Category Archives: Official behaviour on 9-11

9/11 Panel Suspected Deception by Pentagon

9/11 Panel Suspected Deception by Pentagon
Allegations Brought to Inspectors General

By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 2, 2006; Page A03

Some staff members and commissioners of the Sept. 11 panel concluded that the Pentagon's initial story of how it reacted to the 2001 terrorist attacks may have been part of a deliberate effort to mislead the commission and the public rather than a reflection of the fog of events on that day, according to sources involved in the debate.

Suspicion of wrongdoing ran so deep that the 10-member commission, in a secret meeting at the end of its tenure in summer 2004, debated referring the matter to the Justice Department for criminal investigation, according to several commission sources. Staff members and some commissioners thought that e-mails and other evidence provided enough probable cause to believe that military and aviation officials violated the law by making false statements to Congress and to the commission, hoping to hide the bungled response to the hijackings, these sources said.

In the end, the panel agreed to a compromise, turning over the allegations to the inspectors general for the Defense and Transportation departments, who can make criminal referrals if they believe they are warranted, officials said.

"We to this day don't know why NORAD [the North American Aerospace Command] told us what they told us," said Thomas H. Kean, the former New Jersey Republican governor who led the commission. "It was just so far from the truth. . . . It's one of those loose ends that never got tied."

Although the commission's landmark report made it clear that the Defense Department's early versions of events on the day of the attacks were inaccurate, the revelation that it considered criminal referrals reveals how skeptically those reports were viewed by the panel and provides a glimpse of the tension between it and the Bush administration.

A Pentagon spokesman said yesterday that the inspector general's office will soon release a report addressing whether testimony delivered to the commission was "knowingly false." A separate report, delivered secretly to Congress in May 2005, blamed inaccuracies in part on problems with the way the Defense Department kept its records, according to a summary released yesterday.

A spokesman for the Transportation Department's inspector general's office said its investigation is complete and that a final report is being drafted. Laura Brown, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said she could not comment on the inspector general's inquiry.

In an article scheduled to be on newsstands today, Vanity Fair magazine reports aspects of the commission debate — though it does not mention the possible criminal referrals — and publishes lengthy excerpts from military audiotapes recorded on Sept. 11. ABC News aired excerpts last night.

For more than two years after the attacks, officials with NORAD and the FAA provided inaccurate information about the response to the hijackings in testimony and media appearances. Authorities suggested that U.S. air defenses had reacted quickly, that jets had been scrambled in response to the last two hijackings and that fighters were prepared to shoot down United Airlines Flight 93 if it threatened Washington.

In fact, the commission reported a year later, audiotapes from NORAD's Northeast headquarters and other evidence showed clearly that the military never had any of the hijacked airliners in its sights and at one point chased a phantom aircraft — American Airlines Flight 11 — long after it had crashed into the World Trade Center.

Maj. Gen. Larry Arnold and Col. Alan Scott told the commission that NORAD had begun tracking United 93 at 9:16 a.m., but the commission determined that the airliner was not hijacked until 12 minutes later. The military was not aware of the flight until after it had crashed in Pennsylvania.

These and other discrepancies did not become clear until the commission, forced to use subpoenas, obtained audiotapes from the FAA and NORAD, officials said. The agencies' reluctance to release the tapes — along with e-mails, erroneous public statements and other evidence — led some of the panel's staff members and commissioners to believe that authorities sought to mislead the commission and the public about what happened on Sept. 11.

"I was shocked at how different the truth was from the way it was described," John Farmer, a former New Jersey attorney general who led the staff inquiry into events on Sept. 11, said in a recent interview. "The tapes told a radically different story from what had been told to us and the public for two years. . . . This is not spin. This is not true."

Arnold, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, told the commission in 2004 that he did not have all the information unearthed by the panel when he testified earlier. Other military officials also denied any intent to mislead the panel.

John F. Lehman, a Republican commission member and former Navy secretary, said in a recent interview that he believed the panel may have been lied to but that he did not believe the evidence was sufficient to support a criminal referral.

"My view of that was that whether it was willful or just the fog of stupid bureaucracy, I don't know," Lehman said. "But in the order of magnitude of things, going after bureaucrats because they misled the commission didn't seem to make sense to me."

White House evacuated, not Pentagon

White House evacuated 12 minutes before "aircraft hit Pentagon".  But the Pentagon was not evacuated.  WHY ?



Rear Adm. Quigley Interview with NBC Today

<!– START HEADER DoD News Briefing Rear Adm. Craig R. Quigley, DASD PA Sunday, Sept. 16, 2001 – 8:05 a.m. EDT END HEADER (14 lines) –>

(Interview with David Bloom, NBC-TV, for NBC Today, 16 Sept. 2001)

Bloom: The search is still ongoing at the Pentagon, as well. Military strategists are preparing to make America’s response to the attacks. Admiral Craig Quigley is the Pentagon spokesman.

Admiral, good morning.

Quigley: Good morning, David.

Bloom: I understand you’re not prepared to talk about military planning. So tell us about the search and rescue operation. What’s the latest at the Pentagon?

Quigley: Well, we have had good luck overnight, and we’ve been blessed with good weather here in Washington. The search and rescue crews from a variety of area of fire stations, from FEMA, from the FBI, from the military itself are continuing to work their way further into the rubble from the collapsed section of the Pentagon and are continuing to successfully remove remains. Then they are shipped up to the Dover Air Force Base mortuary for preparation and eventual turnover to the families.

Bloom: Admiral, I understand that the death toll, as well, has been revised. Is that right?

Quigley: We have 188 people that, total, died here in the Pentagon, as we can best account for them now. That includes 64 people on board the airliner and 124 that would normally be working here in the Pentagon or were visiting on that day.

Bloom: Admiral, I want to read you a section from a story in The Washington Post this morning, so allow me to just quote from this. It says "The nation’s military Air Defense Command received word from the Federal Aviation Administration that a hijacked commercial airliner was heading toward Washington 12 minutes before it hit, according to a chronology prepared by the Pentagon. But until the moment of impact, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his top aides were unaware of any imminent danger." Is that true?

Quigley: Well, I think hindsight is a wonderful thing, David. And it would have been hard to predict, I believe, in anyone’s mind that the airliner would have been headed for the Pentagon. The action that we took was to scramble fighter aircraft from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. But the time line was just too short. They were not able to get here in time. And as soon as the aircraft hit the Pentagon, I think very excellent evacuation procedures took place and we move to take care of the injured and remove them as quickly as possible from the area.

Bloom: And, Admiral, certainly no one at this difficult time is trying to engage in any finger pointing. Having said that, we know that at the White House as this plane was heading toward Washington, D.C., the Vice President, Dick Cheney, was rushed by the Secret Service into a secure location. We know that the building was ordered to be evacuated. Why weren’t similar things happening at the Pentagon? There was, if I’m not mistaken, no evacuation prior to the impact. Is that right?

Quigley: There was no evacuation prior to the impact. And I think, again, it is that there was no accurate prediction that the plane could have been reasonably expected to be heading for the Pentagon. There are a variety of very important centers in Washington, D.C., this being one of them.

Bloom: Tell me, Admiral, what’s being done now to help the families who lost people in this attack.

Quigley: Well, that’s, indeed, where one of our principal areas of focus is, David. We have set up a family support center at a nearby hotel, nearby to the Pentagon here where families can come and get the latest information on recovery of remains, on the search for — still hopefully for some survivors, on the removal of rubble and how the search is continuing, and just to be with other family members. In addition, each of the services that has lost personnel in the attack is remaining in close contact with the family members of mostly the Army and the Navy and keeping them very closely informed as to the status of the search for their loved ones.

Bloom: Admiral Craig Quigley, thank you so much. And our thoughts and prayers go out to you and all those at the Pentagon.

Quigley: Thank you, David, very much.

Bush says he knew unidentified aircraft headed for Washington DC

George W. Bush Press Conference 16 September 2001


Q            Mr. President, would you confirm what the Vice President said this morning, that at one point during this crisis you gave an order to shoot down any civilian airliner that approached the Capitol? Was that a difficult decision to make?

             THE PRESIDENT:  I gave our military the orders necessary to protect Americans, do whatever it would take to protect Americans.  And of course that’s difficult.  Never did anybody’s thought process about how to protect America did we ever think that the evil-doers would fly not one, but four commercial aircraft into precious U.S. targets – never.  And so, obviously, when I was told what was taking place, when I was informed that an unidentified aircraft was headed to the heart of the capital, I was concerned. [Who informed the President ? When ? If this was known, why was nothing done to stop the aircraft ?]  I wasn’t concerned about my decision; I was more concerned about the lives of innocent Americans.  I had realized there on the ground in Florida we were under attack.  But never did I dream we would have been under attack this way.

             That’s why I say to the American people we’ve never seen this kind of evil before.  But the evil-doers have never seen the American people in action before, either – and they’re about to find out.

Secret Service was told: ‘Air Force One is next’

Secret Service was told: ‘Air Force One is next’

 By Jeremy Laurance

14 September 2001
The Independent, London

As the second airliner slammed into the south tower of the World Trade  Centre, Vice-President Dick Cheney was staring at a television in the White  House. It was 9.03am. His Secret Service men grabbed him and hurried him  down to the President’s emergency operations centre, an underground bunker  hardened to withstand a nuclear attack

 The dramatic events were revealed by William Safire, the respected New  York Times columnist who is close to the Republicans.

 On the way to the bunker, Mr Cheney was told that another plane, or a  helicopter loaded with explosives, was heading for the White House. He called  the President in Florida and urged him not to come back to Washington  immediately.

 In the bunker, the Vice-President was joined by Condoleezza Rice, the  national security adviser, and the Transportation Secretary, Norman Mineta,  among others. They were told six commercial aircraft were unaccounted for,  all of which were potential missiles. One had supposedly crashed in Kentucky  (not true), and another in Pennsylvania (accurate; its passengers or crew,  apparently struggling with the hijackers, may have saved the White House).

 The airliner that had taken off at Dulles _ AA Flight 77 _ did  a turn away from the White House and, at 9.45am, slammed into the Pentagon.

 At about that time, accounts began coming into the White House bunker  that four international flights were heading toward Washington over the Atlantic  and another from Korea. Whether they were hostile could not be determined.

 A threatening message received by the Secret Service that "Air Force One  is next" was relayed to agents accompanying the President. The use of American  codewords made the threat credible.

 Karl Rove, the President’s senior adviser, told Mr Safire: "When the President  said ‘I don’t want some tinhorn terrorists keeping me out of Washington,’  the Secret Service informed him the threat contained language showing the  terrorists had knowledge of his procedures and whereabouts. It was decided  to get airborne with a fighter escort."

 After the President landed at an air force base in Louisiana and made  a tape for broadcast, he was, in Mr Rove’s words, "pretty antsy" about not  being at the centre of command.

 Mr Cheney, a former defence secretary, suggested Air Force One go to Offutt  base in Nebraska, headquarters of the Strategic Air Command, where the President could convene the National Security Council.

 The worry now must be that knowledge of codewords, presidential whereabouts  and secret procedures indicates the terrorists may have a mole in the White  House _ or the Secret Service, FBI, FAA or CIA. If so, America’s war  on terror may well have to start in its own front room.

Bush and Rumsfeld, off duty

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Bush and Rumsfeld, off duty



It’s a funny coincidence that at America’s greatest moment of need, in the middle of the attacks on September 11, both the President of the United States and his Secretary of Defense managed to make themselves unavailable to make decisions. Bush sat reading books to a school of children in Florida. A few minutes later, after the attack on the Pentagon, Rumsfeld busied himself applying first aid to the injured. From an ABC News transcript of a broadcast aired on the first anniversary of 9-11, describing the events of that day (my emphasis):


(VO) Among those helping the wounded and injured is the 69-year-old Rumsfeld himself.


There was a, a young woman bleeding, sitting on the ground, and I think she said to me, she didn’t know who I was, she said, she could see people holding, drips going into people, IV of some kind, and she said, something to the effect, if people would, if someone could bring that person over, I could hold it.


(VO) The Secretary of Defense is outside the burning building, while inside the Pentagon, . . .


For 30 minutes we couldn’t find him. And just as we began to worry, he walked into the door of the National Military Command Center."

This shows either an unbelievable lack of judgment on Rumsfeld’s part, or something much darker. Can you believe that the Secretary of Defense would disappear for half an hour, supposedly to render help with first aid (!?), while the country was obviously under attack? That particular half hour was crucial, with one hijacked plane still in the air. From an interview with Larry King (my emphasis):

"Rumsfeld: I had said at an 8:00 o’clock breakfast that sometime in the next two, four, six, eight, ten, twelve months there would be an event that would occur in the world that would be sufficiently shocking that it would remind people again how important it is to have a strong healthy defense department that contributes to – That underpins peace and stability in our world. And that is what underpins peace and stability.

In fact we can’t have healthy economies and active lives unless we live in a peaceful, stable world, and I said that to these people. And someone walked in and handed a note that said that a plane had just hit the World Trade Center. And we adjourned the meeting, and I went in to get my CIA briefing –

King: Right next door is your office.

Rumsfeld: – right next door here, and the whole building shook within 15 minutes.

King: It was a jarring thing. And you ran toward the smoke?

Rumsfeld: Uh huh.

King: Because?

Rumsfeld: Goodness. Who knows? I wanted to see what had happened. I wanted to see if people needed help. I went downstairs and helped for a bit with some people on stretchers. Then I came back up here and started – I realized I had to get back up here and get at it."

Rumsfeld’s presence was particularly important given the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction CJCSI 3610.01A dated June 1, 2001, which required Secretary of Defense approval of Department of Defense assistance to the FAA in cases of aircraft hijacking (although I note that such approval was not necessary if an immediate response was required as defined in paragraph 4.7.1 of Department of Defense directive 3025.15, and CJCSI 3610.10A modifies CJCSI 3610.10 to make this clear, meaning that CJCSI 3610.10A isn’t the ‘smoking gun’ that some people think it is to prove Bush Administration complicity in 9-11). Rumsfeld should have been available to make decisions, and he is not so stupid as to be unaware of that fact. His absence had to have been intentional. Bush’s case is now even more famous because of Michael Moore’s film. The Secret Service, as a matter of automatic contingency planning, should have immediately whisked Bush away from the school, as his continued presence there when the country was obviously under attack, a presence that was a matter of public knowledge, put him and the country at risk. The Secret Service quickly moved senior members of Congress to safety, and manhandled Cheney off to some secret lair (I wonder if he told them to go fuck themselves as they frog-marched him to safety?). Wolfowitz was helicoptered out of the Pentagon so he wouldn’t be in the same place as Rumsfeld. They left Bush a sitting duck. Is it possible that Bush’s continued reading to the children was part of the plot? After all, he did so in full view of the cameras, and we can all see the evidence. While he was there, he did not have to make any decisions that might have adversely affected the ongoing terrorist attacks. His filmed reading to the little kiddies is the perfect alibi.

Threats against George W. Bush on 9/11; An analysis


Threats against George W. Bush on 9/11; An analysis

The following observations by Webster Tarpley are composed of excerpts from his book ?9/11 Synthetic Terrorism”.  Some, if not all, of these facts are also listed on Thompson’s timeline regarding George Bush’s movements and actions on 9/11.  The subtitles below have been added, for clarity, by the editor (Elias Davidsson),

1.  President Bush did not know

“The current tenant of the White House most probably was not familiar in advance with a detailed outline of the 9/11 plot.  He was assisted in not knowing and not acting by his cognitive impairment, his contempt for detailed, accurate information, and by his habitual mental lethargy. Whether or not he suspected that something was coming, whether or not he knew this or that detail, are all matters to be determined with the help of open archives and cross-examination of the subject. The guess here is that Bush knew far less than many of his most severe critics might surmise. Bush’s crims was not the crime of knowing everything in advance; it was rather the crime of not knowing what he should have known, and of then compounding that by capitulating, by turning the US government and polity in the direction demanded by the terror plotters. Betten than “Bush knew,” as will see, is “Bush surrendered.”  “Bush knew? makes a good political slogan, but it cannot be a guide to understanding the true scope of what actually happened. Students of 9/11 who build their work around the thesis that “Bush knew? are on treacherous ground.” (p.272) […]

2.  President Bush as the front man of the oligarchy

?[W]hen Bush was running for office, it was widely conceded by his supporters that their canditate was a moron, but a moron who would hire the best advisers available, who would guide him through the crises of his presidency. In this sense, the Bush 41 presidency was an oligarchical presidency, with the chief magistrate in fact functioning s the front man for a committee.

The events of 9/11 showed the grave danger of such an oligarchical presidency: what happened if the advisors turned out to be traitors, misfits, or absent, as they did on 9/11: the presidency itself was paralyzed and incapable of acting, as occurred during the dark eternity of horror the world experienced as Bush busied himself with reading “My Pet Goat”? (pp. 272-3).

3. Threats to Air Force One

“Soon after [his statement to the nation on 9:30 AM], Bush left the Booker School for the nearby Sarasota Airport. But before he left, the Secret Service was to receive news of another therat to Bush: As the local paper reported a few days later: ?”Sarasota barely skirted its own disaster. As it turns out, terrorists targeted the president and Air Force One on Tuesday, maybe even while they were on the ground in Sarasota and certainly not long after. The Secret Service learned of the threat just minutes after Bush left Booker Elemtary? (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Sep. 16, 2001).

Another account confirms that the Secret Service learned of a new threat to Bush and Air Force One “just minutes after Bush left Booker Elementary.” Karl Rove, who was travelling with the president, commented: “They also made it clear they wanted to get us up quickly, and they wanted to get us a high altitude, because there had been a specific threat made to Air Force One…A declaration that Air Force One was a target, and said in a way that they called it credible? (New Yorker, Oct. 1 2001).” (p. 278)

“Air Force One took off from Sarasota between 9:55 and ) 9:57 AM, as many news reports confirm. The takeoff was a hurried one, following by a steep climb to higher altitudes. Communications Director Dan Bartlett remembered, “It was like a rocket. For a good ten minutes, the plane was going almost straight up. (CBS, Sep. 11, 2002)….However, despite the pattern of grave threat, Air Force One took off without any military fighter protection. This was about one hour after the impact on the South Tower.  There was no lack of nearby air bases which should have been on continuous alert: Homestead Air Station was 185 miles from Sarasota, and Tyndall Air Station was 235 miles away.” (p. 279)

“Shortly after takeoff, Cheney apparently informed Bush of “a credible threat? to Air Force One (AP, Sep. 13, 2001). US Representative Adam Putnam said he “had barely settled into his seat on Air Force One…when he got the news that terrorists apparently had set their sights on the plane.” (Orlando Sentinel, Sep, 14, 2001). The Secret Service had received an anonymous message saying: “Air Force One is next”.  The caller spoke in the code words relating to Air Force One procedures.  Colonel Mark Tillman, who was piloting Air Force One, was informed of the threat, and an armed guard was stationed at his cockpit door. The Associated Press reported that the threat came “withint the same hour? as the Pentagon crash ? before 10:00 AM, and approximately when the plane took off (AP, Sep. 13, 2001). ? (p. 279)

“Bush wanted to go to Washington, but he was overruled by the White House palace guard. Card told Bush: “We’ve got to let the dust settle before we go back? (St. Petersburg Times, Sep. 8, 2002). The plane apparently stayed over Sarasota until it was decided where Bush should go. Accounts conflict, but through about 10:35 AM (Washington Post, Jan. 27, 2002), Air Force One “appeare to be going nowhere. The journalists on board ? all of whom were barred from communicating with their offices ? sensed that the plane was flying in big, slow circles? (London Daily Telegraph, Dec. 16, 2001). ? (p. 280)

“According to Bob Woodward’s canonical mainstream account: “At about 10:30 AM Cheney reached Bush again on Air Force One, which was still on its way toward Washington. The White House had received a threat saying “Angel is next”. Since Angel was the codeword for Air Force One, it could mean that terrorists had inside information.”  Allegedly because of this report, Cheney argued that Bush should not return to Washington. “There’s still a threat,” said Cheney (Woodward, p. 18). Within minutes, the plane changed course and flew to Louisiana instead (Washington Post, Jan. 27, 2002). Was this now a third threat, after the post-Booker threat the “Air Force One is next? threat? Did the terrorist controllers now add the code word “Angel? to further document their insider status, and their possible access to nuclear codes? Or are we dealing with two versions of the same event? ? (p. 280)
“In an interview with Tony Snow on Fox News Sunday, National Security Advisor Condolezza Rice confirmed that the September 11 threat against President Bush’s life included a secret code name.

SNOW: Sept. 11 there was a report that there was a coded message that said, “We’re going to strike Air Force One” that was using specific coded language and made the threat credible. Is that true?

RICE: That is true.

SNOW: So we have a mole somwhere?

RICE: It’s not clear how this coded name was gotten. We’re a very open society and I don’t think it’s any surprise to anyone that leaks happen. So, I don’t know ? it’s possible the code name leaked a long time ago and was just used.

SNOW: How on earth would that happen ?

RICE:  I don’t know. I don? know. We’re obviously looking very hard at the situation. But I will tell you that it was plenty of evidence from our point of view to have special measures taken at that moment to make sure the president was safe.

This exchange was reported by Carl Limbacher of, who added that “US intellegence officials have not ruled out the possibility that a government mole may have given terrorists the top secret code language they used to deliver the threat “Air Force One is next? as the World Trade Center and Pentagon were under attack.” (, September 23, 2001).” (p. 288)

“The threat to Air Force One was repeated by others in the administration. In the September 12 White House briefing, Ari Fleischer told reporters: “We have specific and credible information that the White House and Air Force One were also intended targets of these attacks,”  The next day Fleischer was asked, “?[It was ] yesterday reported that some of the people in the Pentagon were a little skeptical about your comments yesterday that the White House and Air Force One were attacked ? were targets of attack, given that the plane had come from the south. What do you  – “Fleischer: Who are these people”? Reporter; “Well, I don’t know. They weren’t my sources,so…” Fleischer:  “No, There’s ? I wouldn’t have said it if it wasn’t true.” Reporter: “Can you confirm the substance of that threat that was telephoned in…that Air Force One is next and using code words”?  Fleischer:”Yes, I can. That’s correct.” (Sept. 13). p. 289

We will return to “Angel is next”. This represents the single most important clue as to the sponsorship of 9/11, since it was at this point that the sponsors showed their hand. They were not located in a cave in Afghanistan, but were rather a network located high within the US government and military. It was a moment of capital importance, the thread which, if properly pulled, will unravel the entire fabric of 9/11 deceit.

Around 10:55, there was yet another threat to Air Force One.  The pilot, Colonel Mark Tillman, said he was warned that a suspect airliner was approaching from dead ahead. “Coming out of Sarasota there was one call that said that there was an airliner off our nose that they did not have contact with,” Tillman related. Tillman took evasive action, pulling his plane even higher above normal traffic (CBS, Sep.11, 2002). Reporters on board noticed the increased elevation (Dallas Morning News, Aug. 28, 2002; Salon, Sep. 12, 2002). It has not been possible to establish exactly what the basis of this threat report was…”(pp.280-1)

4.  The “threat to Air Force One? story vanishes

“On Meet the Press of September 16, Cheney began to back away from the story, telling Russert: “The president was on Air Force One. We received a threat to Air Force One ? came through the Secret Service…” Russert: “A credible threat to Air Force One. You?re convinced of that”.  Cheney: “I?m convinced of that. Now, you know, it may have been phoned in by a crank, but in the midst of what was going on, there was no way to know that. I think it was a credible threat, enough for the Secret Service to bring it to me.” (Meet the Press, September 16).  Notice that the top-secret code words, the really sensitive point, have now disappeared [from this exchange].” (p. 289)

“As Bush gathered momentum with his “war on terrorism” and Afghan invasion, the need to use the “Angel? [Air Force One codeword] story for political cover diminished, and the need to protect the coherence of the official myth became paramount. It was at this time that the threat story [to Air Force One] began to be denied, not by officials speaking on the record, but by mysterious, anonymous leakers. One of these leaks came two weeks after 9/11; “Finally, there is this postscript to the puzzle of how someone presumed to be a terrorist was able to call in a threat against Air Force One using a secret code name for the president’s plane. Well, as it turns out, that simply never happened. Sources say White House staffers apparently misunderstood comments made by the security detail.” (Jim Stewart, CBS Evening News September 25, 2001). An AP wire of the same day, also based on an anonymous lead, read: ?[Administration officials have] been unsuccessful in trying to track down whether there was such a call, though officials still maintain they were told of a telephone threat Sept. 11 and kept Bush away from Washington for hours because of it.” (AP, September 25, 2001).” (pp. 289-90)

“After these leaks, Fleischer also dropped the story. On September 26, a reported asked about the September 11 warning. Fleischer replied: “I?m not going to comment on any particular threats coming toward the White House…it is not an uncommon occurrence for people to threaten the government of the United States, regardless of whether it’s President Bush or any of his predecessors. And that’s why there are security precautions taken at the White House as a matter of routine.”? (Washington Post, Sept. 27, 2001).

[The Commission of Inquiry, in its Final Report, alludes to the threat in the following terms:

After the attacks had occurred, while crisis management were still sorting out a number of unnerving false alarms, Air Force One flew to Barksdale Air Force in Louisiana. One of these alarms was of a reported threat against Air Force One itself, a threat eventually run down to a misunderstood communication in the hectic White House Situation Room that morning.   (Chapter 10: Wartime, p. 325)

In a footnote to this paragraph the report adds:
“The Secret Service’s Intelligence Division tracked down the origin of this threat and, during the day, determined that it had originated in a misunderstanding by a watch officer to the White House Situation Room. The director of the White House Situation Room that day disputes this account. But the Intelligence Division had the primary job of running down the story, and we found their witnesses on this point to be credible.  During the afternoon of September 11 the leadership of the Secret Service was satisfied that the reported threat to “Angel? was unfounded.

At the White House press briefing on September 12, spokesperson Ari Fleischer described the threat to Air Force One as “real and credible.”…Fleischer told us he cited the information in good faith. Indeed, Fleischer had conferred with Vice President Cheney and Karen Hughes before the briefing, and they had decied to let people know about the threat, all of them believing it was true. According to Fleischer, only weeks later did he learn ? from press reports ” that the threat was unfounded. We have not found any evidence that contradicts his account.” (Notes, p. 554) ? Observations added  by Elias Davidsson]

Analysis of Bush?s inaction at the Booker Elementary School


Analysis of Bush’s inaction at the Booker Elementary School

Excerpts from Webster Tarplex’s book ?9/11 Synthetic Terrorism? (2005)

“The children were opening their books to read a story together when Bush’s White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card entered the room and whispered to Bush: “A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack? (San Francisco Chronicle, Sep. 11, 2002). Bush did not respond. He did not ask questions. He wanted no further information. He gave no orders or directives. He tasked no bureaucracies. He did literally nothing. Bush had run for president with the admission that he was a person of limited mental ability, but one who would hire the best advisors available. This moment showed the fatal weakness of that formula, of the oligarchical presidency.” (pp. 275-6)

“Bush’s defense, as sumarized by the 9/11 commission was that “the President felt he should project strength and calm until he could better understand what was happening? (9/11 commission report p. 38). This is exactly the ceremonial conception of the weak presidency, which sees the office as a symbol and object of popular emotional cathexis or focus, rather than as a policy-making post oriented toward action in the real world. It was left for the foreign press to ask the obvious question: whatever Bush’s animadversions might have been, why was he not picked up and carried out”…What strange process was at work behind the scenes to leave Bush as a sitting duck in a highly publicized location at a time of gravest danger”…The lackadaisical response to Bush’s Secret Service detail contrasts sharply with the aggressive manhandling of Cheney, who was lifted up by main force and carried toward the PEOC, the White House bunked, by Secret Service agents.” (pp. 277)

“As for Bush, he was taking orders from his handlers, as usual. From the back of the room, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer held up a sheet of paper with the words “DON”T SAY ANYTHING YET? written on it in big block letters (Washington Times, Oct. 7, 2002). In the interval, Bush was listening to a pupil read the celebrated story of “My Pet Goat” while the crisis unfolded around him.” (p. 277) […]

“One way to account for Bush’s behavior in the classroom that morning, and perhaps the most likely one, is the notion that Bush simply froze in fear and insecurity about what to do….The 9/11 commission accepted without criticism and even without comment Bush’s absurd decision to continue reading the story about the goat while the country was under attack, along with his explanation that this was motivated in his own mind by the desire to project an image of strength ? an answer which suggests that he was more concerned about maintaining appearances in his own delusional world than he was about providing concrete measures of national defense in this world.” (p.277-8)

President Bush’s Movements and Actions on 9/11

Bush’s actions on September 11 have been the subject of lively debate, mostly on the internet. Details reported that day and in the week after the attacks – both the media reports and accounts given by Bush himself – have changed radically over the past 18 months. Culling hundreds of reports from newspapers, magazines, and the internet has only made finding the "truth" of what happened and when it happened more confusing. In the changed political climate after 9/11, few have dared raise challenging questions about Bush’s actions. A journalist who said Bush was "flying around the country like a scared child, seeking refuge in his mother’s bed after having a nightmare" and another who said Bush "skedaddled" were fired. [Washington Post, 9/29/01 (B)] We should have a concise record of where President Bush was throughout the day the US was attacked, but we do not.

What follows is an attempt to give the most complete account of Bush’s actions – from Florida to Louisiana to Nebraska to Washington, DC.


An Interesting Day:
President Bush’s Movements and Actions on 9/11

By Allan Wood and Paul Thompson
May 9, 2003


Bush’s appearance at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, on September 11, 2001 had been in the planning stages since August [Booker web site], but was only publicly announced on the morning of September 7. [White House, 9/7/01] Later that same day, 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi traveled to Sarasota and enjoyed drinks and dinner at a Holiday Inn only two miles down the sandy beach from where Bush was scheduled to stay during his Sarasota visit. [Longboat Observer, 11/21/01, Washington Post, 1/27/02]

On the night of September 10th, Bush stayed at the Colony Beach Resort – "an upscale and relatively pristine tropical island enclave located directly on the Gulf of Mexico, a spindly coral island … off Sarasota, Florida." [AP, 07/29/01] Zainlabdeen Omer, a Sudanese native living in Sarasota, told the local police that night that someone he knew who had made violent threats against Bush was in town and Omer was worried about Bush’s safety. The man was identified only as "Ghandi." A police report states the Secret Service was informed immediately. [Hopsicker, 7/22/02]

After a private dinner with various Florida politicians (including his brother Jeb) and Republican donors, Bush went to bed around 10:00 p.m. [Sarasota Magazine, 11/01, Washington Post, 1/27/02] Surface-to-air missiles were placed on the roof of the resort [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/02], and an Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) plane circled high overhead. [Fighting Back: The War on Terrorism – From Inside the Bush White House, by Bill Sammon, 10/02, p. 25] It’s not clear if this type of protection was standard for the president or whether security was increased because of possible threats.


An Assassination Attempt?

Bush awoke a little before 6:00 a.m. on September 11, pulled on shorts and an old T-shirt and laced up his running shoes. [CBS, 11/1/02] At 6:30 a.m., Bush, a reporter friend, and his Secret Service crew took a four-mile jog in the half-light of dawn around a nearby golf course. [Washington Post, 1/27/02, Washington Post, 09/11/01]

At about the same time Bush was getting ready for his jog, a van carrying several Middle Eastern men pulled up to the Colony’s guard station. The men said they were a television news crew with a scheduled "poolside" interview with the president. They asked for a certain Secret Service agent by name. The message was relayed to a Secret Service agent inside the resort, who hadn’t heard of the agent mentioned or of plans for an interview. He told the men to contact the president’s public relations office in Washington, DC, and had the van turned away. [Longboat Observer, 9/26/01]

The Secret Service may have foiled an assassination attempt. Two days earlier, Ahmed Shah Massoud, leader of Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance, had been murdered by a similar ruse. Two North African men, posing as journalists from "Arabic News International," had been requesting an interview with Massoud since late August. Ahmad Jamsheed, Massoud’s secretary, said that by the night of September 8, "they were so worried and excitable, they were begging us." An interview was arranged for the following day. As it began, a bomb hidden in the video camera exploded, killing the two journalists. Massoud was rushed by helicopter to a hospital in Tajikistan, but was pronounced dead on arrival (although his death was not acknowledged until September 15). [International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism, 10/30/01, Newsday, 10/26/01] The assassination is widely believed to have been timed to remove the Taliban’s most popular and respected opponent in anticipation of the backlash that would occur after the 9/11 attacks. [BBC, 9/10/01, BBC, 9/10/01 (B), Time, 8/4/02, St. Petersburg Times, 9/9/02] The Northern Alliance blamed al-Qaeda and the ISI, Pakistan’s secret service, for the attacks. [Radio Free Europe, 9/10/01, Newsday, 9/15/01, Reuters, 10/4/01]

Nearly three hours after the incident at the Colony, another Longboat Key resident reported a run-in with possibly the same men. At about 8:50 (when reports of the first World Trade Center crash were first broadcast), while standing on the Sarasota bay front waiting for the presidential motorcade to pass by, this man saw two Middle Eastern men in a dilapidated van "screaming out the windows ‘Down with Bush’ and raising their fists in the air." The FBI questioned the man, but it’s not known if this was the same van that had visited the Colony. [Longboat Observer, 9/26/01]

Later on the morning of September 11, the Secret Service searched a Sarasota apartment looking for further corroboration of Zainlabdeen Omer’s report of an assassination threat. Three Sudanese men were questioned for about ten hours. The Secret Service also raided a beauty supply store in Sarasota, whose owner, identified as "Hakim," told the agents that "Ghandi" was a member of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army, a group fighting against the fundamentalist Muslim government in Sudan. [Hopsicker, 7/22/02]

Monica Yadav of Sarasota’s ABC News 40 reported that a few days after the Secret Service visit, the beauty supply store was closed up and Hakim was long gone. Yadav also learned that Zainlabdeen Omer had suddenly quit his jobs and vacated his apartment. "All I know is he can’t leave town," a friend of Omer’s told Yadav. "Omer got in a lot of trouble with the law." The Special Agent in charge of the Presidential detail in Sarasota told Yadav that Bush was never in any danger and the various warnings and possible terrorist connections were all "just a coincidence." [Hopsicker, 7/22/02] Yet, as we will see below, there are more details of a threat against Bush before he left Sarasota.

Bush Is Briefed as the Hijackings Begin

After his jog, Bush showered, then sat down for his daily intelligence briefing around 8 a.m. "The President’s briefing appears to have included some reference to the heightened terrorist risk reported throughout the summer, but contained nothing specific, severe or imminent enough to necessitate a call to [National Security Advisor] Condoleezza Rice." [Telegraph, 12/16/01]

While Bush was being briefed, the planes that would be hijacked began taking off. American Airlines Flight 11 was first, leaving Boston’s Logan Airport at 7:59 a.m. The others soon followed, except for United Flight 93, scheduled to leave at 8:01, but which was delayed on the runway for about 40 minutes. [Boston Globe, 11/23/01] (For more information on the four flights, see Flight 11, Flight 175, Flight 77, Flight 93.)

At approximately 8:13, Flight 11 was instructed by air traffic controllers at the FAA’s Boston Center, in Nashua, New Hampshire, to climb to 35,000 feet. The plane did not obey the order and its transponder was turned off. Air traffic control manager Glenn Michael said, "we considered it at that time to be a possible hijacking." [AP, 8/12/02, emphasis added] According to FAA regulations, that was the correct decision: "Consider that an aircraft emergency exists … when … there is unexpected loss of radar contact and radio communications with any … aircraft." [FAA Air Traffic Control Regulations, Chapter 10, Section 2-5 ]

If air traffic controllers believed Flight 11 had been hijacked at 8:13, NORAD should have been informed immediately, so military planes could be scrambled to investigate. However, NORAD and the FAA both claimed NORAD was not informed until 8:40 – 27 minutes later. [NORAD, 9/18/01, AP, 8/12/02, AP, 8/19/02, Newsday, 9/10/02; one NORAD employee said it took place at 8:31, ABC News, 9/11/02] Indeed, before contacting NORAD, Boston air traffic controllers watched Flight 11 make an unexpected 100-degree turn and head south toward New York City [Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/01], told other controllers of the hijacking at 8:25 [Guardian, 10/17/01], continued to hear highly suspicious dialogue from the cockpit (such as, "Nobody move, please, we are going back to the airport. Don’t try to make any stupid moves") [Guardian, 10/17/01, New York Times, 10/16/01], and even asked the pilots of Flight 175 to scan the skies for the errant plane. [Guardian, 10/17/01, Boston Globe, 11/23/01]

Is NORAD’s claim credible? If so, the air traffic controllers (including Mr. Michael) should have been fired and subject to possible criminal charges for their inaction. To date, however, there has been no word of any person being disciplined at any institution at any level for what happened on 9/11.

If NORAD’s claim is false, and it was indeed informed within the time frame outlined in FAA regulations that Flight 11 may have been hijacked, that would mean NORAD did absolutely nothing for almost thirty minutes while a hijacked commercial airliner flew off course through some of the most congested airspace in the world. Presumably, that would warrant some very serious charges. Again, no one associated with NORAD or the FAA has been punished.

According to phone calls made by fight attendants Betty Ong and Amy Sweeney, the hijackers had stabbed and killed at least one passenger and two flight attendants by about 8:21. [ABC News, 7/18/02, Boston Globe, 11/23/01, AP, 10/5/01, Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01] (One hijacker may have been riding in the cockpit and begun the hijacking earlier.) After 8:21, both women apparently remained on the phone with American Airlines’ headquarters for 25 minutes, until their plane crashed into the World Trade Center’s North Tower. [ABC News, 7/18/02, AP, 10/5/01] These calls make NORAD’s supposed ignorance of a crisis even more dubious.

Bush Leaves for Booker Elementary

Around the same time the Flight 11 hijackers were stabbing passenger Daniel Lewin – at 8:20 a.m. – Bush’s briefing ended and he said good-bye to the Colony’s general manager. [Telegraph, 12/16/01, Sarasota Magazine, 11/01] The first event on Bush’s schedule was what is known as a "soft event" ? a photo-op with children at Emma Booker Elementary School – promoting his proposed education bill. [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/11/01] After spending about 20 minutes with the children, Bush was scheduled to give a short press conference at about 9:30. [White House, 9/7/01, Federal News Service, 9/10/01]

Accounts of when Bush’s motorcade left for the school vary from 8:30 to 8:39. [8:30, Washington Post, 1/27/02, 8:35, Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/01, 8:39, Washington Times, 10/7/02] One account has the Bush party leave the Colony suite at 8:30 and drive away at 8:39. Whenever he left, the motorcade traveled quickly: "The police shut down traffic in both directions, leaving roads utterly deserted for Bush’s long motorcade, which barreled along at 40 mph, running red lights with impunity." [Fighting Back: The War on Terrorism – From Inside the Bush White House, by Bill Sammon, 10/02, pp. 37-38] At 40 mph, it would take about 14 minutes to travel the nine-mile distance to the school. Several accounts say the journey took about 20 minutes [New York Times, 9/16/01 (B), St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/02 (B), MSNBC, 10/29/02], which means that Bush arrived shortly before 9:00. [8:46, ABC News, 9/11/02, 8:55, Washington Times, 10/7/02, 8:55, Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/01, "just before 9:00," Telegraph, 12/16/01, "shortly before 9:00," Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/02, "just before 9:00," New York Times, 9/16/01 (B), 9:00, Albuquerque Tribune, 9/10/02]

When Did Bush First Learn of the Attacks?

Why does it matter when Bush left the resort and arrived at the school? Because this is the crucial time when Bush was first told, or should have been told, of the attacks. Official accounts, including the words of Bush himself, say Bush was first told of what was happening in New York City after he arrived at the school. [Telegraph, 12/16/01, CBS, 9/11/02] However, this statement does not stand up to scrutiny. There are at least four reports that Bush was told of the first crash before he arrived at the school.

In this map, the yellow star is roughly where Bush’s motorcade is when Flight 11 crashes at 8:46, and the orange star is where he is when told about the crash a few minutes later. [Made with Yahoo Maps



Two accounts explicitly state Bush was told while in the motorcade. "The President was on Highway 301, just north of Main Street … [when] he received the news that a plane had crashed in New York City." [Sarasota Magazine, 11/01] (See adjacent map for the location where he is told.) Another account states, "Bush was driving to the school in a motorcade when the phone rang. An airline accident appeared to have happened. He pressed on with his visit." [Observer, 9/16/01]

The first media reports of Flight 11’s crash into the World Trade Center began around 8:48, two minutes after the crash happened. [New York Times, 9/15/01] CNN broke into its regular programming at that time [CNN, 9/11/01], though other networks, such as ABC, took a few more minutes to begin reporting. [ABC, 9/14/02] So within minutes, millions were aware of the story, yet Bush supposedly remained unaware for about another ten minutes.

Claims of Bush’s ignorance become harder to believe when one learns that others in his motorcade were immediately told of the attack. For instance, Kia Baskerville, a CBS News producer traveling with Bush that morning, received a message about a plane crash "as the presidential motorcade headed to President Bush’s first event." Baskerville said, "Fifteen minutes later I was standing in a second grade classroom [waiting for Bush’s entrance]" – which means she got the news at about 8:47 – right as the story was first being reported. [CBS, 8/19/02] A news photographer in the motorcade overheard a radio transmission that Press Secretary Ari Fleischer would be needed on arrival at the school to discuss reports of some sort of crash. [Christian Science Monitor, 9/17/01] Another account notes Fleischer got the news that the crash had occurred "just minutes before," but notes that Bush was not in the same car as Fleischer. [CBS, 11/1/02] Senior presidential communications officer Thomas Herman said, "Just as we were arriving at the school, I received a notification from our operations center than [sic] an airliner had struck one of the towers…." [Marist College Magazine, Fall 2002]

Meanwhile, CIA Director George Tenet was told of the crash a few minutes after it happened. A messenger gave him the news as he was eating breakfast with former Senator David Boren in a Washington restaurant three blocks from the White House. Boren says Tenet was told that the World Trade Center had been attacked by an airplane: "I was struck by the fact that [the messenger] used the word attacked." An aide then handed a cell phone to Tenet, and Tenet made some calls, showing that at least some at the highest levels of the Bush administration were talking about an attack at this time. Tenet then said to Boren, "You know, this has bin Laden’s fingerprints all over it." [ABC, 9/14/02]

Some people at the school also heard of the news before Bush arrived. Around 8:50, Tampa Bay’s Channel 8 reporter Jackie Barron was on the phone with her mother, who mentioned the first news reports. At almost the same time, Brian Goff, a Fox reporter from Tampa, heard the same thing on his cell phone. [Sarasota Magazine, 11/01] Associated Press reporter Sonia Ross was also told of the crash by phone from a colleague. [AP, 9/12/01 (D)] Florida Congressman Dan Miller, waiting in front of the school as part of the official greeting party, was told by an aide about the crash at 8:55, before Bush arrived. [Sarasota Magazine, 11/01]

Given all this, how could Bush have remained ignorant? Could he have been out of the loop because he was in a car? No. The previous night, Colony Resort manager Katie Klauber Moulon toured the presidential limousine and marveled "at all the phones and electronic equipment." [Sarasota Magazine, 11/01] Karl Rove, Bush’s "chief political strategist," who presumably was riding with Bush, used a wireless e-mail device on 9/11 as well. [Newsweek, 10/14/02] There seems to have been ample opportunity and the means to alert Bush.

White House Situation Room Director Deborah Loewer.

Another Warning

If Bush wasn’t told while in his limousine, he certainly was told immediately after he got out of it. US Navy Captain Deborah Loewer, the director of the White House Situation Room, was traveling in the motorcade when she received a message from an assistant back in Washington about the first crash. Loewer said that as soon as the car arrived at Booker, she ran quickly over to Bush. "It’s a very good thing the Secret Service knows who I am," Loewer later said. She told Bush that an aircraft had "impacted the World Trade Center. This is all we know." [Catholic Telegraph, 12/7/01, AP, 11/26/01]

Meanwhile, More Hijackings

Even though Flight 175 left about the same time as Flight 11, it appears to have been hijacked much later. At 8:41, its pilot was still talking to ground control [New York Times, 10/16/01], but at 8:42 it sharply veered off course, and a flight controller noted that its transponder had been turned off and communication cut. [Boston Globe, 11/23/01, New York Times, 10/16/01] One minute later, at 8:43, NORAD was notified the plane had been hijacked. [NORAD, 9/18/01] The hijackers turned the transponder back on but used a different signal code. This allowed flight controllers to "easily" track the plane as it flew toward New York City. [Washington Post, 9/17/01] At about 8:46, Flight 77 began to go severely off course. According to regulations, a fighter is required to be dispatched if a plane strays from its official course by more than two miles or 15 degrees [MSNBC, 9/12/01]. As the adjacent map shows, Flight 77 returned to its proper course for a time, but its last radio contact occurred at 8:50. [Guardian, 10/17/01] Supposedly, NORAD was not officially notified that Flight 77 has been hijacked until 9:24 [NORAD, 9/18/01], but the New York Times reported that by around 8:50, military officials at the Pentagon were already discussing what to do about Flight 77. [New York Times, 9/15/01] Note the difference in notification times: 27 minutes for Flight 11, 1 minute for Flight 175 and 38 minutes for Flight 77.

Flight 93 wasn’t hijacked until about 9:16, but by about 8:50, it was clear that at least three planes had been hijacked. Vice President Dick Cheney, speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press, said, "The Secret Service has an arrangement with the FAA. They had open lines after the World Trade Center was …" [Meet the Press, 9/16/01] Cheney never finished his sentence (interesting in itself – did he say too much?), but it seems safe to say that his next word would have been "hit." Cheney’s statement makes it clear the Secret Service knew the extent of the situation well before 9:00 am.

An Accident?

Intelligence agencies were suffering "warning fatigue" from so many warnings of an al-Qaeda attack [Independent, 9/7/02], some specifically mentioning the use of hijacked airplanes as missiles (see this essay). Bush himself was given an intelligence briefing a month earlier entitled "Bin Laden to Strike in US," and it contained a warning from the British government that the US should expect multiple airline hijackings from al-Qaeda. [Sunday Herald, 5/19/02] So with the clear knowledge that three planes had been hijacked, with one of them already crashed into the World Trade Center, who would have possibly assumed that Flight 11’s crash was an accident? Yet that is precisely what the official story claims. There are a number of different "official" accounts, but all of them stress that Bush wasn’t told until after he arrived inside the school (contrary to the account of Captain Loewer) and that it was assumed to be an accident (contradicting Tenet being told that it was an attack).

In some accounts, "President Bush had emerged from his car and was shaking hands with local officials standing outside the school when Chief of Staff Andrew Card sidled up to him with the news." [CBS, 11/1/02] Bush later recalled that it was Card who first notified him: "’Here’s what you’re going to be doing; you’re going to meet so-and-so, such-and-such.’ Then Andy Card said, ‘By the way, an aircraft flew into the World Trade Center.’" [Washington Times, 10/7/02] At a press conference later that day, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer also claimed it was Andy Card who first informed him, "as the President finished shaking hands in a hallway of school officials." [Knoxville News Sentinel, 9/11/01]

In other accounts, it was advisor Karl Rove who first told Bush. According to photographer Eric Draper, who was standing nearby, Rove rushed up, took Bush aside in a corridor inside the school and said the cause of the crash was unclear. Bush replied, "What a horrible accident!" Bush also suggested the pilot may have had a heart attack. [Daily Mail, 9/8/02] Dan Bartlett, White House Communications Director, says he was there when Bush was told: "[Bush] being a former pilot, had kind of the same reaction, going, was it bad weather? And I said no, apparently not." [ABC News, 9/11/02] A reporter who was standing nearby later said, "From the demeanor of the President, grinning at the children, it appeared that the enormity of what he had been told was taking a while to sink in." [Daily Mail, 9/8/02] One account explicitly says that Rove told Bush the World Trade Center had been hit by a large commercial airliner. [Telegraph, 12/16/01] However, Bush later remembered Rove saying it appeared to be an accident involving a small, twin-engine plane. [Washington Post, 1/27/02, MSNBC, 9/02]

In yet another account, Blake Gottesman, Bush’s personal assistant, while giving the president some final instructions as they walked to the school, remarked, "Andy Card says, ‘By the way, an aircraft flew into the World Trade Center.’" [Fighting Back: The War on Terrorism – From Inside the Bush White House, by Bill Sammon, 10/02, pp. 41-42]

Told Again, Yet Still Clueless

Booker principal Gwen Tose-Rigell was waiting for Bush outside the school. "The limousine stops and the president comes out. He walks toward me. I’m standing there in a lineup; there are about five people. He walks over and says he has to make a phone call, and he’ll be right back." [MSNBC, 09/02, Telegraph, 12/16/01] The phone call was with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. From a room with secure communications, Rice updated Bush on the situation. [Christian Science Monitor, 9/17/01, Time, 9/12/01] The fact that Bush immediately said he had to make an important call strongly suggests he was told about the situation while in the motorcade. But some accounts have Andrew Card saying to Bush as he gets out of his limousine, "Mr. President, you really need to take this phone call," thereby implying that Card knows what’s going on, but Bush doesn’t. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/02 (B)]

As National Security Advisor, Rice had to have had as much information as anyone. By the time she spoke to Bush, she must have known that three planes had been hijacked and that the country was under attack. We know very little about the conversation – only that Rice later claimed, "[Bush] said, what a terrible, it sounds like a terrible accident. Keep me informed." [ABC News, 9/11/02] One reporter noted: "Bush did not appear preoccupied [after the phone call] ? There was no sign that Rice had just told [him] about the first attack [on the World Trade Center]." [Cox News, 9/12/01 (B)] Tose-Rigell was then summoned to a room to talk with Bush: "He said a commercial plane has hit the World Trade Center, and we’re going to go ahead and go on, we’re going on to do the reading thing anyway." [AP, 8/19/02 (D)]

One local reporter notes that at this point, "He could and arguably should have left Emma E. Booker Elementary School immediately, gotten onto Air Force One and left Sarasota without a moment’s delay … But he didn’t." [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/12/01 (B)] The only possible excuse is that Bush was completely clueless as to what was happening. Sure enough, at a press conference on the evening of 9/11, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer was asked by a reporter, "And then this morning, when Andy Card told him about the first accident, was Andy Card or Condi Rice or any of those aware of the hijackings? What did they know when they –" Fleischer cut in and replied, "No, at that point they were not." [Knoxville News Sentinel, 9/11/01] So supposedly, 15 minutes after the first crash, none of Bush’s aides, not even Rice back in Washington, DC, knew a thing about the hijackings that had been reported to NORAD 20 minutes earlier? This simply is not plausible.

Booker Elementary School. [MSNBC]


Bush’s Confused Recollection

Bush’s own recollection of the first crash only complicates the picture. Less than two months after the attacks, Bush made the preposterous claim that he had watched the first attack as it happened on live television. This is the seventh different account of how Bush learned about the first crash (in his limousine, from Loewer, from Card, from Rove, from Gottesman, from Rice, from television). On December 4, 2001, Bush was asked: "How did you feel when you heard about the terrorist attack?" Bush replied, "I was sitting outside the classroom waiting to go in, and I saw an airplane hit the tower – the TV was obviously on. And I used to fly, myself, and I said, well, there’s one terrible pilot. I said, it must have been a horrible accident. But I was whisked off there, I didn’t have much time to think about it." [White House, 12/4/01]

There was no film footage of the first attack until at least the following day, and Bush didn’t have access to a television until 15 or so minutes later. [Washington Times, 10/7/02] The Boston Herald later noted, "Think about that. Bush’s remark implies he saw the first plane hit the tower. But we all know that video of the first plane hitting did not surface until the next day. Could Bush have meant he saw the second plane hit – which many Americans witnessed? No, because he said that he was in the classroom when Card whispered in his ear that a second plane hit." [Boston Herald, 10/22/02] Bush’s recollection has many precise details. Is he simply confused? It’s doubly strange why his advisors didn’t correct him or – at the very least – stop him from repeating the same story only four weeks later. [White House, 1/5/02, CBS, 9/11/02] On January 5, 2002, Bush stated: "Well, I was sitting in a schoolhouse in Florida … and my Chief of Staff ? well, first of all, when we walked into the classroom, I had seen this plane fly into the first building. There was a TV set on. And you know, I thought it was pilot error and I was amazed that anybody could make such a terrible mistake. And something was wrong with the plane…" [White House, 1/5/02]

Unfortunately, Bush has never been asked – not even once – to explain these statements. His memory not only contradicts every single media report, it also contradicts what he said that evening. In his speech to the nation that evening, Bush said: "Immediately following the first attack, I implemented our government’s emergency response plans." [White House, 9/11/01] It’s not known what these emergency plans were, because neither Bush nor anyone in his administration mentioned this immediate response again. Implementing "emergency response plans" seems to completely contradict Bush’s "by the way" recollection of a small airplane accident.

Inside the Classroom and the Second Plane Crash

Shortly after his call with National Security Advisor Rice, Bush entered Sandra Kay Daniels’s second-grade class for a photo-op to promote Bush’s education policies. [Daily Mail, 9/8/02] The event was to begin precisely at 9:00, but the call pushed it back to about 9:03. [Washington Times, 10/8/02, Telegraph, 12/16/01, Daily Mail, 9/8/02] Numerous reporters who were traveling with the president, as well as members of the local media, watched from the back of the room. [AP, 8/19/02 (D)] Altogether there were about 150 people in the room, only 16 of them students. Bush was introduced to the children and then posed for a number of pictures. Daniels then led the students through some reading exercises (video footage shows this lasted about three minutes). [Salon, 9/12/01 (B)] Bush later related what he was thinking at the time: "I was concentrating on the program at this point, thinking about what I was going to say [about the plane crash]. Obviously, I felt it was an accident. I was concerned about it, but there were no alarm bells." [Washington Times, 10/7/02]

At 9:03, Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. News of this traveled extremely rapidly. In fact, some of Bush’s Secret Service agents watched the second crash live on television in an adjacent room. [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/02] Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, in the same room as Bush but not near him, immediately received the news on his pager. [CBS, 9/11/02] Other pagers were going off as well.

Chief of Staff Andrew Card was in a nearby room when he heard the news. He waited until there was a pause in the reading drill to walk in and tell Bush. [Washington Times, 10/7/02, Washington Times, 10/8/02] The children were getting their books from under their seats to read a story together when Card came in. [Daily Mail, 9/8/02] Card whispered to Bush: "A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack." [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/11/02] Another account has Card saying: "A second plane has hit the World Trade Center. America is under attack." [Telegraph, 12/16/01] Accounts vary as to when Card gave Bush the news. Some say 9:05 [Salon 9/11/01, New York Times, 9/16/01 (B), Telegraph, 12/16/01, Albuquerque Tribune, 9/10/02], and some say 9:07. [Washington Post, 9/11/01, Washington Times, 10/8/02] ABC News reporter Ann Compton, who was in the room, said she was surprised by the interruption and "wrote [the time] down in my reporter’s notebook, by my watch, 9:07 a.m." [ABC News, 9/11/02]

The Reaction – Or Lack of One

Descriptions vary greatly as to how Bush responded to the news. It is said he "blanched" [Richmond Times-Dispatch, 10/1/02], "the color drained from the president’s face" [AP, 9/12/01 (D)], he "wore a bemused smile" [Orlando Sentinel, 9/12/01], "because visibly tense and serious" [Time, 9/12/01], and so on. Watch the video and draw your own conclusions (the 11-minute video can be viewed at the Center for Cooperative Research, Buzzflash, Global Free Press, The Emperor’s New Clothes, or Liberty DYNU). Bush later recalled his own reaction: "I am very aware of the cameras. I’m trying to absorb that knowledge. I have nobody to talk to. I’m sitting in the midst of a classroom with little kids, listening to a children’s story and I realize I’m the Commander in Chief and the country has just come under attack." [Telegraph, 12/16/01, CBS, 11/1/02] Asked again what he thought after he heard the news, Bush said, "We’re at war and somebody has dared attack us and we’re going to do something about it. I realized I was in a unique setting to receive a message that somebody attacked us ? [I]t became evident that we were, you know, that the world had changed." [CBS, 9/11/02]

So what did the Commander in Chief do with the knowledge that the United States was under attack?

He did nothing.

Bush did not say one word. He did not ask Card any questions. He did not give any orders. He did not know who (or which country) was attacking, whether there would be more attacks, what military plans had been taken, what military actions should be taken – indeed, he knew virtually nothing about what was going on outside the room. He just sat there. Bush later recalled: "There was no time for discussion or anything." [Fighting Back: The War on Terrorism – From Inside the Bush White House, by Bill Sammon, 10/02, pp. 83-84] Even stranger, as one newspaper put it, although the nation was under terrorist attack, "for some reason, Secret Service agents [did] not bustle him away." [Globe and Mail, 9/12/01]

Military pilots must have "permission from the White House because only the president has the authority to order a civilian aircraft shot down." [CNN, 10/26/99] But if retaliatory strikes needed to the authorized, Bush was not available. If one of the planes had to be shot down to save more lives on the ground, Bush was not available. Although several fighters had been dispatched to defend New York City, the pilot of one of the planes flying to catch Flight 175 later noted that it wouldn’t have mattered if he caught up with it, because only Bush could order a shootdown, and Bush could not be reached in the classroom. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02]

Secret Service agents and other security personnel had set up a television in a nearby classroom. They turned on the TV just as Flight 175 crashed into the World Trade Center. According to Sarasota County Sheriff Bill Balkwill, who was in the room, a Marine responsible for carrying Bush’s phone immediately said to Balkwill, "We’re out of here. Can you get everyone ready?" [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/02] But he must have been overruled by someone, because Bush did not leave.

Meanwhile, Secret Service agents burst into Vice President Cheney’s White House office. They carried him under his arms – nearly lifting him off the ground – and propelled him down the steps into the White House basement and through a long tunnel toward an underground bunker. Accounts of when this happened vary greatly, from 9:06 [New York Times, 9/16/01 (B), Telegraph, 12/16/01] to after 9:30. [CBS, 9/11/02, Washington Post, 1/27/02] Cheney’s own account is vague and contradictory. [Meet the Press, 9/16/01] The one eyewitness account, by White House photographer David Bohrer, said it happened just after 9:00. [ABC, 9/14/02 (B)] It’s easy to see why the White House would have wanted this event placed at a later time (after Bush’s initial statement to the nation rather than after the second crash) to avoid the obvious question: if Cheney was immediately evacuated, why wasn’t Bush?

The Photo-Op Goes On

After Card told Bush about the second plane and quickly left, the classroom was silent for about 30 seconds or so. [Tampa Tribune, 9/1/02] The children were about to take turns reading from a story called The Pet Goat. [AFP, 9/7/02] Bush picked up the book and began to read with the children. [Tampa Tribune, 9/1/02] In unison, the children read out loud, "The – Pet – Goat. A – girl – got – a – pet – goat. But – the – goat – did – some – things – that – made – the – girl’s – dad – mad." Bush mostly listened, but occasionally asked the children a few questions to encourage them. [Washington Times, 10/7/02] At one point he said, "Really good readers, whew! … These must be sixth-graders!" [Time, 9/12/01]

Who was really in control? Certainly not Bush. In the back of the room, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer caught Bush’s eye and held up a pad of paper for him to see, with "DON’T SAY ANYTHING YET" written on it in big block letters. [Washington Times, 10/7/02] Some person or people had overruled the security who wanted Bush evacuated immediately, even as Vice President Cheney was taken from his White House office to a safe location. Bush’s security overruled Bush on security matters later in the day on Air Force One, but who overruled them that morning?

When Did Bush Leave the Classroom?

Nearly every news account fails to mention when Bush left the classroom after being told America was under attack. Three mention 9:12 a.m. [New York Times, 9/16/01 (B), Telegraph, 12/16/01, Daily Mail, 9/8/02] Remaining in the classroom for approximately five to seven minutes is inexcusable, but the video of Bush in the classroom suggests he stayed longer than that. The video contains several edits and ends before Bush leaves the room, so it also doesn’t tell us exactly how long he stayed. One newspaper suggested he remained "for eight or nine minutes" – sometime between 9:13 and 9:16, since Card’s arrival is uncertain. [Tampa Tribune, 9/1/02]

When Bush finally did leave, he didn’t act like a man in a hurry. In fact, he was described as "openly stretching out the moment." [Fighting Back: The War on Terrorism – From Inside the Bush White House, by Bill Sammon, 10/02, p. 89] When the lesson was over, Bush said to the children: "Hoo! These are great readers. Very impressive! Thank you all so much for showing me your reading skills. I bet they practice too. Don’t you? Reading more than they watch TV? Anybody do that? Read more than you watch TV? [Hands go up] Oh that’s great! Very good. Very important to practice! Thanks for having me. Very impressed." [Transcribed from Booker video, Fighting Back: The War on Terrorism – From Inside the Bush White House, by Bill Sammon, 10/02, pp. 89-90] Bush still continued to talk, advising the children to stay in school and be good citizens. [Tampa Tribune, 9/1/02, St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/02 (B)] One student asked Bush a question, and he gave a quick response on his education policy. [New York Post, 9/12/02]

The only source to describe what happened next is Fighting Back by Bill Sammon. Publishers Weekly described Sammon’s book as an "inside account of the Bush administration’s reaction to 9-11 [and] a breathless, highly complimentary portrait of the president [showing] the great merit and unwavering moral vision of his inner circle." [Publisher’s Weekly, 10/15/02] Sammon’s conservative perspective makes his account of Bush’s behavior at the end of the photo-op all the more surprising. Bush is described as smiling and chatting with the children "as if he didn’t have a care in the world" and "in the most relaxed manner imaginable." White House aide Gordon Johndroe, then came in as he usually does at the end of press conferences, and said, "Thank you, press. If you could step out the door we came in, please." A reporter then asked, "Mr. President, are you aware of the reports of the plane crash in New York? Is there anything…", But Bush interrupted, and no doubt recalling his order, "DON’T SAY ANYTHING YET," Bush responded, "I’ll talk about it later." But still the president did not leave. "He stepped forward and shook hands with [classroom teacher] Daniels, slipping his left hand behind her in another photo-op pose. He was taking his good old time. … Bush lingered until the press was gone." [Fighting Back: The War on Terrorism – From Inside the Bush White House, by Bill Sammon, 10/02, p. 90]

Think about that: rather than rush out of the room at the first chance, Bush actually stayed until after all the dozens of reporters had left! Having just been told of a Pearl Harbor-type attack on US soil, Bush was indeed "openly stretching out the moment." But he still wasn’t done. Bush then turned to principal Tose-Rigell, who was waiting to take him to the library for his speech on education. He explained to her about the terror attacks and why he had to leave. [Fighting Back: The War on Terrorism – From Inside the Bush White House, by Bill Sammon, 10/02, p. 90] Finally, he went to an empty classroom next door where his staff was based. [ABC News, 9/11/02] Given that Bush’s program was supposed to end at 9:20, he left the classroom only a couple of minutes earlier than planned, if even that. [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/16/01]

Why Stay?

The reason given why Bush didn’t leave as soon as Card told him the news is: "Without all the facts at hand, George Bush had no intention of upsetting the schoolchildren who had come to read for him." [MSNBC, 10/29/02] Advisor Karl Rove said, "The President thought for a second or two about getting up and walking out of the room. But the drill was coming to a close and he didn’t want to alarm the children." [ABC, 9/11/02] This excuse is patently absurd, given the security risks and importance of Bush being informed and making decisions as Commander in Chief. Nor was the drill coming to a close: one drill had ended and another was about to begin – it was a perfect time to simply say, "Excuse me" and leave the room. Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport is only 3

Reaction of President Bush on 9/11 morning

The obscure goat story of 9-11

It is very important to examine the first reactions President Bush had concerning the events of September 11.  You can tell much about the truth by observing the reactions of men. Human nature is almost always the best truth detector and said to be the most accurate lie detector. One of the basic instructions taught to every U.S. military and civilian police trainee is to "watch and observe".  Let’s observe what really took place before these headline stories are buried in a sea of obscurity.

"In Sarasota, Florida, Bush was reading to children in a classroom at 9:05 a.m. when his chief of staff, Andrew Card, whispered into his ear. The president briefly turned somber before he resumed reading. He addressed the tragedy a half-hour later. " – Associated Press, September 12, 2001 [bold emphasis added]. about

"President Bush listened to 18 Booker Elementary School second-graders read a story about a girl’s pet goat Tuesday before he spoke briefly and somberly about the terrorist attacks." – Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Page A20, September 12, 2001  [bold emphasis added].

President Bush became briefly somber and continued reading a story about a goat for nearly another half hour. He didn’t politely excuse himself to the children, but rather, temporarily stopped reading only to continue on as if nothing had happened.  Is this how you – or anyone around you at the time – reacted when you first heard the news of the WTC tragedy?  At the very least, one would think that Bush would have spent a minute or two being properly briefed by his trusted Chief of Staff before finishing his reading of a goat story. If this was new news to him, one would surely think that he would immediately want to know more details. Does anyone else see that this "Presidential" reaction was out of place and doesn’t fit the circumstances?  His reaction seems to imply that this was not fresh news to him, but more of a confirmation of what he might have already known about. Watch and observe.

In human nature, this kind of reaction – in reality, a non-reaction – usually comes about when the hearer either already has knowledge of what he was just told, or he doesn’t have any concern over what he was just told.  Some have already said that Bush didn’t want to upset the children as an excuse for his continuing to read the goat story.  Wouldn’t one have to believe that these 7 year old children were already upset and nervous about having the President read a story with them in their classroom?  A simple and polite "Children, I’m sorry I can’t read with you any longer. As the President, sometimes my schedule changes quickly, but I want to thank you for allowing me to join you in reading this story" would have been fitting.  The problem is that’s not what happened.  Watch and observe.

It struck us odd that both the above newspaper articles (as well as many others) stressed the word somber in describing the President’s first as well as delayed reactions.  That seemed normal enough at first, but then we decided to find out what a somber reaction and manner of speech really is. Watch and observe.

somber / sombre.* French sombre ; Spanish sombra  , shade, prob. from LL. subumbrare to put in the shade; Latin sub under + umbra shade. See Umbrage.

umbrage.*  French ombrage , shade, suspicion, umbrage. Latin umbraticus , belonging to shade, French umbra, a shade. Cf. Umber, Umbratic. 1. Shade; shadow; obscurity; hence, that which affords a shade, as a screen of trees or foliage. 2. Shadowy resemblance; shadow.  

Of or pertaining to the shade or darkness; shadowy; unreal; secluded; retired. 

darkness.** Absence of light; black hole; dark star; dark matter, cold darkOccultation, adumbration, obumbration; sunless, lightless; dark as pitch, dark as a pit, dark as Erebus[Lat]. somber, dusky; unilluminated…  matter.

* Webster’s Dictionary, 1913 [underlining added].

** Roget’s Thesaurus, 1911, search results  for "somber" [underlining added].

Now it appears that the somber reaction of President Bush is perhaps more revealing than at first glimpse.  If the President "briefly turned somber" and "spoke briefly and somberly about the terrorist attacks," then the reporters were describing both his demeanor and speech as being shadowy, obscure, dark,  unreal, without light, and suspicious.  Was this a mistaken word of description, or were they accurately reporting what they saw and observed?

These newspaper reports are describing the character and demeanor of the President as dark, black, and lightless when Andrew Card told him about the WTC disaster. They did notsomber to relay to their readers how President Bush appeared. Watch and observe. describe him as becoming sorrowful or concerned, nor even that he appeared upset. They deliberately chose the word

The reporters also used the same word somber to describe his manner of speech after having had 30 minutes to (perhaps) compose himself from such tragic news.  His manner of speech, nearly a half hour later, was  portrayed with the same descriptions of obscurity, being void of light, suspicious, unrealistic, and shadowy. This is not the depiction of a man who is upset, worried, or concerned about a grave tragedy. Watch and observe.

When one learns of tragic news at the first hearing, his reaction is always described with characteristic words such as shocked, dismayed, worried, awe, sadness, or upset.  This describes how all of us reacted when we first heard the news of the WTC disaster… that is, all of us except President Bush, according to the reporters who were watching and observing him.

When one hears of tragic news after he was told it would – or most likely would – take place, his reaction is described with characteristic words such as disappointed, angry, remorseful, or somber. Watch and observe.

Either the Sarasota, Florida newspaper and AP reporters were both wrong in choosing the word somber, or the President just may have been showing us that he knew what was to happen before he read the goat story to a class of 7 year old children.  Either way, be it irresponsible reporting or an irresponsible President, this is a tragedy in and of itself.  However, it’s hard to believe that two or more witnesses separately chose the character word somber by mistake.

The worst thing we can do is to react to the events of September 11 without watching and observing first, as this is our first defense against possible deception.  Human reactions are great lie detectors simply for the fact that they are very difficult to hide.  The lies that may surround the WTC disaster must be exposed.  Truth appears to have already been the first casualty before any airplane was hijacked.

Evasive answers by US leaders

Press Picks Up on Sept. 11’s AWOL Chain of Command

On the morning of September 11, Secretary Rumsfeld was having breakfast at the Pentagon with a group of members of Congress. He then returned to his office for his daily intelligence briefing. The Secretary was informed of the second strike in New York during the briefing; he resumed the briefing while awaiting more information. After the Pentagon was struck, Secretary Rumsfeld went to the parking lot to assist with rescue efforts…

At 9:44, NORAD briefed the conference on the possible hijacking of Delta 1989. Two minutes later, staff reported that they were still trying to locate Secretary Rumsfeld and Vice Chairman Myers [acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on that day]. The Vice Chairman joined the conference shortly before 10:00; the Secretary, shortly before 10:30. The Chairman [Gen. Hugh Shelton] was out of the country.

— The 9/11 Commission Report, pp. 37-38

NEW YORK, Aug. 14, 2004 — 

The official investigation of the September 11th events has failed to explain or even to ask why the top officials in the U.S. military chain of command were missing in action during the attacks. 

Long a subject for 9/11 researchers, the riddle of the absent leadership was highlighted in new articles by author Gail Sheehy in this month’s Mother Jones and last Saturday’s Los Angeles Times

George W. Bush was moved to present a renewed defense of his actions on Sept. 11 in an interview published in last Thursday’s Washington Post.

Some background…

The first of the 9/11 flights was diverted and set on a course for Manhattan at about 8:13 a.m. The fourth and final flight crashed in Pennsylvania at either 10:03 or 10:06. Who acted as the commander of the U.S. military on Sept. 11th during the 110 minutes of the attacks? What explains the failure to follow standard air-defense response procedures, under which fighter jets should have been dispatched in a timely fashion to survey each situation and be in place for additional action if required? 

True, the Kean Commission’s credo, Our aim has not been to assign individual blame,”(The 9/11 Commission Report, p. xvi), sounds admirable. Does it mean that public officials should not be held accountable for their decisions or omissions? 

What the principals say

Bush has said he thought the first crash at the World Trade Center (8:46 a.m.) was an accident. After hearing of the second crash (9:05 a.m.), he says he didn’t rush to take command of the situation because it might have upset second graders who were reading to him from “The Pet Goat.”

In his office at the Pentagon, Donald Rumsfeld received word as each plane hit the Twin Towers, but apparently continued his scheduled lecture to a Congressional delegation on the subject of national preparedness against surprise attacks. After the opposite side of the Pentagon was hit (at 9:37 a.m. according to the report), he disappeared for 30 minutes while his generals tried to locate him and bring him to the war room. 

Richard Myers, acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Sept. 11, says he thought the first crash was an accident. He went ahead with a meeting at the offices of Sen. Max Cleland, with whom he discussed the subject of national preparedness. Myers heard about the second crash (which happened at 9:03 a.m.) on leaving the meeting. Moments later, he was told the Pentagon had been hit.

The 9/11 Commission Report does not omit so much as obscure these failures to take charge, presenting them as items of human interest during wartime and repeating short justifications from each of the principals. 

The report neglects to mention anything about the whereabouts on Sept. 11 of Gen. Montague Winfield, the director of the National Military Command Center or “war room” located in the Pentagon itself. 

Sheehy on Rumsfeld

In exposing Rumsfeld, Sheehy goes easy on the Kean Commission. The lead sentence of her LAT editorial implicitly endorses its recommendation of a National Intelligence Director: 

Donald Rumsfeld, one of the chief opponents of investing real power over purse and personnel in a new national intelligence chief, told the 9/11 commission that an intelligence czar would do the nation “a great disservice.” It is fair to ask what kind of service Rumsfeld provided on the day the nation was under catastrophic attack.

“Two planes hitting the twin towers did not rise to the level of Rumsfeld’s leaving his office and going to the War Room? How can that be?” asked Mindy Kleinberg, one of the widows known as the Jersey Girls, whose efforts helped create and guide the 9/11 commission. The fact that the final report failed to offer an explanation is one of the infuriating holes in an otherwise praiseworthy accounting.

Rumsfeld was missing in action that morning ? “out of the loop” by his own admission. The lead military officer that day, Brig. Gen. Montague Winfield, told the commission that the Pentagon’s command center had been essentially leaderless: “For 30 minutes we couldn’t find” Rumsfeld.

Sheehy is hasty in characterizing the situation at the NMCC as leaderless. If anything, the quote she cites suggests Winfield was “in the loop” during the time that Rumsfeld was missing. If that was the case, Winfield held the authority to lead. 

But the record of the Commission proceedings suggests that, like Rumsfeld, Winfield did not hold a command function until after the attacks were over (see below). However, even in Winfield’s absence, the next-ranking officer should have been charge.

Sheehy: For more than two hours after the Federal Aviation Administration became aware that the first plane had been violently overtaken by Middle Eastern men, the man whose job it was to order air cover over Washington [Rumsfeld] did not show up in the Pentagon’s command center. 

This may be a veiled reference to a military administrative order of June 1, 2001, which formally included the Secretary of Defense in any decision to authorize the interception of errant civilian planes by military jets. 

At least until then, interception of errant flights was a standard procedure, activated automatically once an air traffic controller determines a plane on instrument flight rules (IFR) is significantly off-course or has failed to respond to ground control. No formal authorization was required for the FAA to alert NORAD that an aircraft has deviated from its planned route, or for NORAD to scramble interceptors to reconnoiter and report. On the contrary, this was what was supposed to happen. 

It is unclear whether the  administrative order of June 1, by including Rumsfeld in these procedures, had any effect on practice. We do know that NORAD issued scramble orders to intercept errant flights within domestic airspace on 67 occasions prior to June 1, 2001. (Another fact mentioned nowhere in the Commission report.) And during the first minutes of their diversions, each of the 9/11 flights were simply errant aircraft, not yet turned into missiles. Interceptors should have been dispatched in a timely and automatic fashion, at least under the old rules.

Did Rumsfeld’s absence from decision-making cause delays in scrambling interceptors? The 9/11 Commission Report does not ask.

Sheehy: It took [Rumsfeld] almost two hours to “gain situational awareness,” he told the commission. He didn’t speak to the vice president until 10:39 a.m., according to the report. Since that was more than 30 minutes after the last hijacked plane crashed, it would seem to be an admission of dereliction of duty.

[Original at,1,6693051.story; archived by Common Dreams at]

Sheehy writes that the report’s failure to scrutinize Rumsfeld’s “admission of dereliction of duty” is “one of the infuriating holes in an otherwise praiseworthy accounting.” True enough, it is one of the holes, and Sheehy like any journalist likes to concentrate on one story at a time. Or perhaps she avoided criticism of the Commission as a way of placating the LAT editors. She goes further in Mother Jones, telling how she put Lee Hamilton, vice-chairman of the Kean Commission, on the spot with the question, “Where was Rumsfeld on 9/11?”:

“We investigated very carefully Mr. Rumsfeld’s actions,” said Hamilton. “He was having breakfast with Congressional leaders, and they hear a plane has hit the Pentagon, and he runs out.”

“He had to have been told before the Pentagon was hit that two trade centers were hit and the country was under attack,” I suggested. Was the commission comfortable with the fact that the country’s Secretary of Defense was not in the chain of command or present in the Pentagon’s command center until all four suicide hijacked planes were down? 

“I’m not going to answer that question,” said Hamilton, and turned away.
[Original at]

Montague Winfield

The Joint Chiefs of Staff are technically advisers to the executive and theater command, which under law “runs from the President to the Secretary of Defense; and from the Secretary of Defense to the commander of the combatant command.” As the theater of combat on Sept. 11 was domestic, the function of combatant command resided at the Pentagon in the NMCC. 

The attacks made use of passenger transport, a realm supervised by the Federal Aviation Administration. Once it was clear that attacks were underway, the responsibility for aerial defense resided with the North American Aerospace Command (NORAD) under Gen. Ralph Eberhart.

Authority should have therefore run from Commander-in-Chief Bush to Secretary Rumsfeld to the NMCC under Winfield and NORAD under Eberhart, with Gen. Myers as the chief adviser.    

Montague Winfield was originally scheduled to be at his command post on morning of Sept. 11. But on Sept. 10, he arranged for his deputy to relieve him the next morning at exactly 8:30 a.m. This turned out to be just eight minutes before the military was alerted to the diversion of the first flight (at 8:38 a.m. according to the timeline in The 9/11 Commission Report). 

The report mentions Winfield by name only once, as a source in a footnote, without clarification (Ch. 1 fn 190, p. 463). His absence from the NMCC after 8:30 a.m. was first revealed to the Commission in a June 17, 2004 statement by his deputy, Capt. Charles J. Leidig (who was recently promoted to admiral).

Winfield was scheduled to testify before the Kean Commission in public on the same day as Leidig. As on Sept. 11, he was a no-show. Leidig spoke for him, saying under oath that on Sept. 11, “Right after we resolved what was going on with United 93, around that time General Winfield took over” command of the NMCC. 
(Transcript of June 17 hearings at

Thus Gen. Winfield apparently exercised no operational authority until after the attacks were over.  In the further absence of Bush and Rumsfeld, the man in charge of the U.S. military during the attacks was apparently Capt. Leidig, a rookie in the job who, in his own words, first qualified in August 2001 “to stand watch as the Deputy Director for Operations in the NMCC.”

However, Winfield either forgot his own absence or attempted to gloss over it when he was filmed for a 2002 Discovery-Times documentary, “Attack on the Pentagon.” In that interview, he says that the “national leadership” was called to the NMCC “after the World Trade Center was struck.” He also describes on camera the process of “resolving” what happened to Flight 93, the final flight, as though he was present.

Was Winfield present at the NMCC at any time during the attacks? If not, why would he try to hide an absence for which no one would otherwise think to blame him, since it was arranged the night before? Where was he during the 90 minutes after 8:30 a.m.”

George W. Bush

Though it took three years, Bush is finally taking some heat for his suspect actions on Sept. 11, mainly thanks to the film Fahrenheit 9/11. It shows footage after the moment when he learned about the second crash. In a Florida classroom, with dozens of cameras running, the White House chief of staff steps up to the seated Bush and whispers into his ear for about three seconds. Supposedly he says, “A second plane has hit the Towers. America is under attack.” Bush does not ask for more information but remains seated for the next seven minutes, listening to the second-graders read. 

Many have intrepreted this as an individual loss of nerve at a crucial moment. In fact, that conclusion obscures a far more disturbing reality. 

On that day Bush was accompanied by the usual large entourage of White House staff, among them Secret Service and national security personnel. As of 8:46, the time of the first crash, Bush and entourage were still on their way to the school. The caravan could have driven straight to Air Force One or a secure command center. Bush says he heard about the first crash at 8:55. This is long after the military should have informed the White House of the hijacking. How can he claim he thought it was an accident? And what about his staff? In the subsequent half-hour plus, as the whole world learned of the New York events, why did the Secret Service feel so little urgency about the president as a potential target? Despite the risks, and despite the national emergency, the meaningless photo opportunity proceeded for the next 46 minutes. Worse, after the second crash, everyone stayed put in the school until at least 9:32, half an hour later, with most of the proceedings broadcast live on local and national TV. These are the periods of inaction that Bush and his staff must account for; and not just the “seven minutes” made famous by Michael Moore.

It gets worse. The famous Aug. 6 Presidential Daily Briefing, titled “BIN LADEN DETERMINED TO STRIKE IN THE U.S.,” had warned of terrorist plans to hijack planes in the United States. Bush and members of his entourage should have easily recalled that during the G-8 Summit in July 2001, the Secret Service received warnings from multiple sources that Osama bin Laden wanted to crash an airplane into his hotel in Genoa, Italy. As a result of these warnings, the Italians shut down the Genoa airport and airspace and installed anti-aircraft batteries to protect the summit (also see LA Times, Sept. 27, 2001). (See “Bush, Rice and the Genoa Warning: Documenting a demonstrable falsehood.“) 
That and other high-level warnings of an imminent aerial terror attack in the weeks prior to Sept. 11 (once again: completely unmentioned in the Commission report) make the failure to act during the national emergency all the more maddening and inexcusable. 

Sheehy is moved to consider darker motives, at least in her Mother Jones article. She returns to the Project for a New American Century, the policy initiative founded in 1997 that brought together Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and most of their direct associates in the Bush administration, as well as Jeb Bush. The PNAC manifesto of the year 2000 – an open call for the U.S. to establish a new order in the Middle East by force and dominate the world militarily – expresses a not-so-hidden wish for “a new Pearl Harbor” that would end what the authors decry as a dangerous trend to isolationism.

Sheehy’s exploration of this territory is an encouraging sign. We can only hope she and other reporters will take a closer look at the Kean Commission’s many other “infuriating holes.” As it turns out, the report’s omissions belie any pretense of “praiseworthy accounting.”And to many of those who have been paying attention to these issues since Sept. 11, the absence of a chain of command and of a credible U.S. air defense on Sept. 11 has always looked less like a “failure” than an intentional result of machinations behind the scenes. 

(-Nicholas Levis)