Photo of Iraqi aluminum tube, misidentified as a component for a nuclear reactor. [Source: CIA]The CIA writes at least 15 reports (only seven of which have been identified; see, e.g., June 20, 2001, June 30, 2001,
September 2004-September 2006,
November 24, 2001,
December 15, 2001,
June 14, 2001,
April 10, 2001) about Iraq’s interest in purchasing 7075-T6 aluminum tubes. Several of the assessments are distributed only to high-level policy makers, including President Bush, and are not sent to other intelligence agencies for peer review. According to a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence investigation, all the assessments rely on the same evidence and they all fail to note that the opinions of leading centrifuge experts at the Energy Department conflict with the CIA’s view. [US Congress, 7/7/2004, pp. 59; New York Times, 10/3/2004]
MSNBC interviews Paul Stares, an expert on space at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, for an article it is preparing on US plans to weaponize space. Stares is very critical of these plans, arguing that it will spark a new arms race and ultimately increase the vulnerability of US military and commercial assets in space. “It is currently not in the US interest to develop an anti-satellite system,” he says. “We have more to lose than gain from developing such a system. So you really have to wonder at the end of the day whether this is a path we really want to encourage others to go down.” Other experts interviewed by MSNBC have similar opinions. Michael Krepon, president of the Henry L. Stimson Center, also says that by weaponizing space, it would encourage others to do the same. [MSNBC, 4/27/2001]
US spy satellites photograph missile components being loaded onto a Pakistani C-130 transport plane in Pyongyang, North Korea. Intelligence reports produced about the images conclude that the cargo is a direct exchange for nuclear technology coming from Khan Research Laboratories, the main Pakistani nuclear weapons facility. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 309] Pakistan and North Korea have been exchanging nuclear technology for missiles for some time (see December 29, 1993 and Shortly After).
Congressional Democrats are highly critical of President Bush’s proposal to abandon the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and instead implement a “new strategic framework” for the US’s defense against nuclear weapons (see May 1, 2001). Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) says: “Many in the administration… argue that deploying an ineffective defense can still be an effective system simply because it would cause uncertainty in the minds of our adversaries. That position is based on the flawed assumption that a president would be willing to gamble our nation’s security on a bluff, and that no adversary would be willing or able to call such a bluff. Instead of increasing our security, pursuing a strategy that cannot achieve its goal could leave our nation less secure and our world less stable.” Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE), an acknowledged expert on US defense capabilities, says, “To abandon the ABM with the hope to get that [missile defense] capacity somewhere down the line would damage the security interests of the United States.” Senator John Kerry (D-MA) notes: “If you can’t shoot down 100 percent of them [nuclear missiles], you haven’t gotten rid of mutually assured destruction. And if you can, you set off an arms race to develop a capacity that can’t be touched by a missile defense system.” Perhaps most disparaging is a comment by Representative Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) who says that the new missile defense systems under consideration are “more appropriate to [film studio] Dreamworks and [film director] Steven Spielberg than to actual implementation.” [Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, 5/2/2001]
NATO persuades the UCPMB to agree to surrender its weapons and dissolve within 10 days. Three days later, on May 24, the GSZ is scheduled to be removed, though it had been greatly reduced in area by April. Most of the guerrillas enter Kosova to surrender. [Kola, 2003, pp. 376]
US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage says that US concerns about nuclear proliferation are “centered on people who were employed by the Pakistani nuclear agency and who have retired.” This is a clear reference to A. Q. Khan, who retired as head of Khan Research Laboratories, Pakistan’s main nuclear weapons facility, two months ago. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 308-309]
The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) obtains a few samples of the 7075-T6 aluminum tubes that were seized by the CIA and Jordanian secret service (see July 2001). IAEA scientists examine the tubes and initially are quite skeptical that the Iraqis intended to use them as rotors in a gas centrifuge. [Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 10/27/2003]
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice publicly joins the chorus of Bush administration officials demanding that the US withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (see May 26, 1972, May 1, 2001 and June 2001). Rice, an expert on the former Soviet Union, describes herself as a former “high priestess of arms control” who has changed her thinking. She says there is no longer a reason to discuss respective numbers of ballistic missiles held by the US and Russia, or, as she says, no further reason to debate “how many warheads could dance on the head of an SS-18.” [Chicago Sun-Times, 7/16/2001; Scoblic, 2008, pp. 184]
CIA agent Joe Turner flies to Vienna and meets with IAEA scientists, arguing that the aluminum tubes ordered by Iraq had been intended for use in nuclear centrifuges. [Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 10/27/2003; New York Times, 10/3/2004] But experts at the agency disagree with his conclusions and explain to him why they believe his analysis is wrong. “They pointed out errors in his calculations. They noted design discrepancies,” an unnamed senior US official will later tell the New York Times. [New York Times, 10/3/2004] David Albright, a physicist and former weapons inspector, who now heads the Institute for Science and International Security, similarly explains to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation: “The view in Vienna in the summer of 2001 was ‘Maybe this guy has a clever idea, but he really is just grabbing at almost straws to prove his case, and when he’s debunked in one model, he then shifts it and tries to make his information fit another centrifuge model.’ And yet whenever you confronted him with the facts or the weaknesses in argument, he always came back with the same answer—‘It’s only for centrifuges.’” When Turner returns to Washington, he tells his superiors at the CIA that the IAEA agrees with his theory. [Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 10/27/2003] But scientists at the IAEA send a summary of their views on the tubes to the US government on July 27, saying that although the tubes could possibly be used in a gas centrifuge application, they were not directly suited for that purpose. [United Kingdom, 7/14/2004 ; New York Times, 10/3/2004]
Peter Griffin, an associate of A. Q. Khan’s who has been doing business with him for decades (see Summer 1976), decides to return to Europe. Griffin has spent the last several years in Dubai running a company called Gulf Technical Industries, which has been used for Khan’s assistance to Libya (see (July or August 2000) and July 2000). However, Griffin now decides to leave Dubai and return to Europe, where he takes up residence in a villa in France. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 365, 368]
A Federal Express 727 lands in New Mexico in August 2001. [Source: Associated Press]US company Raytheon flies and lands a Federal Express 727 passenger jet six times on a military base in New Mexico, entirely by remote control and without a pilot on board. This is done to test equipment intended to make hijackings difficult, by allowing ground controllers to take over the flying of a hijacked plane. The Associated Press will later report, “[T]he Raytheon test used technology that provides the extremely precise navigational instructions that would be required for remote control from a secure location.” The Associated Press will observe, “Unmanned, ground controlled reconnaissance aircraft have been used by the military for missions over Iraq and Kosovo,” and will quote Thomas Cassidy, president of the California-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and manufacturer of the military aircraft, as saying, “It’s a reliable system.” [Associated Press, 10/2/2001; Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 10/28/2001]
Raytheon Employees on 9/11 Planes - Several Raytheon employees with possible ties to this remote control technology and/or Raytheon’s Global Hawk program will be reported to have been on the hijacked 9/11 flights (see September 25, 2001). Earlier in the year, a specially designed Global Hawk plane flew from the US to Australia without pilots or passengers. [ITN, 4/24/2001]
Others Say Remote Control Is Impossible - Contradicting the Associated Press report, a number of media reports after 9/11 will suggest such technology is impossible, or flatly deny its existence. For instance, The Observer will quote an expert as saying, “the technology is pretty much there,” but is still untried. [Observer, 9/16/2001] An aviation-security expert at Jane’s Defence Weekly will say this type of technology belongs “in the realms of science fiction.” [Financial Times, 9/18/2001; Economist, 9/20/2001] And in late September 2001, President Bush will give a speech in which he mentions that the government would give grants to research “new technology, probably far in the future, allowing air traffic controllers to land distressed planes by remote control.” [New York Times, 9/28/2001]
The Macedonian government and Macedonian Albanian political leaders, along with EU envoy Francois Leotard and American envoy James Pardew, conduct talks for weeks in Ohrid and come to an agreement on August 8. The Framework Agreement is signed at a tense ceremony in Skopje on August 13. Under the agreement, Macedonia’s constitution will be changed to call it a state of “Macedonian citizens,” not the “Macedonian nation”; Albanian will become an official language where 20 percent or more of the people are speakers; limits are taken off national symbols and religion; and Albanians and other groups are given a veto over legislation about “culture, use of language, education, personal documentation, and use of symbols,” and can call for elected commissions to monitor human rights. The parties agree to reform the Macedonian police force to reflect Macedonia’s ethnic makeup by 2004 (only six percent of the force is Albanian at this time), the Law on Local Self-Government and Local Finance is amended to increase local autonomy, local boundaries are to be moved to reflect ethnic composition after an upcoming census, and the Laws on the Civil Service and Public Administration are changed so ethnic groups will have equal representation.
The Peace Deal between NATO and the NLA - NATO representative Pieter Feith and Ali Ahmeti, leader of the National Liberation Army, negotiate a separate peace settlement. On August 14 the NLA will say it supports the Framework Agreement and signs a technical agreement with NATO. NATO will disarm the NLA and the guerillas will receive amnesty. About 3,500 NATO soldiers will enter Macedonia, beginning on August 12 with the entry of British and French units.
Results of the Agreements - There are Macedonian and Albanian groups that oppose the Framework Agreement, including the Albanian National Army, a militant group about as old as the NLA, and the Real NLA. Some accuse NATO or the USA of being behind the NLA and ANA. Political changes will be made in Macedonia, but the Framework Agreement will not be implemented fully. By September 27, the NLA will dissolve. Six months of civil war kill 150 to 250 people (including 95 Macedonian police and soldiers), wound 650 or more, and displace 140,000 people. At its peak, the NLA controls about 20 percent of Macedonia. [Kola, 2003, pp. 379-382; Phillips, 2004, pp. 134-136, 161, 204]
Entity Tags: James Pardew, Albanian National Army, Francois Leotard, Ali Ahmeti, Macedonia, European Union, National Liberation Army, Pieter Feith, Real NLA, United States of America, North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle
Some time before 9/11, ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed learns that two prominent Pakistani nuclear scientists met with Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan in mid-August 2001. Bin Laden revealed to the two scientists, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Chaudiri Abdul Majeed, that he had acquired nuclear material and wanted their help to turn it into a weapon (see Mid-August 2001). ISI Director Mahmood is said to have learned about this through military contacts, as several Pakistani generals sit on the board of directors of a charity run by the two scientists that assists the Taliban. For instance, Hamid Gul, a former director of the ISI, is the charity’s honorary patron and was in Afghanistan at the time of the meeting. However, the ISI does not warn the US or take any action against the scientists or their charity. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 310-311]
Entity Tags: Mahmood Ahmed, Al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Chaudiri Abdul Majeed, Hamid Gul, Ummah Tameer-e-Nau, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Osama bin Laden
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network, 9/11 Timeline
Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood. [Source: Public domain]Two retired Pakistani nuclear scientists meet with Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri at a campfire in a compound near Kandahar, Afghanistan. The more prominent scientist, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, worked with A. Q. Khan for two decades before having a falling out with him in the early 1990s (however, he was seen with Khan earlier in 2001 (see April 2001)). A highly regarded scientist, he also became an advocate of the Taliban and published a pamphlet predicting that “by 2002 millions may die through mass destruction weapons… terrorist attack, and suicide.” He was forced to retire in 1999 after publicly advocating sharing nuclear technology with other Islamic countries. The other scientist, Chaudiri Abdul Majeed, also retired in 1999 after a long career. In 2000, the two men set up a charity, Ummah Tameer-e-Nau, purporting to conduct relief work in Afghanistan (see 2000). Bin Laden allegedly tells the scientists that he has made great headway in advancing the apocalypse predicted by Mahmood. He claims that he has acquired highly enriched uranium from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and wants their help to turn it into a bomb. The scientists reply that while they could help with the science of fissile materials, they are not weapons designers. They are also asked with other Pakistani weapons experts could be approached for help. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 310-311] They spend two or three days at the compound and discuss how the material could be used to create a so-called dirty bomb, in which radioactive material is blown up using conventional explosives to spread radiation. But the discussion apparently ends inconclusively when bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, and others depart abruptly for the mountains. Before leaving, bin Laden says that something great is going to happen soon and Muslims around the world will join them in holy war. [Frantz and Collins, 2007, pp. 264-265] Both US intelligence and Pakistani ISI learn about this meeting prior to the 9/11 attacks, but neither group will take any effective action as a result (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001 and Between Mid-August and September 10, 2001).
The US Air Force successfully tests the use of a military technology component that will land planes entirely by autopilot. The component is installed on a commercial airliner. The test takes place at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico and uses a Boeing 727. The component for automated landing used by the military is called the Joint Precision Approach and Landing System, or JPALS. The JPALS is a differential GPS ground station developed by Raytheon. It was designed to become interoperable with civilian systems utilizing the same GPS-based technology. The civilian counterpart to the JPALS is known as the Local Area Augmentation System (LAAS). Both the JPALS and the LAAS use GPS data sufficiently accurate to allow a plane’s autopilot to land safely without human intervention. The test demonstrates that “the JPALS and LAAS will provide an interoperable landing capability for military and civil applications,” according to a Raytheon announcement (see also August 2000). [SpaceDaily, 10/1/2001]
Abu Bakr Siddiqui, a procurement agent for A. Q. Khan’s nuclear smuggling ring, is convicted in Britain on three counts of violating British export regulations. He had been shipping materials and technology to be used to build nuclear weapons, but his activities were uncovered by British customs (see May 7, 1999). The prosecution had argued that Siddiqui knew well that what he exported was destined for Pakistan’s nuclear program, and linked him to Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir, a Dubai-based middleman in the network. Many of the details of Khan’s operations are revealed in court, but, due to obstruction by authorities in Dubai, not all of them can be submitted as evidence. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 194] Siddiqui will be given an extremely lenient sentence (see October 8, 2001).
Thomas Bergeson. [Source: Samuel Rogers / United States Air Force]Fighter jets and personnel from the 71st Fighter Squadron, which is stationed at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, are away in Nevada at the time of the 9/11 attacks, participating in the “Red Flag” training exercise, and only return to base about a week later. [Virginian-Pilot, 9/24/2001; 1st Fighter Association, 2003; Langley Air Force Base, 9/15/2006] Langley AFB is located 130 miles south of the Pentagon, and fighters from there are launched on 9/11 to protect Washington, DC (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 9/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 27] The “host unit” at the base is the 1st Fighter Wing, which includes the 71st Fighter Squadron and two other fighter squadrons: the 27th FS and the 94th FS. [Langley Air Force Base, 11/2003; GlobalSecurity (.org), 2/12/2006] The 71st FS includes about 25 pilots. Its members are participating in Red Flag in preparation for an expected deployment to Iraq this coming December. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 10/19/2001] Col. Thomas Bergeson, the commander of the 71st FS, will later recall, “We had most of our F-15s at Nellis” Air Force Base in Nevada, for the exercise. [Langley Air Force Base, 9/15/2006]
Red Flag - Red Flag is a realistic combat training exercise, held four times a year at Nellis Air Force Base, involving the air forces of the US and its allies. [GlobalSecurity (.org), 10/19/2002; Arkin, 2005, pp. 476] Various aircraft are involved, and more than 100 pilots are participating in the current exercise. [Air Force Magazine, 11/2000; Las Vegas Review-Journal, 8/22/2001] The exercise began on August 11 and ends on September 7. [Las Vegas Review-Journal, 7/28/2001; Las Vegas Review-Journal, 8/22/2001] But the 71st FS pilots only fly their F-15s back to Langley AFB around September 17. [Virginian-Pilot, 9/24/2001]
The 71st Fighter Squadron - The mission of the 71st Fighter Squadron is “to maintain a combat-ready force able to conduct air-superiority operations anywhere in the world for the United States and its allies.” [Langley Air Force Base, 1/2005] Although Langley Air Force Base, where it is stationed, is one of the two “alert sites” upon which NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) can call to get jets quickly launched, NEADS’s alert fighters at the base do not belong to the 71st FS or either of the other two fighter squadrons of the 1st Fighter Wing. Instead, the two alert jets are part of a small detachment from Fargo, North Dakota’s 119th Fighter Wing, which is located on the opposite side of the runway to the central facilities of Langley AFB. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 17; Spencer, 2008, pp. 114] However, some F-15s belonging to the 71st FS are launched from Langley AFB on 9/11, following the attacks, to patrol the skies of the East Coast. Some of the 71st FS jets that are deployed to Nevada are the first fighters to get airborne to patrol Las Vegas and southern California in response to the attacks. [Langley Air Force Base, 1/2005; 1st Fighter Association, 3/14/2006]
Other Units Away on 9/11 - The 94th Fighter Squadron, which is also based at Langley AFB, is away on September 11 as well, for a 90-day combat deployment to Saudi Arabia to enforce the no-fly zone over southern Iraq (see September 2001). [BBC, 12/29/1998; 1st Fighter Association, 2003] Around this same time, members of the 121st Fighter Squadron of the District of Columbia Air National Guard (DCANG) also participate in Red Flag, and only return to their base three days before 9/11 (see Late August-September 8, 2001). [Washington Post, 4/8/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 156]
It is learned that the United States is developing weapons that undermine and possibly violate international treaties on biological and chemical warfare. For example, the CIA is “building and testing a cluster munition, modeled on a Soviet bioweapon, to spread biological agents.” [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 1/2003] And in the Pentagon, the Defense Intelligence Agency is planning to genetically engineer a Soviet strain of Bacillus anthracis (the causative agent of anthrax) that is thought to be antibiotic-resistant. [Guardian, 10/29/2002; Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 1/2003] Other biological and chemical weapons projects include the development of a rifle-launched gas grenade (see September 10, 2001) as well as non-lethal gases designed to knock people out such as the hallucinogenic BZ gas and fentanyl. [Guardian, 10/29/2002; Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 1/2003; Independent, 2/16/2003] Fentanyl was the gas used in October 2002 by Russian Special Forces against the Chechen rebels who were holding civilians hostage in a theatre. In that incident, the gas was responsible for killing most of the 120 people who died during the rescue operation. [Scotsman, 10/30/2002; Christian Science Monitor, 2/14/2003; Independent, 2/16/2003] The US claims that these weapons are for defensive and “law-enforcement” purposes only. For instance, calmative agents might be used by US troops for defensive purposes when confronting hostile crowds, fighting in cave systems, or taking prisoners. [Guardian, 10/29/2002; Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 1/2003; Independent, 2/16/2003]
F-15s from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base patrol the southern no-fly zone in support of Operation Southern Watch. [Source: Jack Braden / United States Air Force]At the time of the 9/11 attacks, the 94th Fighter Squadron, which is stationed at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, is away on a 90-day combat deployment to Saudi Arabia for Operation Southern Watch, to enforce the no-fly zone over southern Iraq. Two days before 9/11, on September 9, the 27th Fighter Squadron, which is also stationed at Langley AFB, returns from Saudi Arabia, where it has been performing the same mission. [BBC, 12/29/1998; Air Force Association, 10/2/2002; 1st Fighter Association, 2003] The 94th and 27th Fighter Squadrons are two of the three F-15 fighter squadrons that are part of the 1st Fighter Wing, which is the “host unit” at Langley AFB. The third of these is the 71st Fighter Squadron. Between them, the three squadrons have 54 “primary assigned” F-15C fighter jets. [Langley Air Force Base, 11/2003; GlobalSecurity (.org), 2/12/2006] On September 11, most of the F-15s of the 71st FS are also away from base, for the Red Flag exercise in Nevada (see (Late August-September 17, 2001)). [Virginian-Pilot, 9/24/2001; Langley Air Force Base, 9/15/2006]
Langley Jets Not Part of NORAD Alert Unit - Langley Air Force Base, which is 130 miles south of the Pentagon, is one of two “alert sites” that NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) can call upon to get jets quickly launched. However, the F-15s of the 1st Fighter Wing are not involved in this mission. Instead, that task belongs to the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 119th Fighter Wing, which has a small detachment at Langley AFB and keeps two fighter jets there ready to take off when required. [USA Today, 9/16/2001; Air Force Magazine, 2/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 17; Spencer, 2008, pp. 114] Despite not being part of the NORAD alert unit, aircraft from the 1st Fighter Wing are involved in the military response to the 9/11 attacks. Jets belonging to the 27th FS are airborne within two hours of the attacks, “providing protection for the National Command Authority and the rest of the nation’s civilian and military leadership.” [Air Force Association, 10/2/2002] And F-15s belonging to the 71st FS are launched from Langley AFB following the attacks, to patrol the skies of the East Coast. [Langley Air Force Base, 1/2005; 1st Fighter Association, 3/14/2006]
Possible Effect on 9/11 Response - Whether the deployment of the 94th Fighter Squadron to Saudi Arabia diminishes Langley AFB’s ability to respond on 9/11 is unknown. However, Air Force units are cycled through deployments like Operation Southern Watch by the Aerospace Expeditionary Force (AEF) Center, which is at Langley Air Force Base. And according to NORAD Commander Larry Arnold, “Prior to Sept. 11, we’d been unsuccessful in getting the AEF Center to be responsible for relieving our air defense units when they went overseas.” [Air Force Print News, 6/2000; GlobalSecurity (.org), 12/21/2002; Filson, 2003, pp. 99]
Attendees to an important cabinet-level meeting on terrorism have a heated debate over what to do with the armed Predator drone, which has been ready for use over Afghanistan since June 2001 (see Early June-September 10, 2001). Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke has been repeatedly pushing for the use of the Predator over Afghanistan (in either armed or unarmed versions), and he again argues for its immediate use. Everyone agrees that the armed Predator capability is needed, but there are disputes over who will manage and/or pay for it. CIA Director Tenet says his agency will operate the armed Predator “over my dead body.” [Washington Post, 10/2/2002] Clarke recalls, “The Air Force said it wasn’t their job to fly planes to collect intelligence. No one around the table seemed to have a can-do attitude. Everyone seemed to have an excuse.” [New Yorker, 7/28/2003] National Security Adviser Rice concludes that the armed Predator is not ready (even though it had been proven in tests during the summer), but she also presses Tenet to reconsider his opposition to immediately resume reconnaissance flights, suspended since September the year before. After the meeting, Tenet agrees to proceed with such flights. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004; 9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004] The armed Predator is activated just days after 9/11, showing that it was ready to be used after all. [Associated Press, 6/25/2003]
The US Army applies for a patent on a new rifle-launched gas grenade which is purportedly meant for non-lethal crowd control. It is designed to release aerosols “selected from the group consisting of smoke, crowd control agents, biological agents, chemical agents, obscurants, marking agents, dyes and inks, chaffs and flakes.” [United States Patent and Trademark Office, 2/25/2003; Global Security Newswire, 5/28/2003; San Francisco Chronicle, 6/9/2003] The patent is approved in February (see February 25, 2002) .
Florida Air National Guard crew chiefs and a pilot scrambling to an F-15 during an alert drill at Homestead Air Reserve Base. [Source: Airman]Fighter jets that are scrambled by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in response to suspicious or unidentified aircraft in US airspace are able to take off within minutes of receiving a scramble order, in the years preceding 9/11. [Airman, 1/1996; Cape Cod Times, 9/15/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 117] NORAD keeps a pair of fighters on “alert” at a number of sites around the US. These fighters are armed and fueled, ready for takeoff. [American Defender, 4/1998; Air Force Magazine, 2/2002; Bergen Record, 12/5/2003] Even before 9/11, the fighters are regularly scrambled to intercept errant aircraft (see 1990-2001). [General Accounting Office, 5/3/1994, pp. 4; Associated Press, 8/14/2002]
Pilots Stay Close to Their Aircraft - Pilots on alert duty live near to their fighters, so they will be ready for a prompt takeoff if required. Author Lynn Spencer will write that pilots on alert duty at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia “live, eat, and sleep just steps from jets.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 117] According to Major Martin Richard, a pilot with the 102nd Fighter Wing at Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts, “Every day” at his base, “365 days a year, 24 hours a day, at least two fighter pilots and four maintenance personnel ate, slept, and lived nestled adjacent to three fully loaded F-15 jets.” [Richard, 2010, pp. 8]
Fighters Can Get Airborne in Minutes - The fighters on alert are required to be in the air within minutes of a scramble order. General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD on 9/11, will tell the 9/11 Commission that they “have to be airborne in 15 minutes.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Richard will write that the objective of the alert pilots at his base is “to be airborne in 10 minutes or less if the ‘horn’ went off.” [Richard, 2010, pp. 8] According to other accounts, fighters on alert are generally airborne in less than five minutes. Airman magazine reports in 1996 that NORAD’s alert units “work around the clock, and usually have five minutes or less to scramble when the warning klaxon sounds.” [Airman, 1/1996] A few days after 9/11, the Cape Cod Times will report that, “if needed,” the fighters on alert at Otis Air Base “must be in the air within five minutes.” [Cape Cod Times, 9/15/2001] According to Spencer, pilots on alert duty at Langley Air Force Base are “always just five minutes away from rolling out of the hangars in their armed fighters.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 117] Captain Tom Herring, a full-time alert pilot at Homestead Air Reserve Base in Florida, says in 1999, “If needed, we could be killing things in five minutes or less.” [Airman, 12/1999] In 1994, NORAD is planning to reduce the number of alert sites in the continental United States and, according to a report published that year by the General Accounting Office, “Each alert site will have two fighters, and their crews will be on 24-hour duty and ready to scramble within five minutes.” [General Accounting Office, 5/3/1994, pp. 16]
'Everything Else Just Stops' following Scramble Order - Once an order to scramble is received, alert pilots try to get airborne as quickly as they can. According to Richard, being a pilot sitting on alert is “akin to being a fireman.” Richard will later recall that when the horn goes off, signaling for him to get airborne, “no matter where I was or what I was doing, I had to swiftly don my anti-g suit, parachute harness, and helmet, run to the jet where my maintenance crew was waiting, fire up the powerful jet engines, and check all of the systems while simultaneously talking with the Otis command post who had a direct feed from NEADS [NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector]. When the horn blew, a frantic, harrowing race into a high pressure situation ensued.” [Richard, 2010, pp. 8] Herring says: “We go full speed when that klaxon sounds and people know not to get in front of us, because we take scrambles very seriously.… We’re fired up about what we do and we’re the best at what we do.” [Airman, 12/1999] Technical Sergeant Don Roseen, who keeps the alert fighters at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida ready for instant takeoff, says in 1999 that these fighters are “hot and cocked, they are ready.” Roseen says that when the klaxon goes off, “everything else just stops.”
Suspicious Aircraft 'Could Be a Terrorist' - When they are taking off, pilots may be unaware exactly why they are being scrambled. Major Steve Saari, an alert pilot at Tyndall Air Force Base, says: “There are several different things you could run into and you don’t know until you’re airborne. And sometimes you can’t tell until you have a visual identification.” Saari says: “The unknown [aircraft] could be something as simple as a lost civilian or it could be somebody defecting from Cuba. It could be a terrorist or anything in-between.” [American Defender, 3/1999] According to Airman magazine, the unidentified aircraft might be “Cuban MiGs, drug traffickers, smugglers, hijackers, novice pilots who’ve filed faulty flight plans, or crippled aircraft limping in on a wing and a prayer.” [Airman, 12/1999]
Intercepted Aircraft Could Be Shot Down - Fighters can respond in a number of ways when they intercept a suspect aircraft. In 2011, Jeff Ford—at that time the aviation and security coordinator for the NORAD and USNORTHCOM Interagency Coordination Directorate—will say that before 9/11, scrambled fighters can “intercept the aircraft, come up beside it, and divert it in the right direction toward an airfield or find out what the problems are in order to assist.” [Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System, 9/8/2011] According to MSNBC: “[I]nterceptors can fly alongside a plane to see who’s flying it. They can also try to force it off course. Once it is apparent that it is not following directions, it might be forced over the ocean or to a remote airport—or even shot down.” [MSNBC, 9/12/2001] On September 11, 2001, NEADS will scramble fighters that are kept on alert in response to the hijackings (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20, 26-27]
Entity Tags: 102nd Fighter Wing, Tyndall Air Force Base, Don Roseen, Homestead Air Reserve Base, Jeff Ford, Tom Herring, Langley Air Force Base, Ralph Eberhart, Steve Saari, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Martin Richard, Otis Air National Guard Base, Northeast Air Defense Sector
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
The CIA learns that two prominent Pakistani nuclear scientists have met with al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri in mid-August 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell will tell Pakistani officials when he visits Pakistan in October this year (see Early October-December 2001). In the meeting, the two scientists, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Chaudiri Abdul Majeed, discussed helping al-Qaeda make a nuclear weapon (see Mid-August 2001). [Frantz and Collins, 2007, pp. 268-269] CIA Director George Tenet will confirm, in a 2007 book, that the CIA learned of this meeting prior to 9/11. He will write: “A Western intelligence service came to us in the fall of 2001 [with details of the meeting].… [The] CIA pressed the Pakistanis to confront Mahmood and Majeed with this new information. We put [evidence that a charity named Ummah Tameer-e-Nau run by Mahmood and Majeed tried to sell Libya a nuclear weapon] on the table. We also passed new information that had been collected by other intelligence services. To no avail. Then 9/11 struck and there was no slowing down in this pursuit.” [Tenet, 2007, pp. 264] No evidence will be presented showing that President Bush or other top US officials are warned of this, or that there are any general warnings inside the US government about this. Pakistan is not successfully pressured about it before 9/11 (in fact, the Pakistani ISI already knows about it and has failed to warn the US (see Between Mid-August and September 10, 2001)), and after 9/11 the only action Pakistan will take is to twice arrest and then quickly release the two scientists. Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will comment in a 2007 book, “This information, added to the missing canisters of highly enriched uranium [in Pakistan], might have been sufficient to redirect” top Bush officials to take sterner action against al-Qaeda before 9/11. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 311]
The Joint Surveillance System (JSS). [Source: Dr. Steven R. Bussolari, MIT Lincoln Laboratory]Military radar in Massachusetts, which is used by NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), is out of use this morning in order to undergo maintenance work. [9/11 Commission, 10/27/2003 ; 9/11 Commission, 10/27/2003 ]
Radar Scheduled to Go Down - The J53 radar in North Truro, Massachusetts, is one of a number of radar sites that NEADS receives data from. [United States Space Command, 12/30/1995; Jane's C4I Systems, 9/1/2005; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 10/23/2006 ] It has a range of 250 miles. According to Technical Sergeant Jeffrey Richmond, the assistant air surveillance technician at NEADS, J53 is scheduled to go down this morning for some major repairs to be carried out. [9/11 Commission, 10/27/2003 ; 9/11 Commission, 10/27/2003 ]
NEADS Personnel Refer to Radar - A member of staff at NEADS apparently refers to the J53 radar being offline shortly after those on the NEADS operations floor learn of the Flight 11 hijacking (see (8:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and while they are trying to locate the hijacked aircraft. She mentions that NEADS technicians “still should be able to get it” (presumably referring to the plane’s radar track) “without 53.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001] (According to Richmond, the area covered by J53 is overlapped by other radars, “so the need for radar to undergo routine maintenance is accounted for.”) ID technician Shelley Watson will later recall that the NEADS ID desk uses the J53 radar as a point from which it attempts to locate Flight 11. At some time during the morning, Richmond insists that J53 be put back online at some capacity. Whether this happens is unstated. [9/11 Commission, 10/27/2003 ; 9/11 Commission, 10/27/2003 ]
Radar Part of 'Joint Surveillance System' - The J53 radar site is part of the Joint Surveillance System (JSS). [Transportation Safety Board of Canada, 9/2/1998; US Department of the Air Force, 11/1/1999 ; 9/11 Commission, 2004] The JSS consists of “long-range radar sites around the perimeter of the US, with data shared by the [Department of Defense], FAA, Customs, and others.” A 2003 Department of Defense report will state that, at the time of the 9/11 attacks, US air defense relies “largely on outward looking ground-based radars, specifically, the Joint Surveillance System.” [US Department of Defense, 7/2003 ] According to General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD, NORAD has access to the JSS, “which is that system that rings the United States and looks out.” He will say this system “looks for that foreign threat. It looks for someone coming into our airspace that’s not authorized.” [US Congress. Senate, 10/25/2001]
Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR), participates in a video teleconference with other senior NORAD officials and is therefore unavailable when NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) tries contacting him for authorization to scramble fighter jets in response to the hijacked Flight 11. [Filson, 2002; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20; Spencer, 2008, pp. 31] Arnold is in the video teleconferencing room at CONR headquarters, at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.
Teleconference Discussing 'Russian Exercise' - Robert Del Toro, an intelligence officer with the 1st Air Force who is in the room with Arnold, will tell the 9/11 Commission that the teleconference is “about the Russian exercise.” [9/11 Commission, 2/2/2004 ] Del Toro is presumably referring to either the Russian Air Force exercise that NORAD is currently monitoring (see September 9, 2001) or the exercise, Vigilant Guardian, that NORAD is currently running, which reportedly includes a simulated war against Russia (see (8:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/9/2001; Arkin, 2005, pp. 545; Denver Post, 8/28/2011]
NORAD Officials from US and Canada on Teleconference - It is unclear exactly who else is participating in the teleconference. Arnold will tell the 9/11 Commission that as well as “our folks”—presumably referring to some of his colleagues at CONR—it includes “the NORAD staff.” The “NORAD staff” presumably includes officials from NORAD’s operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, and its headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] Arnold will tell author Leslie Filson that the teleconference includes “the CINC”—presumably meaning General Ralph Eberhart, the commander in chief of NORAD, who is at Peterson Air Force Base—and also officials from the Alaskan NORAD Region (ANR) and the Canadian NORAD Region (CANR). [Filson, 2002; 9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004 ]
Arnold Not Alerted to Hijacking - While Arnold is on the teleconference, NEADS calls CONR to alert him to the suspected hijacking of Flight 11 (see (8:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but no one at CONR interrupts the teleconference to fetch him or pass on to him the urgent message from NEADS. Arnold will only learn of the hijacking after the teleconference ends (see (8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and he will then call NEADS back (see (8:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003; Spencer, 2008, pp. 31, 38]
A number of pilots with the 102nd Fighter Wing at Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts are preparing to take off for a training mission and see two of their unit’s fighter jets being scrambled in response to the hijacked Flight 11, but they are not asked to respond to the emerging crisis themselves and continue with their preparations for the training mission. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; Richard, 2010, pp. 9-12]
Pilots Preparing for Training over the Atlantic - The pilots are preparing to fly a defensive counter-air mission in an area of military training airspace over the Atlantic Ocean, southeast of Long Island, known as “Whiskey 105.” [Richard, 2010, pp. 10, 12; Airman, 9/3/2011] According to most accounts, six of the 102nd Fighter Wing’s F-15 fighters will be participating in the training mission. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; Cape Cod Times, 9/11/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 155] But Major Martin Richard, one of the pilots involved, will write in a 2010 book that eight of the unit’s F-15s take part in the mission. Richard will recall that after the coordination briefing for the training mission, he goes to the “life support shop” and puts on his flying gear, and then goes to the operations desk. There, the unit’s supervisor of flying, Lieutenant Colonel Jon Treacy, briefs the pilots preparing for the training mission on current weather and airfield updates, and gives them the status of a KC-135 tanker plane that will be refueling their fighters during the training mission. Richard then heads to his F-15, inspects it, and speaks to his crew chief.
Pilots Notice Commotion as Fighters Are Scrambled - As Richard starts his fighter’s engines, he notices a commotion on one side of the flight line ramp. He will recall: “The broken, disjointed communication over the ultra high frequency (UHF) radio indicated confusion. Members of the 102nd Security Forces Squadron, the cops, marshaled into protective positions. Two vehicles appeared with their blue emergency lights flashing. We all knew what was going on.” The 102nd Fighter Wing keeps a pair of F-15s on alert—armed, fueled up, and ready to take off within minutes of a scramble order—and, Richard will recall, “[T]he alert aircraft were being scrambled.” [Richard, 2010, pp. 10-11]
Pilots Watch Alert Fighters Take Off, but Unconcerned about This - The pilots preparing to take off for the training mission idle their engines and wait while the two alert fighters take off (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001] Richard will describe: “I watched from my jet as the clamshell doors on the alert hangars opened, heard the alert jets’ engines whine to life, and saw them aggressively emerge from the facility like an eager predator in search of its prey. Suddenly, the command post announced, ‘Scramble!’ They blasted off, shattering the previously still, calm, peaceful morning.” [Richard, 2010, pp. 12] The pilots involved in the training mission are apparently unaware of why these fighters are being scrambled. [Cape Cod Times, 9/11/2006] Richard will recall: “I wasn’t too concerned when I saw the scrambled aircraft take off. We see many scrambles during the year and most all are just aircraft or vessels that can’t be identified but are friendly.” [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001]
Pilots Continue Preparing for Training - Once the two alert fighters are airborne, the pilots on the ground continue preparing for their training mission. “Back on the flight line,” Richard will recall, “I arranged my formation for takeoff and followed the standard procedures en route to our training area southwest of Martha’s Vineyard.” [Richard, 2010, pp. 12] Richard and the other pilots will begin their training mission in Whiskey 105 (see (9:00 a.m.-9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001). They will only learn of the first crash at the World Trade Center and be recalled to their base at around 9:25 a.m. (see (9:25 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and some of them will take off again to help protect US airspace, but that will only be after the terrorist attacks have ended (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; 9/11 Commission, 10/14/2003 ; Spencer, 2008, pp. 244-246]
Unit's Mission Is to Protect Northeast US - The 102nd Fighter Wing at Otis Air Base, according to its own statement, has aircraft and their crews “on continuous 24-hour, 365-day alert to guard our skies.” The unit says its “mission is to protect the Northeast United States from armed attack from another nation, terrorist attack, and activities such as smuggling, illicit drug activity, and illegal immigration.” Its large area of responsibility includes “the major industrial centers of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, and all national command centers in Washington, DC.” [Cape Cod Times, 9/12/2001] The 102nd Fighter Wing is equipped with 18 F-15 Eagles, including the two that are kept on alert. [Boston Globe, 9/15/2001; Cape Cod Times, 9/21/2001]
Colonel Robert Marr, the battle commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), tries phoning Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR), to get authorization to scramble fighter jets in response to the hijacked Flight 11, but Arnold is in a teleconference, so Marr has to leave an urgent message requesting that Arnold call him back. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20; Spencer, 2008, pp. 31]
Arnold Unavailable to Authorize Launching Fighters - Marr has just learned that the FAA is requesting NORAD assistance with a possible hijacking (see (8:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and has therefore ordered that fighter jets at Otis Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts, be placed on “battle stations,” with the pilots in the cockpits but the engines turned off (see (8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Filson, 2003, pp. 55; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] He now tries calling Arnold at CONR headquarters, at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, to get authorization to scramble the fighters. However, Arnold is in a teleconference with other senior NORAD officials (see (8:30 a.m.-8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and is therefore unavailable to talk to Marr. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 31]
Marr Leaves Urgent Message for Arnold - Marr talks to Colonel Randy Morris, the assistant director of the CONR Regional Air Operations Center, and tells him about the possible hijacking. Morris replies that such an event “falls under law enforcement jurisdiction.” Marr says the FAA has requested military assistance with the hijacking and NEADS is “forward leaning” fighters from Otis Air Base, referring to his order to place Otis fighters on battle stations. [9/11 Commission, 2/3/2004 ] Marr leaves an urgent message for Arnold, stating that he is dealing with a hijacking and requesting that Arnold call him back. [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003; Spencer, 2008, pp. 31] Arnold will be given Marr’s message after he leaves the teleconference (see (8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and will promptly call Marr back (see (8:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Filson, 2002; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003; 9/11 Commission, 2/3/2004 ] It is unclear why no one interrupts the teleconference to fetch Arnold to come and talk with Marr right away, or at least to immediately pass on Marr’s message.
Unclear if Marr Needs Authorization to Scramble Fighters - It is also unclear why Marr seeks authorization from his superior before ordering that fighters be scrambled. According to Lieutenant Colonel Dawne Deskins, the aircraft control and warning officer at NEADS, the mission crew commander at NEADS—i.e. Major Kevin Nasypany—“is the lowest level rank that has the authority to give a scramble order.” However, Deskins will tell the 9/11 Commission: “[S]ince Colonel Marr was in the battle cab, it was his role. Since the decision involved a civilian aircraft, he had to be the one who made the decision.” [9/11 Commission, 10/30/2003 ] The 1st Air Force’s book about the 9/11 attacks will similarly state that the “sector commander” at NEADS, i.e. Marr, “would have authority to scramble the airplanes.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 50] But Arnold will say the reason the Otis fighters are placed on battle stations instead of being scrambled immediately is that aircraft hijacking is “considered a law enforcement issue.” The correct procedure, according to Arnold, is therefore that, if the FAA wants fighters scrambled, it should call the duty officer at the National Military Command Center at the Pentagon. He in turn contacts the NORAD operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, to see if fighters are available. The operations center then seeks permission from someone representing the secretary of defense. Finally, “Once that is approved, then we scramble aircraft,” Arnold will say (see June 1, 2001). [Filson, 2002; Code One Magazine, 1/2002; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003]
Technicians at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) try frantically to locate Flight 11 on their radar scopes, but are supposedly hindered by their outdated equipment. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 31-32] NEADS has just been alerted to the hijacking of Flight 11 (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] Its technicians realize they need to find the location of the hijacked plane quickly, so that the weapons team will be able to pass this information on to any fighter jets that are launched after it.
Locating Flight 11 Is a 'Grueling Process' - Author Lynn Spencer will later explain: “To identify American 11, the surveillance and ID techs must go through a grueling process. Their radar scopes are filled with hundreds of radar returns not just from aircraft but from weather systems, ground interference, and what’s called anomalous propagation—false returns caused by conditions in the atmosphere, or by such obstructions as flocks of birds. The technicians must first determine which radar data on their screens is for aircraft, which they do by monitoring its movement, which is distinctive for planes. The technician must observe for at least 36 seconds to a minute just to confirm that a blip is in fact an aircraft track. The tech must attach what’s called a tactical display number to it, which tells the computer to start tracking and identifying the target. If the target is in fact a plane, then over a period of 12-20 seconds, the computer will start to generate information on the track: heading, speed, altitude, latitude, longitude, and the identifying information being transmitted by the transponder.” However, Flight 11’s transponder has been switched off (see (Between 8:13 a.m. and 8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Therefore, “With the hundreds of pieces of radar data filling their screens, and little information as to the location of the flight,” the task of locating it “is daunting.”
Radar Equipment Supposedly Unsuitable - Spencer will suggest that trying to locate Flight 11 is made more difficult because the radar equipment at NEADS is outdated and unsuited to the task at hand. She writes: “[T]he NEADS radar equipment is different from that used by air traffic controllers. It’s much older, developed in the 1970s and brought into use by NEADS in the early 1980s. The system was designed to monitor the shoreline for incoming high-altitude threats: missiles coming from across the ocean. Slow and cumbersome, and not nearly as user friendly as more modern equipment, the NEADS monochromic radar displays are not designed to take internal FAA radar data or to identify radar tracks originating from inside the United States. The system offers little, if any, such low-level coverage over the country.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 31-32] Several of the NEADS personnel will later complain of their inability to locate Flight 11 on their scopes (see Shortly After 8:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). But Master Sergeant Joe McCain, the mission crew commander technician at NEADS, believes he has located Flight 11 on the radar screen just before it crashes into the World Trade Center (see 8:45 a.m.-8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Master Sergeant Joe McCain, the mission crew commander technician at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), believes he has located Flight 11 on the radar screen and then watches it disappear over New York, but he does not realize it has crashed. McCain is on the phone with Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 40-41] NEADS personnel have been unable to locate Flight 11 on their radar screens (see Shortly After 8:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Utica Observer-Dispatch, 8/5/2004]
McCain Locates Fast-Moving Aircraft - Now McCain believes he has found Flight 11, flying about 20 miles north of Manhattan. According to author Lynn Spencer, he “knows that planes tend to fly very specific routes, like highways in the sky, and this particular target seems not to be on any of those regular routes. It’s also very fast moving.” McCain tells Scoggins, “I’ve got a search target that seems to be on an odd heading here,” and then describes its location. Scoggins notices the target, but this is not Flight 11. Scoggins then realizes that Flight 11 is right behind the target McCain has identified, and yells to him: “There’s a target four miles behind it, that’s the one! That’s American 11!” McCain responds, “I’ve got it!” The aircraft is 16 miles north of New York’s JFK International Airport, and heading down the Hudson River valley. NEADS has no altitude for it, but the aircraft is clearly traveling very fast. After hanging up the phone, McCain calls out its coordinates to everyone on the NEADS operations floor. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 40] McCain will later recall: “It’s very unusual to find a search target, which is a plane with its transponder turned off, in that area. This plane was headed toward New York going faster than the average Cessna and was no doubt a jet aircraft. We had many clues. The plane was fast and heading in an unusual direction with no beacon. We had raw data only. Everything just kind of fit.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 56-57] (The identity of the other fast-moving aircraft McCain had noticed, four miles ahead of Flight 11, is unstated.)
Flight 11 Disappears from Radar - Less than a minute after McCain locates the track for Flight 11, it disappears. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 41] McCain will recall, “We watched that track until it faded over New York City and right after that someone came out of the break room and said the World Trade Center had been hit.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 57] However, McCain supposedly does not realize that the plane he had spotted has crashed into the WTC. According to Spencer: “[H]e knows only that the blip he has struggled so mightily to locate has now vanished. He figures that the plane has descended below his radar coverage area to land at JFK. The fact that the plane was flying much too fast for landing does not hit him; the concept that the plane might have been intentionally crashed is simply too far outside his realm of experience.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 41]
At the time of the attacks on the World Trade Center, two F-16 fighter jets are performing a training mission just eight minutes flying time away from New York, but the pilots are unaware of the crisis taking place. The two jets belong to the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard, which is based at Atlantic City International Airport. [Bergen Record, 12/5/2003; GlobalSecurity (.org), 8/21/2005] F-16s at Atlantic City are involved in scheduled training missions every day, and their first mission is usually between 8:30 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. [Griffin, 2007, pp. 62] The two fighter jets are unarmed and performing practice bombing runs over a section of the Pine Barrens in New Jersey that is designated for military drills. The pilots are unaware of the attacks in New York. They will not be called back to base until shortly after the second WTC tower is hit, and will then have their training munitions replaced with live air-to-air missiles. At the time of the second attack, another two jets from the 177th FW are preparing to take off for routine bombing training, but they too have their mission canceled (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). No jets will take off from Atlantic City in response to the attacks until after 9:37, when the Pentagon is hit. [Code One Magazine, 10/2002; Bergen Record, 12/5/2003]
NEADS and FAA Tried Contacting 177th Fighter Wing - Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, is aware that the 177th FW launches F-16s for training flights every morning around this time, and suggested to NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) that it contact Atlantic City to use these jets in response to the hijacked Flight 11. However, when NEADS tried phoning the unit, its call was not answered (see (Between 8:40 a.m. and 8:46 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Griffin, 2007, pp. 62; Spencer, 2008, pp. 33-34] Apparently around 8:34 a.m., the Boston Center also attempted to contact the Atlantic City unit, but the outcome of that call is unclear (see (8:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20]
F-16s Might Have Prevented Attacks on WTC - Author Peter Lance will later point out that, had the two Atlantic City F-16s flying over the Pine Barrens “been notified by the FAA at 8:34… they could have reached the Twin Towers by 8:42 a.m.,” four minutes before Flight 11 hit the North Tower (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). “Even unarmed, and without a shootdown order, they might have been able to take defensive action to prevent the big 767 from crashing into the tower. In any case, the fighters would certainly have been on patrol and able to interdict UA 175, which didn’t hit the South Tower until 9:03 a.m.” [Lance, 2004, pp. 230-231] Yet despite the crucial role these two fighters could have played, the 9/11 Commission Report will make no mention of them. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004] Pointing out the irony of having the two F-16s so near to Manhattan yet with such an unrelated mission, 177th Fighter Wing public affairs officer Lt. Luz Aponte will later remark, “Isn’t that something?” [Bergen Record, 12/5/2003]
Fort AP Hill. [Source: United States Army]At the time of the attacks on the World Trade Center, members of the Army’s aviation support unit for the Washington, DC, area are away for weapons training, and do not set out to return to their base until after the time the Pentagon is hit. [Army Center of Military History, 11/14/2001 ; Pentagram, 11/16/2001; Fort Belvoir News, 1/18/2002] The 12th Aviation Battalion is the Military District of Washington’s aviation support unit, and includes three helicopter companies. It operates UH-1 “Huey” and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. The battalion is stationed at Davison Army Airfield, which is at Fort Belvoir, 12 miles south of the Pentagon. [Military District of Washington, 8/2000] Davison Airfield’s missions include maintaining “a readiness posture in support of contingency plans,” exercising “operational control” of the Washington area airspace, and providing “aviation support for the White House, US government officials, Department of Defense, Department of the Army, and other government agencies.” [Pentagram, 5/7/1999] A chief warrant officer with the 12th Aviation Battalion will later recall that members of the battalion are away this morning, at the shooting range at another Virginia Army base, Fort AP Hill, for their annual weapons training. They had set off early and driven there—a journey of one and a half to two hours. They are at the range when the attacks on the WTC take place, and only learn of them when the sister of one of their captains calls her brother with news of the attacks, presumably after seeing the coverage on television. The chief warrant officer will recall that, after hearing of the second attack on the WTC, “[W]e were all pretty much thinking we probably need to go—you know, probably need to come to work.” The range officer calls Davison Airfield and is told that the members of the battalion should “pack it in and come on back” to base. He is also told during the call that an aircraft has crashed into the Pentagon (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001), meaning this call does not occur until after 9:37 a.m. According to the chief warrant officer, the Pentagon “is basically one of our missions. So we just pretty much packed up and came back up here and came into work.” Exactly how many of the 12th Aviation Battalion’s members are away from base for the weapons training is unstated, as is the exact time they arrive back at Davison Airfield. But considering it is one and a half to two hours drive between there and the range, they presumably do not get there until some time after about 11:15 a.m. When they do eventually get back to base, the battalion members will prepare to launch helicopters in response to the Pentagon attack (see (After 11:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Army Center of Military History, 11/14/2001 ; Fort Belvoir News, 1/18/2002]
Michael Jellinek. [Source: Tom Kimmell]The NORAD operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, receives a call notifying it that the FAA has requested military assistance with a hijacking, and senior officers there agree with the decision that has been made to launch fighter jets in response to the hijacking, and say they will call the Pentagon to get the necessary clearance for this. [Filson, 2003, pp. 56; 9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004 ; Spencer, 2008, pp. 39] Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region, has just talked over the phone with Colonel Robert Marr at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), and Marr suggested to him that fighters be scrambled in response to the hijacked Flight 11. Arnold told Marr to go ahead with the scramble and said he would sort out getting authorization for it (see (8:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Arnold therefore now calls the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC). The call is answered by Captain Michael Jellinek, the command director on duty there. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 38-39] Arnold says the FAA has requested assistance for an ongoing hijacking. [9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004 ]
NORAD Director Approves Decision to Launch Fighters - Jellinek passes on the details of the request to Major General Rick Findley, NORAD’s director of operations, who has just finished the night shift and is returning to the CMOC battle cab from breakfast. Jellinek will later recall: “I pick up the other phone because I know [Findley is] there. One button and I’m talking to him. It’s faster to do that than walk around the window, say the same thing.” [Calgary Herald, 10/1/2001; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 11/27/2001; Toronto Star, 12/9/2001] Findley “concurs with Arnold’s assessment and decision to scramble the fighters,” according to author Lynn Spencer, and quickly approves the fighters’ launch. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 39] He “immediately gives the thumbs up” through the window, according to Jellinek. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 11/27/2001] Arnold will say he is told (presumably by Jellinek): “Yeah, we’ll work this with the National Military Command Center [at the Pentagon]. Go ahead and scramble the aircraft.” [Filson, 2002; Filson, 2003, pp. 56] According to Findley: “At that point, all we thought was we’ve got an airplane hijacked and we were going to provide an escort as requested [by the FAA]. We certainly didn’t know it was going to play out as it did.” [Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/2002]
NORAD Personnel Request Permission for Scramble - Findley will say that after the CMOC receives the call from Arnold, he “knew what to do, and so did everybody else on the battle staff.” He tells the members of the battle staff to “open up our checklist” and “follow our NORAD instruction,” which includes having “to ask in either Ottawa or Washington, ‘Is it okay if we use NORAD fighters to escort a potential hijacked aircraft?’” [CNN, 9/11/2006] Findley and the others in the CMOC will subsequently see the coverage on CNN, reporting that a plane has hit the World Trade Center, but do not initially realize the plane involved was the hijacked aircraft they have been called about (see (8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Calgary Herald, 10/1/2001; Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/2002; Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System, 9/8/2011]
Personnel and aircraft at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana are participating in the annual US Strategic Command (Stratcom) exercise Global Guardian (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001) when the first crash at the World Trade Center is reported on television. [US Department of Defense, 5/1997; Times-Picayune, 9/8/2002]
Nuclear Weapons Are Being Loaded onto Bombers - Global Guardian is based around the scenario of a rogue nation attacking the United States with nuclear weapons. At Barksdale, according to journalists Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, air crews taking part in the exercise have been “pulling nuclear bombs and missiles out of their heavily guarded storage sites and loading them aboard B-52s” this morning. Real, live nuclear weapons are being used, but “their triggers [are] not armed.” [Schmitt and Shanker, 2011, pp. 22] “We were in the midst of this big annual exercise called Global Guardian. They loaded all the bombers, put the submarines out to sea, put the [intercontinental ballistic missiles] at nearly 100 percent,” Lieutenant General Thomas Keck, commander of the 8th Air Force at Barksdale, will later recall. “It was routine, you did it every year,” he will add. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Officers Realize America's Security Is at Risk - Colonel Mike Reese, director of staff for the 8th Air Force, is monitoring several television screens at the base as part of the exercise when he sees CNN cut into coverage of the first crash at the WTC, two minutes after it happens (see 8:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). He will see the second hijacked plane crashing into the WTC live on television at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). He will recall that at this point: “[W]e knew it wasn’t a mistake. Something grave was happening that put the nation’s security at risk.”
Exercise Participants Switch to Defending the Base - The New Orleans Times-Picayune will describe how awareness of the real attacks impacts those participating in the exercise, stating: “Immediately their focus turned to defense, securing Barksdale, Minot [North Dakota], and Whiteman [Missouri] air force bases, where dozens of aircraft and hundreds of personnel were involved in the readiness exercise ‘Global Guardian.’ The exercise abruptly ended as the United States appeared to be at war within its own borders.” [Times-Picayune, 9/8/2002]
Air Force Becomes Concerned about a Plane Being Crashed into the B-52s - The Air Force will be particularly concerned that terrorists might try to crash a hijacked plane into the B-52s with nuclear weapons on board that are on the tarmac at Barksdale. Although an attack of this kind would not set off a nuclear blast, it could cause a large explosion. “You would destroy half of Bossier City, Louisiana, with the explosions,” Al Buckles, Stratcom’s deputy director for operations, will comment. He will add: “That would have been a way to really cripple us. All these nuclear weapons were exposed.” [Omaha World-Herald, 9/9/2016] Four A-10s, aircraft not designed for air-to-air combat, from Barksdale’s 47th Fighter Squadron, will be placed on “cockpit alert,” the highest state of readiness for fighter pilots. “Within five minutes,” according to the Times-Picayune, “the A-10s, equipped only with high-intensity cannons, could have been launched to destroy unfriendly aircraft, even if it was a civilian passenger airliner.” Lieutenant Colonel Edmund Walker, commander of the 47th Fighter Squadron, and a novice pilot still in training will be sitting in their jets, ready to take off, when they are ordered back to the squadron office. They will be told they are no longer practicing. Walker will recall: “We had to defend the base against any aircraft, airliner, or civilian. We had no idea. Would it fly to the base and crash into the B-52s or A-10s on the flight line?” [Times-Picayune, 9/8/2002] When Air Force One with President Bush on board takes off from Sarasota, Florida, at around 9:55 a.m. (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001), it will initially have no fixed destination. But after a short time, it will begin heading toward Barksdale Air Force Base and land there at 11:45 a.m. (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39, 325]
An intelligence officer at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) checks the SIPRNET—the Department of Defense’s classified version of the Internet—for information relating to the hijacking of Flight 11, but finds none. [Northeast Air Defense Sector, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 10/30/2003 ] NEADS was alerted to the hijacking of Flight 11 at 8:37 a.m. (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] Since then, Lieutenant Colonel Mark Stuart, an intelligence officer at NEADS, has contacted various facilities, in search of further information about it. He called the FBI’s Strategic Information and Operations Center (see (8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001), the National Military Joint Intelligence Center at the Pentagon, and 1st Air Force headquarters in Florida (see (Shortly After 8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but none of them had any additional information on the crisis. Stuart now informs Colonel Robert Marr, the battle commander at NEADS, of his efforts. He also directs a “Major Edick”—another intelligence officer at NEADS—to search the SIPRNET for information on the hijacking. However, Stuart will later say, Edick is unable to find any such information on the SIPRNET “that morning or afternoon.” [Northeast Air Defense Sector, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 10/30/2003 ]
Admiral Richard Mies.
[Source: Public domain]Offutt Air Force Base, near Omaha, Nebraska, appears to be the headquarters of the US Strategic Command (Stratcom) exercise Global Guardian that is “in full swing” when the 9/11 attacks begin (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). At least the director of the exercise, Admiral Richard Mies, commander in chief of Stratcom, is at Offutt this morning. Because of Global Guardian, bombers, missile crews, and submarines around America are all being directed from Stratcom’s command center, a steel and concrete reinforced bunker below Offutt. [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 11/12/1997; Associated Press, 2/21/2002; Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002; BBC, 9/1/2002; Omaha World-Herald, 9/10/2002] This bunker is staffed with top personnel and they are at a heightened security mode because of the exercise. [Associated Press, 2/21/2002; Air Force Weather Observer, 7/2002 ]
'Doomsday' Planes Airborne for Exercise - Because of Global Guardian, three special military command aircraft with sophisticated communications equipment, based at Offutt, are up in the air this morning (see (9:27 a.m.) September 11, 2001, Shortly After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001, and (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). These E-4B National Airborne Operations Center planes—nicknamed “Doomsday” planes during the Cold War—are intended to control nuclear forces from the air in times of crisis. They are capable of acting as alternative command posts for top government officials from where they can direct US forces, execute war orders, and coordinate the actions of civil authorities in times of national emergency. The federal advisory committee, whose chairman is retired Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft, is aboard one of these Doomsday planes, being brought to Offutt to observe the exercise (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Global Guardian will reportedly be put on pause at 9:11 a.m. (see 9:11 a.m. September 11, 2001), but not formally terminated until 10:44 a.m. (see (10:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and the battle staff at Offutt will switch to “real-world mode” once the attacks are apparent. However, even after Global Guardian is called off, the three E-4Bs will remain airborne. Also this morning, a small group of business leaders are at Offutt because of a charity fundraiser event due to take place later in the day, hosted by the multi-billionaire Warren Buffett (see (8:45 a.m.-9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002; Air Force Weather Observer, 7/2002 ; BBC, 9/1/2002; Omaha World-Herald, 9/8/2002; Bombardier, 9/8/2006 ]
Thomas Keck. [Source: US Air Force]When Lieutenant General Thomas Keck, the commander of the 8th Air Force at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, is told that a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center, he mistakenly thinks this is a simulated scenario as part of a training exercise. [2d Bomb Wing, 6/30/2002, pp. 40 ; American History, 10/2006 ] Barksdale is one of a number of Air Force bases where aircraft and personnel are currently participating in the exercise Global Guardian (see 8:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Times-Picayune, 9/8/2002] This annual exercise is run by the US Strategic Command (Stratcom) and aims to test the command’s ability to fight a nuclear war (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 11/1/1997; Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002; Omaha World-Herald, 9/8/2002; GlobalSecurity (.org), 4/27/2005]
Keck Thinks Crash Is a 'Scenario Injection' - Keck is sitting in a windowless command center at Barksdale, monitoring the base’s participation in Global Guardian. Ground crews are practicing getting a fleet of B-52 bombers fueled, armed, and ready to get airborne for bombing runs. Keck watches on a monitor as, at exactly 9:00 a.m., an alarm sounds across the base and the crews rush to their planes. Then a younger officer taps him on the shoulder and tells him, “Sir, we just had an aircraft hit the World Trade Center.” Keck mistakenly thinks the officer is describing a simulated crisis that is being included in the exercise. He says: “That’s not the way you interject a situation into a training exercise! When you have a scenario injection, you say, ‘Sir, this is an exercise input,’ and then you give me the information.” But the younger officer replies, “No, sir,” and points at a television showing CNN, which is broadcasting live coverage of the burning WTC in New York.
Keck Thinks First Crash Is an Accident - Keck’s initial thought upon seeing the TV coverage is reportedly, “How could such a terrible accident happen?” It is only when Keck sees the second plane hitting the WTC at 9:03 a.m. that he will realize the US is under attack. He then yells to his staff, “Lock it down,” thereby signaling that the exercise is over. [American History, 10/2006 ] (However, according to an article in The Bombardier, the newspaper for Barksdale Air Force Base, Stratcom will put Global Guardian on pause at 9:11 a.m. (see 9:11 a.m. September 11, 2001), but only terminate the exercise at 10:44 a.m. (see (10:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bombardier, 9/8/2006 ] ) After seeing the second crash, Keck will leave the command center from where he has been monitoring the exercise and go to the 8th Air Force battle staff, to be briefed on reports coming from Air Force headquarters about the ongoing terrorist attacks. He will later on accompany President Bush while he is at Barksdale, after landing there on Air Force One at about 11:45 a.m. (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [American History, 10/2006 ]
Martin Richard. [Source: Kevin Mingora]Several F-15 fighter jets from Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts fly out over the Atlantic Ocean for a scheduled training mission, but the pilots are unaware of the hijackings taking place and the plane crashes at the World Trade Center. The fighters belong to the 102nd Fighter Wing. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; Airman, 9/3/2011] Their mission is an “ordinary training session,” according to the Cape Cod Times. [Cape Cod Times, 9/11/2006] Major Martin Richard, one of the pilots involved, will describe it as a “normal training mission.” [Richard, 2010, pp. 9] It is being carried out in “Whiskey 105,” an area of military training airspace over the Atlantic Ocean, southeast of Long Island. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; Airman, 9/3/2011] According to most accounts, six of the 102nd Fighter Wing’s F-15s are taking part. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; Cape Cod Times, 9/11/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 155] But Richard will write in a 2010 book that eight of the unit’s F-15s are involved.
Training Mission Is a 'Mock War Scenario' - The “defensive counter-air” mission, according to Richard, is intended to have the fighters splitting into two teams: the “blue air”—the “good guys”—versus the “red air,” their adversaries. In a defensive counter-air mission, Richard will write, “the goal is [to] protect a point on the ground. Our training objective focused on ensuring flawless radar operations to be able to build an accurate picture of the threat’s formation, target the threat in the most effective manner, and ensure, through mutual support, that all blue air forces returned unscathed.” The “mock war scenario” that is played out is “an exciting sortie to do as a practice mission, and it took a great deal of organization to make happen,” according to Richard. [Richard, 2010, pp. 10] A KC-135 tanker plane from the 101st Air Refueling Wing in Bangor, Maine, is scheduled to refuel the fighters during the mission. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 153; Bangor Daily News, 9/9/2011]
Pilot Hears Unusual Radio Communications - The fighters take off from Otis Air Base at 9:00 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 10/14/2003 ] They then fly out toward the Whiskey 105 training airspace. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; Airman, 9/3/2011] Richard will recall that at this time, “[e]verything was exceedingly normal until we heard some unfamiliar radio communication between [the FAA’s] Boston Center and some civilian airliners.” He will say that this “got my attention, but more because it was out of the norm, not because it was especially noteworthy.”
Fighters Fly to Opposite Sides of Airspace - Richard commands the other fighter pilots to complete their pre-mission safety checks and then readies them “for the simulated war we had planned hours before.” After entering Whiskey 105, the fighters carry out a warm-up maneuver. Richard then sends the fighters simulating the “red air” to the west side of the training airspace, while the other fighters—the “blue air”—take up their position about 80 miles away, on the east side of the airspace. [Richard, 2010, pp. 12-13] But then, shortly after they arrive in Whiskey 105, at around 9:25 a.m., the pilots will learn of the first crash at the WTC and be recalled to their base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Some of the fighters subsequently take off again to help protect US airspace, but that will be after the terrorist attacks have ended (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; 9/11 Commission, 10/14/2003 ; Cape Cod Times, 9/11/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 244-246; Richard, 2010, pp. 13]
Fighters on Training Are Unarmed - The fighters involved in the training mission have no ordnance on them. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001] According to Technical Sergeant Michael Kelly, the full-time technician in the command post at Otis Air Base, they are “in an exercise configuration” and therefore “at a ‘safe guns’ (non-firing) weapons posture.” Furthermore, the fighters “more than likely had only one fuel tank.” (F-15s can carry three fuel tanks.) If these fighters were to be used for “long air superiority/sovereignty missions,” Kelly will say, they would need “‘hot’ (live) guns, missiles, and extra gas tanks.” [9/11 Commission, 10/14/2003 ]
Fighters Scrambled after Flight 11 Also Fly in Training Airspace - The pilots on the training mission saw the two of their unit’s F-15s that are kept on “alert”—ready for immediate launch—taking off from Otis Air Base in response to the hijacked Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), but were unaware of the reason for the scramble (see (8:30 a.m.-8:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; Cape Cod Times, 9/11/2006] (One of the pilots of those F-15s, Daniel Nash, is reportedly standing in for the usual “alert” pilot, who is “scheduled for training” on this day, presumably taking part in the training mission in Whiskey 105. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002] ) The two F-15s launched in response to Flight 11 were actually directed toward Whiskey 105 after taking off (see (8:53 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 8:54 a.m.-8:55 a.m. September 11, 2001) and are in the training area from 9:09 a.m. to 9:13 a.m. (see 9:09 a.m.-9:13 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20]
A KC-135 tanker plane from Bangor, Maine, is flying south for a training mission at the time the terrorist attacks begin. The aircraft, which has the call sign “Maine 92,” is one of the eight KC-135s that are attached to the 101st Air Refueling Wing, based at Bangor International Airport. It is “heading south and was off the coast of North Carolina on the morning of 9/11,” the Bangor Daily News will later report. Details of the training mission it is involved with are unknown. The KC-135 will have already turned toward home and be heading north back to Bangor when the FAA “began shutting down all of the country’s airports and ordering planes to land,” according to the Bangor Daily News. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; Portland Press Herald, 9/13/2001; Bangor Daily News, 9/9/2011] (This is presumably a reference to the FAA’s 9:45 a.m. order that all airborne aircraft must land at the nearest airport (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure, 9/21/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 29] ) The KC-135’s crew members will contact NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) and offer their assistance. The aircraft, which is carrying about 22,000 gallons of fuel, will then be sent to New Jersey to refuel a KC-10 tanker plane that is providing fuel to fighter jets patrolling the Eastern Seaboard. Another of the 101st Air Refueling Wing’s KC-135s, with the call sign “Maine 85,” is also airborne at the time of the terrorist attacks, on its way to a training mission off the coast of Long Island, New York (see 9:04 a.m.-9:06 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Bangor Daily News, 9/9/2011]
The ‘nuclear football.’ [Source: Jamie Chung / Smithsonian Institute]Douglas Cochrane, Vice President Dick Cheney’s military aide, sees Flight 175 crashing into the World Trade Center live on television and, in response, goes to fetch a special briefcase that holds the codes necessary for the vice president to initiate a nuclear attack. Cochrane left his office on the fifth floor of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House, and went to the White House after he learned a plane had crashed into the WTC (see (8:50 a.m.-9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He is in the White House Situation Room at 9:03 a.m. and sees the second hijacked plane, Flight 175, crashing into the WTC live on television (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). In response, he runs back to his office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to get the “nuclear football” out of the safe. [Florida Times-Union, 9/10/2003; 9/11 Commission, 4/16/2004] The nuclear football is a briefcase that contains “a variety of secure phone capabilities and options for launching nuclear strikes that [the US president] may authorize,” according to journalist and author Ronald Kessler. As well as the nuclear football that is assigned to the president, a second, identical football is assigned to the vice president, in case the president becomes incapacitated or dies. This is presumably the briefcase Cochrane now fetches. Carrying the football is the responsibility of military aides, such as Cochrane, who accompany the president and the vice president wherever they go. [Associated Press, 5/5/2005; Kessler, 2014, pp. 7] Once he has the football, Cochrane will return to the White House and see Cheney being evacuated from his office by his Secret Service agents (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He will subsequently join Cheney in the underground tunnel that leads to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House (see Shortly Before 9:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 4/16/2004]
Mike Cosby. [Source: US Department of Defense]Two fighter jets at a New Jersey military unit that are about to launch for training are recalled to respond to the attacks in New York, but will not be airborne until after the Pentagon is hit. The two F-16s belong to the 177th Fighter Wing, located at Atlantic City International Airport, and are only loaded with BDUs (practice bombs) for their routine training mission. [Code One Magazine, 10/2002] Colonel James Haye, the supervisor of flying (SOF) at the 177th FW, was informed of the first aircraft hitting the World Trade Center, and then went to a nearby television to see the footage of the burning North Tower. He’d alerted Lt. Col. Randall King, one of the base’s pilots, who was in the same room as him. King, who is an experienced commercial pilot, said: “Whoever was at the controls did that on purpose. That is no accidental crash! And that was no small airplane!” After watching the television coverage for several minutes, Haye sets about putting the scheduled training mission on hold. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 58-59 and 120] As they are taxiing to the runway, the two fighters preparing to launch are told to stop and return to the flight line (the parking and servicing area for aircraft). Personnel at the base then set about removing the training munitions and arming the planes with live missiles. Major Tom Cleary, one of the pilots, will later recall, “We launched almost immediately after the Pentagon was hit.” However, apparently his aircraft will not be properly armed. He recalls, “I was still carrying training munitions, but I had live guns.” Col. Mike Cosby, the commander of the 177th FW, indicates the jets may not launch until slightly later, saying, “We were airborne within the hour after the Pentagon attack.” Later on, four F-16s with live missiles will be launched from the unit, followed by another four, also with live missiles. According to Cosby, “We were the first non-alert unit to fly armed ordnance over the Northeast corridor anywhere the Northeast Sector of NORAD wanted us to fly, between New York City and Washington, DC.” [Code One Magazine, 10/2002] Two F-16s with the 177th FW have been airborne already this morning, practicing bombing runs near Atlantic City, and are called back to base following the attacks on the WTC to be re-fitted with live missiles and then re-launched (see 8:46 a.m.-9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Bergen Record, 12/5/2003]
The 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, receives notification from NORAD of an increased Information Operations Condition (Infocon) threat level. The message from NORAD directs the 1st Fighter Wing command post to upgrade the Infocon computer security level from Normal to Alpha. According to the wing’s own records, this is “the first message correspondence” the wing receives “to indicate that September 11th would not be an average day.” [1st Fighter Wing History Office, 12/2001] Steps to be taken under Infocon Alpha reportedly include “changing passwords, updating keys used to create classified communication lines, minimizing cell phone use, backing up important documents on hard drive, updating virus protection on home computers, reporting suspicious activity, and reviewing checklists.” [Colorado Springs Gazette, 5/3/2001]
Five Security Levels - The Infocon system provides a structured, coordinated approach for defending against and reacting to attacks on Defense Department systems and networks. It comprises five levels of threat, each with its own protective procedures. These levels go from Normal, through Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie, up to Delta. [IAnewsletter, 12/2000 ; General Accounting Office, 3/29/2001 ] General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of both the US Space Command and NORAD, is responsible for evaluating the threat to military computers and issuing information conditions—“Infocons”—to the US military. [Colorado Springs Gazette, 5/3/2001] He is presumably therefore responsible for currently raising the Infocon level.
Threat Level Lowered on Previous Evening - The Infocon level was in fact lowered to Normal the previous evening, reportedly because of a reduced threat to US computer networks from hacker and virus attacks (see September 10, 2001). [1st Fighter Wing History Office, 12/2001] The 1st Fighter Wing is the “host unit” at Langley Air Force Base, which is about 130 miles from Washington, DC. It includes three fighter squadrons, which fly the F-15 Eagle fighter jet. [Virginian-Pilot, 9/20/2001; Langley Air Force Base, 11/2003; Air Force Print News, 11/9/2006]
Amraam missiles being loaded onto a 119th Fighter Wing jet at an unknown time on the day of 9/11. The 119th is based at Langley Air Force Base, Virgnina. [Source: William Quinn]Shortly after the second World Trade Center crash, calls from fighter units begin “pouring into NORAD and sector operations centers, asking, ‘What can we do to help?’” From Syracuse, New York, a commander of the 174th Fighter Wing of the New York Air National Guard calls and tells Colonel Robert Marr, the battle commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS): “Give me 10 [minutes] and I can give you hot guns. Give me 30 [minutes] and I’ll have heat-seeker [missiles]. Give me an hour and I can give you slammers [Amraams].” Marr replies, “I want it all.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; News 10 Now, 9/12/2006] Reportedly, Marr says: “Get to the phones. Call every Air National Guard unit in the land. Prepare to put jets in the air. The nation is under attack.” [Newhouse News Service, 1/25/2002] Canadian Major General Rick Findley, based in Colorado and in charge of NORAD on this day, reportedly has his staff immediately order as many fighters in the air as possible. [Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/2002] However, according to another account, NEADS does not accept the offers until about an hour later. The Toledo Blade will report, “By 10:01 a.m., the command center began calling several bases across the country for help.” [Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001] The 9/11 Commission will conclude that an order for other bases to prepare fighters to scramble is not given until 9:49 a.m. In fact, it appears the first fighters from other bases to take off are those from Syracuse at 10:42 a.m. (see 10:42 a.m. September 11, 2001). This is over an hour and a half after Syracuse’s initial offer to help, and not long after a general ban on all flights, including military ones, is lifted at 10:31 a.m. (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). These are apparently the fourth set of fighters scrambled from the ground. Previously, three fighters from Langley Air Force Base, two from Otis Air National Guard Base, and two from Toledo, Ohio, were scrambled at 10:01 a.m. (see 10:01 a.m. September 11, 2001), but did not launch until 15 minutes later. [Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001]
Andy Marshall. [Source: Bangor Daily News]A member of staff at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) talks with the crew of a tanker plane about providing fuel to the fighter jets launched in response to the hijacked Flight 11, and yet, after the crew agrees to assist the fighters, the tanker is apparently unavailable to do so until at least 30 minutes later. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 112, 152-153] The tanker plane, which has the call sign “Maine 85,” is one of the eight KC-135s attached to the 101st Air Refueling Wing, based at Bangor International Airport in Maine. Its pilots are Lieutenant Colonel Adam Jenkins and Lieutenant Colonel Andy Marshall. [Portland Press Herald, 9/13/2001; Bangor Daily News, 9/9/2011] It is scheduled to provide fuel to a number of F-15 fighters from Otis Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts, that should be flying a training mission this morning in an area of military training airspace over the Atlantic Ocean, south of Long Island, known as “Whiskey 105” (see (9:00 a.m.-9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 153]
NEADS Asks Tanker to Support Scrambled Fighters - A member of staff at NEADS now talks over the radio with a member of Maine 85’s crew (presumably one of the pilots), and asks if the plane could provide fuel to the two F-15s that are kept on “alert” at Otis Air Base and that were scrambled in response to Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001] These fighters are currently flying into Whiskey 105 (see 9:01 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 2004] The person at NEADS says to Maine 85 that he was “wondering if you’d be able to support a couple of F-l5s currently on an active air.” He adds, “I’d like to park you in Whiskey 105 for a while.” Maine 85 replies, “We’re scheduled for Whiskey 105, sir, with some F-15s.” (This is presumably a reference to the F-15s that are due to fly a training mission in the military airspace this morning.) The person at NEADS says that the tanker’s support “would be for a Panta flight currently on an active emergency for us,” referring to the two fighters scrambled in response to Flight 11.
Tanker Plane Agrees to Assist Fighters - Maine 85 says it will do as requested, replying: “That’s no problem for us. We’re gonna be descending shortly to flight level 240 [i.e. 24,000 feet] and heading south to the western portion of Whiskey 105 for our standard refueling. We’ll be right in there.” NEADS thanks Maine 85 and then informs it: “We have Panta 45 [i.e. the scrambled fighters] currently in the western part of Whiskey 105. We’re working a possible hijack and aircraft emergency in downtown New York.” Maine 85 responds, “Yes sir, anything we can do to help.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001] Subsequently, at around 9:14 a.m., Major Kevin Nasypany, the NEADS mission crew commander, will tell a colleague: “We’ve got Maine 85 going to Whiskey 105 right now.… He’s going into Whiskey 105, so that’s, that’s no problem. He’s got lots of fuel.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001]
Tanker Apparently Unavailable for 30 Minutes - However, despite communicating with Maine 85 at around 9:05 a.m., according to the account of author Lynn Spencer, NEADS is apparently unable to locate a tanker plane that could refuel the fighters scrambled from Otis Air Base during the next 30 minutes. After one of the pilots of these fighters informs NEADS that the two aircraft are running low on fuel, NEADS personnel are instructed to locate a suitable tanker (see (9:09 a.m.) September 11, 2001). But by around 9:35 a.m., according to Spencer, the fighters will not have heard back from NEADS. Maine 85 will only be contacted and directed toward the two fighters after one of the Otis pilots then remembers that the KC-135 should be available and in his area, and the other Otis pilot therefore calls NEADS about this (see (Shortly After 9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 112, 152-153]
Military officers exchanging the ‘nuclear football’ under the nose of Air Force One. [Source: J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press]Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gould, a military aide who is accompanying President Bush on his visit to Florida, promptly arranges for Air Force One to leave Sarasota after he learns that a second plane has hit the World Trade Center. Gould, one of the president’s five military aides, is currently off duty for a few hours and at the resort on Longboat Key where Bush spent the previous night (see September 10, 2001), while another military aide, Major Paul Montanus, is with Bush at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota. Gould was alerted to the first crash at the WTC but thought it was an accident (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). He is talking on the phone with his wife and watching the coverage of the crash on television when a second plane, Flight 175, hits the WTC at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). Realizing this must be a deliberate act, Gould abruptly ends the call with his wife. “At that point I know something has happened,” he will later recall. “It’s bigger than an accident. It’s an attack of some sort. I don’t think I thought through what kind of attack it was, but I knew it was something concerted.” Gould has tactical control of all the military assets that support the president, including presidential aircraft, and he has the ability to move assets on behalf of the president. He therefore calls Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, immediately and tells him to get the president’s plane and its crew ready to depart as soon as possible. He then heads to the Sarasota airport, getting there at around 9:30 a.m. After the president’s motorcade arrives at the airport at 9:43 a.m. (see (9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Gould meets Montanus under the nose of Air Force One. Following strict protocol, Montanus gives Gould the “nuclear football”—a briefcase carried by the president’s military aide that holds the codes and plans necessary for the president to initiate a nuclear attack. Gould will be on Air Force One with the president when the plane takes off (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001), but Montanus will stay behind in Sarasota, as is procedure. [Lompoc Record, 9/11/2011; Santa Barbara News-Press, 9/11/2011]
Mark McLaughlin. [Source: Kingsville Record]Crew members on an E-4B National Airborne Operations Center (NAOC) at Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, DC, learn that the US is under attack, but some of them initially think what they are being told about is a simulated scenario in a training exercise they are participating in. [Flying K, 9/7/2012 ] The E-4B is a highly modified Boeing 747 that is fitted with sophisticated communications equipment and can serve as a flying military command post during a national emergency. [Federation of American Scientists, 4/23/2000; Dayton Daily News, 9/12/2001; Verton, 2003, pp. 143] The E-4B on the ground at Andrews is currently involved in a major training exercise. “We were one of many commands practicing a global war-gaming and communication exercise called Global Guardian. My aircraft was one of three brought to full alert status for the exercise,” Mark McLaughlin will later recall. McLaughlin has, today, been assigned to Operations Team One as the Single Integrated Operational Plan adviser to the National Command Authority—the president and the secretary of defense. “My job was to be the expert on nuclear war plans and give all the VIP briefs,” he will say. [Flying K, 9/7/2012 ] “Global Guardian,” which he refers to, is an annual exercise that tests the ability of the US Strategic Command (Stratcom) to fight a nuclear war (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002; Washingtonian, 9/2011]
Plane Is Tasked with Picking Up Former National Security Adviser - As well as its involvement in the exercise, the E-4B, according to McLaughlin, has a “secondary mission” today, which is to fly to Washington and pick up former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, who has been “appointed by President Bush to analyze the nation’s nuclear arsenal and strategic plans.” While the plane was flying into Andrews Air Force Base, McLaughlin will recall, those on board “heard over one of the many communications nets that an airplane had crashed into a tower at the World Trade Center.” However, he will comment, “It never dawned on us at that moment that a terrorist attack was under way.”
Briefing Is Disrupted as Crew Members Learn about Attacks - McLaughlin learns that the nation is indeed under attack after his plane has landed at the base, and Scowcroft and his traveling party have boarded. While he is briefing the former national security adviser about nuclear weapons and the nation’s nuclear war-fighting plans, McLaughlin notices a commotion in the battle staff space, a compartment behind the briefing area that houses the operations team. The agitated behavior of the operations team members, according to McLaughlin, “is unheard of and not allowed when a VIP is on board, especially receiving a briefing.” McLaughlin’s assistant, who is working at the computer behind McLaughlin, then slips a note into McLaughlin’s hand. McLaughlin reads the note, which states simply: “Captain. Battle staff. Now.” He therefore tells Captain Joseph Gershon, the NAOC commanding officer, that his presence has been requested immediately in the battle staff area, and Gershon then heads there. Although McLaughlin realizes from the commotion going on that “something big [is] happening,” he continues the briefing.
Captain Interrupts Briefing and Says the Nation Is under Attack - During such high-level briefings, it is protocol that if you have to leave the room, you never return until the briefing is over. But Gershon returns and interrupts the briefing. He tells Scowcroft, “It appears that the country is under attack, sir.” According to McLaughlin, many of the people on the plane think at this time that what is being reported is a simulated scenario, as part of the exercise they are participating in. “Adding to the confusion was that we were in a global exercise and many of us thought it was part of the exercise injects,” he will comment. But he will say that “during the next few minutes, everyone began to fully comprehend that [the US was] under attack.” It also becomes “very apparent,” according to McLaughlin, “that our aircraft had to get airborne for safety reasons.” [Flying K, 9/7/2012 ]
Plane Heads to Base in Nebraska - The E-4B, which has the call sign “Word 31,” will take off from Andrews Air Force Base at around 9:27 a.m. (see (9:27 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Another E-4B, with the call sign “Venus 77,” will also take off from Andrews this morning, at around 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001 ; 9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004; Farmer, 2009, pp. 206] McLaughlin’s plane will land later on at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, so Scowcroft and his staff can get off. [Flying K, 9/7/2012 ] The original plan for today, according to the Omaha World-Herald, had been for the plane to take Scowcroft and his staff to Offutt to observe the Global Guardian exercise. [Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002] But after reaching the base, McLaughlin’s team’s mission will be to remain in the air, and so the E-4B will subsequently take off from Offutt and resume its airborne operations. [Flying K, 9/7/2012 ]
William Buzinski. [Source: William Buzinski]Security is increased around Air Force One, the president’s plane, in response to the second attack on the World Trade Center and the pilot is informed that the aircraft may be targeted by terrorists while it is on the ground. Air Force One is currently at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport in Florida, where it has been since the previous evening (see September 10, 2001). Only the standard level of security has been provided, with cones marking a security zone around the plane. Will Chandler, the chief of security, has been standing inside these cones and guarding the aircraft. According to Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, prior to the attacks on the WTC, “there was no intel, there was nothing that said we’re about to be attacked.” But Tillman will later recall that after he learns of the second plane crash in New York and realizes it is a deliberate attack, he and the rest of the plane’s crew “start pulling out all the plans that we know we have to execute to keep the president safe and ensure the continuity of government.” [United Services Automobile Association, 9/11/2011; US Air Force, 2/29/2012 ]
Personnel Protecting Air Force One Increase Security - The level of security around Air Force One is increased after the second attack on the WTC occurs. Staff Sergeant William Buzinski, whose job is to protect the plane, was told about the first crash at the WTC by a member of the Secret Service. After the second crash occurs, Buzinski sees the same agent running across the tarmac toward him. The agent tells him, “Another plane hit the towers.” Buzinski realizes right away that the incident must have been an act of terrorism. In response to the news, he will recall, “We started to increase security around the plane—made it a tighter bubble.” [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Pilot Says Air Force One Is 'Ready to Go' - Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gould, a military aide who is accompanying President Bush on his visit to Florida, calls Tillman and instructs him to get Air Force One and its crew ready to leave immediately (see (9:04 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Santa Barbara News-Press, 9/11/2011] Mark Rosenker, the director of the White House Military Office, and Edward Marinzel, the head of the president’s Secret Service detail, who are with Bush at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, also call Tillman. Tillman will recall that they ask him: “What is our status? If [Bush and his entourage] can come to us within 10 minutes, can we get going?” Tillman replies: “Yes, absolutely. We are ready to go.”
Pilot Is Told the Plane Is a 'Sitting Duck' - Tillman is informed that “about nine planes” have been hijacked and that “one is in the Florida area.” Rosenker tells him: “Assume that [Air Force One is] a target on the ramp in Sarasota. It’s a large 747. [It is] sitting wide open. [A] sitting duck.” Tillman will say that his intention, therefore, is “to move that aircraft. Get it out of the way, and come back and grab the president when he’s ready to go.” He cannot do this, however, because Bush wants to “come rushing back to us and head to Washington, DC.” Secret Service agents with the president instruct Tillman: “We are coming at you as fast as we can come at you. Do not—repeat—do not move.”
People Are Moved Away from Air Force One - “We started getting reports of unidentified people all around the airport,” Tillman will recall, and there is a “possibility that we were subject to the plan to go ahead and assassinate the president.” The crew of Air Force One has “no idea what was going on” and is receiving “a lot of misinformation” while waiting for the president to arrive at the airport. To increase security, people are pushed away from Air Force One. This, according to Tillman, is so that “whoever was near that aircraft had a good reason to be there.” [United Services Automobile Association, 9/11/2011; US Air Force, 2/29/2012 ]
Military Presence Is Increased at the Airport - White House communications director Dan Bartlett, who has gone to the Booker Elementary School with Bush, notices the increased security around Air Force One when the president’s motorcade arrives at the Sarasota airport (see (9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001). There is always “an incredible security presence” around the plane, he will comment. But now he sees “the redoubling of that.” There is “more of a military presence at the airport, as opposed to just a security [made up] of local police officers or anything like that.” [White House, 8/12/2002] Bartlett sees “a lot of military uniforms” and notices “the perimeters [around Air Force One] increasing.” Furthermore, he will recall, “[T]he scrutiny for entering the perimeter was much tougher than you could ever imagine.” [White House, 8/12/2002] Mike Morell, the president’s CIA briefer, will describe, “When we got back to the plane, it was ringed by security and Secret Service [agents] with automatic weapons.” “I’d never seen anything like that before,” he will comment. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Sheriff in a Helicopter Watches Over the Airport - Meanwhile, a helicopter arrives to keep watch over the airport. Sergeant Kevin Kenney of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office had been scheduled to fly the Sheriff’s Office helicopter to cover Bush’s motorcade as it traveled to the Booker Elementary School this morning, but was unable to do so because of heavy fog. However, after the second attack on the WTC, a member of Bush’s Secret Service detail instructs him to launch the helicopter and get to the Sarasota airport as soon as possible. He arrives there around the time Bush’s motorcade reaches the airport. The Secret Service then instructs Kenney to fly around the airport perimeter and be on the lookout for suspicious vehicles or groups of people. He notices “numerous civilian vehicles… already responding to the vicinity of the airport and gathering along the roadways in the proximity.” He relays information to Bush’s Secret Service detail and local agencies that are dispatching patrol units to the area. Kenney continues his surveillance of the airport for the 10 minutes or so it takes to get Bush and the other passengers onto Air Force One. [Sheriff, 9/2011; Longboat Observer, 9/8/2011] Additionally, reporters and other individuals who are traveling with the president are subjected to a strict security check while they are boarding the plane (see (9:45 a.m.-9:53 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 99]
Pilots with the District of Columbia Air National Guard at Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, have to take time to reprogram the data disks they will need once airborne, apparently because these disks still contain the data from a training exercise their unit has just returned from. The pilots belong to the 121st Fighter Squadron. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 236-237] This is part of the 113th Wing of the DC Air National Guard, which is based at Andrews. [District of Columbia Air National Guard, 7/24/2001; GlobalSecurity (.org), 8/21/2005] According to author Lynn Spencer, pilots with the squadron who are preparing to take off in response to the attacks grab their gear and upload “flight data” onto computer disks. These disks “contain all the navigational waypoints, maps, and frequencies that they will need once airborne.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 236] The pilots presumably begin uploading the data after learning of the second crash in New York, and realizing this is a terrorist attack (see (9:04 a.m.) September 11, 2001). They apparently need to take the time to upload the data as a consequence of their unit’s recent involvement in a major training exercise: Three days earlier, members of the 121st Fighter Squadron returned from Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, where they had spent the previous two weeks participating in the “Red Flag” exercise (see Late August-September 8, 2001). [Washington Post, 4/8/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 122-123, 156] Spencer will describe one of the squadron’s pilots, Heather Penney Garcia, staying busy this morning, “reprogramming flight data disks, which still contain all the Nellis data from the Red Flag training exercise they just returned from,” before taking off at 10:42 a.m. (see 10:42 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Filson, 2003, pp. 82; Spencer, 2008, pp. 237-238]
Logo of the 552nd Air Control Wing. [Source: US Air Force]An Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) plane on a training mission in the Washington, DC, area is instructed to return to its base in Oklahoma, even though its advanced communications and surveillance capabilities would significantly benefit the military’s air defense efforts in response to the terrorist attacks. The AWACS belongs to the 552nd Air Control Wing, located at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. [US Air Force, 4/1/2000; GlobalSecurity (.org), 4/16/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 265] It has been flying a training mission somewhere near Washington (see Before 9:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Code One Magazine, 1/2002]
AWACS Sent Back to Oklahoma - According to author Lynn Spencer, the AWACS is directed to return to Tinker Air Force Base “in the immediate confusion after the attacks.” The exact time the plane’s crew receives this order, and the identity of the person or organization that gives the order, are unstated. NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) will contact the AWACS later on, and instruct it to turn around and head to Washington, to provide radio and radar coverage over the capital (see (11:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 265-266]
AWACS Has Advanced Surveillance and Communication Capabilities - The AWACS, also called the E-3 Sentry, is a modified Boeing 707 that provides surveillance, command, control, and communications to military commanders. [New York Times, 9/23/1995; GlobalSecurity (.org), 4/16/2006; US Air Force, 9/2015] According to a US Air Force manual, the plane’s “advanced surveillance radar provides long-range, low-level detection of aircraft targets over all types of terrain.” [US Air Force, 4/1/2000] It can track friendly and enemy aircraft over a 300-mile radius. [New York Times, 9/23/1995] Mark Rosenker, the director of the White House Military Office, will say that AWACS planes “give you the big picture in the sky. They’re able to identify what’s a friend, what’s a foe.” [White House, 8/29/2002]
AWACS Would Help NEADS Contact Fighters - These planes are particularly important to NEADS. [9/11 Commission, 10/30/2003 ] Spencer will describe: “The NEADS radio transmitter, like all radio transmitters, operates by line of sight. This means that the radio signals, which travel in a straight line, require an unobstructed path between the transmitter and the [fighter] jets” that NEADS is trying to communicate with this morning. Due to the curvature of the earth and the distance between NEADS, in Rome, New York, and Washington, the fighters’ launched to protect the capital (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001) will be unable to pick up the NEADS signal on their radio receivers when they descend below 20,000 feet, after arriving over Washington (see (Between 9:49 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (11:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). “What’s needed,” Spencer will write, “is an AWACS plane, which has the capability to provide both radar and radio coverage over a citywide area.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 265]
Because the two fighter jets launched from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to Flight 11 expended a large amount of fuel as they flew toward the New York area (see (8:53 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001), there are now concerns about getting them refueled. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 24] The fighters are currently flying a “holding pattern” in “Whiskey 105,” which is military training airspace just south of Long Island, over the Atlantic Ocean (see 9:09 a.m.-9:13 a.m. September 11, 2001). Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, the lead Otis pilot, reports to NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) that the two fighters have only 30 minutes of fuel remaining. At NEADS, Major Kevin Nasypany, the facility’s mission crew commander, orders, “Find me a tanker!” Weapons controller Major Steve Hedrick quickly calls McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey to see if it has any of its KC-10 tankers airborne, but none are. Nasypany gets on the phone to Colonel Robert Marr, who is in the NEADS battle cab, and requests launching the two F-16s kept on alert at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, so as to provide backup for the Otis fighters. Marr then discusses this over the phone with Major General Larry Arnold who is at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, but neither thinks it is a good idea. According to author Lynn Spencer: “If the battle expands, they don’t want to have all their assets in one place. Nor can they have them running out of fuel at the same time.” Marr and Arnold agree that they will try to find fuel for the Otis fighters. The Langley jets are ordered to “battle stations only” (see 9:09 a.m. September 11, 2001) so they will be ready to launch if a refueling tanker cannot be found. Marr tells Nasypany that he will need to find fuel for the Otis fighters. NEADS technicians then begin searching for a tanker. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 460; Spencer, 2008, pp. 112-113] A member of staff at NEADS talked over the radio with a KC-135 tanker plane from Bangor, Maine, at around 9:05 a.m., and the plane’s crew agreed to provide support to the Otis fighters (see 9:04 a.m.-9:06 a.m. September 11, 2001). [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001] But, according to Spencer’s account, NEADS is apparently unable to find a tanker to refuel the fighters until around 9:35 a.m., when one of the Otis pilots remembers that the KC-135 from Bangor should be available and in his area, and informs the other Otis pilot, who calls NEADS about this (see (Shortly After 9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 152-153]
Otis Air National Guard Base at Cape Cod, Massachusetts, begins preparing all of its available fighter jets to take off. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 155] The base has already launched its two F-15s that are kept on alert, in response to the hijacking of Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] After the second attack on the World Trade Center at 9:03 a.m., commanders at the base convened and decided to recall all aircraft out on training, and begin loading fuel and weapons onto all available fighters (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 153-154]
Officer Ordered to Prepare Fighters - Jeff Isch, the weapons supervisor for the 102nd Fighter Wing, which is based at Otis, will later recall, “As soon as that second tower was hit, we all started to scramble to action.” [Cape Cod Times, 9/8/2002] However, author Lynn Spencer will indicate that the base does not begin preparing fighters to launch until about 10 to 15 minutes later. She will write that the aircraft maintenance squadron officer, whose job is to get aircraft ready for combat, has been awaiting orders since the time of the second crash. Then, “Less than 15 minutes after the second impact into the World Trade Center, the order came.” An officer from the base’s battle cab gives him the instruction, “Listen, I want you to generate as many airframes [i.e. fighter jets] as you can!” Immediately, the aircraft maintenance squadron officer starts directing all available workers to the flight line (the parking and servicing area for aircraft) to prepare the base’s available F-15s for combat. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 155]
Base Personnel Load Aircraft with Weapons - A report written by the 102nd Fighter Wing’s historian will describe: “Operations [personnel] along with maintenance [personnel] did a survey of which aircraft had bullets loaded and prioritized those aircraft to be first on status. They immediately began to pre-position wing tanks to increase range for future flights. Munitions started flowing at 9:30 and the aircraft were loaded with a mix of different types of weapons.” [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001] Isch’s crew hurries to fix fighters with live weapons. Some aircraft are fitted with newer missiles that are rarely pulled out. [Cape Cod Times, 9/8/2002] According to Boston Magazine, “Jets undergoing maintenance [are] rushed back into service, fitted out for combat instead of training.” [Boston Magazine, 1/2002]
Fighters Recalled from Training Mission and Armed - A number of the 102nd Fighter Wing’s F-15s are away for a training mission over the Atlantic Ocean (see (9:00 a.m.-9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; Cape Cod Times, 9/11/2006] At 9:25 a.m., these fighters will be instructed to return to their base and will land back at Otis around 20 minutes later (see (9:25 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 10/14/2003 ; Spencer, 2008, pp. 155; Airman, 9/3/2011] Two of the aircraft have mechanical problems and will therefore be unable to fly again immediately. But the other fighters will be refueled and loaded with 940 rounds of 20 mm bullets. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001] The first F-15s to subsequently take off from Otis Air Base will launch at around 10:30 a.m. (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 10/14/2003 ; Spencer, 2008, pp. 244-246] Fourteen of the base’s fighters are “mission capable” by the end of the day, according to Technical Sergeant Michael Kelly, the full-time technician in the command post at Otis Air Base. [9/11 Commission, 10/14/2003 ] But according to Spencer, by 6:00 p.m., 21 of the 24 F-15s that are stationed at Otis Air Base will be airborne. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 281]
At NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), Master Sergeant Joe McCain, the mission crew commander technician, receives a call from the Continental US NORAD Region (CONR) headquarters at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. Major General Larry Arnold and his staff at Tyndall AFB are trying to gather as much information as they can about the ongoing crisis, and want to know the transponder codes for the two fighter jets scrambled from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to the first hijacking (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), so they can monitor their positions. The CONR officer that makes the call tells McCain to “send [the transponder codes] out on chat,” meaning on NORAD’s own chat system.
NORAD's Computer Chat System - According to author Lynn Spencer, NORAD’s chat system “is similar to the chat rooms on most Internet servers, but classified.” It has three chat rooms that can be used by anyone with proper access. One room is specifically for NEADS, and connects its ID, surveillance, and weapons technicians to its alert fighter squadrons, and is where NEADS gets status reports on fighter units and their aircraft. Another chat room is for CONR, and is where the three CONR sectors—NEADS, the Western Air Defense Sector (WADS), and the Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS)—communicate with each other and can “upchannel” information to CONR headquarters. The third room is the Air Warfare Center (AWC), where senior NORAD commanders from the three NORAD regions—CONR, Canada, and Alaska—communicate with each other. NEADS is allowed to monitor this room, but not type into it. When there is a training exercise taking place, as was the case earlier this morning (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), one or two additional chat windows will be open specifically for communicating exercise information, to help prevent it being confused with real-world information.
McCain Falling Behind - McCain’s responsibilities at NEADS include monitoring these chat rooms, keeping paper logs of everything that is going on, and taking care of “upchanneling” operational reports to higher headquarters. According to Spencer, “These chat logs help to keep everyone on the same page, but in a situation like the one unfolding they have to be updated almost instantaneously to achieve that end.” But, “The fact that CONR has had to call McCain to get information that by now he would normally have posted alerts him that he is falling behind despite his best efforts.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 139-140]
A number of fighter jets from Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts that are out over the Atlantic Ocean on a training mission are notified of the first crash at the World Trade Center and then return to their base. The fighters belong to the 102nd Fighter Wing. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; 9/11 Commission, 1/7/2004 ; Richard, 2010, pp. 13-14; Airman, 9/3/2011] According to most accounts, six of the unit’s F-15 fighters are taking part in the training mission. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; Cape Cod Times, 9/11/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 155] But Major Martin Richard, one of the pilots involved, will write in a 2010 book that eight F-15s are taking part. [Richard, 2010, pp. 10]
Fighters Recalled for 'Possible Use' - The fighters took off from Otis Air Base at 9:00 a.m. for their “defensive counter-air” mission in an area of military training airspace over the Atlantic Ocean, southeast of Long Island, known as “Whiskey 105” (see (9:00 a.m.-9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 10/14/2003 ; Airman, 9/3/2011] Following the second attack on the WTC at 9:03 a.m., commanders at Otis Air Base convened and decided to recall all aircraft out on training (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 153-154] A member of staff at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) tells a colleague that the fighters in Whiskey 105 are being recalled to Otis for “possible use, so we’ve got more aircraft [on] standby.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001]
Controller Tells Fighters to Return to Base - The fighters are recalled to their base at around 9:25 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 10/14/2003 ; 9/11 Commission, 1/7/2004 ] Shortly after they arrive in Whiskey 105, Richard is called by an air traffic controller at the FAA’s Boston Center. [Cape Cod Times, 9/11/2006] Richard will later note that “for a controller to interrupt our training mission was out of the norm.” [Richard, 2010, pp. 13] According to Airman, the controller tells Richard: “There’s something going on in New York. I think you guys need to get back to your base.” [Airman, 9/3/2011] But Richard will recall that the controller says, “[A]n aircraft just crashed into the World Trade Center and I think you should return to base immediately.” Richard replies, “Copy,” meaning he understands. However, he will say: “I was a bit confused. I didn’t know the extent of the pandemonium residing just outside of our sterile training airspace.” [Richard, 2010, pp. 13]
Pilot Not Told Why Alert Jets Were Scrambled - Before taking off from Otis Air Base, Richard had seen the two of his unit’s fighters that are kept on “alert”—ready for immediate launch—taking off in response to the hijacked Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), but he had been unaware of why they were being scrambled (see (8:30 a.m.-8:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Therefore, Richard will recall, “When the FAA announced that the World Trade [Center] tower had been struck by an aircraft, I asked if this was why the alert pilots had been scrambled.” However, he will say, he “got no reply.” It is unclear whether the pilots on the training mission are informed of the aircraft hijackings at this time. Richard will recall, “[W]hen it came over the radio that it was a possible hijacking, it sure got our attention,” but he will not say when this radio communication occurs. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; Cape Cod Times, 9/11/2006]
Supervisor Tells Pilot to Get Back to Base - Richard hurriedly dials the radio frequency to contact Lieutenant Colonel Jon Treacy, his unit’s supervisor of flying, who controls flying operations from the ground. [Richard, 2010, pp. 13] Richard asks, “Do you need us back on base?” and Treacy replies, “Get back here as soon as you can.” [Cape Cod Times, 9/11/2006]
Fighters Have Too Much Fuel to Land - The fighters were split apart over the Whiskey 105 airspace for their training mission. Rather than spending time getting them back together, Richard orders the pilots to go back to base in flights of two jets. Furthermore, another problem will delay their return: the fighters all have too much fuel to be able to land. Therefore, Richard will write, “Rather than dump the fuel overboard, which would take upwards of six to nine minutes, we got together in twos and did some basic fighter maneuvering.” These maneuvers, which are done in full afterburner, are “the most expeditious way to get to landing weight.” As the pilots request clearance to fly out of Whiskey 105 and back to Otis Air Base, their radios become crowded with communications. Richard comments, “It sounds like we are at war.”
Pilots Told to Stay at Their Aircraft after Landing - The pilots still have little idea what is going on, so Richard contacts Treacy for an update. However, Treacy has nothing concrete to tell him and only says, “After you land, stay at your jets; we’ll run the classified packs out to you.” These “classified packs” fit into the leg pocket of a pilot’s g-suit, and include the classified codes and guidance pilots fly with when on alert. Richard will write, “In light of recent events, it seemed we had been drafted for alert duty.” [Richard, 2010, pp. 13-14]
Pilots Told to Prepare Fighters for Alert - The fighters arrive at Otis Air Base around 20 minutes after they are called back there, according to author Lynn Spencer. As they taxi in, the pilots receive an instruction over their radios from Treacy, who tells them, “Cock your jets for alert!” They have never received such an order before. It means that instead of parking and shutting down their aircraft, they must prepare them to be scrambled from the flight line, with all of the instruments, controls, and switches set ready for immediate takeoff orders. After doing as instructed, the pilots head into the operations building to find out what is happening. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 155] Most of the squadron personnel are huddled by the television in the break room, watching the coverage of the terrorist attacks. One of the life support technicians turns to Richard and says, “It’s a goddamn Tom Clancy novel!” Richard will comment, “It was obvious now that we were at war.” [Richard, 2010, pp. 14] A number of the fighters that come back from the training mission, which have no ordnance on them, will be armed and also refueled, ready to take off to protect US airspace. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001] The first fighters to subsequently take off from Otis Air Base will launch at around 10:30 a.m. (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 10/14/2003 ; Spencer, 2008, pp. 244-246]
Brent Scowcroft. [Source: Publicity photo]An E-4B National Airborne Operations Center (NAOC) takes off from Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, DC. The E-4B is a militarized version of a Boeing 747. Its purpose is to provide the president, vice president, and Joint Chiefs of Staff with an airborne command center that could be used to execute war plans and coordinate government operations during a national emergency. The E-4B taking off from Andrews, which has the call sign “Word 31,” is carrying civilian and military officials, and is launched in order to participate in a previously scheduled military exercise, according to journalist and author Dan Verton. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001 ; Verton, 2003, pp. 143-144; 9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004; NET Nebraska, 9/2/2011] This exercise would be Global Guardian, which is being conducted by the US Strategic Command (Stratcom) to test its ability to fight a nuclear war (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). Two other E-4Bs are also participating in Global Guardian today (see Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002]
Plane Ends Participation in Exercise after Taking Off - The E-4B taking off from Andrews Air Force Base is supposed to be using and testing its sophisticated technology and communications equipment for the exercise. It has “only just taken off” at the time the Pentagon is hit—9:37 a.m.—according to Verton. [Verton, 2003, pp. 144] But the flight tracking strip from Andrews will record it as having taken off at 9:27 a.m., 10 minutes before the Pentagon is hit. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001 ; 9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004] The crew will later be informed that after the plane launches, it flies “right over the top of the aircraft that eventually impacted the Pentagon.” [Flying K, 9/7/2012 ] After taking off, the E-4B is “immediately ordered to cease the military exercise it was conducting and prepare to become the actual National Airborne Operations Center,” Verton will write. [Verton, 2003, pp. 144] (Global Guardian was reportedly put on pause at 9:11 a.m. (see 9:11 a.m. September 11, 2001), but it is not formally terminated until 10:44 a.m. (see (10:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bombardier, 9/8/2006 ] ) The plane then converts “on the fly from exercise status to real-world crisis management.” [Verton, 2003, pp. 150]
Plane Flies Former National Security Adviser to Base in Nebraska - Former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and his staff are on the E-4B, which will fly them to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Flying K, 9/7/2012 ] The original plan had been for the aircraft to take them to Offutt to observe the Global Guardian exercise today. [Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002] After reaching the base, the E-4B will take off again and resume its airborne operations. [Flying K, 9/7/2012 ] Minutes after the Pentagon is attacked, an unidentified four-engine jet plane will be seen circling above the White House (see (9:41 a.m.-9:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). CNN will suggest this is an E-4B, so it is possible it is “Word 31.” [CNN, 9/12/2007] Another E-4B, with the call sign “Venus 77,” will take off from Andrews Air Force Base at around 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001 ; 9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004; Farmer, 2009, pp. 206]
Three F-16 fighter jets from a base just outside Washington, DC, that have been away on a training mission, first learn of events in New York when they meet up with a refueling plane. [9/11 Commission, 2/27/2004] The jets belong to the 121st Fighter Squadron, part of the 113th Wing of the District of Columbia Air National Guard, which is based at Andrews Air Force Base, 10 miles from Washington. [District of Columbia Air National Guard, 7/24/2001; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/2002; GlobalSecurity (.org), 8/21/2005] They have been on a routine training mission on a range about 200 miles from Andrews, in Dare County, North Carolina (see 8:36 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Supervisor Concerned, Contacted Refueling Plane Pilot - Major Daniel Caine, the supervisor of flying (SOF) with their unit, has wanted to call the three jets back to base since learning of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center (see (9:04 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 2/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 3/8/2004 ] However, the jets were outside his radio range, so he’d called the tanker refueling plane they were scheduled to meet up with shortly, and asked its pilot to pass on an urgent return to base (“RTB”) message to the F-16s. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 124]
Tanker Pilot Notifies Jets about First WTC Crash - The three fighter jets now meet the tanker to get refueled. The refueling plane, which has come from Tennessee, has arrived late, and flight lead Major Billy Hutchison’s F-16 is low on fuel. The tanker pilot radios Hutchison and tells him that a plane has hit the WTC, but nothing more. Hutchison will later recall that, while one of the other two F-16s is being refueled, the “tanker was told that everyone must land. Hutchison knew he had to get back to Andrews.”
Radio Frequency Is Silent - After Hutchison disconnects his aircraft from the refueling plane, he plugs back into the air traffic control radio frequency, as is standard procedure. However, as he will recall, there is “nothing” on the frequency. “Normally, there is constant chatter as controllers work all the air traffic. This was highly unusual.” [9/11 Commission, 2/27/2004] When he is about half way back to Andrews AFB, Hutchison will radio his SOF and be instructed to fly back to base at maximum speed (see (9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Filson, 2003, pp. 79] According to author Lynn Spencer, the three F-16s do not fill their tanks right up when they meet with the tanker, and so they will be virtually out of fuel by the time they are approaching Andrews. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 217]
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