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October 22, 2015

New 9/11 Timeline Entries: Pre-9/11 Warnings about Al-Qaeda, Cheney’s Military Aide on 9/11, and More

Filed under: Complete 911 Timeline — Matt @ 5:26 am
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New entries have been added to the Complete 9/11 Timeline at History Commons, which cover various events relating to the 9/11 attacks. Many of them describe warnings about the danger posed by al-Qaeda that were given in the 12 months leading up to 9/11 and some describe events from the day of September 11, 2001, itself.

Donald Rumsfeld Was Concerned about a Possible ‘Modern-Day Version’ of Pearl Harbor

A couple of new timeline entries deal with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s preoccupation, in the months before 9/11, with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in December 1941 that led America to enter World War II. In March 2001, Rumsfeld sent members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff a copy of the foreword to a book, which discussed the US government failures that led to the attack on Pearl Harbor. And in July that year, he wrote a note to himself in which he expressed his fear of the United States experiencing a “modern-day version” of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Other senior officials talked, in the months before 9/11, about the possibility of a Pearl Harbor-like event happening in the future. In June 2001, Army General Tommy Franks, commander in chief of the US Central Command, gave a speech in which he said the US needed to prepare for an “asymmetric” attack resembling the attack on Pearl Harbor. And on the day before 9/11, Charles Nemfakos, deputy under secretary of the Navy, said during a briefing that the US would have to suffer an attack comparable to the attack on Pearl Harbor before it would address the problems with its defense policy.

Officials Warned about the Danger Posed by Al-Qaeda

A number of new entries describe warnings that were made, in the 12 months before 9/11, about al-Qaeda and the possibility that it would carry out an attack in the United States.

In September 2000, CIA officer Ben Bonk warned Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush of the threat posed by Islamic extremist groups and said that, in the next four years, Americans would be sure to die in a terrorist attack. At the end of May 2001, terrorism experts Steven Emerson and Daniel Pipes wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal in which they stated that al-Qaeda was “planning new attacks on the US.”

In the summer of 2001, Tommy Franks raised concerns that al-Qaeda would attack Western facilities in the Middle East using planes loaded with explosives. Four days before 9/11, Franks actually told his intelligence officers his greatest fear was that terrorists would attack the World Trade Center.

One week before 9/11, White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke wrote a memo in which he warned that “hundreds of Americans” could die in an al-Qaeda attack. And on the day before 9/11, a report was issued to Congress, which stated that al-Qaeda “wants to strike within the United States.”

There were also concerns that the Pentagon could be the target of an attack. At some time in the year 2000, a software system commissioned by the Department of Defense determined that the building was vulnerable to a terrorist attack. And, prior to 9/11, some Pentagon Renovation Program workers were concerned about the possibility of a “crazy pilot” deliberately crashing a plane into the Pentagon. And yet, at some unspecified time before 9/11, senior FBI agent John O’Neill told Senate Intelligence Committee staffers there were no threats to aviation in the United States.

Air Defense Exercise Was Based on Bin Laden Attacking Washington

A couple of entries reveal how personnel at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector, who were responsible for protecting the airspace in which the hijackings occurred on September 11, were made aware of the al-Qaeda threat. They were briefed about the danger posed by Osama bin Laden in July 2001, and on August 4, 2001, they participated in a training exercise based around the scenario of bin Laden using a drone aircraft to attack a prominent target in the Washington, DC, area.

An entry describes three “economic security exercises” held between 1997 and 1999 by the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, and Wall Street bond firm Cantor Fitzgerald, in which participants considered scenarios such as terrorists attacking the US financial community with bombings using aircraft. The Naval War College and Cantor Fitzgerald subsequently held three “war game workshops” at the World Trade Center, which apparently served as good preparation for the challenges of the post-9/11 world.

NORAD Didn’t Tell the Pentagon about the Hijackings on September 11

Other new timeline entries describe events from the day of September 11.

For more than 50 minutes after it learned a plane had been hijacked, NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command) failed to inform the National Military Command Center at the Pentagon about the hijacking. And for at least 50 minutes after its fighter jets set up a combat air patrol (CAP) over Washington, NORAD failed to tell the Pentagon’s air threat conference call that the CAP had been established.

Several entries describe the actions of Douglas Cochrane, Vice President Dick Cheney’s military aide, in response to the terrorist attacks. After he learned a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center, Cochrane went from his office to the White House Situation Room and then, briefly, to Cheney’s office. After he saw the second crash at the World Trade Center live on television, he returned to his office to fetch the “nuclear football”–a briefcase that holds the codes necessary for the vice president to initiate a nuclear attack. He subsequently joined Cheney in an underground tunnel that leads to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center below the White House, where he was told that an aircraft had hit the Pentagon.

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April 26, 2015

New 9/11 Timeline Entries: Crisis Action Teams on September 11, Early Accounts of the Government’s Response to the 9/11 Attacks, and More

Filed under: Complete 911 Timeline — Matt @ 3:09 am
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A large number of entries have been added to the Complete 9/11 Timeline at History Commons, including many that provide new details about the events of September 11, 2001, and some that describe the initial official accounts of the military’s response to the 9/11 attacks.

Air Force Secretary and Chief and Chief of Staff Learned of Attacks during Meetings

Several new timeline entries detail the actions of James Roche, the secretary of the Air Force, and John Jumper, the Air Force chief of staff, on September 11. Roche was alerted to the first plane crash at the World Trade Center during a meeting with several congressmen in his office at the Pentagon, in which the subject of Islamic fundamentalism was being discussed. Jumper, meanwhile, learned about the crashes at the WTC during a routine staff meeting, but he continued the meeting instead of responding right away.

After Jumper headed upstairs to Roche’s office, the two men were escorted to the Air Force Operations Center in the basement of the Pentagon shortly after the building was attacked, at 9:37 a.m. When they arrived at the Operations Center, they started assisting the Air Force’s response to the attacks.

A couple of entries relate to the Army’s Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel (ODCSPER) at the Pentagon. A dozen ODCSPER officials went ahead with a 9:00 a.m. meeting, unaware of the first crash at the WTC, which occurred at 8:46 a.m., and they were not alerted by their colleagues when the second crash occurred at 9:03 a.m. Ironically, Timothy Maude, who ran the ODCSPER, was originally scheduled to attend a meeting at 9:45 a.m. to discuss what to do if a disaster should hit the Pentagon.

Crisis Actions Teams Were Activated

A number of new timeline entries describe the actions of various “crisis action teams” in response to the 9/11 attacks.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff activated its Crisis Actions Team (CAT) at the Pentagon sometime after the first hijacked plane crashed into the WTC. The Air Force’s CAT was reportedly activated at around 9:00 a.m. However, the Operations Center at the Pentagon where it worked from had to be evacuated later on and at 1:00 p.m. a replacement facility was established at Bolling Air Force Base. The Air National Guard’s CAT was activated shortly after the Pentagon was attacked and carried out its operations at Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, DC.

The Army’s CAT at the Pentagon was activated after the second hijacked plane crashed into the WTC. It was reportedly “formally stood up” at 9:43 a.m. and its members then responded to the terrorist attacks. Major General Peter Chiarelli, who gave the order to activate it, was informed, shortly before the Pentagon was attacked, that a hijacked aircraft was heading toward Washington and was possibly aiming for the Pentagon.

Crew of Airborne Operations Center Thought Attacks Were Part of an Exercise

A timeline entry describes how crew members on an E-4B National Airborne Operations Center plane at Andrews Air Force Base initially thought the terrorist attacks were part of a training exercise when they were alerted to them. Their plane took off at around 9:27 a.m. and then flew to a base in Nebraska. Another E-4B took off from Andrews at around 9:45 a.m.

Meanwhile, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) representative on the Pentagon’s air threat conference call reported, shortly after the Pentagon was attacked, that Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD, had not yet declared the situation that morning an air defense emergency.

A couple of timeline entries relate to problems experienced by the plane carrying Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that day. After Shelton learned of the attacks, his plane had to spend hours flying in “holding patterns” near Greenland and then over Canada before it was cleared to fly back into the US. It therefore only landed at Andrews Air Force Base at 4:40 p.m.

Accounts of the Government’s Response to the Attacks Were Put Forward in the Week after 9/11

A number of new timeline entries describe the initial accounts that officials provided, in the weeks after September 11, of the government’s response to the 9/11 attacks.

On September 13, Richard Myers, the acting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the 9/11 attacks, was questioned about the military’s response to the attacks by the Senate Armed Services Committee, but his answers were vague and confused. The next day, Paul Weaver, director of the Air National Guard, provided reporters with a more detailed account in an “impromptu hallway interview” at the Pentagon.

On September 17, the Federal Aviation Administration produced a chronology of the events of September 11, which it used when it briefed the White House that day. The following day, NORAD released a timeline of its response to the 9/11 attacks, but the accuracy of this account has been challenged by the 9/11 Commission.

Ralph Eberhart outlined NORAD’s version of the events of September 11 during an appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee on October 25, but the 9/11 Commission found that some of the information he provided that day was incorrect.

A couple of new timeline entries describe miscellaneous 9/11-related events. In 1999, alleged 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta tried to sell antiquities from Afghanistan in order to pay for flying lessons. And a report published one week after 9/11 stated that investigators had detected a signal from one of the “black boxes” from the planes that crashed into the WTC, although government officials have claimed that no black boxes were ever recovered at Ground Zero.

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July 8, 2013

New 9/11 Timeline Entries: WTC Evacuation Orders, 9/11-Style Movies, and More

Filed under: Complete 911 Timeline — Matt @ 2:54 am
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Many new entries have been added to the Complete 9/11 Timeline at History Commons, covering a range of topics relating to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Contradictory Orders over Whether People Should Evacuate the WTC

Numerous entries examine the conflicting orders and announcements that were made, regarding whether people should evacuate or stay in the World Trade Center after the first plane hit the North Tower.

After the crash, George Tabeek, a WTC security manager, contacted the deputy fire safety directors in the Twin Towers with instructions to “evacuate the North Tower, but keep people inside the South Tower.” But around the same time, some people in the North Tower heard an automated announcement advising them to stay in their offices.

The deputy fire safety director in the North Tower tried telling people to evacuate, but without success, as the public address system in his building was damaged by the plane’s impact. He was contacted by his counterpart in the South Tower, who said he would wait to hear from “the boss from the fire department” before ordering people to evacuate his building. However, an announcement then went out over the public address system in the South Tower advising workers to stay in their offices. Furthermore, Port Authority officials in the South Tower instructed people who were evacuating, in person, to go back to their offices.

Fire chiefs in the North Tower were telling other agencies to evacuate the South Tower by about 8:57 a.m., six minutes before Flight 175 hit it. Furthermore, an officer with the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) actually called for the evacuation of the top floors of the North Tower over his radio just three minutes after the plane hit it. And at around 9:00 a.m., senior PAPD officers called for the evacuation of both towers and then the entire WTC complex. However, the PAPD officers’ orders were apparently not passed on.

Finally, at 9:02 a.m., a minute before Flight 175 hit, an announcement was made in the South Tower, advising workers to start evacuating.

Movies that Predicted 9/11

New timeline entries describe TV dramas and movies that were in production in September 2001, which featured storylines with surprising similarities to aspects of what happened on September 11. Many of these productions were canceled or rewritten as a result of the 9/11 attacks.

Nosebleed was a movie that would have featured Jackie Chan as a window washer who tries to stop terrorists who are plotting to blow up the WTC. A scene for the movie was going to be filmed at the top of the North Tower on the morning of 9/11, but the filming was canceled. Till Death Do Us Part, a film starring Michael Douglas and Billy Crystal, was based around terrorists targeting New York and would have included a key scene at the WTC.

The movie WW3.com would have featured cyber-terrorists causing a Boeing 767 to crash into New York’s Central Park. A 20th Century Fox movie called Deadline would have involved terrorists hijacking a commercial aircraft. And filming was originally set to begin around three weeks after 9/11 for a big-budget TV movie about a jumbo jet crash, where investigators consider the possibility that Osama bin Laden caused the crash.

TV Dramas that Predicted 9/11

A big-budget TV miniseries called Terror would have been based around al-Qaeda committing a series of terrorist attacks in New York. A group from NBC was actually near the WTC on the morning of September 11, doing preparatory work for the miniseries. And writer/producer Bryce Zabel was working on a miniseries called World War III, about a terrorist attack in the US that leads to a global conflict.

The Agency, a CBS series about the CIA, featured several notable storylines that were written before 9/11. One storyline, which was never used, involved Osama bin Laden having three American planes hijacked. The show’s pilot episode, which was originally set to air in late September 2001, involved al-Qaeda plotting to blow up a department store in London. Another episode featured a planned terrorist attack in Washington, DC, using anthrax, and was originally set to be broadcast at the time of the actual anthrax attacks in the US.

Other Day of 9/11 and Pre-9/11 Events

A few new entries describe additional events from the day of 9/11. One entry describes how, unusually, air traffic controllers failed to contact United Airlines that morning about the hijackings. Later in the morning, the FAA’s Cleveland Center–which had the last contact with Flight 93 before it crashed–received several bomb threats. Around the same time, the center was evacuated in response to a report of a suspicious aircraft flying above it.

Other entries look at various events from the years and weeks preceding 9/11. One entry summarizes the gradual reduction in the number of fighter jets kept on “alert” to defend US airspace between the 1950s and the time of the 9/11 attacks. Another entry describes how, around 1969 or 1970, an Army Ranger in officer training envisioned a 9/11-like scenario of a suicide pilot crashing a plane into the US Capitol building.

Early in 2001, an entry reveals, President Bush instructed Joe Hagin, his deputy chief of staff for operations, to fix White House communications after having problems making a phone call, but the issue was not resolved by 9/11. Around the same time, White House staffers were prohibited from using BlackBerrys, but these devices turned out to be invaluable on September 11, when many people had problems making phone calls.

A major exercise is described that was held at an Army base near the Pentagon five days before 9/11, attended by numerous agencies that would subsequently work together in response to the attack on the Pentagon on September 11.

An entry reveals that George Tabeek was discussing his concerns about an aircraft crashing into the Twin Towers in the two weeks before September 11. Tabeek has recalled that around that time, he received no warnings from US Customs or the Secret Service about possible terrorist threats to the WTC. Fortunately, the Port Authority’s command center in the North Tower was upgraded to make it more secure shortly before 9/11, and this helped save the lives of the people in the center on September 11.

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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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December 29, 2011

New 9/11 Timeline Entries: Nuclear War Exercise on 9/11, NORAD Commanders’ Delayed Response to Attacks, Increase in Military Alert Status, and More

Filed under: Complete 911 Timeline — Matt @ 6:40 am
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Numerous new entries have been added to the Complete 9/11 Timeline at History Commons, many of which deal with the US military’s actions around the time of–and in response to–the 9/11 attacks, while other new entries provide important information about the military’s responses to suspicious aircraft prior to 9/11.

New timeline entries describe how NORAD–the military organization responsible for defending US airspace–regularly launched fighter jets in response to suspicious aircraft in the years before 9/11, with fighters able to take off within minutes of a scramble order.

Other new entries describe a large Russian military exercise that began the day before 9/11 and was monitored by NORAD fighters that were deployed to Alaska and Northern Canada. The Russians promptly called off their exercise in response to the attacks in the US on September 11. As well as monitoring this Russian exercise, on September 11, personnel at the NORAD operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, were participating in the annual training exercise Vigilant Guardian, which has been described as a “full-blown nuclear war” exercise.

New timeline entries also examine in detail the actions on September 11 of two key NORAD officials: Robert Marr, the battle commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), and Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR). After these two men spoke over the phone about the day’s exercise, Arnold joined a teleconference with other NORAD officials. This, however, meant he was unavailable when Marr tried calling him to get authorization to launch fighters in response to the hijacked Flight 11. After leaving the teleconference, Arnold learned of Marr’s call but wondered if the report of a hijacking was part of the exercise. Arnold soon called Marr back and told him to go ahead and launch fighters in response to the hijacking.

Arnold then called the NORAD operations center about the hijacking and the request for fighters. However, when operations center personnel saw television reports about the first crash at the World Trade Center, minutes later, they did not realize it involved the hijacked plane they’d just been alerted to. The operations center was in fact in an “information void” during the course of the attacks, according to officers there that day. It was also receiving many reports of hijackings from the FAA that turned out to be incorrect.

Other timeline entries describe how the US military was placed on an increased state of alert on September 11. Following the terrorist attacks, installations around the world were placed on the highest state of alert, known as Force Protection Condition Delta (FPCON Delta). Soon after that, the defense readiness condition was raised to Defcon 3, the highest level since 1973. News of the increased defense readiness condition was soon communicated within NORAD, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld notified President Bush of the raised threat level. The military stayed at Defcon 3 until September 14, when the defense readiness condition was lowered one notch, to Defcon 4.

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.

July 16, 2011

New 9/11 Timeline Entries: Military Exercises, Air Force Response to Attacks, and More


Many new entries have been added to the Complete 9/11 Timeline at History Commons, most of them describing events that took place on the day of 9/11.

Two important entries deal with events before 9/11, specifically regarding military training exercises. One entry reveals that prior to 9/11, NORAD practiced for hijackings five times per month at its operations center in Colorado. The other entry describes how, in the days before 9/11, the Army had been planning an exercise for the week after 9/11, based, remarkably, on the scenario of a plane crashing into the World Trade Center.

Several entries give new details about the actions of the two F-15 fighter jets launched in response to the first hijacked plane. After being told by the military that the fighters had been given a “bad heading,” an air traffic controller had to redirect the two aircraft. When he did this, he also notified the lead fighter pilot that Flight 11 had crashed into the WTC. And yet the two pilots have both denied learning this news until about 10 minutes later, when they were told that a second plane had hit the WTC. After being given the new heading, the lead pilot contacted the military, but apparently neither he nor the person he spoke with mentioned the crash during their call. The two fighters then headed into military airspace over the ocean.

A number of entries deal with the actions of the US Park Police Aviation Unit in Washington, DC, on September 11. That morning, the unit had been holding a large training event. Its two Huey helicopters promptly responded to the Pentagon attack, with one of them providing live video footage of the crash scene and also being put in charge of controlling the Washington airspace. However, its pilot’s request that the Maryland State Police send helicopters to help out at the Pentagon was bluntly refused. The other Park Police helicopter subsequently had to respond to numerous reported emergencies that turned out to be false alarms. Furthermore, contrary to official accounts, a new timeline entry reveals that one of the Park Police helicopters was in the air before the Pentagon attack and was instructed to intercept the approaching aircraft.

A US Border Patrol agent who saw the helicopter from his hotel window also described seeing an American Airlines plane taking off from Washington’s Reagan National Airport, flying north toward the nearby Pentagon, about a minute before the Pentagon attack occurred. And several witnesses have described hearing secondary explosions inside the Pentagon following the attack there.

An entry describes how National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice thought the first plane hitting the WTC was an accident when she was informed of it by her assistant. While phoning President Bush about the incident, Rice was told that the crashed plane was a commercial airliner, and she passed on this news to the president. Rice has also described how those in the shelter conference room below the White House were unable to hear the audio from television broadcasts and the White House video teleconference at the same time throughout the day, due to technical problems.

Unlike Rice, those in the office of the vice chief of naval operations at the Pentagon realized right away that the first crash must have been deliberate, and even speculated that the Pentagon was a likely target for any subsequent attack. But when a senior officer there was told of a suspicious aircraft approaching Washington, he instructed his deputy to keep quiet and not pass on this crucial information.

Some entries describe how United Airlines, as well as having two of its aircraft hijacked that morning, had to deal with numerous false alarms. These included threats that were found to be “misunderstandings or hoaxes”; a loss of contact with three aircraft at around 10:00 a.m.; nine aircraft reported missing about an hour later; and another of its aircraft reported as missing by the Secret Service.

Later in the day, those in the White House were told that a US Airways plane flying to the US from Spain had been hijacked, but this also turned out to be a false alarm.

April 19, 2011

New Entries Added to the Complete 9/11 Timeline

Filed under: Complete 911 Timeline — Matt @ 3:06 am
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A large number of new entries have been added to the Complete 9/11 Timeline at History Commons. Most of these describe events from the day of 9/11 itself, although a few entries look at pre-9/11 and post-9/11 events.

One new entry reveals that in April 2001, CIA counterterrorism chief Cofer Black warned that “something big [is] coming and that it very likely could be in the US.” Then, about a month before 9/11, White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke visited Wall Street, to investigate the security precautions there.

Two new entries look at the time Ziad Jarrah, the alleged hijacker pilot of Flight 93 on 9/11, spent in Philadelphia. This included two days at a flight school, which refused to rent Jarrah a plane due to his inadequate piloting skills.

Some entries look at a little-known government agency called the National Communications System (NCS). The NCS happened to turn on a special backup communication system for use in emergencies for “exercise mode” the day before 9/11, and on the morning of 9/11, the CIA was briefing the NCS on the terrorist threat to the US’s telecommunications infrastructure. The NCS’s coordinating center subsequently played an important role in the government’s response to the 9/11 attacks.

Entries reveal that special emergency transmitters carried by aircraft went off in the New York area around the time of the attacks on the World Trade Center. However, these transmitters, which are designed to go off automatically if a plane crashes, inexplicably were activated minutes before Flight 11 hit the North Tower and Flight 175 hit the South Tower.

Events at two airlines are described. At 8:29 a.m. on September 11, American Airlines learned details of the crisis from the FAA’s Boston Center, and this led it to suspect that its Flight 11 was hijacked. One of its managers then instructed that air traffic controllers be told to treat the flight as an emergency. But, around the time the attacks began, American Airlines had problems communicating with the FAA’s Command Center. And United Airlines, the other airline whose planes were targeted in the attacks, experienced two hours where its communications were severely impaired.

Several entries look at aircraft falsely reported to have been hijacked or in distress, including a United Airlines plane that was still at the airport; a Continental Airlines plane that signaled three times it had been hijacked; an American Airlines plane that sent a “hijack message” to the airline; a plane whose distraught pilot contacted a facility in England; and three planes that the Coast Guard reported were transmitting distress signals.

Several military exercises are known to have been underway the morning of 9/11. And when a commander at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, was first told a plane had hit the WTC, he mistakenly thought this was a simulated scenario as part of the exercise, “Global Guardian.”

Other new timeline entries describe evacuations of the airports in San Francisco and Los Angeles, the original destinations of the hijacked planes.

The actions of General Henry Shelton, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are detailed. Shortly before 9/11, Shelton warned other officials to “be on your toes” for a domestic terrorist attack “at any time.” But on September 11, he headed off early for a NATO meeting in Europe and was flying over the Atlantic when he learned of the attacks. Shelton learned further details of the attacks in a phone call with his vice chairman, Richard Myers, but only made it back to the Pentagon late that afternoon. He was subsequently able to join Donald Rumsfeld and others for a press conference, where Rumsfeld announced that the Pentagon would be “in business tomorrow.”

Another high-level official notable for being absent from his post on September 11 was Van Harp, head of the FBI’s Washington, DC, field office, who was on vacation in South Carolina and only made it back to Washington late in the afternoon of 9/11.

Looking at the aftermath of 9/11, several entries describe an attempt that was made to transcribe the tape recordings of operations at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector on September 11, which NORAD commander Ralph Eberhart stressed the importance of, but which led to one of the tapes being damaged. The NEADS tape recorders had already failed to record the positions of two key employees while the 9/11 attacks took place.

April 12, 2009

9/11 Commission Documents Related to Day of Attacks (last updated 9 January 2010)

Filed under: Complete 911 Timeline,Document Collection — kevinfenton @ 8:42 am
Tags: , ,

This post lists a set of documents related to the 9/11 Commission’s investigation of the day of the attacks. The documents have been posted at the 9/11 Document Archive at Scribd. I am reading through them gradually and highlighting interesting information. This post will be updated continuously.

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