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July 29, 2017

New 9/11 Timeline Entries: President Bush’s Actions on September 11 and More


A large number of entries have been added to the Complete 9/11 Timeline at History Commons, most of which provide important details about the actions of President George W. Bush and his entourage on September 11, 2001.

President Bush Visited a School in Florida

President Bush received his daily intelligence briefing early in the morning of September 11, but the briefing included nothing about terrorism. A short time later, numerous members of his staff learned that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center as his motorcade headed to the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, and yet no one told him what had happened at that time.

Bush was told about the crash for the first time by Deborah Loewer, director of the White House Situation Room, after his limousine arrived at the school. Subsequently, his senior adviser, Karl Rove, also told him about the crash. However, the president still took his time chatting with members of the official greeting party at the school, even though he was told he had to take an important call from National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Secret Service agents who were with the president were unable to obtain any information about the crash at the WTC from their colleagues in Washington, DC, after they arrived at the school. Meanwhile, Mike Morell, Bush’s CIA briefer, called the CIA’s operations center when he reached the school and learned that the North Tower had been hit by a large commercial airliner. But personnel on Air Force One were unable to obtain precise information about what was happening, even after the second hijacked plane crashed into the WTC, at 9:03 a.m., and one officer wondered if a nation-state was behind the attacks.

Despite what had happened in New York, Bush decided to continue with the scheduled event at the school and at 9:02 a.m. entered a classroom to listen to the children there reading. A short time later, Andrew Card, his chief of staff, learned that a second plane had hit the WTC, and immediately thought Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda were responsible. Minutes later, Card entered the classroom and told the president that America was “under attack.”

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer then held up a message for the president, instructing him, “DON’T SAY ANYTHING YET.” Bush therefore remained seated and listened to the children reading a story about a pet goat for the next five minutes. Even after the children finished the story, Bush stayed in the classroom to ask them questions and talk to the school’s principal.

Bush’s Staffers Were Concerned that Terrorists Would Attack the School

Major Paul Montanus, Bush’s military aide, wanted the president and his entourage to leave the school when he saw the second crash live on TV, and yet no evacuation took place at that time. And after the second crash occurred, Secret Service agents and other staffers accompanying the president were concerned that Bush could be in danger, with some of them worrying that terrorists might try to attack the school. But even after the reading demonstration ended, Bush was allowed to stay at the school.

Secret Service agents apparently only prepared to get him away from there at around 9:30 a.m. The motorcade only left the school to take the president and his entourage to Air Force One at around 9:34 a.m., more than half an hour after the second attack on the WTC took place.

The Secret Service was concerned that Bush might be attacked by terrorists as he was being driven to the Sarasota airport and provided his limousine with extensive security. During the journey, Bush talked to Condoleezza Rice using a cell phone and she told him the Pentagon had been attacked. The president and his entourage arrived at the airport by around 9:45 a.m. and then boarded Air Force One.

Palestinian Group Reportedly Claimed Responsibility for the Attacks

New timeline entries describe how, around that time, it was reported that a radical Palestinian group called the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) had claimed responsibility for the attacks on the WTC. But a short time later, the group publicly denied being behind the attacks.

Bush asked Mike Morell about the DFLP’s reported claim while Air Force One flew from Sarasota to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana and Morell said the group lacked the capability to carry out the attacks. Morell then called CIA headquarters, spoke to Cofer Black, director of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, and was told by him that the agency knew “little beyond what the rest of the world knew” about the attacks.

As Air Force One approached Barksdale, Ari Fleischer told the reporters on board that Bush was being evacuated “for his safety and the safety of the country.” After the plane landed at the base, a member of Congress on board asked Morell who he thought was behind the attacks on the United States and Morell said he was sure al-Qaeda was to blame. Later on, after the plane took off from the base, Bush asked Morell the same question and Morell again answered that he was certain al-Qaeda was responsible.

While he was at Barksdale, Bush argued with his colleagues about where he should go next and was told it was unsafe for him to return to Washington. At 2:50 p.m., after leaving Barksdale, his plane landed at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, where personnel had been preparing for his possible arrival. Remarkably, a local TV channel had people at the base and was therefore able to show live coverage of Air Force One landing there. After getting off his plane, Bush was taken to a command center several stories underground where he was given an update on the attacks.

When Air Force One left Offutt, at around 4:30 p.m., the plane finally headed toward Washington. During the journey to the capital, Morell passed on to Bush all the information the CIA by then had relating to the attacks, which included a warning that a group of al-Qaeda terrorists might be in the US, preparing for a second wave of attacks. Meanwhile, fearing that there could be a biological attack on the US, Dr. Richard Tubb, the White House physician, gave all the passengers on Air Force One a week’s worth of Cipro, a drug used to treat anthrax.

Bush Had Problems Communicating with Washington

Several timeline entries describe the significant problems Bush experienced communicating with his colleagues in Washington while the attacks were underway and throughout the day of 9/11. His attempts at making calls on a secure line while he was being driven from the Booker Elementary School to the Sarasota airport were unsuccessful because all the secure lines were down. And along with his staffers, he had problems communicating with colleagues in Washington after Air Force One left Sarasota.

White House counsellor Karen Hughes tried calling Bush from the capital but, to her alarm, the operator said he was unable to connect her to Air Force One. Additionally, Bush and his staffers were limited in their awareness of the catastrophe that was taking place because the TV reception on the plane was weak and intermittent.

Lives Were Saved by Orders that Kept Police Officers Away from the WTC

A few entries describe incidents that occurred in New York, shortly before and shortly after the first WTC tower collapsed. Numerous members of New York Police Department’s elite Emergency Service Unit avoided dying in the collapse because they were given an order that meant they had to get out of the WTC or delay going into it.

Around the same time, Joseph Morris, a commanding officer with the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD), told numerous PAPD officers to initially stay away from the Twin Towers after they arrived near the WTC and thus likely prevented many of them from being killed when the South Tower collapsed, at 9:59 a.m. After the South Tower came down, Morris ordered that the PAPD’s command bus be moved further away from the WTC and thereby likely prevented those in it being killed when the North Tower collapsed, at 10:28 a.m.

Finally, a couple of entries describe events that occurred before September 11. Around late July 2000, the Joint Forces Intelligence Command held a briefing in which the WTC and the Pentagon were identified as the buildings in the US most likely to be attacked by terrorists. And in June 2001, ABC News reporter John Miller gave a speech in which he discussed the growing indications that Osama bin Laden planned to carry out an attack in the US.

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September 15, 2014

New 9/11 Timeline Entries: White House Staffers’ Actions on 9/11, President Apparently in Danger, and More

Filed under: Complete 911 Timeline — Matt @ 2:40 am
Tags: , , ,

A large number of entries have been added to the Complete 9/11 Timeline at History Commons. Most of these focus on the events of September 11, 2001, including the actions of White House personnel in response to the terrorist attacks that day, and a number of apparent threats to President Bush and his plane, Air Force One.

White House Officials Visited Emergency Bunker during Exercise

A new timeline entry describes a training exercise held shortly before 9/11 in which some senior White House staffers were shown to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), a bunker below the White House where numerous government officials went on September 11. Following the first attack on September 11, Josh Bolten, the deputy White House chief of staff, was called by a former member of the Clinton administration who wanted to check that he was aware of the PEOC.

Bolten, according to his own recollection, alerted National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to the second crash at the World Trade Center after seeing coverage of it on television. Later on, he headed to the PEOC where he joined Vice President Dick Cheney and other government officials.

Also early on the morning of September 11, a sheriff in Sarasota, Florida, was surprised to find that when he contacted colleagues who were with President Bush’s Secret Service detail, shortly after he saw the TV reports of the first crash at the WTC, those colleagues were unaware of what had happened in New York.

Meanwhile, Karl Rove, Bush’s senior adviser, learned about the first crash when his assistant called him from the White House about it, and he then went to pass on the news to the president. Rove and other members of the president’s staff who assembled in the staff hold at the school in Sarasota that Bush was visiting were promptly informed when the second plane hit the WTC, but then had to locate a TV to see the news reports of the incident because, unusually, a television had not already been set up in the staff hold.

White House Staffers Headed to DaimlerChrysler Office

A number of new entries focus on the actions of government employees at the White House in response to the 9/11 attacks.

Prior to being evacuated from the White House, staffers were ordered to go to the White House mess, the exclusive dining room in the basement of the West Wing. After they were evacuated from the White House, many of the staffers went to the office of DaimlerChrysler in Washington, DC, where they were able to continue their work for the rest of the day. Around midday, though, some senior officials were allowed to leave there and return to the White House.

Before he went to the DaimlerChrysler building, David Frum, one of President Bush’s speechwriters, talked on the phone with Richard Perle, the chairman of the Defense Policy Board, and Perle said that Bush needed to say he would hold not just terrorists but also the nations that harbor them responsible for the morning’s attacks.

Security Increased around Air Force One

Air Force One, the president’s plane, features in several new timeline entries.

Although numerous government agencies contacted the plane after the second crash at the WTC, none of these agencies had called it after the first crash. In response to the second crash, though, Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, was told to assume that the plane was a target, and security around it was increased. After the president’s motorcade reached the plane, reporters accompanying the president were subjected to a strict security check by Secret Service agents before they were allowed to board.

President Appeared to Be a Terrorist Target

Other entries describe incidents in which President Bush seemed to be in danger.

Early on the morning of September 11, a Sudanese man contacted police in Sarasota to report his concerns about a friend who he feared might be a danger to Bush while he was visiting the area. Also, apparently early that morning, a group of Middle Eastern men arrived at the resort where Bush had spent the night and falsely claimed to have an interview with the president.

White House chief of staff Andrew Card has claimed he learned that a threat had been made against Air Force One while he and Bush were being driven away from the school they visited that morning, although other accounts have indicated that a threat against the plane had not been made at that time. Then, as Air Force One was preparing to take off with Bush on board, Mark Tillman was warned that a man, possibly carrying a gun, was standing at the end of the runway, but this apparent threat turned out to be unfounded.

At around 10:30 a.m., the White House received an anonymous phone call in which the caller said Air Force One would be the next terrorist target. Dick Cheney, after being alerted to the call, phoned Bush and told him about it. The apparent threat was subsequently determined to be unfounded, but government officials have given conflicting accounts of the incident in the following years.

Later in the morning of September 11, Tillman was informed that unidentified fast-moving aircraft were flying toward his plane, and he became concerned that these could be armed fighter jets piloted by foreign nationals. A short time later, he was told that an unidentified aircraft was again flying toward Air Force One, but this turned out to be just a Learjet flown by a civilian. Hours later, as Air Force One was approaching Washington, yet another unidentified aircraft was noticed flying toward the president’s plane, but this again turned out to be just a Learjet, “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Emergency Transmitter Activated in Michigan

Other new timeline entries describe some miscellaneous events from September 11.

Inexplicably, a radio transmitter carried by aircraft that is designed to go off if a plane crashes was activated in southeast Michigan shortly before 10:00 a.m. that morning. And yet it appears that no such transmitter went off when the fourth hijacked plane, Flight 93, crashed just after 10:00 a.m. Flight 93’s transponder, though, was reactivated just before the plane crashed, thereby revealing information about the flight to air traffic controllers.

And at some time during the afternoon of September 11, three senior government officials went from the White House to the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters and discussed the government’s response to the terrorist attacks with officials there.

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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.

September 6, 2009

Newly Found Document Indicates Bush Administration Knew Repeat of 9/11 Unlikely by 2003


The title of a 2003 Senior Executive Intelligence Brief (SEIB) item indicates that by late 2003 the CIA had concluded it would be hard for al-Qaeda to pull off another 9/11. The item was entitled “Terrorism Complexities Make Repeating September 11 Difficult” and was circulated to top policy officials on December 16, 2003.

The precise circulation of SEIBs varied from administration to administration, but they were usually seen by officials such as the secretary of state, attorney general, vice president and others of similar rank. SEIB items are often used as presidential daily brief items, so it is likely that President George Bush also saw the information in mid-December 2003.

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