Article by Erik Larson
NOTE: Corrected/edited Dec. 18, 2011.
A 9/11/2008 Resolution: Start Your Own 9/11 Blog! By Arabesque
Inspirational article by George Washington: Why We’ll Win
Click here for all the articles in the: 9/11 Truth Overview Series
This article summarizes some of the events concerning the 4 hijacked flights on 9/11, provides information on standard air defense procedures and warnings received prior to 9/11 and gives a brief overview of the multiple war games and military operations surrounding 9/11, including Continuity of Government planning. Links are provided for more in depth research.
Air Defense “Failures”:
The first sign of a potentially very serious problem and possible hijacking came at 8:14 am when American Airlines (AA) Flight 11 didn’t respond to an order to climb to 35,000 feet, shortly after acknowledging an instruction to turn 20 degrees to the right, and according to initial reports, this is when its transponder is turned off; it’s later decided that this is when the flight is hijacked. With the transponder being off, the flight’s number, exact speed and altitude can’t be determined, but it was always visible on FAA radar. After this, the “talkback” button for radio communication was pushed intermittently most of the way to WTC 1, but the 4 digit hijack code is never entered into the transponder. At 8:19 am Flight Attendant Betty Ong used an airfone at the back of the plane to call an AA reservation desk and reported that a passenger had been stabbed, it seemed Mace had been used as it was hard to breathe, the cockpit was not answering, and the flight was probably hijacked. Supervisor Nydia Gonzalez was patched in at 8:21 am, and at this time she also contacts Craig Marquis, a manager at the AA Operations Center, who says they’re contacting Air Traffic Control (ATC) and attempting to reach the flight crew; the call with Ong lasted 25 minutes. At 8:20 am, Flight 11 changed course to head northwest; according to some news reports from the time, Boston Flight Control considers Flight 11 to have been hijacked at this time, but no one notifies other control centers for 5 minutes, and the responsible supervisors and military liason reportedly don’t notify NMCC/NORAD for 20 minutes.
Starting at 8:22 am, Flight Attendant Amy Sweeney uses an airfone to contact the AA flight service office at Boston Logan airport. She makes attempts at 8:22 and 8:24, but these are quickly disconnected. During attempts at 8:25 and 8:29 she communicates a passenger has been hurt, before being cut off. She manages to speak to manager Michael Woodward, who is also a friend of hers, from 8:32 to 8:44, and confirms the flight has been hijacked. During this call, Woodward uses a second phone to call Nancy Wyatt, a supervisor at Boston Logan; in turn, she transmits what he is saying to AA headquarters in Fort Worth, TX. At 8:24 am, during one of the times the talkback button is pressed, Boston Air Traffic Controllers hear the message, “We have some planes. Just stay quiet and you’ll be OK. We are returning to the airport.” Seconds later, another message comes through, “Nobody move. Everything will be OK. If you try to make any moves you’ll endanger yourself and the airplane. Just stay quiet.”
At 8:25 am Boston ATC decides Flight 11 has been hijacked and reportedly begins notifying other ATC centers and FAA chain of command, but not NMCC/NORAD. However, according to Ben Sliney, the national operations manager at the FAA’s Command Center, “the protocol was in place that the center that reported the hijacking would notify the military.… I go back to 1964, where I began my air traffic career, and they have always followed the same protocol.” At 8:26 am, Flight 11 makes a 100 degree turn to the south and a minute later it turns south-southwest. At 8:28 am Boston ATC calls the FAA Command Center in Herndon and tells them they believe Flight 11 is headed for New York City. At 8:29 am Flight 11 turns south-southeast. At 8:32 am Herndon notifies the Operations Center at FAA headquarters. At 8:34 am, Boston Air Traffic Controllers hear a 3rd transmission from Flight 11; “Nobody move, please, we are going back to the airport. Don’t try to make any stupid moves.” They go outside of normal procedure and contact the FAA facility at Otis Air National Guard Base, and request for them to inform the military there (The Commission claims this happened at 8:37 am).
Otis had 2 fighters on 24-hour alert; according to Lt. Col. Tim Duffy, he received word of the hijacked flight around 8:30-35 am; “As soon as we heard there was something about a hijacking we got moving.… I called for ‘Nasty’ (Maj. Dan Nash) and I to suit up right away.” “Halfway to the jets, we got ‘battle stations,’ and I briefed Nasty on the information I had about the American Airlines flight. About 4-5 min. later, we got the scramble order and took off.” At 8:35 am, Colin Scoggins, military liaison to the FAA at Boston, says he notifies NORAD’s North East Air Defense Sector (NEADS) (the 9/11 Commission Report doesn’t mention this). Also according to Scoggins, Joseph Cooper, a Boston Center air traffic management specialist, had already notified NEADS. Reportedly, NEADS is unable to find Flight 11 on their radar, despite being given location information by Scoggins. Also during this time there is confusion at NEADS over whether this is actually part of Vigilant Guardian, a live-fly hijacking exercise involving false radar injects (war games covered in more detail later in this article). At 8:39 am Flight 11 flies past the Indian Point nuclear power plant. At 8:40 am, NORAD finally receives notification of the hijacking from the FAA, according to the first NORAD timeline. At 8:46 am Flight 11 crashes into World Trade Center 1 and NORAD approves the launch of fighters to go after 11.
The above summary was sourced from the AA 11 Timeline at HistoryCommons.org; many additional details are available there.
Regarding the other hjiacked flights:
According to NORAD’s first timeline, they were notified at 8:43 am that Flight 175 was hijacked; it hit WTC 2 at 9:03 am. According to the official account, fighters from Otis Air Force Base in Cape Cod, MA were ordered scrambled in response to AA 11 at 8:38 am; launched at 8:46 am, and airborne at 8:53 am. Instead of being directed to NYC, they are kept in a holding pattern off Long Island until 9:13 am.
Flight 77 went off course at 8:54 am and its transponder was shut off at 8:56 am; according to the first NORAD timeline, they weren’t notified until 9:24 am. Flight 77 (or whatever it was) hit the Pentagon sometime between 9:36 and 9:38 am. Regarding how anything was able to hit the Pentagon, see this testimony of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta to the 9/11 Commission (left out of their final report). He said he arrived at the PEOC before 9:30 and Dick Cheney was already there and in charge; “There was a young man who had come in and said to the vice president, ’The plane is 50 miles out. The plane is 30 miles out.’ And when it got down to, ‘The plane is 10 miles out,’ the young man also said to the vice president, ‘Do the orders still stand?’ And the vice president turned and whipped his neck around and said, ‘Of course the orders still stand. Have you heard anything to the contrary?’” Shortly after that, the Pentagon is hit. According to the Commission report, Mineta and Cheney didn’t arrive until much later, and the flight Mineta was referring to was United 93, which crashed
According to CNN sources and the testimony of NORAD officials to the 9/11 Commission May 2003, Flight 93 was reported hijacked at 9:16 am, by the FAA to NEADS; reportedly, one of the hijackers may have been in the cockpit, posing as a pilot. The hijack time was later revised to 9:28 am when sounds of a struggle were heard by air traffic controllers, shortly after the last normal radio communication; this is also when the plane begins behaving erratically. The 9/11 Commission Report doesn’t address the contradictory testimony offered by NORAD; it simply offers its own version of what happened. According to the Commission Report, the National Military Command Center (NMCC) learned of United 93’s hijacking at 10:03 am (42), but there is nothing in the Commission Report to indicate what they did with this information; the NMCC was apparently not involved in any of the scramble orders on 9/11. Flight 93 crashed (or was shot down) at 10:03 am if you believe NORAD and the 9/11 Commission, or 10:06 am if you believe the seismic report, which is consistent with all news reports from the time. Either way, this last event was nearly 2 hours after the first sign of hijacking. If the failure to recognize and respond to a crisis involving multiple hijackings is just a sign of massive and unprecedented incompetence and failure to follow standard procedures at the FAA, how were they able to land hundreds of planes without incident soon after the order was given to ground all flights nationwide- an unprecedented undertaking?
Context in which the “failures” of standard air defense procedures occurred:
The months before 9/11 have been referred to as the “summer of threat” when “the system was blinking red” and DCI George Tenet was “running around with his hair on fire”. Warnings had been received for years about Bin Laden and Al Qaeda planning attacks in the US, including using planes as missiles, and the warning signs were increasing in 2001. The CIA, FBI and NSA had been monitoring Al Qaeda for years, including many of the alleged 9/11 hijackers; in the months prior to 9/11, the NSA had intercepted 30 messages between Al Qaeda operatives referring to an imminent attack. From January 20 to September 10, Bush was briefed on Al Qaeda over 40 times by Tenet, many of them urgently warning of an impending attack.
In addition to this, standard FAA/NORAD operating procedures before 9/11 required them to scramble jet fighters within minutes, to respond to any flight that went off-course. See this March 12, 2001 Archive.org of Chapter 10 of the FAA’s manual, which dealt with “Emergency Determinations”, saying, “c. If the words “Mayday” or “Pan-Pan” are not used and you are in doubt that a situation constitutes an emergency or potential emergency, handle it as though it were an emergency.” June 1, 2001, standard procedures for intercepting flights were changed and created greater flexibility for the military to respond to requests for assistance; however, left unchanged was the requirement for Secretary of Defense approval when “potentially lethal” support was requested, i.e. in the case of a hijacked airliner that might need to be shot down in order to protect lives. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was informed by staff of the first and second attacks on the Twin Towers shortly after each one happened, but continued with his normal daily routine, even though others at the Pentagon were going into emergency mode. It’s not clear what he did between the time WTC 2 was hit and when the Pentagon was hit; he’d told staff he “wanted to make a few phone calls,” before he got his daily intelligence briefing scheduled for 9:30 am, so he “stayed in his office.” However, Richard Clarke remembers seeing him on one of the air threat video conference calls at around 9:10 am (the Commission claims this call didn’t begin until 9:25 am).
See this summary at HistoryCommons.org; “NORAD commander Major General Larry Arnold has said, ‘We [didn’t] have any aircraft on alert at Andrews.’ However, prior to 9/11, the District of Columbia Air National Guard [DCANG] based at Andrews had a publicly stated mission ‘to provide combat units in the highest possible state of readiness.’ Prior to 9/11, the mission statement was posted on the DC National Guard’s public website. Shortly after 9/11, this mission statement is removed and replaced by a DCANG ‘vision’ to ‘provide peacetime command and control and administrative mission oversight to support customers, DCANG units, and NGB in achieving the highest levels of readiness.’” Andrews Air Force base is the closest to Washington DC, the nation’s capital. See also this and this.
Regarding the FAA, as summarized by a September 14, 2005 report in the New York Times; “American aviation officials were warned as early as 1998 that Al Qaeda could ‘seek to hijack a commercial jet and slam it into a U.S. landmark,’ according to previously secret portions of a report prepared last year by the Sept. 11 commission. The officials also realized months before the Sept. 11 attacks that two of the three airports used in the hijackings had suffered repeated security lapses. Federal Aviation Administration officials were also warned in 2001 in a report prepared for the agency that airport screeners’ ability to detect possible weapons had ‘declined significantly’ in recent years, but little was done to remedy the problem, the Sept. 11 commission found.” Also; “Much of the material now restored in the public version of the commission’s report centered on the warnings the F.A.A. received about the threat of hijackings, including 52 intelligence documents in the months before the Sept. 11 attacks that mentioned Al Qaeda or Osama bin Laden.”
According to a memo authored by two “high-level” FAA officials, Ms. Asmus and Ms. Schuessler (text here) and sent to the 9/11 Commission by Laura Brown, FAA Deputy in Public Affairs and entered into the record May 23, 2003, “Within minutes after the first aircraft hit the World Trade Center, the FAA immediately established several phone bridges that included FAA field facilities, the FAA Command Center, FAA headquarters, DOD, the Secret Service, and other government agencies. The US Air Force liaison to the FAA immediately joined the FAA headquarters phone bridge and established contact with NORAD on a separate line. The FAA shared real-time information on the phone bridges about the unfolding events, including information about loss of communication with aircraft, loss of transponder signals, unauthorized changes in course, and other actions being taken by all the flights of interest, including Flight 77. Other parties on the phone bridges, in turn, shared information about actions they were taking. NORAD logs indicate that the FAA made formal notification about American Flight 77 at 9:24 a.m., but information about the flight was conveyed continuously during the phone bridges before the formal notification.”
Four flights known to be hijacked were allowed to fly un-intercepted through some of the most congested air space in the US- even after WTC 1 was hit at 8:46 am- and WTC 2 at 9:03 am. Before 9/11, fighters were scrambled about 100 times a year to deal with potential emergencies; on 9/11, after a “summer of threat”, fighters were scrambled unusually late and not from the bases that were closest. Fighters were sent out over the Atlantic Ocean and asked to respond to a “phantom” Flight 11 more than a half-hour after 11 had crashed- and when the Pentagon was hit around 9:37 am, there were no fighters over DC, the White House, Congress and the Pentagon; but fighters were launched immediately afterward, according to General Richard Myers and news reports on and after 9/11. Is this a sign of massive incompetence at FAA/NMCC/NORAD/NEADS, or evidence of intentional efforts to prevent the interception of the hijacked flights?
The NORAD Timelines:
The first official statement about the air defense response was 2 days after 9/11 on September 13, 2001 from General Richard Myers in testimony to Congress at his confirmation hearing; he was replacing Henry Shelton, and being promoted to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest military post in the nation, days after the 9/11 attacks happened on his watch; at the time, he was Vice-Chair and Air Force Chief of Staff, and acting Chairman on 9/11:
SENATOR CARL LEVIN: “Was the Defense Department contacted by the FAA or the FBI or any other agency after the first two hijacked aircraft crashed into the World Trade Center, prior to the time that the Pentagon was hit?
GENERAL RICHARD MYERS: Sir, I don’t know the answer to that question. I can get that for you, for the record.
LEVIN: Thank you. Did the Defense Department take — or was the Defense Department asked to take action against any specific aircraft?
MYERS: Sir, we were . . .
LEVIN: And did you take action against — for instance, there has been statements that the aircraft that crashed in Pennsylvania was shot down. Those stories continue to exist.
MYERS: Mr. Chairman, the armed forces did not shoot down any aircraft. When it became clear what the threat was, we did scramble fighter aircraft, AWACS, radar aircraft and tanker aircraft to begin to establish orbits in case other aircraft showed up in the FAA system that were hijacked. But we never actually had to use force.
LEVIN: Was that order that you just described given before or after the Pentagon was struck? Do you know?
MYERS: That order, to the best of my knowledge, was after the Pentagon was struck.”
The next day, news reports indicated fighters had been launched before the Pentagon was struck; they just hadn’t reached the targets in time. September 18, NORAD released an official chronology indicating fighters were launched from different bases and redirected from exercises after the second tower was hit. It was soon discovered that these timelines actually showed there was plenty of time for fighters to intercept. Many more questions were asked as a result of the new timeline, but the questions were ignored. In July 2004 the 9/11 Commission Report was released; it included a revised timeline, based on official tapes of FAA/NORAD conversations, that, if genuine, indicated the FAA had not notified NORAD at the times that NORAD officials originally testified to Congress that they had, and that NORAD had actually launched fighters much later than claimed in their 9/18/01 chronology. The 9/11 Commission indicates there was not enough time for any of the 4 flights to be intercepted. However, this new timeline, if correct, also does not explain why there were no intercepts; if the fighters were traveling at top speed as had been claimed, they would have reached New York City possibly a minute before AA Flight 11, and well before UA Flight 175.
US Air Security Timeline – HistoryCommons.org
The Failure to Defend the Skies on 9/11 by Paul Thompson
Flights 11, 175, 77, and 93: The 9/11 Commission’s Incredible Tales by David Ray Griffin
THE FAA KNEW! But were they set up? By Michael Kane
Guilty For 9-11: Bush, Rumsfeld, Myers, Part 1 by Illarion Bykov and Jared Israel
Mr. Cheney’s Cover-up: Part 2 of ‘Guilty for 9-11: Bush, Rumsfeld, Myers’ By Illarion Bykov and Jared Israel
NORAD: The Air Defense Network – 911Research.WTC7.net
September 11th Flights: 3 of 4 Hijacked Planes Encounter No Resistance – 911Research.WTC7.net
NORAD Stand-Down: The Prevention of Interceptions of the Commandeered Planes – 911Research.WTC7.net
The ‘Stand-Down Order’ – 911Review.com
AIR DEFENSE ON 9/11: U.S. domestic air defense forces under the umbrella of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (“NORAD”) failed to intercept the errant flights of September 11, 2001, as called for in routine operating procedures for situational reconnaissance and response. – Justicefor911.org
Scapegoating NORAD by George Washington
Distracting The Defenders: Radar Injects, Ringing Phones and Fools Errands by George Washington
The 9/11 Stand Down in 2 Minutes by George Washington
US Military Exercises Surrounding and Intersecting 9/11:
Amalgam Warrior – Run in conjunction with Global Guardian, and perhaps Vigilant Guardian.
Apollo Guardian – A Space Command exercise
Global Guardian – An annual Armageddon scenario that had the US Strategic Command (Stratcom) on full alert- this was normally held in October, and in May 01 was moved up to September by still undisclosed persons.
Northern Vigilance – Deployed fighter jets from the North East Air Defense Sector (NEADS) to Alaska and Northern Canada to monitor a Russian bomber exercise. According to a Dec 9, 2001 report in the Toronto Star, at 9 am, 45 minutes after the first sign of hijacking, and 15 minutes after the first NORAD timeline indicated they were aware of the hijackings of Flights 11 and 175 by 8:43 am, “In a flash, Operation Northern Vigilance is called off. Any simulated information, what’s known as an ‘inject,’ is purged from the screens.”
NRO exercise – The National Reconnaissance Office operates spy satellites for the CIA and DOD, was conducting an exercise involving a simulated accidental plane crash into their building at the time of the attacks; after the attacks, 3000 employees were sent home and left the nation’s spy satellites monitored by a skeleton crew.
Timely Alert II– An Army exercise planned for 9/11 outside New York City; the scenario involved responding to a terrorist chemical attack.
Tripod – A biowarfare drill in lower Manhattan scheduled for Sept 12; preparations were underway on 9/11
Vigilant Guardian – According to Gen. Ralph Eberhart in testimony to the 9/11 Commission, this was an exercise monitoring Russian bomber activity. Versions prior to 9/11 had involved response to hijacking.
Did the war games confuse or interfere with NORAD response that day? Some military personnel were apparently surprised by the coincidence of real-world hijackings on the same day hijack exercises were scheduled; upon hearing of the hijacking, Lt. Col. Kevin Naspany said out loud, ‘The hijack’s not supposed to be for another hour”; that morning, he was preparing that morning to participate in a NORAD exercise involving a hijack to a “Cuba-like island”. Major James Fox says, “I’ve never seen so much real-world stuff happen during an exercise.” Unnamed NORAD/NEADS personnel asked “Is this real world or exercise?” when informed about the hijackings by the FAA. January 25, 2002, Newhouse News quoted Lt. Col. Dawne Deskins as thinking, “It must be part of the exercise”, upon learning of the hijacking of AA 11. June 3, 2002, Aviation Week reported that NEADS Commander Col. Robert K. Marr, Jr.’s wondered if it was “Part of the exercise?” when he first heard of the hijacking of AA 11 during the Vigilant Guardian drill. September 11, 2002, ABC News ran memorial coverage of 9/11; in an interview with Charles Gibson, Major General Larry Arnold, commanding general of the First Air Force and NORAD’s Continental Region, said “The first thing that went through my mind [after receiving the hijacking alert for Flight 11] was, is this part of the exercise?” The 9/11 Commission Report mentions only one of the exercises that intersected 9/11, Vigilant Guardian, and says it “postulated a bomber attack from the former Soviet Union”; no mention is made of the hijack exercise. This single mention comes in an endnote which says the Commission “investigated whether military preparations for the large-scale exercise compromised the military’s response”, and that they found “the response, if anything, was expedited by the increased number of staff”. (Kean 2004 458N116) Certainly, given the long-standing procedures for immediate scramble of fighters to intercept off-course flights, the coincident NORAD exercises do not explain why there were no intercepts that morning.
This article by researcher/blogger Shoestring shows there was a great deal of confusion in the air defense response on 9/11:
According to Michael Ruppert in his book “Crossing the Rubicon”, Major Don Arias of NORAD said there was a “maestro” in charge of coordinating the multiple war games surrounding 9/11 (364) See the first article below for the reasons some believe this person was Dick Cheney.
Military Exercises up to 9/11 Timeline – HistoryCommons.org
Multiple War Games Were Being Conducted on 9/11/01 – 911Research.WTC7.net
The War Games of September 11th– 911Truth.org
WAR GAMES ON SEPTEMBER 11TH– 911Proof.com
The War Games of September 11th– George Washington
Continuity of Government:
“Continuity of Government” (COG) refers to plans for dealing with an unprecedented national security crisis, such as a nuclear attack on a US city- or 9/11. COG plans have been drilled for decades; Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, former Counterterrorism Tsar Richard Clarke and others have been closely involved. Reportedly, planning involves a parallel government being set up outside the Constitutional elected government, with unelected surrogate officials taking over and maintaining government’s “essential” functions without public oversight, if/as the Constitutional government fails- as it might have if Flight 93 had hit the Capitol (Congress), or if a powerful suitcase nuke is set off in DC. Reportedly, this extra-Constitutional shadow “government” is put into action simply by executive decision, unilaterally suspending the Constitution. The Congress has not reviewed or approved the planning for this; requests for information have been denied. Regardless of Congressional review and oversight, there is nothing in the Constitution authorizing the suspension or abolition of the Constitution, although it can be amended through the processes described in Article V. To legally and legitimately replace Constitutional government would require a Constitutional Convention, a new Constitution and ratification by the People and the States. However, according to Richard Clarke in his book “Against All Enemies”, he put COG into action on 9/11. Apparently it’s still operating; nothing official indicates COG has been discontinued. Also, a state of emergency was declared on September 14, 2001 that has been continually renewed ever since.
Congressman Peter DeFazio of the Homeland Security Committee has sought information on COG planning from the White House; August 2, 2007 he made this statement on the floor of the House about the response he got:
Mr. DeFAZIO. “Most Americans would agree that it would be prudent to have a plan to provide for the continuity of government and the rule of law in case of a devastating terrorist attack or natural disaster, a
plan to provide for the cooperation, the coordination and continued functioning of all three branches of the government. The Bush administration tells us they have such a plan. They have introduced a little sketchy public version that is clearly inadequate and doesn’t really tell us what they have in mind, but they said, don’t worry; there’s a detailed classified version. But now they’ve denied the entire Homeland Security Committee of the United States House of Representatives access to their so-called detailed plan to provide for continuity of government. They say, trust us. Trust us, the people who brought us Katrina, to be competent in the face of a disaster? Trust us, the people who brought us warrantless wiretapping and other excesses eroding our civil liberties? Trust us? Maybe the plan just really doesn’t exist and that’s why they won’t show it to us. I don’t know. Or maybe there’s something there that’s outrageous. The American people need their elected representatives to review this plan for the continuity of government.”
May 9, 2007 Whitehouse Press Release re: NSPD-51, an executive order in which the Bush Administration declares it has the authority to suspend Constitutional government in the case of a “catastrophic emergency”;
(b) “Catastrophic Emergency” means any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions;
Who Will Rule Us After the Next 9/11? THE REALITY OF NSPD-51 IS ALMOST AS BAD AS THE PARANOIA By Ron Rosenbaum in Slate.com
Investigation into Whether America Is Still a Constitutional Government (an examination of Continuity of Government planning by George Washington)
Other articles by George Washington on Continuity of Government
Inspirational article by George Washington: Why We’ll Win
A 9/11/2008 Resolution: Start Your Own 9/11 Blog! By Arabesque
Click here for all the articles in the: 9/11 Truth Overview Series