- After pledging to ask the hard questions concerning the
failure of US air defenses on Sept. 11, the commission charged with belatedly
investigating those events ignored inconsistent, sometimes nonsensical
testimony. The 10- member panel also failed to ask about diverting exercises
carried out that morning, why FL 93 came down in two places, or why the
interceptors launched by the Air Force flew at a fraction of their top
speeds. No one, it seems, wants to go near proof of treason rivaling America,s
first Pearl Harbor. As a 911 investigator who authored Stand Down and All
Fall Down, I have appended my commentary to the following "news stories.
- Air Defenses Faltered on 9/11, Panel Finds
- By Dan Eggen and William Branigin
- The chief of U.S. air defenses testified today that if
his command had been notified immediately of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackings
and ordered to intervene, U.S. fighter jets would have been able to shoot
down all four of the airliners.
Air Force Gen. Ralph E. Eberhart, commander of the North American Aerospace
Defense Command (NORAD), told the commission investigating the Sept. 11
terrorist attacks that had the Federal Aviation Administration conveyed
word of the hijackings as soon it knew of them, "yes, we could shoot
down the airplanes."
[In fact, the FAA did not have to wait to confirm and relay word of "hijackings.
Regulations followed routinely at least once a week at the time saw FAA
controllers calling for fighters on ready alert, or already aloft in the
vicinity, to escort commercial planes that had lost radio or transponder
contact. At least one Boston Center FAA controller says word of lost communications
with FL 11was passed to the military immediately. WT]
The chairman and vice chairman of the commission later expressed surprise
about Eberhart's claim.
According to the commission's new staff report, Vice President Cheney did
not issue orders to shoot down hostile aircraft on Sept. 11, 2001, until
long after the last hijacked airliner had already crashed, and that the
order was never passed along to military fighter pilots searching for errant
aircraft that morning.
The commission staff concluded that NORAD had received notice of the hijacking
nine minutes before Flight 77 hit the North Tower.
"The nine minutes notice was the most the military would receive that
morning of any of the four hijackings," the report says.
[If that is the case, they could not have been watching there own radar
screens. And they must have been the only Americans that morning not watching
network news or answering calls from worried spouses.
As for official channels, the commission heard that a pair of F-15s were
"wheels up out of Massachusetts as Tower 1 was struck more than 150
miles away. Air National Guard head, Maj. Gen. Paul Weaver later confirmed
an official NORAD news release, stating, "The F-15 pilots flew ''like
a scalded ape, topping 500 mph but were unable to catch up to the airliner.
(St. Augustine Times Sept16/01; NORAD news release Sept18/01)
Airliners fly at 500 mph. An F-15 can fly almost four-times faster. Utilizing
only 27% of available thrust, both F-15,s were eight minutes/71 miles away
when FL 175 struck the South Tower (Christian Science Monitor Mar8/02)
Launched per regulations as soon as radio and transponder contact was lost
with Flight 11, with both sets of throttles hammered to the stops the fastest
fighters on Earth would have intercepted Flight 11 over the Hudson River
at least six minutes from Manhattan. (Boston Globe Sept15/01)
Even launching as late as they did - on the FAA,s first officially acknowledged
phone call to NORAD at 8:40 - the Mach 2.5 fighters could have reached
FL 175 before it reached the World Trade Center.
One minute after the Otis-based F-15s were airborne, at 9:24, NORAD was
informed by the FAA of a possible hijacking onboard FL 77. NORAD ordered
Langley, VA F-16s to scramble. The "Fighting Falcon has a top speed
of 1500 mph. But NORAD confirms the jets did not go to full power using
afterburners. At 9:40, FL 77 flew into the Pentagon. It took the 1,500
mph-capable Langley fighters 12 minutes to cover the 130 miles. They could
have made it in seven. The commission never asked who ordered the interceptors
to fly so slowly. WT]
(continuing with the Washington Post story:}
The report also documents a succession of mistakes, wrong assumptions and
puzzling errors made on the morning of Sept. 11 by air defense and aviation
employees, who often did not communicate with each other when they should
have and frequently seemed unsure of how to respond.
Panel investigators also tersely conclude that authorities with NORAD repeatedly
misinformed the commission in testimony last fall about its scrambling
of fighters from Langley Air Force Base just north of Hampton, Va. NORAD
officials indicated at the time that the jets were responding to either
United 93 or American Airlines 77, which struck the Pentagon.
In fact, they were chasing "a phantom aircraft," American 11,
which had already struck the World Trade Center. [So why did they fly to
Washington DC instead of NYC? WT]
American Airlines FL 77, which was hijacked after taking off from Dulles
International Airport, flew undetected by anyone for 36 minutes as it turned
and headed back east toward the Pentagon.
[If the most sophisticated radars on the planet couldn,t spot a jetliner,
how could Flight Explorer - a company selling FAA real-time flight tracking
data - follow Flights 11, 175 and 77 from take-off to final impacts? WT]
The FAA never asked for any military assistance or notified the military
about either Flight 77 or United Airlines Flight 93 before they crashed.
[At 9:16 the FAA notified NORAD that United Airlines Flight 93 had been
hijacked. At 9:24 the FAA told NORAD that American Airlines flight 77 might
be hijacked and appeared headed toward Washington. Standard procedures
would have launched interceptors immediately. WT]
Nor did the FAA's command center issue an order to implement cockpit security
measures in other planes that were in flight or on the ground after the
hijackings became known.
None of the jetliners likely could have been intercepted given the time
- [Absolutely not true see above, and FL 93 which
Time to respond might have been lengthened if the status of the flights
had been communicated more quickly to and among military and Federal Aviation
A telephone conversation occurred between the two leaders shortly before
10:10 a.m. or 10:15 a.m. in which Bush authorized Cheney to order jet pilots
to shoot down hostile aircraft.
Within a few minutes, Cheney issued the first shoot-down order, based on
reports from the Secret Service of an aircraft - United 93 - headed toward
Washington. But the reports were based on trajectory estimates; Flight
93 had crashed in Pennsylvania at 10:03 a.m.
[At 9:22 an earthquake monitor in southern Pennsylvania picked up a sonic
boom caused by a supersonic jet, 60 miles from Shanksville. At 9:58 a flight
controller manning a radarscope in New Hampshire watched a pursuing F-16
from the 180th Fighter Wing out of Toledo, Ohio line up to take the shot.
"An F-16 fighter closely pursued United Airlines Flight 93, he explained.
"The F-16 made 360-degree turns to remain close to the commercial
jet. He must,ve seen the whole thing. (Telegraph Sept13/01) One of Fl 93,s
exploded engines indicative of a hit by a heat-seeking air-to-air missile
- landed 8 miles from the main crash site. WT]
The vice president issued a similar order at around 10:30 a.m. in response
to another report of a hijacked plane. "Eventually," the report
notes, "the shelter received word that the alleged hijacker five miles
away had been a Medevac helicopter."
Cheney's general shoot-down orders were issued to NORAD at 10:31 a.m.,
but clear instructions were never passed along to pilots in the air. The
only orders actually conveyed to the Langley pilots were to 'ID type and
The Langley pilots were also never told why they were scrambled or that
hijacked commercial airliners were a threat.
Cheney mistakenly informed Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld that
U.S. fighters had shot down a couple of hijacked aircraft on his orders.
While Bush was seated in a classroom of second-graders, White House Chief
of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. whispered to him, "A second plane hit
the second tower. America is under attack," the report says.
"The president told us his instinct was to project calm, not to have
the country see an excited reaction at a moment of crisis," the 29-page
document continues. Bush saw the phones and pagers of reporters starting
to ring as they stood behind the children in the classroom and "felt
he should project strength and calm until he could better understand what
was happening," the report says.
[Following standing orders, the Secret Service should have whisked him
from the room instantly. Bush was told of the first WTC crash at his hotel
in front of television news reporters before leaving for the school. WT]
"All witnesses agreed that the president strongly wanted to return
to Washington and only grudgingly agreed to go elsewhere," the report
Commission member John F. Lehman, a Republican former secretary of the
Navy, said that "there was considerable breakdown in command and control"
on Sept. 11 in the air defense effort.
[The commission never looked at "Operation Vigilant Guardian and other
air defense/airliner crash drills taking place that morning, which misdirected
air defenders and sowed confusion in the minds of key commanders. Who ordered
those exercise? -WT]
Lehman pointed to "very identifiable" failures by FAA headquarters
on the day of the terrorist attacks, including the failure of the agency
to issue a broad early notification of multiple hijackings and to notify
the military of that Flight 93 was heading toward Washington.
[In fact, the military shares the same FAA radars and could see the developing
situation for themselves - as they did during the golfer Payne incident
and similar aerial incidents. -WT]
"I think [FAA] headquarters blew it," said commission member
Bob Kerrey, a former Democratic governor and senator from Nebraska.
[I think the commission blew it. The record shows that America,s air defenses
were deliberately stood down. The FAA did a terrific job getting 4,500
airliners safely on the ground. WT]
Cheney Authorized Shooting Down Planes
- By Dana Milbank
- Washington Post June18/04
The report portrays the vice president taking command from his bunker while
Bush, who was in Florida, communicated with the White House in a series
of phone calls, and occasionally had trouble getting through.
[According to insiders, extensive communications including extra phone
lines are always installed ahead of time at Presidential venues. WT]
Cheney told the commission he was operating on instructions from Bush given
in a phone call. [Cheney] issued authority for aircraft threatening Washington
to be shot down. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice, who had joined
Cheney [on 911], told the commission that she heard the vice president
discuss the rules of engagement for fighter jets over Washington with Bush.
Told - erroneously, as it turned out - that a presumably hijacked aircraft
was 80 miles from Washington, Cheney decided "in about the time it
takes a batter to swing" to authorize fighter jets scrambled from
Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Va., to engage it.
- [The commission says the Langley F-16s were chasing Flight
11, which had long since crashed. NORAD says the Langley jets were cruising
north to "defend the Pentagon from Flight 77. Cheney says he ordered
the same planes to engage Flight 93 over Pennsylvania. Say what? WT]
Only later did White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten suggest
that Cheney call Bush once more to confirm the engagement order. Logs in
Cheney's bunker and on Air Force One confirm conversations at 10:18 and
- [Just before Fl 93 was shot down. WT]
Rumsfeld replied: "We can't confirm that. We're told that one aircraft
is down but we do not have a pilot report that they did it."
The Langley fighter jets sent to circle Washington never received the shoot-down
order. It was passed down the chain of command, but commanders of the North
American Aerospace Defense Command's northeast sector did not give it to
- "While leaders believed the fighters circling above
them had been instructed to 'take out' hostile aircraft, the only orders
actually conveyed to the Langley pilots were to 'ID type and tail.' "
["Pilots plural. At least two Langley jets, each carrying one pilot,
were launched. An earlier report carried on this website of the Otis F-15s
being asked to ID Flight 11 as it closed on Manhattan could have mistaken
the Langley order. WT]
By 10:45 other fighter jets would be circling Washington, and these had
clear authority to shoot down planes, the commission determined. They were
sent from Andrews Air Force Base by the commander of the 113th Wing of
the Air National Guard, in consultation with the Secret Service, which
relayed instructions that an agent said were from Cheney.
That arrangement was "outside the military chain of command,"
Bush and Cheney told the commission they were unaware that fighters had
been scrambled from Andrews.
[The Andrews alert jets were routinely launched to escort out-of-communications
aircraft straying toward DC "No Fly zones. On Sept. 11, existing doctrine
says they should have been launched immediately and a CAP (Combat Air Patrol)
placed over the capitol at least an hour earlier. Except Rumsfeld had changed
the rules for notifying and scrambling fighters two months before. WT]
Cheney would give the order to engage twice - at news that United Airlines
Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania, was approaching Washington, and
at what turned out to be a Medevac helicopter, the commission determined.
Neither aircraft was engaged.
Communications with Washington were so poor that Bush, who told the commission
he was "deeply dissatisfied" with the technical problems, at
one point resorted to using a cell phone on the way to Air Force One. Bush's
motorcade took a wrong turn on the way to the airport and had to reverse.
Bush and Cheney spoke again at 9:45, while Bush was on the tarmac aboard
Air Force One. By that time, both towers of the World Trade Center were
aflame and the Pentagon had been hit. [With the nation under attack, Air
Force One took off air without fighter escort. WT]
"Sounds like we have a minor war going on here," Bush told Cheney,
according to the commission report. "I heard about the Pentagon. We're
at war . . . somebody's going to pay."
The commission,s final report is due next month, on the eve of the Democratic