Thursday, 31 January 2019

The Inexplicable Calls From a Hijacked Plane Made by the Solicitor General's Wife on 9/11


Ted Olson's phone

Barbara Olson, a passenger on one of the planes hijacked on September 11, 2001, called her husband from the hijacked aircraft and gave him important details of the hijacking. The information she provided subsequently helped establish the official narrative of the 9/11 attacks. However, close analysis of the various accounts of her calls reveals so many anomalies and contradictions that the calls appear highly suspicious.

Barbara Olson, a well-known political commentator, was on American Airlines Flight 77, the third of the four planes to be hijacked on September 11, which supposedly crashed into the Pentagon. After the hijackers took over her plane, she made two phone calls to her husband, Ted Olson, the solicitor general of the United States.

The details she provided in the calls gave an insight into what the passengers and crew members supposedly experienced when their plane was taken over, and in the time between the hijacking and when the plane crashed. She was, for example, the only person on the hijacked planes to reveal in a phone call the much-reported detail that the hijackers were armed with box cutters. [1] She was subsequently the first victim of the 9/11 attacks to be named on television and the most famous person to die in the attacks. [2]

There are, however, significant contradictions between accounts given by those who dealt with her calls. There are, for example, conflicting accounts of where she was on the plane when she made the calls and whether she used a cell phone or one of the plane's seatback Airfones.

There are also problems with official records that provide details of the calls. For example, while Ted Olson has described receiving only two calls from his wife, official records indicate that four successful calls were made to his office from Flight 77.

If the official story of how Barbara Olson called her husband from Flight 77 after it was hijacked and told him what had happened on her plane is accurate, the various accounts of her calls would surely be fairly consistent in the information they provided. The appearance of so many contradictions and anomalies in these accounts thus indicates there was more to the calls than the official narrative of 9/11 suggests.

Since reports about the calls in the news helped establish the official 9/11 story, anything that casts doubt on how the calls came about and the validity of the information Barbara Olson provided in them surely brings into question the entire official narrative of 9/11.

BARBARA OLSON WAS DUE TO APPEAR ON TV ON SEPTEMBER 11
Barbara Olson was a well-known public figure in the United States. She had been a federal prosecutor, but when the 9/11 attacks occurred, she was a conservative political commentator who regularly appeared on television. [3]

Ted Olson, her husband, was a lawyer who, three months before 9/11, took office as solicitor general of the United States, the fourth-highest-ranking official in the U.S. Department of Justice who represents the federal government in cases before the Supreme Court. [4] He previously represented candidate George W. Bush in the Supreme Court case that settled the disputed 2000 presidential election. [5]

Barbara Olson was a passenger on Flight 77, a plane bound from Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC, to Los Angeles, California. [6] She was going to Los Angeles to appear on Bill Maher's television show, Politically Incorrect, and to attend a major media business conference. [7]

Flight 77 took off at 8:20 a.m. on September 11 and was hijacked between 8:51 a.m. and 8:54 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission Report. The hijackers were five Middle Eastern men. No passengers are believed to have been injured or killed during the hijacking. Then, after deviating from its assigned course, the plane was flown by the hijackers back toward Washington and, according to the official narrative, crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. [8]

Only one person other than Barbara Olson is reported to have made a phone call from Flight 77 after it was hijacked. Renee May, one of the flight attendants, called her mother on an Airfone at 9:12 a.m. [9] She said her plane had been taken over by six individuals, and these hijackers had moved the passengers and crew members to the back of the aircraft. She instructed her mother to call American Airlines to report the incident. [10]

SECRETARY ANSWERED A SERIES OF AUTOMATED CALLS
While Barbara Olson only reached her husband sometime after May talked to her mother, evidence indicates that she may have made several unsuccessful attempts at calling his office at the Department of Justice earlier on. Specifically, beginning at around 9:00 a.m., Lori Keyton, a secretary in the office, answered around six to eight collect calls in succession. They were all automated and comprised a recorded voice advising her of the collect call, and telling her to hold for an operator; a short time later, a recorded voice stated that all operators were busy and gave the advice to hang up and try the call again later.

These were presumably attempted calls made by Barbara Olson, since they occurred just before Barbara Olson was able to reach her husband's office and her first successful call was a collect call. However, Keyton's phone had no caller identification feature, so Keyton would have been unable to determine the origin of the calls. [11]

It also appears that Barbara Olson may have tried passing on information about the hijacking of Flight 77 by calling Ted Olson's number at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, the law firm he worked for before taking over as solicitor general, and leaving voicemail messages. Ted Olson spoke to the FBI on September 13, after previously being interviewed by the bureau on September 11 about the calls from his wife, and said he had "new messages on his voicemail at his old law firm" and "his old secretary would provide access to these calls to the FBI." [12]

While the FBI's record of its September 13 conversation with the solicitor general provides no details about what was in the messages, Ted Olson was presumably referring to voicemail messages left by his wife when she called from Flight 77 after it was hijacked. Barbara Olson may have called his old law firm because she had difficulty reaching him at the Department of Justice. Ted Olson has in fact mentioned how hard it could be to contact him there. While describing his wife's calls from Flight 77, he told the London Telegraph, "She was trying to get through to the Department of Justice, which is never very easy." [13]

BARBARA OLSON CALLED AN OPERATOR AND ASKED TO BE CONNECTED TO HER HUSBAND'S OFFICE
Barbara Olson made her first successful call to Ted Olson at sometime between 9:15 a.m. and 9:25 a.m. (Investigators have been unable to determine the exact time of the call. [14]) She reportedly reached his office by dialing "0" on one of the Airfones on Flight 77 and initially talking to an operator. [15] She gave Mercy Lorenzo, the operator she spoke to, details of what was happening on Flight 77 before Lorenzo connected the call to Ted Olson's office.

Barbara Olson told Lorenzo her plane "was currently being hijacked," Lorenzo has recalled. She said the hijackers were "armed with guns and knives," and "were ordering the passengers to move to the back of the plane." She also "wanted to know how to let the pilots know what was happening," because it "did not appear as if they were aware of the situation."

She asked to be connected to her husband, who she said was "a sergeant who resides in Washington, DC," and provided his telephone number. [16] Lorenzo connected her to Ted Olson's office where the call was answered by Lori Keyton. Lorenzo told Keyton there was "an emergency collect call." Keyton accepted the call and then Barbara Olson came on the line. She asked Keyton to pass on a message to Ted Olson, but Keyton said she would put him on the line. [17]

Keyton alerted Helen Voss, Ted Olson's special assistant, to the call, and then Voss rushed up to Ted Olson and told him, "Barbara is on the phone." At that point, Ted Olson, who had been watching the coverage of the attacks on the World Trade Center on television, took over the call. [18]

Barbara Olson then gave her husband details of the crisis on her plane. She said it had been hijacked by men armed with "knives and box cutters." She said she had been sitting in first class, which was at the front of the plane, but the hijackers had moved the passengers to the back of the plane. She said the hijackers were unaware that she was making the call. [19] The call then inexplicably got cut off. [20] Ted Olson has estimated that he talked to his wife for about a minute before it ended. [21]

TED OLSON ALERTED HIS COMMAND CENTER
The solicitor general then set about alerting others to what he had learned. He tried calling Attorney General John Ashcroft but was unable to reach him. He then called the Department of Justice command center. He did so, he recalled, because he "wanted them to know there was another hijacked plane out there" and to pass on the information his wife had given him "to someone who could possibly do something."

He told the person at the command center who answered the call that his wife's plane had been hijacked and he gave them the number of the flight. [22] He said his wife was able to communicate from the plane, even though her call to him got cut off. [23] He was told that, prior to his call, officials in the command center had been unaware of the hijacking of Flight 77. [24]

He also asked for someone from the command center to come to his office. [25] Allen Ferber, a security officer, was therefore instructed to go to the solicitor general's office. After he arrived there, he sat watching the television coverage of the attacks with Ted Olson. [26]

BARBARA OLSON PHONED AGAIN SHORTLY AFTER HER FIRST CALL ENDED
Barbara Olson was able to talk to her husband again within a few minutes of her first call to him getting cut off and provided additional information about the hijacking of Flight 77.

Her second call to Ted Olson was made at sometime between 9:20 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. (As with her first call, investigators have been unable to determine the exact time. [27]) Unlike previously, she now phoned his office directly rather than being connected to it by an operator. As before, the call was initially answered by Lori Keyton, who then passed it on to the solicitor general. [28]

Barbara Olson told her husband the pilot of Flight 77 had announced that the plane had been hijacked. Ted Olson asked if she had any idea of her plane's location. She said the plane had been hijacked shortly after it took off and had been "circling around for a while." She said it was flying over some houses. She also said she thought it was heading northeast. How she determined this is unclear. Ted Olson has commented that he believed she must have consulted someone else on the plane.

During the call, Ted Olson alerted his wife to the crisis that was taking place that morning. He said two other planes, besides Flight 77, had been hijacked and these had crashed into the World Trade Center.

For much of the call, according to Ted Olson, the couple "segued back and forth between expressions of feeling for one another and this effort to exchange information." They reassured each other that things were going to work out okay. [29]

The last thing Barbara Olson said to her husband was: "What shall I tell the pilot? What can I tell the pilot to do?" [30] The call then got cut off. [31] It had lasted between two and four minutes, Ted Olson has estimated. [32] Ted Olson then returned to watching the coverage of the attacks on television. [33]

TED OLSON THOUGHT FLIGHT 77 HAD CRASHED AS SOON AS HE HEARD OF AN INCIDENT AT THE PENTAGON
When he saw reports about some kind of explosion occurring at the Pentagon, the solicitor general was immediately certain his wife's plane had crashed there. He recalled that when he saw the first reports of the incident, "I knew in my heart that was that aircraft and I also knew in my heart that [Barbara Olson] could not possibly have survived that kind of an explosion with a full load of fuel on a recently taken-off airplane." [34] "I knew it was her" as soon as he learned of the incident, he told the London Telegraph. [35] "I did and I didn't want to, but I knew," he told CNN. [36]

Ted Olson promptly told others what he had concluded. Helen Voss recalled that when the incident at the Pentagon was first reported, he told her, "That's Barbara's plane." [37] Allen Ferber recalled that, referring to the early television coverage of the incident, Ted Olson told him, "The plane is down." [38]

Ted Olson stayed in his office at the Department of Justice for the next few hours, and phoned friends and family members to let them know that Barbara Olson was probably dead. [39] He recalled: "I called my mother and I called my son. I said I didn't think--I thought that--I was hoping that it wasn't true, but I was very worried. I did not want them to see something on television and hear her name." [40]

ACCOUNTS CONFLICT OVER BARBARA OLSON'S LOCATION ON THE PLANE
While the story of how Barbara Olson phoned her husband on September 11 and told him about the hijacking of Flight 77 may appear straightforward and unproblematic, close analysis of it reveals countless problems that have never been properly addressed by official investigations of the 9/11 attacks. There are, for example, numerous contradictions in the various accounts of her calls and other evidence relating to them.

To begin with, there is conflicting evidence of where on the plane Barbara Olson was located when she made the calls. Some evidence indicates she was near the back of the coach section. She used an Airfone to call her husband, according to the Department of Justice, and the Airfones were attached to the back of the plane's seats. [41] Since the hijackers reportedly moved the passengers to the back of the plane, this would presumably mean she was at the back of the coach section with the other passengers, using an Airfone on the back of one of the seats there.

And yet one account contradicted this. A spokesman for Ted Olson stated that Barbara Olson "said she was locked in the toilet" when she made the calls. [42]

ACCOUNTS CONFLICT OVER THE TYPE OF PHONE BARBARA OLSON USED
There are also conflicting claims about what kind of phone Barbara Olson used when she called her husband. She used a cell phone, according to some accounts; according to others, she used an Airfone.

If she was locked in the toilet when she made the calls, she must have used a cell phone, since there would have been no Airfone there for her to use. However, the Department of Justice and the FBI told the 9/11 Commission, "All of the calls from Flight 77 were made via the onboard Airfone system." [43]

Ted Olson, meanwhile, has given contradictory accounts. Initially, on the day of the attacks, he told the FBI he didn't know if his wife used a cell phone or an Airfone. He mentioned, though, that she "always has her cell phone with her." [44] He similarly told Fox News, three days later, that he was unaware of what kind of phone she used, but added that he initially assumed she must have used an Airfone and called collect because "she somehow didn't have access to her credit cards." [45]

Lori Keyton, who initially answered the calls from Barbara Olson, seemingly confirmed that Ted Olson would have been unable to determine what kind of phone his wife used. She told the FBI there was no caller identification feature on her phone and so she was unable to ascertain whether Barbara Olson's calls were made on a cell phone or an Airfone. Unless Barbara Olson mentioned to him what kind of phone she was using, therefore, Ted Olson would presumably have been unaware of whether she used a cell phone or an Airfone. [46]

However, on September 11, he told CNN that his wife "called him twice on a cell phone." [47] Six months later, he again implied that he knew what kind of phone she called him on, only this time he claimed she used an Airfone. "She wasn't using her cell phone; she was using the phone in the passengers' seats," he told the London Telegraph. [48] But at a public event in 2014, he indicated that she used a cell phone. While describing her calls from Flight 77, he commented, "I don't know how Barbara managed to make her cell phone work," since she was "up in the air." [49]

ACCOUNTS CONFLICT OVER WHETHER ONE OR BOTH CALLS WERE MADE THROUGH AN OPERATOR
There is also contradictory evidence regarding whether the second call Barbara Olson made to her husband was, like her first call, made via an operator or made directly to the solicitor general's office.

An FBI report published on September 20, 2001, that described the Airfone calls from Flight 77 listed four calls from unknown callers to unknown recipients, which, the Department of Justice and the FBI have determined, included the calls made by Barbara Olson to her husband. These four calls all involved the caller dialing "0" in order to reach an operator, the report stated. [50] If the Department of Justice and the FBI's determination was correct, it means Barbara Olson's second call, like the first, went via an operator.

And yet Lori Keyton, who initially answered the second call, contradicted this. Barbara Olson "called direct," she told the FBI. There was no operator on the line when she picked up the phone and the first words she heard were, "It's Barbara." [51]

BARBARA OLSON'S COMPOSURE CHANGED DRASTICALLY
There are conflicting descriptions of how composed Barbara Olson was when she called her husband's office. Keyton said she "sounded hysterical" when she made her first call. [52] Helen Voss recalled Keyton telling her that Barbara Olson was "in a panic" when she alerted her to the call. [53]

Ted Olson, however, described his wife as being unusually calm during her calls. "She sounded very, very calm ... in retrospect, enormously, remarkably, incredibly calm," he said. [54]

Barbara Olson's behavior was quite bizarre, if these accounts are accurate. It appears that Barbara Olson went from sounding "hysterical" to being "incredibly calm" in the space of probably just a few seconds.

Additionally, it seems odd that Barbara Olson would be so calm when she talked to her husband, since she apparently had no previous experience of dealing with a crisis as serious as the situation she was in, unlike, say, someone who worked for the military or in law enforcement. Ted Olson recalled that even when he told her two planes, besides Flight 77, had been hijacked and subsequently crashed into the World Trade Center, she "did not seem panicked." [55]

Ted Olson's explanation for how Barbara Olson was able to remain so calm was that she would have been focused on thinking, "What can I do to help solve this problem?" And yet the solicitor general also surmised that she "must have been partially in shock from the fact that she was on a hijacked plane." [56] So, even if she was thinking about how to respond to the hijacking, would she really have remained "enormously, remarkably, incredibly calm" in such a threatening situation?

TED OLSON HEARD NO BACKGROUND NOISE
The other passengers on Flight 77 were also apparently remarkably calm. Ted Olson said he could hear no "other noises on the plane" besides the sound of his wife's voice. [57]

This is extraordinary. If Barbara Olson was at the back of the coach section rather than locked in the toilet--as would have been the case if she was calling on an Airfone--there would likely have been 52 other passengers and four flight attendants in the same area of the plane as her. [58] In such terrifying circumstances, would these 56 people all have been so calm that none of them made a sound while Barbara Olson spoke to her husband?

Their silence seems even stranger considering that it appears no hijackers were with them, since Barbara Olson told her husband the hijackers were unaware that she was calling him even though, he recalled, she was "speaking loud enough that I could hear her" and not whispering. [59]

If no hijackers were with them, the passengers and crew members could presumably have talked freely among themselves. They could have discussed things like what they knew about the hijacking, what they thought the hijackers' intentions were, and what they could do in response to the crisis. Under these circumstances, would they really all have remained silent?

BARBARA OLSON GAVE INACCURATE INFORMATION
Another oddity is that Barbara Olson made some claims in the calls that contradict findings of official investigations of the 9/11 attacks. For example, she said her plane was hijacked "shortly after takeoff." [60] However, the 9/11 Commission Report determined that the hijacking occurred quite a long time after Flight 77 left the ground. It took off from Dulles International Airport at 8:20 a.m. and, the 9/11 Commission established, the hijacking occurred more than 30 minutes later, between 8:51 a.m. and 8:54 a.m. [61]

And she said the plane had been "circling around for a while" after it was hijacked. [62] But according to a study by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) based on information from the plane's flight data recorder and radar data, this claim was also incorrect.

After the plane is believed to have been hijacked, the NTSB determined, it deviated from its assigned course and turned to the south. By 9:00 a.m. it had reversed course and was heading east. At 9:07 a.m. it made a slight change of course and headed to the east-northeast. Over the next three minutes its heading "remained steady." And between 9:10 a.m. and 9:34 a.m. only "slight course changes were initiated." [63] The plane was therefore never "circling around" between when it was hijacked and when Barbara Olson called her husband.

MESSAGES WERE LEFT ON TED OLSON'S OLD VOICEMAIL
It seems unusual that there are so many contradictions in the various accounts of Barbara Olson's calls from Flight 77 and other evidence relating to the calls. If the official story of how the calls came about and what was said in them is accurate, details would surely be more consistent between the accounts. The existence of so many contradictions and anomalies therefore gives rise to numerous questions.

There are questions regarding the messages Ted Olson said were left on his voicemail at his old law firm. If these messages were left by Barbara Olson, why has Ted Olson never mentioned them and described their contents during public appearances in which he talked about the calls from his wife on September 11? The only time he is known to have revealed their existence was during a phone call with the FBI on September 13, 2001. [64]

Furthermore, were the messages recorded before or after Barbara Olson spoke to her husband? And why was there no mention of the calls to the law firm in information the Department of Justice provided to the 9/11 Commission, which supposedly covered all of the calls made from Flight 77? [65]

BARBARA OLSON TOLD AN OPERATOR THAT THE HIJACKERS HAD GUNS
Why did Barbara Olson call an operator, rather than phoning her husband's office directly, when she made her first successful call to Ted Olson? She clearly knew the number for the office, since she provided it to the operator, Mercy Lorenzo, so Lorenzo could connect her to the office. [66] And she must have been capable of phoning Ted Olson's office directly, since she phoned it directly when she made her second successful call. [67]

Additionally, did she tell Lorenzo that the hijackers on Flight 77 had guns, as Lorenzo claimed when she was interviewed by the FBI? [68] The 9/11 Commission Report made no mention of the hijackers being armed with guns. [69] And Ted Olson has never mentioned his wife telling him they had guns. [70]

Did Lorenzo therefore incorrectly claim that Barbara Olson told her the hijackers had guns because she misheard what the solicitor general's wife said? Or was she perhaps mistaken in her recollection of her conversation with Barbara Olson when she spoke to the FBI? If, however, her claim was accurate, why is there no other evidence of the hijackers on Flight 77 having guns? Why has Ted Olson never said his wife told him they were armed with guns?

BARBARA OLSON GAVE NO DESCRIPTION OF THE HIJACKERS
Then, when she spoke to her husband, why did Barbara Olson provide no information about the appearance of the hijackers? She surely ought to have noticed what at least some of them looked like, since three of them were, like her, initially seated in first class. [71] And yet she "never identified what the nationality [of the hijackers] was or what the hijackers were like," Ted Olson recalled. [72]

When flight attendant Renee May called her mother from Flight 77, she did at least specify how many hijackers there were, saying there were six of them. [73] Barbara Olson and May were both near the front of the aircraft when it began its flight, and so they presumably would have been in this part of the plane when it was hijacked and witnessed the same things at that time. And yet, while May determined how many hijackers there were and passed this information on, Barbara Olson never told her husband anything about the number of hijackers.

Why did she either fail to determine how many hijackers there were or fail to pass on such an important piece of information? She did reveal that there was more than one hijacker, but only inadvertently, since she referred to the hijackers as "they" rather than "he" or "she." [74] (Curiously, though, May's claim about the number of hijackers contradicts official accounts. According to the FBI and the 9/11 Commission Report, there were five hijackers--not six--on Flight 77. [75])

Even if, for some reason, Barbara Olson failed to observe any details of the physical appearance of the hijackers, she ought to have heard their voices. She therefore should have noticed that, as the Department of Justice and the FBI have pointed out, they had only "limited English language skills." [76] But she never mentioned any such detail to her husband.

The only possible explanation Ted Olson has suggested for why his wife told him nothing about the appearance of the hijackers was, "We just didn't--that didn't come up" in his conversations with her. [77] But surely she would have wanted, as a matter of priority, to give him details that might help identify the hijackers, especially since he worked at the Department of Justice and would likely have been able to quickly contact key individuals who could help respond to the hijacking. If, for example, she'd mentioned the hijackers' poor English, this would have indicated that they were foreigners.

SOME OF BARBARA OLSON'S CLAIMS CONTRADICT THE OFFICIAL 9/11 STORY
Also, why does some of the information that Barbara Olson provided to her husband conflict with the official narrative of the hijacking of Flight 77? She said the plane was hijacked "shortly after takeoff." And yet, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, the hijacking occurred more than half an hour after the plane left the ground. She also said the plane had been "circling around" after it was hijacked. But the NTSB determined that it maintained quite a steady course after the hijackers took over and flew it back toward Washington.

Assuming the 9/11 Commission Report and the NTSB were correct, how could Barbara Olson have made such blatant mistakes? She would surely have known her claim that the hijacking occurred shortly after takeoff was wrong and that the plane was never circling around after it was hijacked.

TED OLSON HAD LITTLE REASON TO CONCLUDE SO SOON THAT FLIGHT 77 HAD CRASHED
There are questions regarding what Ted Olson has said about the calls he received from Barbara Olson after her plane has hijacked. Why, for example, has he given different accounts about the kind of phone his wife used?

He told the FBI, on September 11, that he was unaware of whether she called him on a cell phone or an Airfone. [78] Why, then, did he sometimes specify what kind of phone she used when he talked about her calls in subsequent interviews and public appearances? And why has he contradicted himself, sometimes saying she used a cell phone and at other times saying she used an Airfone?

Additionally, why was he immediately certain, when he heard there had been an explosion at the Pentagon, that this was the result of Barbara Olson's plane crashing there, especially since the initial reports were unspecific about what had happened?

The first television network to report the incident, NBC, made no mention of a plane crash. At 9:39 a.m., its correspondent, Jim Miklaszewski, only stated, "It felt, just a few moments ago, like there was an explosion of some kind here at the Pentagon." He was unclear what the cause was. "I have no idea whether it was part of the construction work, whether it was an accident, or what is going on," he said. [79]

Ted Olson said he thought he was watching CNN's coverage of the attacks when they occurred. [80] But CNN, too, was initially vague about what had happened at the Pentagon. Its first reference to the incident was a banner that appeared on the screen at 9:40 a.m., which stated, "Reports of fire at Pentagon." Three minutes later, Chris Plante reported from the Pentagon: "It's impossible for me to say ... exactly what caused this. I did not hear an explosion, but there is certainly a very, very significant fire in this enormous office building."

At 9:49 a.m., Plante suggested that a helicopter may have hit the building. "Initial reports from witnesses indicate that there was in fact a helicopter circling the building ... and that this helicopter disappeared behind the building, and that there was then an explosion," he said. CNN first reported that a plane had crashed at 9:53 a.m., when anchor, Aaron Brown, stated, "We also have a report now that it was a plane that crashed into the Pentagon." [81]

Indeed, despite concluding immediately that the explosion at the Pentagon was a result of Flight 77 crashing there, Ted Olson has recalled that it was some time before the television reports he saw indicated that this may have been what happened. The initial reports "indicated that there had been an explosion of some sort at the Pentagon," he said. He added: "It was a long time before what had happened at the Pentagon--or it seemed like a long time--before it was identified as an airplane [crash]. Then the first report that I heard was that it was a commuter plane [that crashed] and then I heard it was an American Airlines plane." [82]

BARBARA OLSON GAVE NO INDICATION THAT HER PLANE WAS FLYING TOWARD THE PENTAGON
The promptness with which Ted Olson concluded that Flight 77 had crashed at the Pentagon is also curious since Barbara Olson had given him no reason to think her plane was being flown toward the Department of Defense's headquarters. During her second call, she told him only that she thought it was heading northeast and was over some houses. "I don't know where she was when she called," Ted Olson commented. [83] Additionally, as the 9/11 Commission Report noted, Barbara Olson "did not indicate any awareness of an impending crash" in her conversations with her husband. [84]

Why, then, did Ted Olson decide so quickly that the reports of an explosion at the Pentagon meant Flight 77 had crashed there? Surely, he would have wanted more information before he reached a conclusion, especially since if he incorrectly assumed Flight 77 had crashed he might consequently fail to assist his wife when he could still help her.

If he assumed the explosion at the Pentagon may have been caused by something other than Flight 77 crashing and the plane might still be airborne, he could perhaps have contacted people he knew in the U.S. government and passed on to them the information his wife had given him, so as to help agencies respond more effectively to the hijacking. He could also have thought about what to say if Barbara Olson phoned him again. Since the last thing she said in her second call was, "What can I tell the pilot to do?" he could have thought of an answer to give her.

But by immediately resigning himself to believing Flight 77 had crashed, Ted Olson ruled out the possibility of doing anything to help his wife if her plane was still in the air.

ONLY TWO PEOPLE MADE CALLS FROM FLIGHT 77
It is also odd that only Barbara Olson and Renee May made calls from Flight 77. If Barbara Olson was able to make calls without the hijackers noticing, as she claimed, other passengers ought to have been able to make calls without the hijackers noticing, too, and would presumably have done so. Why, then, did only two people make calls?

The lack of calls from Flight 77 stands out when we consider what happened on United Airlines Flight 93, the fourth plane to be hijacked on September 11, which supposedly crashed in rural Pennsylvania after its passengers tried to retake control of it. Even though there were fewer passengers on Flight 93 than on Flight 77, significantly more of them made calls from the plane.

Flight 77 had 58 passengers on board, including the five hijackers, along with two pilots and four flight attendants, making 64 people in total. [85] Flight 93, meanwhile, had only 44 people on board, comprising 37 passengers, including four hijackers, two pilots, and five flight attendants. [86] And yet at least 10 passengers and two crew members made calls from Flight 93--six times as many people as made calls from Flight 77. [87]

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT'S INFORMATION IS PROBLEMATIC
Information about the phone calls from Flight 77 that the Department of Justice gave to the 9/11 Commission, which was also included in an FBI report published on September 20, 2001, was central to official accounts of 9/11, such as the 9/11 Commission Report. Close analysis of this information, however, reveals several problems and casts doubt on its reliability.

Assistant U.S. Attorney David Novak and two FBI agents provided the information to 9/11 Commission staffers during a briefing in May 2004. The information, according to the Commission, "was derived from a study of all phone records from [Flight 77], an examination of the cell phone records of each of the passengers aboard [the plane] who owned cell phones, and interviews with those who received calls from the flight, as well as with family members of the other passengers and crew." Novak and the FBI agents told the Commission staffers they were "confident that they had identified all completed calls from the flight."

The list of calls they provided included what the 9/11 Commission Report described as four "connected calls to unknown numbers." These were made at 9:15 a.m., 9:20 a.m., 9:25 a.m., and 9:30 a.m. They lasted 1 minute 42 seconds, 4 minutes 34 seconds, 2 minutes 39 seconds, and 4 minutes 20 seconds, respectively. The 9/11 Commission determined that these four calls included Barbara Olson's two calls to her husband. It was unable to say, though, which specific calls were the ones between Barbara and Ted Olson, and it was therefore unable to give exact times for when these two calls occurred.

Inexplicably, though, the Commission staffers at the briefing were told that the FBI and the Department of Justice had determined that all four calls, which were from unknown callers to unknown recipients, were communications between Barbara Olson and her husband's office. [88]

How is this possible? Ted Olson recalled receiving only two calls from his wife. [89] Helen Voss, who was in his office on September 11, said he was only called twice by her. [90] And Lori Keyton, who initially answered the calls, has described receiving only two calls from Barbara Olson. [91]

If the FBI and the Department of Justice were correct, and all four "connected calls to unknown numbers" were communications between Barbara Olson and her husband's office, what did the other two calls involve? And why have Ted Olson, Voss, and Keyton never mentioned them? If, however, only two calls between Barbara Olson and her husband's office were made, who made and received the other two calls?

The evidence that any of the four calls were between the Olsons is in fact inconclusive. The 9/11 Commission noted that there was no "direct evidence" that any of them were between Barbara Olson and Ted Olson's office. The calls were therefore just listed as being made by an "unknown" caller to an "unknown" recipient. [92]

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT INDICATED THAT ALL OF BARBARA OLSON'S CALLS WERE COLLECT CALLS
Another problem with the four "connected calls to unknown numbers" is that all of them appear to have been collect calls, which are made through an operator and involve the recipient agreeing to pay the charges for the call. They were made by the caller dialing "0" on the Airfone. [93]

And yet Keyton recalled that only the first of the two successful calls from Barbara Olson that she answered was a collect call, in which she spoke to an operator before the solicitor general's wife came on the line. For her second call, Barbara Olson called Ted Olson's office directly and was therefore on the line immediately when Keyton picked up the phone. The second call "was not a collect call," Keyton told the FBI. [94]

A further problem is that, even though David Novak and the two FBI agents with him said the list of calls from Flight 77 they provided to the 9/11 Commission included all of the calls from the hijacked plane, the list made no mention of the six to eight collect calls comprising an automated message that Keyton answered shortly before Barbara Olson successfully reached the solicitor general's office.

The list did include a call that failed to connect, which was described as being made by Barbara Olson to Ted Olson's office. However, this was just one call, not six to eight, and it was made just before 9:19 a.m., whereas Keyton said the calls with an automated message began at "approximately 9:00 a.m." [95]

THE CALLS MAY HAVE BEEN STAGED TO CREATE FALSE EVIDENCE
The evidence relating to Barbara Olson's calls from Flight 77 on September 11, as we can see, is filled with anomalies and contradictions. The story of how the wife of the solicitor general called her husband from one of the hijacked planes and gave him valuable information about what was happening on the aircraft may, on the surface, appear plausible and believable. However, close analysis reveals it to be highly suspicious.

A possible reason for the problems with the evidence is that Barbara Olson's phone conversations with her husband were something other than calls from a hijacked aircraft. They could have been staged so as to appear as if this is what they were, thereby creating false evidence that would support the official narrative of the 9/11 attacks. But in reality, they were a malicious act of deception against the public.

This possibility surely needs to be looked into as part of a new investigation of the 9/11 attacks. And if the story of Barbara Olson's calls from Flight 77 was found to be fabricated, we would need to consider whether other evidence that supports the official narrative of the attacks was also faked.

NOTES
[1] Staff Report: The Four Flights. 9/11 Commission, August 26, 2004, pp. 32, 48.
[2] Toby Harnden, "'She Asked Me How to Stop the Plane.'" Daily Telegraph, March 5, 2002.
[3] Harriet Arkell and Anthony France, "Desperate Calls From Relatives as Jets Were Hijacked." Evening Standard, September 12, 2001; Michael McCarthy, "The Stream of Calls to Say 'I Love You.'" The Independent, September 13, 2001; Neil A. Lewis, "Barbara Olson, 45, Advocate and Conservative Commentator." New York Times, September 13, 2001.
[4] "Solicitor General: Theodore B. Olson." U.S. Department of Justice, October 31, 2014; Matt Naham, "'Legal Superstar' Attorney Who Rejected Trump's Job Offer Comes Back to Haunt the President." Law & Crime, November 13, 2018.
[5] Martin Kettle, "Democrats Back on the Offensive." The Guardian, May 11, 2001; Steve Gorman, "Bush v. Gore Lawyers Take on Gay Marriage Ban." Reuters, May 28, 2009; Brittany Shepherd, "A Conservative Lawyer Said no to Joining Trump's Legal Team. Now He's Representing CNN in its Suit Against Him." Washingtonian, November 13, 2018.
[6] Staff Report: The Four Flights, p. 28.
[7] "America's New War: Recovering From Tragedy." Larry King Live, CNN, September 14, 2001; "Ted Olson on Barbara Olson's Last Moments on Flight." Hudson Union, August 8, 2014.
[8] PENTTBOM Case Summary as of 1/11/2002. Federal Bureau of Investigation, January 11, 2002, p. 47; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2004, pp. 8-10.
[9] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 9; "Memorandum for the Record: Department of Justice Briefing on Cell and Phone Calls From AA Flight 77." 9/11 Commission, May 20, 2004.
[10] Ronald May and Nancy May, interview by the FBI. Federal Bureau of Investigation, September 11, 2001; Staff Report: The Four Flights, p. 31; Tom Murphy, Reclaiming the Sky: 9/11 and the Untold Story of the Men and Women Who Kept America Flying. New York: AMACOM, 2006, p. 57.
[11] Lori Lynn Keyton, interview by the FBI. Federal Bureau of Investigation, September 11, 2001; Staff Report: The Four Flights, p. 94.
[12] Ted Olson, interview by the FBI. Federal Bureau of Investigation, September 13, 2001.
[13] Toby Harnden, "'She Asked Me How to Stop the Plane.'"
[14] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 455.
[15] "American Airlines Airphone Usage." Federal Bureau of Investigation, September 20, 2001.
[16] Mercy Lorenzo, interview by the FBI. Federal Bureau of Investigation, September 11, 2001; Teresa Gonzalez, interview by the FBI. Federal Bureau of Investigation, September 11, 2001.
[17] Lori Lynn Keyton, interview by the FBI.
[18] Helen Voss, interview by the FBI. Federal Bureau of Investigation, September 11, 2001; "America's New War: Recovering From Tragedy."
[19] Theodore Olson, interview by the FBI. Federal Bureau of Investigation, September 11, 2001.
[20] Michael Isikoff, "'I Can't Just Sit Back.'" Newsweek, September 28, 2001.
[21] Theodore Olson, interview by the FBI.
[22] Ibid.; Hannity & Colmes. Fox News, September 14, 2001.
[23] "America's New War: Recovering From Tragedy."
[24] Marc Fisher and Don Phillips, "On Flight 77: 'Our Plane is Being Hijacked.'" Washington Post, September 12, 2001.
[25] Theodore Olson, interview by the FBI.
[26] Allen Ferber, interview by the FBI. Federal Bureau of Investigation, September 11, 2001.
[27] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 455.
[28] Lori Lynn Keyton, interview by the FBI.
[29] Theodore Olson, interview by the FBI; "America's New War: Recovering From Tragedy"; Hannity & Colmes.
[30] Marc Fisher and Don Phillips, "On Flight 77: 'Our Plane is Being Hijacked'"; "America's New War: Recovering From Tragedy."
[31] Theodore Olson, interview by the FBI; "America's New War: Recovering From Tragedy."
[32] "America's New War: Recovering From Tragedy"; Hannity & Colmes.
[33] Theodore Olson, interview by the FBI; Helen Voss, interview by the FBI.
[34] Hannity & Colmes.
[35] Toby Harnden, "'She Asked Me How to Stop the Plane.'"
[36] "America's New War: Recovering From Tragedy."
[37] Helen Voss, interview by the FBI.
[38] Allen Ferber, interview by the FBI.
[39] Toby Harnden, "'She Asked Me How to Stop the Plane.'"
[40] "America's New War: Recovering From Tragedy."
[41] "Memorandum for the Record: Department of Justice Briefing on Cell and Phone Calls From AA Flight 77."
[42] Duncan Gardham, "Wife's Secret Call From Hijacked Plane." Daily Mail, September 12, 2001; Toby Harnden, "Wife Phoned From Hijack Airliner as it Hit Pentagon." Daily Telegraph, September 12, 2001.
[43] "Memorandum for the Record: Department of Justice Briefing on Cell and Phone Calls From AA Flight 77."
[44] Theodore Olson, interview by the FBI.
[45] Hannity & Colmes.
[46] Lori Lynn Keyton, interview by the FBI.
[47] Tim O'Brien, "Wife of Solicitor General Alerted Him of Hijacking From Plane." CNN, September 12, 2001.
[48] Toby Harnden, "'She Asked Me How to Stop the Plane.'"
[49] "Ted Olson on Barbara Olson's Last Moments on Flight."
[50] "American Airlines Airphone Usage"; "Memorandum for the Record: Department of Justice Briefing on Cell and Phone Calls From AA Flight 77."
[51] Lori Lynn Keyton, interview by the FBI.
[52] Ibid.
[53] Helen Voss, interview by the FBI.
[54] "America's New War: Recovering From Tragedy."
[55] Theodore Olson, interview by the FBI.
[56] "America's New War: Recovering From Tragedy."
[57] Ibid.
[58] Staff Report: The Four Flights, pp. 28-29.
[59] Theodore Olson, interview by the FBI; Hannity & Colmes.
[60] "America's New War: Recovering From Tragedy."
[61] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 8.
[62] Hannity & Colmes.
[63] "Flight Path Study: American Airlines Flight 77." National Transportation Safety Board, February 19, 2002.
[64] Ted Olson, interview by the FBI.
[65] "Memorandum for the Record: Department of Justice Briefing on Cell and Phone Calls From AA Flight 77."
[66] Teresa Gonzalez, interview by the FBI.
[67] Lori Lynn Keyton, interview by the FBI.
[68] Mercy Lorenzo, interview by the FBI.
[69] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 8.
[70] See, for example, Theodore Olson, interview by the FBI; "America's New War: Recovering From Tragedy"; Hannity & Colmes.
[71] Staff Report: The Four Flights, p. 28.
[72] "America's New War: Recovering From Tragedy."
[73] Staff Report: The Four Flights, p. 31.
[74] Theodore Olson, interview by the FBI.
[75] "The FBI Releases 19 Photographs of Individuals Believed to be the Hijackers of the Four Airliners That Crashed on September 11, 2001." Federal Bureau of Investigation press release, Washington, DC, September 28, 2001; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, pp. 2-3.
[76] "Memorandum for the Record: Department of Justice Briefing on Cell and Phone Calls From AA Flight 77."
[77] "America's New War: Recovering From Tragedy."
[78] Theodore Olson, interview by the FBI.
[79] "NBC Sept. 11, 2001, 9:12 a.m.-9:54 a.m." NBC News, September 11, 2001.
[80] "America's New War: Recovering From Tragedy."
[81] "CNN Sept. 11, 2001, 9:29 a.m.-10:11 a.m." CNN, September 11, 2001; "Terrorism Strikes in the United States in a Massive Attack." Breaking News, CNN, September 11, 2001; "The White House Has Been Evacuated." Breaking News, CNN, September 11, 2001.
[82] "America's New War: Recovering From Tragedy."
[83] Theodore Olson, interview by the FBI; "America's New War: Recovering From Tragedy"; Hannity & Colmes.
[84] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 9.
[85] Staff Report: The Four Flights, p. 28.
[86] Ibid. p. 36.
[87] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 13.
[88] Ibid. p. 455; "Memorandum for the Record: Department of Justice Briefing on Cell and Phone Calls From AA Flight 77."
[89] Theodore Olson, interview by the FBI; Tim O'Brien, "Wife of Solicitor General Alerted Him of Hijacking From Plane."
[90] Helen Voss, interview by the FBI.
[91] Lori Lynn Keyton, interview by the FBI.
[92] "Memorandum for the Record: Department of Justice Briefing on Cell and Phone Calls From AA Flight 77."
[93] "American Airlines Airphone Usage."
[94] Lori Lynn Keyton, interview by the FBI.
[95] Ibid.; "Memorandum for the Record: Department of Justice Briefing on Cell and Phone Calls From AA Flight 77."

Monday, 15 October 2018

Why Did the Secret Service Report That a Plane Had Crashed into the White House on 9/11?


The White House

Firefighters were called out to a major incident that supposedly occurred at the White House, minutes after the Pentagon was attacked on September 11, 2001. The Secret Service had reported that a plane had crashed into the home of the U.S. president, the building was on fire, and there had been a structural collapse. However, when members of the District of Columbia Fire Department arrived on the scene, it quickly became apparent to them that no such incident had taken place and they were promptly ordered to leave.

While it might be claimed that this incident was merely the result of confusion in the middle of an unprecedented crisis, there is an alternative explanation for it. Evidence suggests the Secret Service could have been running a training exercise on the morning of September 11, which included the scenario of a plane crashing into the White House.

For example, other government agencies are known to have been holding exercises on September 11 and so the Secret Service could have run an exercise that day in order to coordinate its activities with the activities of these agencies. Additionally, the Secret Service is known to have conducted exercises before 9/11, based around the scenario of a terrorist attack at the White House. In some exercises, it actually simulated a plane crashing into the White House. So, when it reported a plane crash at the White House on September 11, it may have been responding to a simulated incident that regularly featured in its exercises.

Furthermore, before it reported the crash, the Secret Service was alerted to a suspicious plane that was supposedly approaching Washington, DC. Evidence indicates that this plane may have been a simulated aircraft in an exercise, which was subsequently imagined to have crashed into the White House.

The Secret Service was, according to numerous accounts, alarmingly slow to respond to the 9/11 attacks. If the agency was running an exercise when the attacks occurred, this may help explain its poor performance, especially if the exercise was based around the scenario of suicidal terrorists using planes as weapons. Agents may have thought real world events they heard about were simulations in the exercise, and therefore failed to respond to them promptly and appropriately.

If the Secret Service's report about a plane crashing into the White House was made as part of an exercise, this has serious implications. The report was made around an hour after the first crash at the World Trade Center occurred and several minutes after the Pentagon--the third and final building to be hit that day--was attacked. If an exercise was taking place at that time, it would mean this exercise had been allowed to continue even when it was obvious that America was under attack and the Secret Service needed to help defend the nation.

If a Secret Service exercise was allowed to continue throughout the 9/11 attacks, we need to determine the reason for this. Was it the result of incompetence or confusion? Or was what happened a planned action, perhaps orchestrated by rogue government officials who aimed to paralyze the Secret Service at this critical time, thereby increasing the likelihood that the attacks succeeded?

FIREFIGHTERS RESPONDED TO A REPORT OF A PLANE CRASH AT THE WHITE HOUSE
At around 9:46 a.m. on September 11, the District of Columbia Fire Department (DCFD) sent a number of engines and trucks to the White House to respond to an alleged incident there. This was in response to an incorrect report made by the Secret Service--the agency that protects the president and the White House--that a plane had crashed into the presidential residence, the building was on fire, and some or all of it had collapsed. Because a building collapse had reportedly occurred, the DCFD's "cave-in task force" was sent to the White House along with the other units.

However, when the first firefighters arrived at the White House, they found no incident had occurred there and were ordered to leave. A uniformed officer waved them away and said: "Get the fuck outta here! There's a plane coming in!" "It was mass confusion; we go down to the White House and no one knows what's going on," Lieutenant Jeff Wright, one of the firefighters, has recalled.

The report about the crash was soon investigated and determined to be unfounded. However, DCFD units were kept near the White House in case an attack subsequently occurred there. [1]

This curious incident is virtually unknown and no official explanation has been provided as to why the Secret Service made such an obviously false report. A possibility we need to examine is that the agency was running a training exercise based around the scenario of a plane being crashed into the White House and its report to the emergency services was made as part of this exercise.

SECRET SERVICE CONTACTED THE 'STRUCTURAL COLLAPSE TEAM'
Curiously, the Secret Service appears to have been preparing for the possibility of the White House collapsing well before it reported that some or all of the building had come down. Specifically, at around 9:07 a.m., according to a Secret Service timeline, the agency's Technical Security Division contacted the "structural collapse team" at Fort Belvoir, an Army base about 20 miles south of Washington, and told it "that the Secret Service may have a need for [its] assets and [the team's personnel] should report to their duty station." [2]

This "structural collapse team" was the Military District of Washington (MDW) Engineer Company, which was tasked with "rescuing survivors of building breakdowns and preventing such collapses in emergencies." [3] The unit had never previously been called on to carry out its mission in a real-world situation, since its creation in 1989. [4]

But now the MDW Engineer Company was placed on "alert status" and on "30-minute standby" for the White House. Later that day, it was released to go to the Pentagon to help respond to the attack there and its personnel arrived at the Department of Defense headquarters early that afternoon. [5]

But why was a "structural collapse team" contacted when no collapse had occurred at the White House and there was no indication, at the time, that one was going to happen? A possible explanation is that the MDW Engineer Company was participating in a Secret Service exercise and it was contacted in preparation for a simulated plane crash, which, in the simulation, would cause some or all of the White House to collapse.

SECRET SERVICE WAS ALERTED TO A SUSPICIOUS AIRCRAFT SUPPOSEDLY APPROACHING WASHINGTON
An incident consistent with the Secret Service running an exercise that involved the simulation of a plane being crashed into the White House occurred before the agency reported that a plane had hit the presidential residence. Specifically, the Secret Service was informed that at least one suspicious aircraft was approaching Washington. Evidence suggests this aircraft could have been a simulated plane that was going to crash into the White House.

Nelson Garabito, a senior agent at the Secret Service's Joint Operations Center who was responsible for protecting the White House airspace, received reports about the aircraft from Terry Van Steenbergen, an employee at Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) headquarters who was responsible for dealing with the president's movements.

Garabito contacted Van Steenbergen sometime after 9:03 a.m., when the second crash at the World Trade Center occurred, and Van Steenbergen told him two more planes were unaccounted for and possibly hijacked, in addition to the two that hit the Trade Center. He said one of these planes was heading toward Washington, and it was "30 miles out and coming in fast and low." [6]

Van Steenbergen's information led the Secret Service to believe the White House was in danger. "We were tracking two hijacked aircraft as they approached Washington, DC, and our assumption was that the White House was a target," Assistant Director Barbara Riggs, who was in the Director's Crisis Center at Secret Service headquarters that morning, recalled. [7]

SUSPICIOUS AIRCRAFT COULD HAVE BEEN A SIMULATED PLANE IN AN EXERCISE
It might be claimed that the suspicious aircraft Van Steenbergen told Garabito about was American Airlines Flight 77, the plane that allegedly crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. After all, Flight 77 was reportedly flying toward the White House before it changed course and then flew into the Pentagon. However, two pieces of evidence refute this possibility.

Firstly, it appears that Flight 77 was missing from air traffic controllers' radar screens when Van Steenbergen alerted Garabito to the suspicious aircraft, and so the FAA would have been unable to report that it was heading toward Washington at that time.

Van Steenbergen said he was in contact with Garabito "within 30 seconds" of the second crash at the World Trade Center. [8] Garabito said he called Van Steenbergen "a few minutes" after the second crash. [9] But a Secret Service timeline stated that the open line between the two men was established at 9:25 a.m., Van Steenbergen told Garabito two planes were unaccounted for at 9:27 a.m., and he reported that one of these was approaching Washington and was 30 miles from the White House between 9:30 a.m. and 9:31 a.m. [10] While these accounts conflict, all three appear inconsistent with the possibility that the plane Van Steenbergen said was heading toward Washington was Flight 77. This plane disappeared from controllers' radar screens at 8:56 a.m. and, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, was only located again at around 9:32 a.m., when controllers at Washington Dulles International Airport noticed it on their radar screens. [11]

Secondly, Flight 77 supposedly turned away from the White House three minutes before the Pentagon was hit. Based on an analysis of radar data, the 9/11 Commission Report stated that after flying eastward: "American 77 began turning south, away from the White House, at 9:34. It continued heading south for roughly a minute, before turning west and beginning to circle back." [12]

And yet Garabito and his colleagues believed the plane they were following never changed direction. They were counting down as it supposedly approached the White House and, Garabito described, "At one point, we got under a minute and I said, 'It's about 30 seconds out.'" He was then told that the aircraft had disappeared from radar screens. [13]

If the plane Van Steenbergen told Garabito about was Flight 77, he surely would have informed Garabito immediately when this aircraft changed course. Instead, it appears that Garabito and his colleagues thought a plane was going to crash into the White House right up to the time when the crash would have occurred.

Since the aircraft they were following appears to have been something other than Flight 77, it is surely possible that the aircraft Van Steenbergen told Garabito about was a simulated plane. This incident could therefore have been the simulation of the mock plane being crashed into the White House. If so, this simulated crash may have been what the Secret Service reported to the emergency services, thereby resulting in firefighters being sent to the White House.

AGENTS COULD HAVE BEEN GIVEN FALSE INFORMATION AS PART OF AN EXERCISE
One piece of evidence supports the possibility that Secret Service agents were participating in a training exercise on September 11, although not necessarily one involving a plane crash at the White House. This is the large amount of false information received by agents in the Director's Crisis Center (DCC) at Secret Service headquarters, which was used to direct operations in emergencies and was reportedly activated at 9:00 a.m. that day.

An agent recalled that personnel in the DCC were receiving an "enormous" amount of information on September 11, which included "conflicting info from ID, unconfirmed data, or raw information," and this information "hindered the DCC's ability to make proper decisions." Consequently, those in the DCC were "making decisions [based] on inaccurate data that could have been quickly verified, such as the misinformation [about] an aircraft that had crashed near Camp David." [14]

While it might be claimed that the misleading reports were simply the result of confusion in an unprecedented crisis, it is surely possible that they in fact related to simulated scenarios in an exercise. Perhaps Secret Service agents were being tested on how they would cope with the mass of information that would result if multiple crises occurred simultaneously.

SECRET SERVICE HELD EXERCISES BEFORE 9/11 BASED ON A PLANE CRASHING INTO THE WHITE HOUSE
Other evidence supports the possibility that, if the Secret Service was indeed running an exercise on the morning of September 11, this exercise may have included the simulation of a plane crashing into the White House. In particular, the Secret Service is known to have held exercises before then that involved this scenario. If the Secret Service believed a plane crashing into the White House was a scenario worth training for before 9/11, it surely could have simulated this scenario again if it was holding an exercise on September 11.

Specifically, since 1998, the Secret Service had run exercises at its James J. Rowley Training Center in Beltsville, Maryland, which involved the simulated crashing of planes into the White House on a piece of computer software provided by the military. These simulations were intended to test the responses of the agencies that provided security and support to the White House.

Paul Nenninger, a Secret Service agent who was assigned to the training center, described these exercises, but did not explicitly state whether the simulated crashes were imagined to be part of a terrorist attack. However, he indicated that this may have been the case, since he mentioned that the Secret Service's use of computer simulations "allow you to practice scenarios that can be attempted by a terrorist." [15]

Another piece of evidence supports the possibility that, if the Secret Service was running an exercise on September 11, this exercise could have involved some kind of simulated attack on the White House. Specifically, four months before 9/11, then-Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill stated that the Secret Service held "interagency tabletop exercises in preparation for terrorist attacks on the White House." [16] He did not say whether these exercises included simulations of a plane being crashed into the White House. All the same, his statement shows that around the time the 9/11 attacks occurred, the Secret Service considered the White House a potential target for terrorists when it held an exercise.

Furthermore, the Secret Service participated in a tabletop exercise at the White House in 1998, run by White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke, which involved a scenario in which a group of terrorists seized a Learjet, loaded it with explosives, and flew it toward a target in Washington. [17] While the identity of the imagined target is unreported, the existence of this exercise confirms that, before 9/11, the possibility of a plane being used as a weapon was something the Secret Service had considered in exercises.

It also seems logical to assume that the Secret Service would have regularly trained for the possibility of a plane crashing into the White House in light of an incident that occurred exactly seven years before 9/11. On the night of September 11, 1994, a man called Frank Eugene Corder stole a single-engine plane, flew to Washington, and crashed the plane into the wall of the White House. In fact, even before this incident occurred, the possibility of a plane being used as a weapon to attack the White House had been considered. Time magazine noted, shortly after Corder crashed a plane into the presidential residence, that security officials had "long feared in private" that the White House was "vulnerable to sneak attack from the air." [18]

U.S. MILITARY WAS RUNNING AN AIR DEFENSE EXERCISE ON SEPTEMBER 11
The Secret Service, if it was planning to hold an exercise, may have scheduled this exercise specifically for the morning of September 11 so it could coordinate its activities with those of other government agencies. It has been reported that numerous agencies were running, or preparing for, exercises when the 9/11 attacks occurred. [19] And according to Major Don Arias, First Air Force chief of public affairs, different organizations would sometimes participate "in the same exercise for different reasons," because it was "common practice, when we have exercises, to get as much bang for the buck as we can." [20]

A major annual exercise that the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD)--the military organization responsible for monitoring and defending U.S. airspace--was in the middle of on September 11 may be particularly significant. Our knowledge of what this exercise, called Vigilant Guardian, involved is limited. [21] There is some evidence, however, that it could have included the scenario of a plane being crashed into the White House. If this was the case, the Secret Service might have used the same scenario so it could coordinate its activities with those of NORAD.

Vigilant Guardian has been described as a "transition to wartime operations command post exercise," an "air defense exercise simulating an attack on the United States," and a "simulated air war." [22] It included a series of "ever-escalating scenarios, from strained diplomacy to the outbreak of conventional warfare that headed inexorably toward nuclear conflict," according to the Denver Post. [23] It involved some "scripted inputs," such as "unknown aircraft that we scramble aircraft ... to intercept," Jeff Ford, an Air Force lieutenant colonel assigned to NORAD on September 11, said. [24]

An official document that has been publicly released outlines scenarios that were simulated as part of Vigilant Guardian in the five days before 9/11. However, this document does not describe the scenarios that were planned for the day of September 11. [25] It has been reported, though, that at least one hijacking was scheduled to be simulated that day.

Personnel at NORAD's Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, New York, which was responsible for coordinating the U.S. military's response to the 9/11 attacks, were actually going to learn of this simulated hijacking around the time when the Secret Service reported that a plane had crashed into the White House. Major Kevin Nasypany, the mission crew commander at NEADS, recalled that when NEADS was alerted to the first hijacking, at 8:37 a.m. on September 11, he said out loud, "The hijack's not supposed to be for another hour," which means it was set to occur at around 9:37 a.m.

This particular simulated hijacking, though, was apparently not going to involve the mock hijacked aircraft being crashed into the White House. According to Vanity Fair, it was going to involve politically motivated perpetrators getting control of the aircraft, landing it on a Cuba-like island, and seeking asylum there. [26]

However, the possibility that Vigilant Guardian was set to include the simulation of a plane being crashed into the White House on September 11 is supported by the fact that a scenario along these lines featured in previous NORAD exercises. This particular event was therefore one that NORAD considered worth training for.

Specifically, NORAD is known to have conducted at least three exercises in the three years before 9/11 that included the scenario of terrorists hijacking or stealing an aircraft with the intention of crashing it into the White House. These command post exercises, all called "Falcon Indian," were held in January 1999, June 1999, and June 2000. They all involved a scenario in which a Learjet, loaded with explosives, was under the control of terrorists who intended to crash the plane into the White House. [27]

FALSE REPORT OF A PLANE APPROACHING WASHINGTON COULD HAVE BEEN PART OF AN EXERCISE
An anomalous incident that occurred between the attacks on the World Trade Center and the attack on the Pentagon also supports the possibility that an exercise was taking place on September 11 based around the scenario of a plane crashing into the White House. Around 16 minutes before the Pentagon was hit, NEADS received an incorrect report that American Airlines Flight 11 had not actually crashed into the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m., as was believed, and was heading south toward Washington. It is surely possible that the aircraft being referred to was in fact a simulated plane in an exercise and this mock aircraft was subsequently imagined, by the Secret Service, to have crashed into the White House.

Specifically, at 9:21 a.m., Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the Boston Air Traffic Control Center, called NEADS and said: "I just had a report that American 11 is still in the air and it's on its way towards--heading towards Washington. ... It was evidently another aircraft that hit the [World Trade Center] tower." [28]

It seems odd that Scoggins passed on this inaccurate information without trying to verify it or gain more clarity first, since such a mystifying report was sure to cause confusion at NEADS at a time when the military needed precise information. Indeed, Scoggins's call created confusion at NEADS that lasted "for hours," according to Vanity Fair.

Furthermore, Scoggins admitted, air traffic controllers "were never tracking an actual plane on the radar after losing American 11 near Manhattan." He explained that, "had it continued south past New York in the direction it was flying before it dipped below radar coverage," Flight 11 would have "headed on a straight course toward [Washington]." And yet, despite the apparent lack of evidence that Flight 11 was still airborne, the only action he took before passing on the false report to NEADS was "talking to a supervisor." [29]

Scoggins's action makes more sense if the non-existent aircraft Scoggins told NEADS about was actually a simulated hijacked plane in the NORAD exercise. And if the Secret Service was running an exercise that was, at least to some degree, coordinated with the NORAD exercise, this mock aircraft could have featured in its exercise too.

INVESTIGATORS WERE UNABLE TO FIND THE ORIGIN OF THE FALSE REPORT
Explanations for the false report about Flight 11 being airborne 35 minutes after it crashed have been vague and inadequate. The 9/11 Commission Report stated, "We have been unable to identify the source of this mistaken FAA information." [30] Scoggins claimed the misunderstanding came about during "an unwieldy conference call between FAA centers" that he was monitoring. "The word came across--from whom or where isn't clear--that American 11 was thought to be headed for Washington," he told Vanity Fair. [31] He told the 9/11 Commission he "never learned" who originally reported that Flight 11 was still airborne and heading toward Washington. [32] But according to author Lynn Spencer, the false information was announced during the FAA teleconference by someone at the Washington Air Traffic Control Center. [33]

Could the lack of clarity around how this incident arose be because it was a simulated scenario in a training exercise? Perhaps those who described the incident to the 9/11 Commission were unaware of this detail and were consequently unclear about how the false report came about. Or maybe measures were taken to cover up this detail and those who knew it were ordered to keep quiet.

It is notable that the time when Flight 11 was reported as being still airborne and flying toward Washington is probably consistent with this non-existent aircraft reaching the White House around the time the Secret Service reported that a plane crashed there. The timing of this event is therefore consistent with an exercise scenario being played out in which a hijacked plane flew south from New York to Washington and then crashed into the White House.

POSSIBLE EXERCISE APPARENTLY CONTINUED ALL THROUGH THE ATTACKS
The Secret Service's incorrect report that a plane had crashed into the White House could be significant. Analysis of the incident gives rise to numerous questions relating to what exactly happened on September 11, who was responsible for the terrorist attacks that day, and why government agencies failed to stop them.

To begin with, who at the Secret Service reported the supposed crash to the emergency services? Why did they make the false report? Was their action performed as part of a training exercise? If so, what did the exercise involve? Did it include the scenario of a plane being crashed into the White House, which resulted in a fire and some or all of the building collapsing? Who planned it?

Additionally, who at the Secret Service alerted the MDW Engineer Company--the "structural collapse team"--at 9:07 a.m., even though no collapse had occurred at the White House and there was no evidence that an incident was going to take place that would cause it to collapse? Was the MDW Engineer Company contacted because it was participating in a Secret Service exercise that was going to include the scenario of the White House collapsing?

If the Secret Service's report to the emergency services was part of an exercise, this indicates the exercise was allowed to continue until at least 9:46 a.m., when the District of Columbia Fire Department was called out to respond to the alleged incident. This was an hour after the first crash at the World Trade Center occurred and nine minutes after the Pentagon--the final building to be hit that day--was attacked.

But if an exercise was indeed being conducted, surely this exercise should have been called off immediately when it became apparent that a real crisis was taking place, to which government agencies needed to respond. Certainly, some Secret Service agents appear to have quickly recognized the seriousness of the real-world emergency. "When we saw the plane crash into the second tower we knew it was no accident," Rebecca Ediger, who was in the Joint Operations Center that morning, recalled. [34] "At that moment," she said, "we all knew the first plane was not an accident; the country was under attack." [35] So why would an exercise be allowed to continue while America was under attack, when doing so might seriously impair the ability of the Secret Service to respond to the real-world crisis?

SECRET SERVICE MADE A 'SLOW START' IN ITS RESPONSE TO THE ATTACKS
The performance of the Secret Service on September 11 was notably poor. [36] Author Philip Melanson, in a book about the agency, referred to the Secret Service's "slow start to 9/11 protection." [37] And U.S. News & World Report specifically pointed out that "Secret Service executives did not implement an 'emergency call-up' of all personnel until the third [hijacked] plane crashed, into the Pentagon." [38]

If the Secret Service was running an exercise while the terrorist attacks were taking place, this factor might help explain its poor performance. The exercise may have created confusion, which affected the ability of agents to respond to the attacks. Agents could have mistaken real-world events they heard about for simulated events in the exercise and consequently failed to respond to them as they normally would have. Perhaps agents had also been isolated from what was going on in the real world so they could focus on the exercise and it consequently took longer for them to learn that a genuine crisis was taking place.

An exercise could have been part of a deliberate attempt to paralyze the Secret Service when the agency was urgently needed to help protect the nation. If so, this would suggest a network of rogue officials in the U.S. government was involved in planning and conducting the 9/11 attacks, since only powerful individuals in key positions could have influenced when the Secret Service held its exercises and what these exercises involved. Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist network would certainly have been unable to influence these things.

More than 17 years after September 11, 2001, we still know little about the actions of the Secret Service that day. The limited information available is inconclusive. Despite the circumstantial evidence indicating the agency was running an exercise when the 9/11 attacks occurred, there is currently no official confirmation of such an exercise taking place. It is therefore essential that more information be released, so we can properly assess the actions of the Secret Service on September 11. This information may help us determine whether rogue employees deliberately acted to sabotage the response of their colleagues, in order to help ensure the attacks on the U.S. succeeded.

NOTES
[1] Howard Witt, "This is Only a Test." Washington City Paper, September 21, 2001; Michael J. Ward, "Attack on the Pentagon: The Initial Fire and EMS Response." Journal of Emergency Medical Services, April 2002; Michael L. Smith, "DC Crews Dispatched to the Pentagon." Firehouse, November 2002.
[2] "Actions of TSD Related to Terrorist Incident." United States Secret Service, September 12, 2001; Garrett M. Graff, Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government's Secret Plan to Save Itself--While the Rest of us Die. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017, p. 333.
[3] Alfred Goldberg et al., Pentagon 9/11. Washington, DC: Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 2007, p. 96.
[4] Tim Hipps, "MDW Engineers Honored for Operation Noble Eagle." Fort Belvoir News, April 4, 2002; Jonathan Wiley, "Search and Rescue Challenge." Soldiers, August 2002; Ally Rogers, "911th Engineers Take Action in Training Scenario." Belvoir Eagle, February 16, 2012.
[5] Untitled document. United States Secret Service, 2001; Alfred Goldberg et al., Pentagon 9/11, p. 96.
[6] "USSS Statements and Interview Reports." 9/11 Commission, July 28, 2003.
[7] "Spotlight on: Barbara Riggs." PCCW eNewsletter, Spring 2006.
[8] "Memorandum for the Record: Interview With Terry Van Steenbergen." 9/11 Commission, March 30, 2004.
[9] "USSS Statements and Interview Reports."
[10] "Secret Service Timeline, Unclassified Extract." United States Secret Service, September 11, 2001.
[11] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2004, pp. 24-25; Staff Report: The Four Flights. 9/11 Commission, August 26, 2004, pp. 29, 33.
[12] "Flight Path Study: American Airlines Flight 77." National Transportation Safety Board, February 19, 2002; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, pp. 39, 464.
[13] "The Footnotes of 9/11." CNN Presents, CNN, September 11, 2011.
[14] "USSS Statements and Interview Reports."
[15] Paul L. Nenninger, "Simulation at the Secret Service: As Real as it Gets." In Learning Rants, Raves, and Reflections: A Collection of Passionate and Professional Perspectives, edited by Elliott Masie, pp. 175-187. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer, 2005, pp. 175-178; Paul L. Nenninger, "One Secret Service Agent's Experience." Southeast Missourian, August 29, 2011; "Secret Service Simulated Crashing Planes into the White House Before 9/11." Shoestring 9/11, September 24, 2011.
[16] "Testimony of Paul H. O'Neill, Secretary of the Treasury, Before the Senate Committee on Appropriations." U.S. Department of the Treasury, May 8, 2001.
[17] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, pp. 345, 457-458.
[18] Michael Duffy, "Flight of the Intruder." Time, September 26, 1994.
[19] See "Training Exercises on 9/11." History Commons, n.d.
[20] Michael C. Ruppert, Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers, 2004, p. 367.
[21] William M. Arkin, Code Names: Deciphering U.S. Military Plans, Programs, and Operations in the 9/11 World. Hanover, NH: Steerforth Press, 2005, p. 545.
[22] "Vigilant Guardian 01-2." Northeast Air Defense Sector, August 23, 2001; Leslie Filson, Air War Over America: Sept. 11 Alters Face of Air Defense Mission. Tyndall Air Force Base, FL: 1st Air Force, 2003, pp. 55, 122.
[23] Kevin Simpson, "Rearmed Forces: 9/11 Changed Military Life in Colorado." Denver Post, August 27, 2011.
[24] Thomas Doscher, "In Their Own Words--NORAD Members Recall September 11: Jeff Ford." Defense Visual Information Distribution Service, September 8, 2011.
[25] "NCOTA: Exercise Data." North American Aerospace Defense Command, July 25, 2003; "NORAD Exercises: Hijack Summary." 9/11 Commission, n.d.
[26] Michael Bronner, "9/11 Live: The NORAD Tapes." Vanity Fair, August 2006.
[27] "NEADS AOR Hijack/WMD Scenarios." U.S. Air Force, 2003; Senate Committee on Armed Services, Implications for the Department of Defense and Military Operations of Proposals to Reorganize the United States Intelligence Community. 108th Cong., 2nd sess., August 17, 2004.
[28] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 26; Lynn Spencer, Touching History: The Untold Story of the Drama That Unfolded in the Skies Over America on 9/11. New York: Free Press, 2008, p. 137.
[29] Michael Bronner, "9/11 Live."
[30] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 26.
[31] Michael Bronner, "9/11 Live."
[32] "Memorandum for the Record: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Boston Center Field Site Interview With Colin Scoggins, Military Operations Specialist." 9/11 Commission, September 22, 2003.
[33] Lynn Spencer, Touching History, p. 137.
[34] Susan Marshall, "Two PHS Grads Serve Top Office of the Land." Peabody Gazette-Bulletin, February 12, 2003.
[35] Kerry Jones, "Trust and Confidence." The Shocker, Summer 2002.
[36] See "Laura Bush on 9/11: Why Was the President's Wife Left Vulnerable and Unprotected?" Shoestring 9/11, June 18, 2012; "The Dangerously Delayed Reactions of the Secret Service on 9/11." Shoestring 9/11, October 2, 2013; "Why Did the Secret Service Leave the President and a School Full of Children in Danger in the Middle of the 9/11 Attacks?" Shoestring 9/11, March 4, 2017.
[37] Philip H. Melanson, The Secret Service: The Hidden History of an Enigmatic Agency. 2nd ed. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2005, p. 331.
[38] Chitra Ragavan, "Under Cloudy Skies." U.S. News & World Report, December 9, 2002.