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February 25, 2021

New 9/11 Timeline Entries: Richard Myers’s Actions During the Attacks, Pre-9/11 Warnings About Al-Qaeda, and More

A large number of entries have been added to the Complete 9/11 Timeline at History Commons. The majority of these deal with events that took place on September 11, 2001, with a particular focus on the actions of General Richard B. Myers, the highest-ranking military officer in the United States when the terrorist attacks occurred; others describe notable incidents that occurred before 9/11, such as warnings issued by key individuals about the threat posed by al-Qaeda and discussions within government agencies about killing Osama bin Laden.

Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Myers Learned of the Attacks on the World Trade Center

Many new timeline entries provide details of the response of Myers to the 9/11 attacks. Myers was at the time vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. However, General Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was out of the country for most of the day of September 11 and so Myers stood in for him as acting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Myers was on Capitol Hill, about to go into a 9 o’clock meeting with Senator Max Cleland, when he learned of the first crash at the World Trade Center from seeing it reported on television. He went ahead with the meeting and, he has recalled, learned of the second crash at the WTC when someone came in and passed on the news of what had happened.

In response to the second crash, General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD, called Colonel Matthew Klimow, Myers’s executive assistant, at the Pentagon and said he urgently wanted to talk to Myers. Klimow then called Myers and let him know that NORAD needed to speak to him. Eberhart reached Myers while he was on Capitol Hill, and updated him on what was happening and the actions NORAD was taking in response to the attacks.

Myers subsequently headed back to the Pentagon and, as he was setting out, was informed that the Pentagon had just been attacked. Klimow, meanwhile, received a call from Shelton’s plane, which was flying the chairman to Europe, and during the call passed on the news of the Pentagon attack.

While Myers was on the road, he called Klimow and was given an update on what had happened at the Pentagon. After his car reached the Pentagon, he joined Klimow at the River Entrance and the two men then headed to the National Military Command Center (NMCC).

Myers Responded to the Attacks from the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center

They reached the NMCC at around 9:58 a.m. and Myers started participating in a conference call being conducted from there. However, he soon decided to leave the center to search for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, but was unable to find him. Apparently shortly after returning to the NMCC, he asked Klimow to check that a special military plane called the National Airborne Operations Center had been launched in response to the attacks.

Myers talked to Eberhart for the second time that morning after he reached the NMCC and the two men discussed “rules of engagement” for American fighter jets launched in response to the attacks, but they subsequently took no action to ensure the rules they established were passed on to the pilots of the fighters. Furthermore, during the call, Myers failed to pass on the important information that Vice President Dick Cheney had authorized the military to shoot down suspicious aircraft.

After Rumsfeld arrived in the NMCC, at around 10:30 a.m., he and Myers continued work on the rules of engagement that the vice chairman had established with Eberhart. Then, at 11:00 a.m., the two men, along with several more senior officials at the Pentagon, participated in a secure video teleconference with other government agencies where the main issue discussed was the rules of engagement for fighters. As Myers and Rumsfeld left the conference room following the teleconference, the secretary of defense suddenly asked those in the NMCC what else they thought the terrorists could do and Myers immediately suggested the possibility of them committing an attack involving nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons.

Myers subsequently instructed Klimow to contact General Tommy Franks, commander in chief of the US Central Command, who was away in Europe, and tell him to return to the US and start considering how the military should respond to the terrorist attacks.

Myers and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld Relocated to the Executive Support Center

There had been concerns about the deteriorating air quality while Myers, Rumsfeld, and their colleagues were participating in the secure video teleconference, and an air quality expert subsequently warned that the oxygen level in the NMCC was dangerously low. This led Myers, Rumsfeld, and their entourage to leave the NMCC shortly after midday and relocate to the Executive Support Center (ESC), a secure communications hub on the third floor of the Pentagon.

Shortly after they arrived at the ESC, Myers gave Rumsfeld an update during which he mentioned that he had received the final recommended rules of engagement for fighters from Eberhart, and Rumsfeld then approved these rules. But written rules of engagement were apparently only circulated by the Department of Defense at 1:45 p.m., hours after the terrorist attacks ended.

Additionally, at some point after Myers, Rumsfeld, and their colleagues arrived at the ESC, an Army officer who had witnessed the Pentagon attack spoke to them about what he’d seen and confirmed that the Pentagon had been hit by an American Airlines plane. Rumsfeld also called Sergei Ivanov, the Russian defense minister, and requested that the Russian military stand down an exercise it had been conducting near Alaska.

Around 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., Myers and Rumsfeld went outside to inspect the site of the Pentagon attack and observed the damage to the building. Rumsfeld subsequently visited the crash site again, accompanied by a number of aides and also Senators Carl Levin and John Warner, whom he had invited to visit the Pentagon. And at 5:25 p.m., he announced to his colleagues that, despite the unprecedented attack there, the Pentagon would open as usual the following day and he wanted everyone to report for work.

At 6:30 p.m., Myers participated in a secure video teleconference held by the Deputies Committee of the National Security Council during which the committee’s members discussed how the US should respond to the terrorist attacks. Then at 10:30 p.m., the vice chairman held a “war council” meeting with the senior directors of the Joint Staff, where “planning for future action” was discussed.

Local Police Secured the Pentagon Site

A few entries describe events that took place at the Pentagon on September 11, which Myers was not involved with. Members of the Arlington County Police Department arrived at the Pentagon minutes after it was attacked and promptly started securing the perimeter of the Pentagon Reservation. And yet, despite the extensive security measures that were implemented, a crew apparently made up of illegal immigrants was later allowed by the Secret Service to enter the Pentagon site to help clean up debris, even though its members had no identification with them.

Additionally, at some point after Chief Edward Plaugher of the Arlington County Fire Department reached the Pentagon following the attack there, he told a senior military official that he thought the NMCC was unsafe and needed to be evacuated, but the official refused his advice.

FBI and CIA Experts Gave Warnings Before 9/11 About the Threat Posed by Bin Laden

Most of the other entries describe events that took place before 9/11, which dealt with concerns regarding the threat that al-Qaeda and the group’s leader, Osama bin Laden, were believed to pose to the US, and the fear that a major terrorist attacks was going to take place.

In late 1999, John O’Neill, the FBI’s top expert on al-Qaeda, told a group of CIA officials of his concern that an attack was imminent and the terrorist group was going to try to bring down the WTC. In July 2001, Richard Blee, head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, told other senior CIA officials that he thought bin Laden was comparable to Adolf Hitler before World War II and the threat posed by al-Qaeda would be significantly reduced if he was killed. Around the same time, Cofer Black, director of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, told a visiting group from the Middle East that a major attack against US interests was going to occur.

A few days later, Blee went to Black with evidence that had been compiled suggesting al-Qaeda would attack the US in the near future, and the two men then presented this evidence to CIA Director George Tenet. Tenet was so unsettled that he immediately went to the White House with his two colleagues, and they showed the information to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and other officials there.

Warnings about the terrorist threat were also made by Russian President Vladimir Putin. When Putin met George W. Bush at a summit in June 2001, he warned the US president about Islamic extremists who he said could cause a “major catastrophe.” And just two days before 9/11, he phoned Bush and told him Russia believed a terrorist event that had been “long in preparation” could be imminent.

Fear of al-Qaeda led to discussions about assassinating the group’s leader. Around late June 2001, the CIA held two exercises at its headquarters where the issues around killing bin Laden with an armed drone aircraft were considered. A short time later, a meeting was held at CIA headquarters during which A. B. “Buzzy” Krongard, the CIA’s executive director, asked representatives from various agencies if they thought a man in a video should be assassinated, based on evidence that he was bin Laden.

Finally, an entry describes how a major sovereign wealth fund bought a huge amount of two-year Treasury notes on September 10, 2001, which significantly increased in value in response to the attacks the following day, thereby making the buyer millions.

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February 17, 2018

New 9/11 Timeline Entries: The White House on September 11, the Actions of Senior Pentagon Officials, the Flight 93 Passengers’ Revolt, and More

A large number of entries have been added to the Complete 9/11 Timeline at History Commons, the majority of which provide new details about the events of September 11, 2001.


Many new timeline entries describe events at the White House on September 11. Early that morning, Neil Bush, a younger brother of President Bush, was at the White House after spending the previous night there. When the terrorist attacks began, many staffers were busy preparing for the annual Congressional picnic, which was scheduled to take place on the South Lawn that evening. After the second attack on the World Trade Center occurred, a few staffers took the time to move all the picnic tables off the lawn and even continued with this task after the White House was evacuated.

Meanwhile, shortly after 9:30 a.m., while the attacks were still underway, an official at the White House told CNN it was being assumed that Osama bin Laden was behind the plane crashes at the WTC. After most White House personnel evacuated from the building, at 9:45 a.m., those who remained in the White House Situation Room requested protective gear, but when someone arrived with gas masks for them, they found there were too few to go around. One official in the Situation Room suggested activating the Emergency Alert System so as to send out a message to the American public, but no one with him knew what the message could state and so the proposal was rejected.

Sometime after 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon was attacked, the US Park Police worked with the Secret Service and the Washington, DC, Metropolitan Police to shut down the area around the White House. And, remarkably, some staffers were still in the White House long after the building was evacuated, unaware of the attacks that had taken place that morning.


Several new entries examine the actions of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, who were both at the Pentagon when the attacks occurred. Wolfowitz saw the second crash at the WTC live on television, at 9:03 a.m., but took no action in response to it and instead continued with a routine meeting in his office. When the Pentagon was hit, he was initially evacuated from the building, but a short time later he returned to it and went to the National Military Command Center.

Rumsfeld, meanwhile, went ahead with his daily intelligence briefing, even though his CIA briefer urged him to cancel it so as to respond to the crisis. He continued with the briefing, even though an aide had alerted him to the second crash and he’d realized the crash was “more than an accident.” Two other aides came to his office and urged him to cancel his schedule so he could respond to the attacks on the WTC, but he refused to do so because if he did, he said, “the terrorists have won.”


A few entries describe the actions of General John Keane, vice chief of staff of the Army, who was also at the Pentagon that morning. After he learned a plane had crashed into the WTC, Keane instructed his operations officer to bring the Army Operations Center (AOC) at the Pentagon up to full manning.

Shortly before the Pentagon was attacked, he talked on the phone with his operations officer about a suspicious plane that was approaching Washington and the two men discussed evacuating buildings in the capital, including the Pentagon. They were still talking to each other when the Pentagon was hit and Keane then told his operations officer to inform Army facilities around the world about the attack. Keane did not subsequently go straight to the AOC to respond to the crisis, however, and instead first went toward the crash site to help people find their way out of the building.


Numerous timeline entries describe what apparently happened in the cockpit of Flight 93–the fourth plane to be hijacked–based on the plane’s cockpit voice recording. Between 9:32 a.m. and 9:37 a.m., a woman presumed to be one of the flight attendants was ordered around by the hijackers and then apparently killed by them. Subsequently, one of the hijackers suggested that the plane’s original pilot be brought back into the cockpit, although this never happened. A hijacker then suggested that the plane’s fire axe be held up to the peephole in the cockpit door, mistakenly thinking the passengers would see it and be scared by it.

Beginning at 9:57 a.m., the cockpit voice recorder picked up the sounds of passengers apparently trying to get into the cockpit to retake control of the plane. In response to their actions, a hijacker suggested crashing the plane into the ground. The passengers continued their struggle until 10:03 a.m., when Flight 93 crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.

A woman saw the plane crashing behind some trees, about 1,500 yards from her home, and then became the first of around 20 local residents who called 9-1-1 to report the incident. Soon after the plane went down, dozens of “souvenir hunters” arrived at the crash site and tried removing debris from there.


Several entries relate to the phone call passenger Mark Bingham made to his mother from Flight 93. Bingham first tried to call his mother at 9:36 a.m., but a family friend who answered the phone found the line was dead. A minute later, he tried calling again and this time was successful, being able to tell his mother that his plane had been hijacked.

The call broke off after less than three minutes and he tried reaching his mother twice more, but both attempts were unsuccessful. Meanwhile, Bingham’s mother contacted the FBI to tell it about the call and she also tried calling her son on his cell phone, but had to leave messages on voicemail.


Numerous entries describe events at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS). The “battle cab” at NEADS was, unusually, already manned when the attacks began because NEADS personnel were participating in a major training exercise that day. A number of trainees were also in the battle cab because they were going to observe a Russian military exercise taking place that week. Furthermore, due to the Russian exercise taking place, fighter jets that were on “alert”–ready for immediate takeoff if required–were carrying extra fuel and weapons, which meant their maximum speed was significantly reduced by the additional weight they carried.

At 9:04 a.m., NEADS contacted McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey to see if it had any tankers available that could support the fighters that had taken off in response to the first hijacking that morning and was told the base had two tankers airborne, which were carrying plenty of fuel. About 10 minutes later, NEADS directed one or perhaps both of these tankers into military training airspace east of New Jersey, over the Atlantic Ocean.

Just after 9:30 a.m., NEADS redirected one of these aircraft to a different area of military training airspace, off the coast of Maryland. Minutes earlier, it had instructed a third tanker from McGuire that was in the training airspace east of New Jersey to remain where it was, presumably so it would be available to refuel fighters if necessary.


Several new entries describe actions of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In response to the attacks, the “Central Locator System” at FEMA headquarters began determining the locations of key government officials.

Meanwhile, personnel at FEMA’s Region II office in New York experienced communication problems following the attacks on the WTC and consequently an employee was instructed to go to the WTC site to liaise with officials there. Due to the South Tower collapsing, however, the employee went instead to the police headquarters, but, once there, he experienced various difficulties as he tried to respond to the attacks. At some time that day, a temporary Region II headquarters was established at an Army base in New Jersey, but the original Region II office in New York was back in operation by the following afternoon.


Other entries describe how the US government started arranging to send remotely controlled Predator aircraft over Afghanistan while the attacks were still underway. Shortly before the Pentagon was hit, Colonel Bill Grimes, who headed a secretive Air Force program based in Ohio, received a call from Air Force headquarters in which he was asked what needed to be done to get three Predators, and whatever was needed to fly them over Afghanistan, ready to go.

Meanwhile, within an hour of the first attack on the WTC, Lieutenant General Donald Cook, acting commander of the Air Combat Command, similarly received a call in which he was told the White House wanted to know how soon the Air Force could deploy Predators over Afghanistan. And two Air Force intelligence officers who were visiting Arizona were ordered to return to Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, as soon as possible to get the Predator ready to be used over Afghanistan.

On September 12, a cargo plane took off from a Navy base in California to transport three Predators to Washington, where they would be ready to be sent to Afghanistan.


A few timeline entries describe miscellaneous other events from the day of 9/11. Senior officers at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska heard numerous reports throughout the day about serious terrorist activities, which turned out to be incorrect. At around midday, an AWACS plane took off from Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, which subsequently accompanied the president’s plane as it made its way back to Washington. And early that afternoon, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who was on Air Force One with President Bush, told reporters on the plane that Bush had received “no warnings” of the terrorist attacks.

Finally, some new entries cover miscellaneous events that occurred in the years before 9/11. In 1974, an unemployed former tire salesman tried to hijack a commercial aircraft with the intent of crashing it into the White House but committed suicide when his attempt ran into difficulties. In 1989, renowned investigative reporter Jack Anderson warned in a television documentary that terrorists could crash a plane into a landmark building in Washington, such as the Pentagon or the White House.

In December 1998, NORAD conducted an exercise in which simulated missiles were injected into its radar systems, apparently in the same way that simulated information was injected onto its radar screens during an exercise on September 11. In 1999 or possibly earlier, award-winning playwright Tony Kushner wrote a play in which, presciently, Osama bin Laden was referred to and a character warned that Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban was “coming to New York.”

And at some time in the months before 9/11, President Bush canceled plans to upgrade the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, a bunker below the White House where numerous government officials went to respond to the attacks on September 11.

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October 28, 2009

Rumsfeld: Worse than Clinton

Filed under: Document Collection — kevinfenton @ 3:11 pm
Tags: , , ,

This made me laugh. It’s from a 9/11 Commission memo summarising an interview with RAND staffers:

Did the military trust Clinton to use force responsibly? Yes, they disliked Clinton until they saw Rumsfeld.

You can find that on page 81 of the PDF file.

September 11, 2009

Former Powell Chief of Staff: Cheney Is a ‘Sith Lord’

There was a great interview with Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, at a website called The Public Record yesterday. I’d never heard of the website before, but it seems pretty sound. The whole interview is worth reading and covers lots of interesting ground, but here are just a few of the key excerpts:


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