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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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November 27, 2013

New 9/11 Timeline Entries: Aborted Plan to Assassinate Bin Laden, Dick Cheney and Family on Sept. 11, Secret Service Response to Attacks, and More


A large number of new entries have been added to the Complete 9/11 Timeline at History Commons, including many that reveal details about the events of September 11, 2001, and others that describe important events from the years preceding the 9/11 attacks.

Security Chief Predicted Attacks on the WTC

Several entries relate to the actions of Rick Rescorla, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter’s vice president for security at the World Trade Center, and his friend and former Army colleague Dan Hill. In 1990, the two men wrote a report that predicted a terrorist attack at the WTC closely resembling the 1993 bombing, involving a truck bomb in the underground garage. In the aftermath of the 1993 WTC bombing, Hill and Rescorla conducted an analysis of security and predicted that terrorists would attack the towers again, probably by crashing a plane into them. Rescorla consulted his friend Fred McBee, who, by using a flight simulator program on his computer, concluded that such a scenario was “very viable.”

In 1998, Hill came up with a plan to go to Afghanistan and kill Osama bin Laden. In spring 2000, he met with an FBI agent to discuss the plan and request US military assistance. But a year later, after she consulted FBI headquarters, the agent informed Hill that his request had been rejected and so he had to drop his plan.

Some entries relate to training exercises held at the World Trade Center. In one drill, conducted in 1982, the Port Authority and other agencies actually practiced for the scenario of a plane crashing into the Twin Towers. In March 1993, during public hearings that examined the security aspects of the recent WTC bombing, Guy Tozzoli, a former director of the World Trade Department, said the Port Authority should again train for the possibility of a plane hitting the WTC, but his recommendation was ignored. However, in June 1999, September 2000, and summer 2001, the Port Authority and the New York City Fire Department held realistic exercises that simulated a major fire on an upper floor of the WTC.

Vice President Cheney Evacuated to the White House Bunker

Many new entries describe events from the day of 9/11, especially looking at the actions of Vice President Dick Cheney, his wife, Lynne Cheney, and their Secret Service agents.

James Scott, Dick Cheney’s lead Secret Service agent, learned of the first crash at the World Trade Center from television and then alerted the other members of Cheney’s Secret Service detail to the news. After the second crash, he discussed what to do in response with a supervisor. He headed to the West Wing of the White House and joined Cheney’s other agents there at 9:30 a.m.

At around 9:35 a.m., the agents learned that a suspicious aircraft was approaching Washington, DC, and consequently evacuated Cheney from his office at around 9:36 a.m., according to some accounts. (However, other accounts have suggested that Cheney was evacuated at around 9:03 a.m.) About a minute after leaving his office, Cheney reached an underground tunnel leading to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), a bunker below the White House.

Lynne Cheney Evacuated from Hair Salon to the White House

Lynne Cheney, meanwhile, was at a hair salon near the White House when the planes hit the WTC and was told what had happened by one of her Secret Service agents. But she was only evacuated from the hair salon shortly after 9:33 a.m., when the Secret Service learned of the unidentified plane approaching Washington. Furthermore, when she reached the White House, guards initially tried to prevent her car from entering the grounds. And after Cheney entered the White House, the Secret Service agent who accompanied her was initially confused about where he should take her.

Lynne Cheney finally joined her husband in the tunnel leading to the PEOC at around 9:55 a.m., and the couple went into the PEOC at around 9:58 a.m.

Liz Cheney, the eldest daughter of Dick and Lynne Cheney, phoned her father after the second crash at the WTC to tell him what was happening. Around late morning to early afternoon, Secret Service agents took her and her children to a secure government facility in rural Virginia, where she was soon joined by her husband. Later in the afternoon, the Secret Service moved Cheney, her husband, and their children to Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland.

The Secret Service’s Response to the Attacks

Some timeline entries describe other aspects of the Secret Service’s response to the 9/11 attacks. For example, following the crashes at the World Trade Center, a Secret Service agent contacted a “structural collapse team” at an Army base just outside Washington, to let it know that the Secret Service might need its assistance. And Brian Stafford, the director of the Secret Service, activated the Director’s Crisis Center (DCC) at Secret Service headquarters to manage the Secret Service’s response to the attacks. Another agent, Danny Spriggs, joined Stafford in the DCC at 9:35 a.m., but found his agency’s ability to respond was hindered by the poor quality of the information they received in the center.

Furthermore, Secret Service executives only implemented an “emergency call-up” of all agency personnel after the Pentagon attack. And members of the Secret Service emergency response team who were on the ground when President Bush’s helicopter arrived at the White House early in the evening were ordered to pull back out of camera range, which meant they were too far from the president to respond effectively if something bad had happened.

After he learned of the events in New York, Carl Truscott, the Secret Service special agent in charge of the presidential protective division, called three colleagues to his office for a meeting. During the meeting, the agents discussed “security enhancements” at the White House, and the Secret Service subsequently began implementing those security enhancements.

Sometime before 9:45 a.m., Truscott was alerted to the suspicious aircraft approaching Washington and he consequently ordered the evacuation of the White House. The Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House, was, like the White House, evacuated at 9:45 a.m.

Following his meeting, Truscott headed to the PEOC, but he stopped on the way to take National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice with him. Before going, Rice briefly spoke on the phone with President Bush. She entered the PEOC shortly before 10:00 a.m.

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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
Tags: , , ,

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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