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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
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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
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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
Tags: , , , ,

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.

(more…)

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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November 19, 2009

The Sabol-Corsi Consultation: FBI General Counsel’s Take


One of the documents Erik found at the National Archives and posted to the 9/11 Document Archive contains additional information about the failure to find alleged Pentagon hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi. The document, a memo of a 9/11 Commission interview of former FBI General Counsel Larry Parkinson drafted by commission staffer Barbara Grewe, concerns a consultation on August 28, 2001 between Dina Corsi, an FBI headquarters agent, and Sherry Sabol, an attorney at the FBI’s National Security Law Unit.

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November 17, 2009

Another Alias Found

Filed under: Complete 911 Timeline — kevinfenton @ 3:54 pm
Tags: ,

I have found another one of the aliases used in the various 9/11 reports. The real name of Tim, an FBI National Security Law Unit attorney who was consulted about the Zacarias Moussaoui case, is Tom Ainora. Tim is mentioned in the Justice Department inspector general’s report into the FBI’s pre-9/11 failings.

This has been added to the list of aliases post, which you can find here.

I found the name in a document that Eric got from the National Archives and uploaded to the 9/11 Document Archive at Scribd. It is a memo summarising an interview with former FBI General Counsel Larry Parkinson, drafted by 9/11 Commission Special Projects team leader Barbara Grewe. Ainora’s real name is mentioned at the bottom of page 5.

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