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April 22, 2019

New 9/11 Timeline Entries: Government Agencies’ Initial Responses to the Attacks, John O’Neill’s Warnings about Al-Qaeda, and More

Filed under: Complete 911 Timeline — Matt @ 3:20 am
Tags: , , , ,

A large number of new entries have been added to the Complete 9/11 Timeline at History Commons, covering a wide range of events relating to the 9/11 attacks. Entries cover, among other things, various warning signs of what was going to happen on September 11, 2001; the actions of John O’Neill, the FBI’s top al-Qaeda expert; and new details of what happened on the day of 9/11.

CIA Was Initially Unsure Which Group Was Likely Behind the Attacks

Many entries describe events that occurred on September 11, 2001. Some of them describe the initial reactions and responses of government and military agencies to the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Top officials at CIA headquarters learned about the first crash during their regular 8:30 a.m. meeting, but they were initially unsure whether the incident was a terrorist attack or an accident. However, Richard Blee, chief of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, immediately told his colleagues at the Counterterrorist Center at CIA headquarters, “That’s bin Laden or al-Qaeda” when he saw the coverage of the crash on television. Unlike him, though, some analysts at the Counterterrorist Center initially concluded that Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group, was to blame for the attacks. An article written by CIA analysts published a week or two before then had in fact claimed that Hezbollah was a greater threat to the United States than al-Qaeda.

Later on, Blee asked the FAA liaison at the Counterterrorist Center to provide the CIA with the passenger lists for the hijacked planes, but the liaison refused and so Blee had to ask FBI agents deployed to his unit to see if they could get the lists for him. Consequently, at around 1:00 p.m., CIA Director George Tenet received copies of the lists and he immediately noticed that the list for Flight 77 included the names of two known al-Qaeda members.

Later that afternoon, a few FBI agents in New York were told the names of some suspected hijackers during a conference call with FBI headquarters and one of the agents became enraged when he recognized one of these suspected hijackers as someone the FBI had been investigating.

Government Lawyers Discussed the Terrorist Attacks

After the second crash at the WTC, Timothy Flanigan, the deputy White House counsel, talked on the phone with Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson and was told what the Justice Department knew about the crashes, and he was surprised to hear that the FBI was treating them as crimes rather than acts of war.

Later that morning, Flanigan and another White House lawyer discussed whether the president had the legal authority to order the shooting down of a civilian aircraft, and they consulted a lawyer at the Pentagon who told them he did have this authority. That afternoon, Flanigan discussed how the US government could respond to the terrorist attacks with White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and John Yoo, a deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel, and Yoo said the president “could take just about any action he wished.”

Meanwhile, at the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in Washington, DC, Bruce Baughman, a senior official with the agency, had to take charge because FEMA’s top officials were away from Washington, attending a conference. At the Pentagon, Defense Intelligence Agency personnel “swung into crisis management” in response to the attacks on the WTC, but they did not evacuate and so a number of them were killed when the Pentagon was attacked, at 9:37 a.m.

However, bomb technicians from the FBI’s New York field office were more fortunate, surviving the attacks because they were away for training that morning, while the one technician who stayed behind in New York died when the WTC collapsed as he was responding to the crashes.

When the Twin Towers came down, the New York field office was rendered unusable and so FBI agents quickly established a makeshift replacement facility at a parking garage in Manhattan, where they were based over the next few weeks. Meanwhile, two FBI agents in Phoenix, Arizona, visited a local flight school to see if any suspicious students had been there recently and the manager immediately gave them the file of Hani Hanjour, the hijacker who reportedly was at the controls of Flight 77 when it crashed into the Pentagon.

Flight 77 Passenger Called Her Husband from the Hijacked Plane

Several new timeline entries describe the attempts by Barbara Olson, a passenger on Flight 77, to call her husband, Ted Olson, the solicitor general of the United States, on the morning of September 11 and her two successful calls from the hijacked plane.

Beginning at around 9:00 a.m., a secretary in Ted Olson’s office at the Department of Justice received a series of unsuccessful calls featuring just an automated message, which were presumably made by Barbara Olson. Barbara Olson’s first successful call, made sometime between 9:15 a.m. and 9:25 a.m., initially reached an operator, who Barbara Olson provided with details of the hijacking before she was connected to her husband’s office. Barbara Olson then talked to Ted Olson and gave him several details of the hijacking, but the call got cut off after about a minute.

Ted Olson promptly called the Department of Justice command center and passed on the information his wife had given to him. Then, at sometime between 9:20 a.m. and 9:30 a.m., he received a second call from his wife in which she gave him further details of the hijacking of Flight 77 before the call got cut off. Subsequently, when Ted Olson saw the television reports about an explosion at the Pentagon, he immediately concluded that his wife’s plane had crashed at the Department of Defense’s headquarters.

Barbara Olson’s calls to her husband were believed to be among four calls from Flight 77 that were recorded as being made to unknown numbers, although there was no “direct evidence” showing this. It is also possible that Barbara Olson called her husband’s number at his old law firm that morning and left voicemail messages for him.

FAA Followed an Unidentified Plane Approaching Washington before the Pentagon Was Hit

A few entries describe miscellaneous events from the day of 9/11.

At FAA headquarters, officials followed an unidentified aircraft–presumably Flight 77, which reportedly crashed into the Pentagon–as it approached Washington and its progress was reported over a teleconference. Around the same time, senior officials in the Executive Support Center at the Pentagon who were discussing how to respond to the attacks on the WTC rejected the idea of evacuating their building.

After the Pentagon was hit, authorities failed to evacuate Secretary of Commerce Don Evans from his office at the Commerce Department in line with “Continuity of Government” plans and so Evans eventually went home of his own accord. And shortly after the Pentagon was attacked, firefighters were sent to the White House after the Secret Service incorrectly reported that a plane had crashed into it.

Later on, personnel in the White House Situation Room learned of a plane supposedly flying toward the US from Portugal that appeared to be hijacked, but it is was subsequently determined that the alleged flight did not exist. And I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, wondered if the recent assassination of Ahmed Shah Massoud, the leader of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, was carried out as part of the preparations for the day’s terrorist attacks.

Sometime that afternoon, Cheney’s doctors received the results of a blood test, which indicated that the vice president was at serious risk of a heart attack. Despite the apparent danger, Cheney refused to have another blood sample taken that evening, but tests on a sample he gave the following morning showed that the previous test results were incorrect and his health was in fact fine.

Some Officials Warned of the Danger Posed by Al-Qaeda

Numerous new timeline entries cover events that took place in the years before 9/11. Some of them describe incidents that indicated the type of attacks that would occur on September 11 or the predictions of those who foresaw these kinds of attacks.

FBI terrorism experts met after the bombing of the WTC in February 1993 to try and imagine what future terrorist attacks might involve, and they all agreed that these attacks could include multiple hijackings. And in January 2001, an interagency group recommended that federal buildings in Lower Manhattan, where the WTC was located, receive increased protection, due to the threat of terrorism. Also that month, Richard Clarke, the White House chief of counterterrorism, and Dale Watson, assistant director of the FBI’s counterterrorism division, met senior FBI agents from all around the US and warned them about the threat posed by al-Qaeda.

Furthermore, in April 1995, terrorist conspirator Abdul Hakim Murad gave FBI agents details of plots against the United States while he was being flown from the Philippines to the US, and one possible future attack he mentioned was a second bombing of the WTC.

FBI Counterterrorism Official Repeatedly Warned of the Al-Qaeda Threat

A number of entries describe the actions of John O’Neill, the FBI’s top expert on al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. Some of these entries deal with warnings O’Neill gave before 9/11 about the danger facing America.

In June 1997, O’Neill gave an extensive speech in which he warned of the threat posed by religious extremist groups, although he made no mention of bin Laden. And in May 2001, following the convictions of four men for their involvement in the 1998 bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, he told a colleague that more al-Qaeda attacks were going to occur.

In summer 2001, O’Neill and two other senior FBI officials met New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, and presented evidence of an imminent al-Qaeda plot, although they said any attack was most likely to occur outside the US. Around the same time, O’Neill talked to Kerik during an event in Washington and told him something “enormous” was going to happen, but he said it would occur abroad rather than in the US.

Other entries describe events that caused O’Neill to get in trouble with his superiors and led to his early retirement from the FBI in August 2001. O’Neill was placed under investigation after an incident in the summer of 1999, when he violated security protocols by taking his girlfriend to a secret FBI garage and letting her use the bathroom there. In April 2000, he accidentally left his handheld computer, which held the details of his police contacts, at the Yankee Stadium, although a guard was fortunately able to retrieve it for him.

The most serious incident occurred in July 2000, when his briefcase, which contained important classified information, was stolen after he left it unattended during a conference. Just over a year later, the New York Times publicly revealed that the FBI had been investigating O’Neill over this incident.

Hijackers Threatened to Crash a Plane into a Building in the 1970s

A few entries cover miscellaneous events that took place before 9/11. Two entries describe incidents from the 1970s. Organizers of the 1972 Munich Olympics asked police psychologist Georg Sieber to predict worst-case scenarios for the games and one of the scenarios he then came up with involved neo-fascists deliberately crashing a jet aircraft into the packed Olympic Stadium in a suicide attack. Later that year, three men hijacked a commercial airliner and threatened to crash it into a nuclear plant, and authorities subsequently feared they might crash it into President Richard Nixon’s winter home in Florida.

A couple of entries describe training events that took place shortly before 9/11. A coalition of public and private organizations participated in two exercises in the summer of 2001, based on the scenario of a major hurricane hitting Long Island, New York, and these organizations benefited from the experience just weeks later, when they had to respond to the attacks on the WTC. And in July 2001, presumably as part of a training exercise, officials contemplated how they would respond to a chemical terrorist attack in the middle of Washington.

CIA Official Called 9/11 ‘a Triumph for the Intelligence Community’

Finally, a few entries cover events that occurred shortly after 9/11.

The FBI’s New York field office, which usually dealt with al-Qaeda attacks, argued with FBI headquarters over which of them should lead the investigation of the 9/11 attacks and, against precedent, FBI Director Robert Mueller put the headquarters in charge of it.

Three days after 9/11, New York’s Office of Emergency Management opened a massive new operations center at Pier 92 on the Hudson River, since its original operations center was destroyed when WTC Building 7, where it was located, collapsed on the afternoon of September 11.

And, alarmingly, an unnamed high-ranking CIA official told a reporter that be believed Americans would eventually see that “September 11 was a triumph for the intelligence community, not a failure.”

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July 24, 2018

New 9/11 Timeline Entries: The Office of Emergency Management on 9/11, the FBI’s Response to the Attacks, Events at the Pentagon, and More


New entries have been added to the Complete 9/11 Timeline at History Commons, which describe many incidents relating to the 9/11 attacks, including new details of what happened on September 11, 2001, and some notable pre-9/11 events.

Fire Alarm System in WTC 7 Was on ‘Test Condition’

Several new timeline entries describe incidents that occurred on September 11 in World Trade Center Building 7, a 47-story skyscraper located north of the Twin Towers that collapsed at 5:20 p.m. that day. At 8:46 a.m., when the first hijacked plane crashed into the North Tower, the electrical power in WTC 7 briefly went off for reasons that are unclear. Similarly, at 9:03 a.m., when the second hijacked plane hit the South Tower, “primary power” was lost and alarms warned that there was no water pressure in the building.

Also, for a period of eight hours, beginning at 6:47 a.m., the fire alarm system in WTC 7 was on “test condition,” which meant any alarms would be ignored. The alarm system had in fact been placed on test condition every morning in the week before then. Despite being in this mode, it detected a possible fire at 10:00 a.m., although this could have been the result of dust from the collapse of the South Tower entering smoke detectors rather than an actual fire occurring in WTC 7.

Office of Emergency Management’s Operations Center Was Activated

A number of entries describe the activities of New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM), which had its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) on the 23rd floor of WTC 7. Shortly after the first crash occurred, the OEM activated the EOC in order to manage the city’s response to the incident. Then, at some point after the second crash, OEM staffers contacted the FAA to request fighter jets and were told federal support was on the way. Later on, apparently around 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon was attacked, firefighter Timothy Brown, a supervisor at the OEM, tried calling the White House and other agencies in Washington, DC, about getting fighters to protect New York but was unable to reach them.

Additionally, at around 9:30 a.m. OEM personnel were reluctantly evacuated from the EOC following a report that more commercial planes were unaccounted for. However, shortly after the Pentagon was hit, Brown heard over his radio that a suspicious aircraft that was supposedly heading toward New York had crashed. Later in the day, the OEM set up a new EOC at the Police Academy where its personnel got to work on the logistics of the rescue operation.

FBI Sent Specialized Teams to the WTC Site

Several new entries describe actions of the FBI around the time the terrorist attacks occurred. Early in the morning of September 11, New York agent Steve Bongardt read a report, which stated that al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was reopening his underground facility in Afghanistan.

Following the first attack, Barry Mawn, director of the FBI’s New York office, sent specialized teams, including the Joint Terrorism Task Force, to the WTC site, even though he supposedly thought the crash was an accident. Meanwhile, at the FBI’s headquarters in Washington, FBI Director Robert Mueller was alerted to the crash during his daily briefing with his senior staff, but he too did not initially realize the incident was a terrorist attack.

However, after the second hijacked plane hit the WTC, the FBI activated the Strategic Information and Operations Center at its headquarters, from where it subsequently coordinated its response to the attacks. Mueller was called from New York by Mawn, who told him fighters were needed to protect the city. And after the Pentagon was hit, nonessential employees were evacuated from the headquarters, apparently due to fears that the building could be a terrorist target.

Security Cameras Recorded the Attack on the Pentagon

A number of entries describe events at the Pentagon on September 11. Just before the headquarters of the Department of Defense was attacked, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his CIA briefer noticed a helicopter flying very close to the building, outside the window of Rumsfeld’s office.

When the Pentagon was hit, two security cameras located north of the crash site captured the impact, but the video they recorded was withheld from the public until 2006. Other security cameras failed to capture the attack because they were switched off or had been taken down due to construction work that was being carried out.

At some point later on that day, Secretary of the Army Thomas White was ordered to leave the Pentagon and go to a secure location outside Washington, but the decision to send him there was then found to have been a mistake and so he subsequently returned to the Pentagon.

Other entries describe a couple of miscellaneous events from the day of 9/11. After the planes crashed into the WTC, employees at Goldman Sachs’s Lower Manhattan offices were instructed to keep trading so the company could make money out of what was happening, according to a former managing director at the bank. And shortly before 10:30 a.m., during an interview with Fox News, former Secretary of State Alexander Haig suggested that al-Qaeda was behind the day’s terrorist attacks, even though he also said he didn’t “have inside knowledge.”

Security at the WTC Was Increased Just before 9/11

Several timeline entries describe notable events that occurred before 9/11. In March 2000, an operatic version of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale was performed, which included a mock newsreel that reportedly showed the WTC being blown up. Also that month, a Justice Department lawyer wrote an analysis that, presciently, considered the legal issues involved in shooting down a commercial aircraft that was under the control of terrorists who intended to use it as a weapon.

Just two weeks before 9/11, security at the WTC was inexplicably raised. And, four days before 9/11, the radical British imam Abu Hamza al-Masri received a tip-off in a phone call from Afghanistan, which he believed was referring to an imminent attack on the United States. Then, on the evening before 9/11, stand-up comic George Carlin performed a new joke, which, ironically, was about a passenger aircraft exploding in mid-air and Osama bin Laden getting blamed for this.

Finally, a couple of new entries describe events that occurred after September 11. In the weeks following 9/11, morticians at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, found a secret note in the stomach of one of the Flight 77 passengers who died in the Pentagon attack, which the passenger wrote and then ate shortly before their death, but the morticians have refused to reveal what it says. And, as late as 2005, for reasons that are unstated, two of the planes that were hijacked and destroyed in the 9/11 attacks were still listed in the FAA’s aircraft registry as “active.”

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March 11, 2016

New 9/11 Timeline Entries: Training Exercises, NORAD’s Commander on 9/11, United Airlines’ Response to the Attacks, and More

Filed under: Complete 911 Timeline — Matt @ 4:50 am
Tags: , , ,

Many entries have been added to the Complete 9/11 Timeline at History Commons, which describe a variety of events relating to the 9/11 attacks, with numerous entries revealing new details of the events of September 11, 2001.

Training Exercises Were Held in the Run-Up to 9/11

Several new timeline entries describe training exercises that were held in the years and months before 9/11. In May 1998, an exercise was held at the Pentagon called Cloudy Office, which was based around the scenario of a terrorist attack at the Pentagon involving chemical weapons.

In February 2001, the FBI’s Washington, DC, field office started sponsoring training with local fire department and law enforcement commanders on how emergency response workers and the FBI should coordinate their actions if there was a terrorist attack in the Washington area. Just two or three days before 9/11, the Washington field office and various other agencies held an exercise in Northern Virginia, based around the scenario of a terrorist attack involving chemical weapons.

And United Airlines, which had two of its planes hijacked on September 11, held a surprise exercise 12 days before 9/11 in which employees were led to believe one of their planes had crashed.

Special Forces Personnel Were Involved in Exercises on September 11

Other new entries describe exercises that were taking place when the 9/11 attacks occurred. For example, members of America’s “top counterterrorism unit”–the Joint Special Operations Command–were out of the US on September 11, participating in a counterterrorism exercise in Europe called Jackal Cave. Members of the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Emergency Search Team were also away from the US that day, due to their participation in this exercise.

Jackal Cave was “nested” in a larger counterterrorism exercise called Ellipse Bravo. Hundreds of US military personnel were preparing for this exercise, run by the United States European Command, when the 9/11 attacks took place.

Furthermore, members of Delta Force–the US Army’s elite counterterrorist unit–who were in Europe for Jackal Cave received many false reports of attacks that had supposedly occurred and it took two days before they had an accurate picture of what actually happened in the US on September 11.

Situation Room Staffers Stayed in the White House, despite Being Advised to Evacuate

Numerous timeline entries describe other events that took place on September 11. One entry describes how Secretary of the Navy Gordon England was unable to communicate with colleagues on the ground while being flown from Texas back to Washington, after he learned of the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Another entry describes how personnel in the White House Situation Room refused the advice they were given to evacuate and then sent out a list of their names, in case an aircraft crashed into the White House. And a communications officer in the Situation Room was unable to make contact with Air Force One as it flew President Bush from Sarasota, Florida, to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.

Furthermore, before Air Force One left Sarasota, NORAD personnel were told they would not need to provide fighter jets to escort the president’s plane after it took off. And just before 11:00 a.m., a member of staff at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) told someone he was talking to on the phone to keep quiet about the location of Air Force One and the fact that the plane was airborne.

Some entries describe events at United Airlines’ headquarters. After he was told an American Airlines plane had crashed into the World Trade Center, Andy Studdert, United Airlines’ chief operating officer, went to the airline’s operations center to help respond to the incident. Then, at around 9:00 a.m., the airline’s crisis center was activated and personnel responded to the attacks from there. After United Airlines learned that its aircraft, Flight 93, had been hijacked, Studdert tried to come up with a plan on how a non-pilot could land a Boeing 757, in case Flight 93’s passengers and crew were able to retake control of the plane from its hijackers.

NORAD Commander Learned of the Attacks and Later Headed to His Operations Center

A few entries describe the actions of General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD, on September 11. Eberhart learned of the crisis when he received a phone call at his home at around 8:45 a.m. in which he was told a plane had been hijacked and he then headed to his office at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. After he saw the second hijacked plane hitting the World Trade Center on television at 9:03 a.m., Eberhart contemplated going to NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center but he didn’t head there until around 9:30 a.m.

Just after 10:00 a.m., it was reported that Eberhart had officially declared “concern” for the crisis that was taking place, thereby triggering a number of consequences. Early in the afternoon, personnel in the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center were told that a suspicious truck, or a number of trucks, carrying several Arab-looking men was heading their way, but the apparent threat turned out to be a false alarm.

Novels Were Being Written before September 11 with Plots Resembling the 9/11 Attacks

Some new entries describe miscellaneous events from the period leading up to 9/11. A couple of entries describe novels that were being written in the months before 9/11, with storylines that resembled the 9/11 attacks. Joel Rosenberg, a communications strategist, was writing a novel in which suicide terrorists attempted to crash a plane into the president’s motorcade. Apparently around the same time, well-known British actor Michael Caine was writing a novel in which terrorists crashed a plane into a skyscraper, but he stopped working on it in response to the 9/11 attacks.

At some time before 9/11, the FAA’s intelligence division held a conference call to examine the idea of “suicide attackers,” during which an expert on the subject said a suicide attack on aviation was unlikely. However, an assessment was published on September 11, apparently by the FAA, which stated that if an aircraft hijacking took place within the US, it would be part of a suicide attack.

And around three months before 9/11, White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke gave National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice a checklist of what to do if there was a terrorist attack.

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August 5, 2012

New 9/11 Timeline Entries: Hijacking Exercises, Air Force One’s Movements, Laura Bush on Sept. 11, and More


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

One new timeline entry describes a training exercise based on the scenario of a possible terrorist attack that was run on the morning of September 11 by the US Coast Guard in Tampa Bay, Florida, quite close to Sarasota, where the president was at the time. Another entry deals with a meeting scheduled to take place at the Pentagon that morning, regarding a planned “disaster exercise” at the nearby Navy Annex building.

An entry reveals that a number of FBI agents had, for reasons that are unknown, already arrived at the Navy Annex when the Pentagon was hit. Later on, the Navy set up a new command center at the Navy Annex, after its original command center was destroyed in the Pentagon attack.

Several entries describe the futile attempts of intelligence officers at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) to obtain information about the first hijacking. After learning of the hijacking, a NEADS intelligence officer called the FBI’s Strategic Information and Operations Center and the National Military Joint Intelligence Center at the Pentagon, but neither of them could provide any information. Searches on the SIPRNET–the US military Internet system–also revealed nothing. Furthermore, the threat briefing at NEADS that morning had included no indication of an increase in the terrorist threat level.

Some NEADS personnel have said they were monitoring Flight 93 long before the time at which the 9/11 Commission concluded the military was first alerted to this hijacked aircraft. Also, a commander at NEADS complained that an officer from the NEADS battle cab had come down to the operations floor, where he had been “circumventing my system.” What is more, NEADS personnel only learned that the president’s plane, Air Force One, was airborne about half an hour after it took off from Sarasota.

New entries describe in detail the actions of Laura Bush, the first lady, on September 11. Laura Bush learned of the first crash in New York as she was about to leave the White House and go to Capitol Hill, to attend a hearing there. When her limousine drove off from the White House, she was unaware that a second plane had hit the World Trade Center minutes earlier. She only learned of this second crash just before she reached Capitol Hill.

When she arrived on Capitol Hill, Laura Bush initially spent time with Senator Edward Kennedy in his office. However, her arrival apparently did not lead to any increase in the level of security. She was even allowed to make an appearance before the press, which was shown live on television. But a reporter who attended the appearance was subsequently warned to stay away from the windows of the building, because it was thought that a suspicious aircraft was heading in their direction.

Following the public appearance, Laura Bush and her staff headed to the office of Senator Judd Gregg, on a lower floor of the building. After they waited there for a short time, the Secret Service emergency response team arrived and escorted them out of the building. Laura Bush and her entourage were then driven to the Secret Service headquarters, but they were significantly slowed by the heavy traffic and reportedly arrived about 45 minutes after leaving Capitol Hill.

At the Secret Service headquarters, Laura Bush spoke over the phone with her daughters and her mother. During the afternoon, her Secret Service agents told her to be prepared to leave Washington for several days. Later on, some of her staffers briefly returned to the White House before heading home. Then, after it was learned that the president would be returning to Washington that day, it was decided that the first lady could go back to the White House and so she was driven there early in the evening. When the president subsequently arrived at the White House, he was reunited with his wife there.

Several timeline entries deal with the movements of Air Force One after it left Sarasota with the president on board. The director of the White House Military Office received a call from the White House Situation Room advising him not to bring the president back to Washington, DC. The pilot of Air Force One and some of the president’s staffers then agreed that they should head to somewhere other than Washington. Shortly after taking off, the plane therefore changed course and flew west. At around 10:20 a.m., Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana was identified as a suitable destination for the plane, although a few accounts have claimed that Air Force One headed toward Barksdale about 25 minutes later.

At 10:37 a.m., President Bush was notified that his wife and daughters had been taken to safe locations, although Bush’s daughters reportedly only reached “secure locations” just before 11:00 a.m. At 10:41 a.m., Vice President Dick Cheney called the president and advised him against returning to Washington. Then, as Air Force One approached Barksdale, the president talked over the phone with his wife for the first time that morning.

A few new entries describe events before 9/11, and cover various training exercises. These include a Federal Aviation Administration exercise that was based around a simulated plane hijacking and an FBI exercise, also based around a hijacking, held at Washington Dulles International Airport–the airport from which one of the hijacked planes took off on September 11. Another entry describes the arrival of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) representatives in New York the day before 9/11, ready for a training exercise called “Tripod” that was set to take place on September 12. However, the first FEMA urban search and rescue teams to reach New York following the terrorist attacks only arrived at around 10:30 p.m. on September 11.

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October 6, 2011

New 9/11 Timeline Entries: Training Exercises, False Hijack Reports, Bush on 9/11, and More


A large number of new entries have been added to the Complete 9/11 Timeline at History Commons describing important events that took place on the day of 9/11, while other new entries add to the growing body of information about 9/11-related training exercises.

One new entry describes how, from 1998, the US Secret Service included computer simulations of planes crashing into the White House in its training exercises. Another notable exercise was held early on the morning of September 11 in the White House Situation Room, based on the scenario of a terrorist bombing in the Middle East.

Also relating to training exercises, new details have emerged about an FBI anti-terrorist unit that was stranded away from Washington at the time of the 9/11 attacks. The Critical Incident Response Group arrived in San Francisco the day before 9/11 for a week of training. Such was the unit’s importance that the White House made getting it back to Washington a priority in the hours after the attacks.

New entries describe two mistaken reports of hijacked aircraft on the morning of September 11. One of these aircraft was thought to be targeting NORAD’s operations center in Colorado. This incorrect information may have caused NORAD to close the massive blast doors to the operations center. The other aircraft was thought to be heading toward Air Force One as it flew President Bush away from Sarasota, and this may have been one reason why Air Force One suddenly increased its altitude.

Details of the two phone calls made by Flight 175 passenger Brian Sweeney are described, the first call to his wife and the second to his mother, in which Sweeney described a possible passenger fight back against the hijackers.

An entry describes how an air traffic controller changed the flight plan of the hijacked Flight 93, thereby apparently causing mistaken reports that the plane was still airborne after it crashed. Also, a special plane operated by NASA was flying over New York State at the time of the attacks, and at one point Flight 93 flew less than 1,000 feet below it.

A number of new entries detail President Bush’s time at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, where he recorded a short statement to the nation that was later broadcast on television. Base commanders only learned of the imminent arrival of the president shortly in advance. Yet despite the intended secrecy, a local TV crew was waiting near the base and filmed Air Force One when it landed there.

President Bush was provided with a high level of security after he got off his plane, and two A-10 jets were put on alert to protect the base. But the false alarms continued, with officials at Barksdale receiving reports of unidentified aircraft flying toward the base. While at Barksdale, Bush spent much of his time in the office of Lieutenant General Thomas Keck.

For security reasons, the number of people traveling on Air Force One was significantly reduced after Bush landed at Barksdale. But those remaining behind after Air Force One took off from the base were able to return to Washington later in the afternoon on a specially arranged flight.

Finally, an interesting new entry reveals how a novel by a popular thriller writer, published in 2000, predicted the possibility of a terrorist attack involving a jumbo jet crashing into the World Trade Center.

August 26, 2011

C.I.A. Demands Cuts in Book About 9/11 and Terror Fight

Filed under: Complete 911 Timeline — kevinfenton @ 12:03 pm
Tags: , ,

by Scott Shane, New York Times, August 26, 2011

WASHINGTON — In what amounts to a fight over who gets to write the history of the Sept. 11 attacks and their aftermath, the Central Intelligence Agency is demanding extensive cuts from the memoir of a former F.B.I. agent who spent years near the center of the battle against Al Qaeda.

The agent, Ali H. Soufan, argues in the book that the C.I.A. missed a chance to derail the 2001 plot by withholding from the F.B.I. information about two future 9/11 hijackers living in San Diego, according to several people who have read the manuscript. And he gives a detailed, firsthand account of the C.I.A.’s move toward brutal treatment in its interrogations, saying the harsh methods used on the agency’s first important captive, Abu Zubaydah, were unnecessary and counterproductive.

Neither critique of the C.I.A. is new. In fact, some of the information that the agency argues is classified, according to two people who have seen the correspondence between the F.B.I. and C.I.A., has previously been disclosed in open Congressional hearings, the report of the national commission on 9/11 and even the 2007 memoir of George J. Tenet, the former C.I.A. director.

Continue reading here.

My comment:

The key sentence is: “The agent, Ali H. Soufan, argues in the book that the C.I.A. missed a chance to derail the 2001 plot by withholding from the F.B.I. information about two future 9/11 hijackers living in San Diego, according to several people who have read the manuscript.” Looks like Soufan is finally going to say publicly what I gather he has thought privately for some time.

August 21, 2011

Zacarias Moussaoui: What We Don’t Know Might Hurt Us: A Significant Stimulus for the Reform that Never Came


This article was originally posted at Boiling Frogs Post:

Zacarias Moussaoui, one of the numerous “20th hijackers,” was arrested ten years ago next Tuesday, outside the Residence Inn in Eagan, Minnesota. The arrest was one of the first events in a case that gave the FBI a chance to blow open the 9/11 plot, but resulted in abject humiliation for the bureau when its headquarters’ string of errors was exposed in the press.

The Moussaoui case is a poster boy for the state of our knowledge about the attacks: we have some of the details, but know some are missing. Also, two key questions remain unanswered. This despite the wealth of information that came out at the trial and the fact that Moussaoui, although largely ignored by the 9/11 Commission’s final report—partly due to the forthcoming trial—was a major topic of the Justice Department inspector general’s report into the FBI’s pre-attack failings.

These are the bare bones of the case: Moussaoui had been a known extremist for years prior to his arrest. Before the bureau first heard his name on August 15, he had been under surveillance by French and British intelligence and the CIA, although the agency would claim it only knew him under an alias. He was sent to the US for flight training by alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, possibly to participate in 9/11, possibly to participate in a follow-up operation. However, he was a poor student and dropped out of basic flight school before obtaining a licence and went to learn about flying a Boeing 747, which aroused suspicion.

Carry on reading here.

July 20, 2010

Thomas Pickard and Dale Watson: What Did They Know about Malaysia and When Did They Know It?

Filed under: Complete 911 Timeline — kevinfenton @ 11:46 am
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For some time we have known that the CIA passed on to the FBI general information about al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit, which was attended by 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, as well as other al-Qaeda leaders, in January 2000. However, with the exception of FBI Director Louis Freeh and the two lower-level officials identified only as “Bob” and “Ted” in the Justice Department inspector general’s report into the bureau’s performance before 9/11, we did not know who at the FBI learned of it.

Now, thanks to a letter from senior FBI official Thomas Pickard that 9/11 researcher Erik Larson found in the National Archives, we can add two names to the list. Unsurprisingly, they are Pickard himself, at the time of the Malaysia summit deputy director, but acting director in the summer of 2001, and Dale Watson, head of the counterterrorism at the FBI from 1999 to 2001.

Pickard’s letter, which deals primarily with Attorney General John Ashcroft’s lack of interest in terrorism at a meeting with Pickard on 12 July 2001, is extremely surprising. It has this to say about Malaysia: “I had not told the AG [Ashcroft] about the meeting in Malaysia since I was told by FBI Assistant Director Dale Watson that there was a ‘close hold’ on that info. This means that it was not to be shared with anyone without the explicit approval of the CIA. I then strongly suggested that the AG meet with [CIA Director] George Tenet to get a full briefing on the matter.”

Although the FBI was told of the meeting’s occurrence in January 2000, the CIA withheld from it key details, such as the fact that Almihdhar had a US visa, meaning that the summit appeared substantially less significant to the bureau than it really was. Indeed, although we now fully appreciate the summit as a unique meeting of al-Qaeda leaders, the CIA subsequently claimed that before 9/11 it did not grasp the full import of the summit, at which 9/11 and the USS Cole bombing in Yemen were evidently discussed.

The first two questions we need to ask are simple: What did Pickard and Watson know about the summit and when did they know it? Did they learn of it in January 2000, or later?

We know now that the CIA, in addition to deliberately withholding information about the summit at the time, continued to withhold it when Ali Soufan, the bureau’s case agent on the Cole bombing investigation, deduced that there had been an al-Qaeda meeting in Southeast Asia in January 2000 that was linked to the Cole bombing. He sent three requests to the CIA for information it might have, but the agency repeatedly claimed it knew nothing. The letter makes it clear that, in addition to the CIA, both Pickard and Watson had some of the information about Malaysia that Soufan was seeking. However, they withheld it from Soufan, evidently on the CIA’s instructions. Had Soufan been given the information he requested, his investigation would have led to Almihdhar and Alhazmi, who could have been detained and/or deported, derailing the 9/11 plot. Therefore, we need to ask what Watson and Pickard did to get the information to Soufan. One would certainly expect them to move heaven and earth to assist such an important investigation. By withholding the information in effect they sabotaged one of the bureau’s most important cases.

Finally, we need to know why Pickard thought the Malaysia summit was important in the summer of 2001. Based on the little information he is known to have had about the meeting, he may well have linked it to the Cole bombing, as it came just after a previous failed ship-bombing attempt in Yemen. But why would he link it to the threat reporting in the summer of 2001?

March 18, 2010

Bizarre Misinfo: 9/11 Happened Because Shakir Was Gay

Filed under: Complete 911 Timeline — kevinfenton @ 2:50 am
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The CIA withheld information about al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit from the FBI because one of the peripheral attendees, Ahmad Hikmat Shakir, was gay and the CIA used this as leverage in a failed attempt to recruit him, according to a new story in the New York Observer.

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December 18, 2009

Writing Blind or Turning a Blind Eye? The Confused World of Amy Zegart


I recently had the misfortune to read Spying Blind: The CIA, the FBI, and the Origins of 9/11 by Amy Zegart. I have to say it is the very worst book I have ever read abut 9/11. It was even worse than this one, which, as you can appreciate, is difficult, and it was way, way worse than this one, this one and this FBI press release. I haven’t read this one yet, and I anticipate it will be a lot, lot worse even than Zegart’s attempt, but you never know.

Basically, Zegart takes the 9/11 Commission’s no-fault thesis to the nth degree by claiming the whole thing was systemic failure and holding no individual accountable for his or her failures.

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