History Commons Groups

October 14, 2009

9/11 Commission Intended to Ask FAA Administrator about Actions on Day of Attacks at Public Hearing

One of the things that I always wondered about in the 9/11 Commission’s public questioning of former FAA Administrator Jane Garvey is that they never asked her about what she did on the day of 9/11–at least as far as I can tell. I’ve been through the record of her public testimony at the hearing on 22 May 2003 a couple of times and I don’t see anything about what she personally did on the day of the attacks, although she is questioned about several others issues (such as aviation security and actions by other FAA officials on the day of the attacks).

I had wondered about this primarily because of a passage in Richard Clarke’s Against All Enemies conference the White House-initiated video conference:

I resumed the video conference. “FAA, FAA, go. Status report. How many aircraft do you still carry as hijacked?”

Garvey read from a list: “All aircraft have been ordered to land at the nearest field. Here’s what we have as potential hijacks: Delta 1989 over West Virginia, United 93 over Pennsylvania…”

Clarke places this at just before notice of the Pentagon impact, which was at 9:38. I know questions have been raised about the accuracy of Clarke’s memory, but the idea that Garvey was on the video conference and failed to mention once that United 93 had been hijacked has never sat well with me. FAA headquarters found out about the hijacking of United 93 at 9:34 (according to the commission’s report), seven minutes after the place was taken over, and Clarke has her passing on the notification of the hijacking about four minutes later, which seems unsurprising.

In this context, I can’t help but recall the commission’s seemingly lack of curiousity about the video conference–it’s investigation did not extend to determining which defense official was on the video conference for the first hour. Possibly the commission’s investigators did not trouble themselves to ask, possibly the interviewees had their brains scrambled by the high-tech memory loss field sometimes emitted by investigators :-).

Imagine therefore my surprise when I came across two lists of questions to be put to witnesses at the hearing (h/t: Erik Larson). The questions for Garvey include:

Where were you when the hijacking took place on September 11, when and how were you notified, and what did you do? Were your actions and responses following the incident guided by any prepared protocol, or were your required to respond spontaneously?

However, as far as I can see, this question was never put to Garvey in the public hearing, although the memo of an interview with her in October 2003 does discuss her actions on the day of 9/11. In the memo she talks about being on the video conference, but does not mention updating it with information about either United 93 or Delta 1989. I still find this odd. Wouldn’t it be nice to know what she knew about United 93, when she knew it, and whether she communicated it over the video conference?



  1. […] 9/11 Commission Intended to Ask FAA Administartor about Actions on Day of Attacks at Public Hearing […]

    Pingback by 9/11 Commission Documents Masterlist « History Commons Groups — November 28, 2009 @ 2:46 am | Reply

  2. absolutely correct she did say that their intelligence was great

    Comment by joseph p bell — August 28, 2013 @ 4:23 pm | Reply

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