Tuesday, 21 January 2014
Targeting the President: Evidence of U.S. Government Training Exercises on 9/11
A significant number of apparent terrorist incidents occurred on September 11, 2001, in which President Bush or locations associated with him, like the White House and Camp David, seemed to be the target. And yet for all these incidents, the apparent threat was subsequently claimed to be unfounded, perhaps having come about due to a misunderstanding. A possibility that has remained unexamined, however, is that the incidents were in fact scenarios in training exercises taking place that day.
It seems reasonable to assume that if the incidents were indeed exercise scenarios, the Secret Service, as the agency responsible for protecting the president and the White House, would have been participating in them. Alarmingly, though, the times at which some of the incidents occurred indicates that if they were scenarios in training exercises, these exercises were not canceled in response to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but instead continued until well after the real-world crisis ended. If the Secret Service was indeed involved in exercises at the time of the 9/11 attacks, then, we surely need to consider what effect these exercises had on the agency's ability to respond to the attacks.
Below are descriptions of eight apparent terrorist incidents that occurred around the time of the 9/11 attacks, in which the president or a location associated with the president appeared to be the target. The first two incidents involved the president himself seeming to be the terrorists' target; the next three involved Air Force One, the president's plane, being the apparent target; and the final incidents involved the places where President Bush lived, such as the White House, being the apparent target.
POLICE WERE ALERTED TO A MAN WHO COULD HAVE BEEN A DANGER TO THE PRESIDENT WHILE HE WAS IN FLORIDA
One of the apparent threats which involved President Bush himself seeming to be a terrorist target came to light early on the morning of September 11, when a Sudanese man called Zainelabdeen Ibrahim Omer contacted the police in Sarasota, Florida--the city Bush was scheduled to visit later that day--and alerted them to the possible danger. When police officers visited him shortly after 4:00 a.m., Omer told them a friend of his, who he referred to as "Gandi," was in Sarasota with two companions, and he feared they might be a danger to Bush.
Gandi, Omer said, had "made several remarks in the past that indicated extremely violent thoughts." Gandi, it was later reported, also had links to the Sudan People's Liberation Army, a guerrilla group. Omer told the police officers that considering the man's "past inclinations," the fact that Gandi was in Sarasota at the same time as Bush was visiting the area "might not be coincidental."
The police contacted the Secret Service to pass on Omer's warning. Police officers and Secret Service agents then visited an address in Sarasota, where they found 11 Arab men. One of the men had a card for a club located near the resort in Longboat Key where Bush had been spending the night.
The men were questioned and held until Bush left Sarasota, and then released. An unnamed law enforcement source later told authors Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan there was no evidence indicating the men were linked to the 9/11 plotters.  Despite occurring on September 11, the incident received almost no publicity and is still largely unknown.
It certainly seems plausible that this series of events came about because of a training exercise run by the Secret Service. Omer's report to the police, which was passed on to the Secret Service, could have been intended to test the ability of police officers and Secret Service agents to respond to a potential threat to the president, and the 11 men found at the address in Sarasota could have been actors in the exercise, playing potential terrorists.
INCIDENT AT THE PRESIDENT'S HOTEL RESEMBLED A RECENT ASSASSINATION
Another suspicious incident reportedly occurred while President Bush was staying on Longboat Key, prior to his visit to Sarasota. Either during the evening of September 10 or early on the morning of September 11, a group of Middle Eastern men turned up at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort on Longboat Key, near Sarasota, while Bush was staying there and falsely claimed to have an interview with the president, but they were turned away from the resort.
The men arrived in a van and said they were reporters who had an interview arranged with Bush. They also asked for a particular Secret Service agent by name. Security guards at the resort called reception to pass on their request, but the receptionist knew nothing about a planned interview with the president or the Secret Service agent the men had asked for. She passed the phone to a Secret Service agent, who also knew nothing about the interview and had not heard of the Secret Service agent the men asked for. The agent had the men turned away from the premises. 
Some people have noted the resemblance of this incident to the way Ahmad Shah Massoud, the leader of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, was assassinated on September 9, 2001, and have wondered if the Middle Eastern men intended to kill Bush in a similar fashion.  Massoud was killed by a bomb hidden in the video camera of two Arab men who said they were journalists who wanted to interview him. 
The incident at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort came to light because Carroll Mooneyhan, a local fire marshal, overheard a receptionist and a security guard discussing it at the front desk of the resort at around 6:00 a.m. on September 11, and a reporter later heard Mooneyhan describing what they'd said to another firefighter. 
The alleged incident, however, was subsequently denied. Longboat Key Police Chief John Kintz said: "There wasn't a single person who could confirm that it happened. We never found anyone who worked at the gate who could tell us that that happened."  The day after the incident was first reported in a local newspaper, Mooneyhan reportedly "went silent" about it.  "How did [the newspaper] get that information from me if I didn't know it?" he later said.  Secret Service agents visited the newspaper and told it to "back off the story." 
Might the incident have been denied, though, because it was part of a Secret Service training exercise and this fact had to be concealed? The exercise could have been intended to test how Secret Service agents would respond to a possible attempt to assassinate the president.
MAN POSSIBLY CARRYING A GUN WAS SEEN AT THE AIRPORT AS THE PRESIDENT WAS ABOUT TO TAKE OFF
Several apparent terrorist incidents occurred as President Bush was leaving Sarasota, after visiting the Emma E. Booker Elementary School there. The first of these took place shortly before 10:00 a.m., as Air Force One was taxiing out at the Sarasota airport with Bush on board.
The Secret Service noticed a man standing by the fence at the end of the runway carrying some kind of device, which they thought might be a long gun. "Shooters" had the unidentified man in their sights and were reportedly ready to "take him down" if he moved. Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, was alerted to the man and instructed to take off in the opposite direction to what had been planned, so as to stay away from him. 
Tillman climbed Air Force One steeply, so any potential shooter would not have a correct line of sight to fire at it.  The plane took off "like a rocket," White House communications director Dan Bartlett, who was on board, has recalled. 
The incident, though, was a false alarm. According to Tillman, the person at the end of the runway, possibly with a gun, turned out to be a man who had come to the airport with his children to watch Air Force One leaving, and the device he was carrying was just a video camera. 
However, might what happened instead have been a scenario in a training exercise intended to test the ability of Secret Service agents to spot and respond to a possible threat to the president and Air Force One? The suspicious man at the airport could in fact have been a participant in the exercise, playing the part of a potential terrorist.
WHITE HOUSE RECEIVED A MESSAGE INDICATING THE PRESIDENT'S PLANE WOULD BE ATTACKED
Air Force One was again the focus of an apparent threat at around 10:30 a.m., when an anonymous phone call was received at the White House in which the caller said the president's plane would be the next target of the terrorist attacks. They referred to Air Force One by its Secret Service code name, "Angel," which, according to a senior White House official, suggested they had "knowledge of procedures that made the threat credible." 
As many as three locations at the White House received the threatening message. It was received by the White House switchboard, according to some accounts.  A pager message sent at 10:32 a.m. that morning stated that it was received by the Secret Service Joint Operations Center at the White House.  And other accounts indicate it was received by the White House Situation Room. For example, Major Robert Darling of the White House Military Office has described answering a call from someone in the Situation Room, who told him the Situation Room had "a credible source in the Sarasota, Florida, area that claims Angel is the next target." 
News of the threat was promptly relayed on the Pentagon's air threat conference call.  And a military officer passed on details of the threatening message to officials in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC)--a bunker below the White House--including Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.  According to Robert Darling, who was in the PEOC at the time, "The talk among the principals in the room quickly determined that the use of a code word implied that the threat to Air Force One and the president could well be from someone with access to [the president's] inner circle--possibly someone who was near the president at that very moment." 
Cheney quickly phoned Bush and told him about the threatening call. Bush passed on the news to his military aide, telling him, "A call came into the White House switchboard saying, 'Angel is next.'"  Mark Tillman was then told about the threat. Concerned about it, he asked for an armed guard at his cockpit door. Meanwhile, Secret Service agents double-checked the identities of everyone on Air Force One. 
THREAT TO AIR FORCE ONE WAS LATER DISMISSED, BUT NEVER FULLY EXPLAINED
The threat was subsequently determined to be "almost surely bogus," according to Newsweek.  Toward the end of September 2001, unnamed government officials reportedly said that "they now doubt whether there was actually a call made threatening Air Force One," and claimed the mistaken report of the threat came about because "White House staffers apparently misunderstood comments made by their security detail." 
The Secret Service's intelligence division said the mistaken report originated in a misunderstanding by a watch officer in the Situation Room. But Deborah Loewer, the director of the Situation Room on September 11, told the 9/11 Commission she disputed this claim. 
White House spokesman Dan Bartlett said in 2004 that "there hadn't been any actual threat" against Air Force One, and the report of the threat was due to "confusion in the White House bunker, as multiple conversations went on simultaneously." Around the same time, two former Secret Service agents who had been on duty on September 11 said their agency played no role in receiving or passing on the alleged threatening message.  Their claim, however, was contradicted by the Secret Service pager message sent at 10:32 a.m. on September 11, which stated that the Secret Service Joint Operations Center received an "anonymous call" reporting that "Angel is [a] target." 
Former Secret Service officials also said in 2004 that the code name for Air Force One--"Angel"--hadn't been an official secret, and was actually "a radio shorthand designation that had been made public well before 2001," according to the Wall Street Journal.  But Condoleezza Rice said the use of the code name in the threatening call was "why we still continue to suspect it wasn't a crank call."  And Mark Tillman said "Angel" was "a classified call sign of Air Force One." He added that on September 11, "the only people that knew that call sign was us, [the] Secret Service, and the staff," which was why he found the threat "incredible." 
By the end of 2001, White House officials were still unsure where the threatening call had come from, according to Newsweek.  Details were still unclear by 2010. That year, Robert Darling wrote, "To this day, it has never been determined why either the 'credible source' or Situation Room personnel used that code word [i.e. 'Angel'] in their report to the PEOC." 
A possibility that has never been suggested to explain this mysterious incident, however, is that the threatening phone call was in fact part of a training exercise intended to test the ability of the Secret Service, other government agencies, and the crew of Air Force One to respond to a threat against the president's plane. The fact that the Secret Service Joint Operations Center reportedly received the threatening call, and the threatening message included the Secret Service code name for Air Force One, suggests that the Secret Service would either have been running the exercise or have been a key participant in it.
If the threatening call was indeed part of an exercise, this might help explain the contradictory accounts surrounding the incident, the denials that a threat was made, and the failure to identify the source of the call. The lack of clarity could have been the result of attempts to cover up the existence of the exercise and the fact that it was still taking place at around 10:30 a.m. on September 11, almost half an hour after the terrorist attacks that day ended.
PILOT OF AIR FORCE ONE WAS ALERTED TO AN UNIDENTIFIED AIRCRAFT FLYING TOWARD HIS PLANE
Almost immediately after this threatening message was received, another apparent terrorist incident occurred in which Air Force One was the target. Just after he learned about the "Angel is next" message, Mark Tillman was informed that an unidentified aircraft that might be another hijacking was flying toward his plane and was only 10 miles away.
Tillman has recalled that an air traffic controller at the FAA's Jacksonville Center told him that "there was an aircraft coming at us, descending ... and ... its transponder was not on, and they had no idea who it was. It could have been another hijacked airliner." The controller said the plane was "behind you 10 miles, descending at least, flight level 3-5-0, looks to be holding there." He added, "Apparently we've lost radio contact with them."  Tillman informed other individuals on Air Force One about the suspicious plane.
In an interview, it was pointed out to Mark Rosenker, the director of the White House Military Office on September 11, who was on Air Force One with the president that day, that the unidentified aircraft had followed the modus operandi of the aircraft involved in the terrorist attacks, as it was out of radio contact with air traffic control and its transponder was off. (A transponder is a device that sends a plane's identifying information, speed, and altitude to controllers' radar screens.) Rosenker agreed that this fact had made people on Air Force One "a little nervous." 
Air Force One changed course and headed out over the Gulf of Mexico in response to the report about the unidentified aircraft. "There's basically fighters all over the Gulf that have the capability to make sure that no one comes into the Gulf, penetrates the United States," Tillman has commented. "So I knew I'd be safe out into the Gulf of Mexico." 
But the incident, like the previous apparent threats to Air Force One, was subsequently found to have been a false alarm. "In reality, just his transponder was off [and] he hadn't checked in with the controller right afterwards," Tillman said.  Again, though, it seems plausible that what happened was in fact a scenario in a training exercise taking place that morning, intended to test the response to a threat against the president's plane.
OFFICIALS AT THE WHITE HOUSE WERE ALERTED TO SUSPICIOUS AIRCRAFT FLYING TOWARD WASHINGTON
The targets of other apparent terrorist incidents on September 11 were the places where President Bush lived: the White House in Washington, DC; Camp David in Maryland; and Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas.
In the first of these incidents, beginning at 10:02 a.m., the Secret Service Joint Operations Center gave reports to military officers in the PEOC, in which it passed on information it had received from the FAA about a fast-moving unidentified aircraft that was approaching Washington. A military aide then told Dick Cheney and others in the PEOC about the aircraft. At around 10:10 a.m. or shortly after, the aide reported that the plane was 80 miles away from Washington. A few minutes later, they reported that it was 60 miles away.
Then, at around 10:30 a.m., those in the PEOC were told that another suspicious aircraft was flying toward Washington and was only five to 10 miles away from there.  They were alerted to this aircraft by the White House Situation Room, which was relaying a message from the Secret Service, according to Robert Darling. It was "a high-speed, low-level aircraft," Darling wrote, that was "coming down the Potomac in the direction of the White House." An FAA representative reported over the phone to those in the PEOC that the aircraft was too low for controllers to pick up on radar. 
The reports of these two suspicious aircraft approaching Washington turned out to be false alarms. The 9/11 Commission Report claimed the first aircraft was in fact United Airlines Flight 93, the fourth plane to be hijacked on September 11, even though this aircraft crashed in rural Pennsylvania at 10:03 a.m. The 9/11 Commission's explanation for the mistaken report was that the "FAA may have been tracking the progress of United 93 on a display that showed its projected path to Washington, not its actual radar return." Therefore, "the Secret Service was relying on projections and was not aware the plane was already down in Pennsylvania."
The second aircraft was just a medevac helicopter, according to the 9/11 Commission Report.  The helicopter was heading to the Pentagon, Robert Darling described, and "it seemed the hapless pilot had been on the wrong frequency and was apparently not communicating with the control tower at Reagan National Airport."  However, Newsweek claimed the aircraft was actually "a phantom of the fog of war" that in reality "never existed." 
Alternatively, though, might the reports about the two suspicious aircraft have been simulated scenarios in a training exercise, intended to test the ability of government agencies to respond to an attempted terrorist attack on Washington or the White House?
Since the Secret Service is responsible for protecting the White House and other buildings in Washington, if these reports were indeed part of an exercise, it seems quite likely that the Secret Service would either have been running that exercise or have been a key participant in it. Supporting this possibility is the fact that the Secret Service was the agency that alerted the White House to both of the suspicious aircraft, and so it played a central role in these incidents.
SECRET SERVICE REPORTED THAT A PLANE HAD CRASHED AT CAMP DAVID
Immediately after these incorrect reports were received, another erroneous report went out, which suggested another of President Bush's homes had been the target of a terrorist attack. This time the location involved was Camp David, the presidential retreat in the Catoctin Mountains in Maryland, about 70 miles northwest of Washington.
The incident was apparently first reported by the Secret Service, which stated that Flight 93 had crashed into Camp David. At 10:36 a.m., Doug Davis, a member of staff at FAA headquarters, was talking over the phone to John White, a manager at the FAA's Command Center, and said: "Secret Service is saying they believe United 93 hit Camp David. That is what Secret Service is reporting."  White later told the 9/11 Commission, "They [the Secret Service] confirmed that; I heard it; it was in my ear." 
The erroneous report was apparently circulated widely within the Secret Service. Officials at the Director's Crisis Center at the agency's headquarters were told about the crash, apparently by the Secret Service's intelligence division.  Laura Bush, the wife of President Bush, heard about the crash while she was in an underground conference room at the Secret Service headquarters.  And Edward Marinzel, the head of the president's Secret Service detail, learned about it while flying away from Sarasota on Air Force One.  The crash was also reported on television, with CBS News mentioning it shortly after 11:00 a.m. 
The Secret Service contacted officials at the Catoctin Mountain Park, where Camp David is located, and asked for the park to be closed and for an expanded security presence there. This was an unusual request. J. Mel Poole, the Catoctin Mountain Park superintendent, has commented, "It was only when we had an additional head of state beyond the president that we would do something like that."  The park was reportedly closed around midday, "as a precaution."  And fighter jets from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia arrived over the park at around 11:00 a.m., according to Poole. 
The report that a plane had crashed at Camp David was soon found to have been incorrect. At 10:45 a.m., nine minutes after he passed on the Secret Service's claim that Flight 93 had hit Camp David, Doug Davis told John White that the Secret Service had retracted the claim. "They think the United did go in south of Johnstown and not at Camp David," he said.  The FAA called the military at some point for confirmation that a crash had occurred at Camp David and was assured that no such crash had taken place.  And after the Secret Service confirmed to him that it "had not heard of [any] plane crash" at Camp David, J. Mel Poole told reporters there had been "no crash at Camp David and no crash at Catoctin Mountain Park." 
A possibility that needs to be investigated, though, is that this supposed plane crash was in fact a simulated scenario in a training exercise. Since Camp David is the president's country residence, the scenario could have been intended to test the response to an attempted terrorist attack on the president while he was staying there. The fact that the incorrect reports about the crash appear to have originated with the Secret Service suggests that if this incident was indeed part of an exercise, the Secret Service was either running the exercise or was a key participant in it.
OTHER INCIDENTS NEAR CAMP DAVID MAY HAVE BEEN PART OF AN EXERCISE
If an exercise was taking place, there were other incidents that have been described, as well as the reports of the crash at Camp David, that may have been part of it. For example, around mid-morning on September 11, Theresa Hahn, the catering manager for a restaurant near the presidential retreat, told reporters that "lots of fire trucks were on the road and no one can get up there" to Camp David. While firefighters may simply have been responding to the incorrect reports of a plane crash, it is also possible they were practicing their response to a terrorist attack as part of an exercise. 
Additionally, around the time the attacks on the World Trade Center took place, an Emergency Medical Services meeting was being held in the Catoctin Mountain Park, which, according to J. Mel Poole, "all the coordinators from all the parks in the region" were attending.  Could this meeting have been connected to an exercise taking place that morning and have perhaps been intended to discuss some of the issues addressed in the exercise, such as how to respond to a terrorist attack?
Furthermore, communication systems went down in the Camp David area around the time the crash was being reported. Theresa Hahn has recalled that she was unable to get through on the phone to an aunt who lived on the other side of the Catoctin Mountain Park.  And J. Mel Poole said that when he tried making a call, "the entire trunk system for this area went down." There was "a message display on the phone that tells you the status of the phone," he said, and this showed that "it was not just that the line was busy, that there was too much traffic," but in fact that "the trunk went down, which is like the main line that all the other lines feed into."  No explanation has been given for this loss of communication. But might it have been caused deliberately as part of an exercise, and was it perhaps intended to test how emergency response agencies would cope if their usual lines of communication were unavailable during a crisis?
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS REPORTED A FAST-MOVING AIRCRAFT FLYING TOWARD THE PRESIDENT'S RANCH
The next incident in which one of President Bush's homes seemed to be the target of an attempted terrorist attack occurred early in the afternoon of September 11, when air traffic controllers at the FAA's Fort Worth Center reported that a suspicious aircraft was flying toward Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas.
The report appears to have circulated widely among government agencies. The aircraft was discussed on the Pentagon's air threat conference call.  Just before 1:00 p.m., Dick Cheney and others in the PEOC were told about "a low-flying, high-speed aircraft headed for the president's ranch."  The president and his entourage learned about it just after 1:00 p.m. and, in response, Bush instructed an underling to alert everyone at the ranch.  And Laura Bush has recalled hearing that a plane had crashed into the ranch while she was at Secret Service headquarters. 
Officials in the White House Situation Room were also alerted to the aircraft and, in response, Bush's personal aide, Logan Walters, contacted the ranch's caretaker and told him to get away from the ranch right away. Franklin Miller, a senior national security official who was in the Situation Room that day, was told that a combat air patrol--an aircraft patrol set up for the purpose of intercepting and destroying hostile aircraft before they reach their targets--had been established over the ranch in response to the threat. However, when Miller then tried to call off the combat air patrol, he was told it had not been established to begin with. 
Meanwhile, on the air threat conference call, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) representative told the deputy director for operations in the Pentagon's National Military Command Center that NORAD had two fighter jets on the ground and two en route from Ellington Field, Texas, to respond to the suspicious aircraft. But after the aircraft was reportedly found, the NORAD representative said: "We don't have confirmation of an actual scramble [of the fighter jets]. The only word we got was they were working on tactical action." 
SUSPICIOUS AIRCRAFT WAS A CROP DUSTER
Like the previous incidents in which it appeared that terrorists might be trying to attack one of the president's homes, this incident turned out to be a false alarm. Franklin Miller was told that "no rogue aircraft" had been heading toward Bush's ranch.  White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who was traveling with the president that day, has recalled that the unidentified aircraft "turned out to be a private plane of no consequence that should have been grounded, but wasn't grounded."  According to Dick Cheney, it "turned out to be a wayward crop duster, or something." 
Again, we need to consider whether this incident was a scenario in a training exercise. It could have been intended to test how various agencies would respond to an attempted attack on the president while he was staying at his ranch in Crawford.
A notable piece of evidence supports this possibility. A NORAD exercise called Amalgam Virgo 02 included a scenario much like this incident. The exercise, according to an official information sheet, included the simulation of a crop duster plane stolen in Mexico being "en route to the simulated ranch" in Turnersville, Texas, which is just a few miles from Crawford, "with the intent of spraying anthrax" there.
This simulation of a terrorist attack was scheduled to be conducted on November 8, 2001.  Presumably it would have required a considerable amount of time to plan and would therefore have been in preparation before September 11. If this was the case, it would mean that, even before 9/11, an incident resembling that which took place over Crawford on September 11 was considered as a possible scenario to be used in training exercises. Might that therefore have been the case for an exercise taking place on the day of 9/11?
It is notable that around the time the U.S. came under attack on September 11, all these incidents occurred in which the president or a location associated with the president seemed to be the target of terrorists, and that every one of them turned out to be a false alarm. All of the incidents were also subsequently treated as if they were insignificant and had an innocent explanation, such as being the result of a misunderstanding, and as if they had no connection to the terrorist attacks they had coincided with.
It would be a remarkable coincidence if so many incidents that had the same theme--the president or a location associated with him being the apparent target of a terrorist attack--and that took place around the same time were unrelated. The timing and similarity of the incidents would make sense, however, if they were all scenarios in training exercises scheduled for September 11, which had been intended to test the ability of government agencies to protect the president from terrorists.
SECRET SERVICE WAS LIKELY PARTICIPATING IN ANY TRAINING EXERCISES
There is a significant amount of evidence suggesting that if these apparent terrorist incidents were indeed scenarios in training exercises, the exercises were either run by the Secret Service or were interagency exercises in which the Secret Service was a key participant.
To begin with, as its mission statement noted, the Secret Service was "responsible for the protection of the president."  And as the descriptions above make clear, President Bush appeared to be the focus of these incidents. Indeed, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Dick Cheney's chief of staff, commented that the nature of the events of September 11 suggested "a pretty widespread effort at decapitation" of the government, and added that this was "a pattern that you couldn't ignore." 
Since the Secret Service was the agency responsible for protecting the president, it seems logical that it would have held training exercises based on the scenario of the president being targeted by terrorists. The apparent terrorist incidents on September 11 that seemed to be targeting Bush could presumably, therefore, have been instances of these exercises.
And since the Secret Service was also responsible for protecting the White House, if the reports about the two suspicious aircraft heading toward the White House between around 10:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. on September 11 were part of an exercise, it seems quite likely that the Secret Service would have been running or participating in that exercise.
INCIDENTS ON SEPTEMBER 11 RESEMBLED EXERCISES HELD BEFORE THEN
Furthermore, it has been reported that the Secret Service participated in exercises in the years before 9/11 based on scenarios resembling some of the apparent terrorist incidents on September 11.
Specifically, in May 2001, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill stated that the Secret Service "holds interagency tabletop exercises in preparation for terrorist attacks on the White House."  And since 1998, according to former Secret Service agent Paul Nenninger, the Secret Service's James J. Rowley Training Center in Beltsville, Maryland, had been running computer simulations of planes crashing into the White House, in order to test security there. 
So if the Secret Service was participating in training exercises on September 11, some of those exercises, similar to the agency's previous exercises, could presumably have involved the scenario of terrorists attempting to crash planes into the White House. The reports of two unidentified aircraft approaching the White House between 10:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. on September 11 could plausibly have been part of such an exercise.
SECRET SERVICE WAS PREPARING FOR 'SPECIAL SECURITY EVENTS' ON SEPTEMBER 11
Evidence also suggests the Secret Service could have been conducting training exercises on September 11 as part of its preparations for two forthcoming events that had been designated "National Special Security Events." These were a UN event in New York, presumably the General Assembly's annual gathering of world leaders on September 24 to October 5, which President Bush was due to address on September 24, and the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which were scheduled to take place in Washington, just a few blocks from the White House, on September 29-30. 
Since the late 1990s, if an important upcoming public event was designated a National Special Security Event (NSSE), the Secret Service became the lead agency for designing and implementing security operations for it. The agency, according to its website, would then conduct a "tremendous amount of advance planning" for the NSSE. This would involve a "variety of training initiatives," which included "simulated attacks and medical emergencies, interagency tabletop exercises, and field exercises." 
On September 11, it has been reported, government agencies were already busy with their preparations for the forthcoming UN event and International Monetary Fund /World Bank meetings.  Might the Secret Service, therefore, have been conducting "tabletop exercises," "field exercises," or "simulated attacks" that day, in preparation for the NSSEs in New York and Washington at the end of the month?
Furthermore, the Secret Service would be involved in providing air defense for NSSEs. This would include using "air interdiction teams to detect, identify, and assess any aircraft that violates, or attempts to violate, an established temporary flight restricted area ... above an NSSE," according to Brian Stafford, the director of the Secret Service at the time of the 9/11 attacks. 
Perhaps for this reason, the possibility that suicide pilots would commit terrorist attacks using planes as weapons was considered during the preparations for an NSSE. Louis Freeh, the director of the FBI from 1993 to June 2001, told the 9/11 Commission that in 2000 and 2001, the subject of "planes as weapons" was "always one of the considerations" in the planning of security for NSSEs. He said preparing for "the use of airplanes" by terrorists "in suicide missions" was "part of the planning" for an NSSE. 
Since several of the apparent terrorist incidents described above--such as the supposed plane crash at Camp David and the report of an unidentified aircraft flying toward Air Force One--seemed to involve terrorists attempting to use planes as weapons, might these incidents have been scenarios in exercises, as "part of the planning" for the two forthcoming NSSEs?
OTHER AGENCIES WERE RUNNING EXERCISES ON SEPTEMBER 11
Further supporting the possibility that the Secret Service was participating in training exercises on September 11 is the fact that other government and military agencies are known to have been conducting exercises that day.  For example, NORAD was holding its annual exercise, Vigilant Guardian, which has been described as "an air defense exercise simulating an attack on the United States."  And the U.S. Strategic Command (Stratcom) was holding its annual exercise, Global Guardian, which tested nuclear command and control and execution procedures, and was based around a fictitious scenario that would exercise the ability of Stratcom to deter a military attack against the United States. 
The Secret Service could have been participating in some of the exercises run by other agencies or could have scheduled its own exercises so they were concurrent with them. Don Arias, the director of public affairs for the 1st Air Force and the Continental United States NORAD Region at the time of the 9/11 attacks, has confirmed the collaboration that takes place between different agencies for training exercises. "It's common practice, when we have exercises, to get as much bang for the buck as we can," he said. "So sometimes we'll have different organizations participating in the same exercise for different reasons."  A NORAD exercise held in June 2002, for example, included participants from agencies such as the FAA, the FBI, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Transportation Security Administration. 
POSSIBILITY OF TRAINING EXERCISES ON SEPTEMBER 11 AND THEIR EFFECTS REQUIRE INVESTIGATION
The numerous apparent terrorist incidents on September 11 in which President Bush or locations associated with him seemed to be the target require further investigation. If it turns out that any or all of these incidents were scenarios in training exercises, this will raise serious questions.
For example, when were the exercises terminated? Many of the incidents that could have been exercise scenarios occurred after the actual attacks ended. (Flight 93, the last plane to be hijacked on September 11, reportedly crashed at 10:03 a.m.) One incident--the suspicious aircraft flying toward the president's ranch--took place around three hours after the attacks ended.
Evidence therefore indicates that exercises were allowed to continue even after it became obvious the U.S. was in the middle of a serious terrorist attack. At that time, agencies such as the Secret Service should surely have been devoting all their available resources to dealing with the real-world crisis. But if instead the exercises were allowed to carry on, why was this?
And if the Secret Service was participating in exercises on the morning of September 11, did this activity contribute in any way to its alarmingly slow response to the terrorist attacks? For example, various accounts have described how slow the Secret Service was to evacuate its protectees, such as President Bush, Laura Bush, Dick Cheney, and Lynne Cheney, and take them to secure locations. 
The Secret Service only implemented the standard "emergency call-up" of all its personnel after 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon was hit.  And it only ordered that the White House be evacuated at 9:45 a.m., almost an hour after the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center.  In a book about the Secret Service, author Philip Melanson summarized what happened, referring to the Secret Service's "slow start to 9/11 protection," and noted that "the president's detail seemed late in responding to the news of the aerial terrorist assault, whose scope, targets, and nature had yet to be determined." 
Investigators would need to examine if Secret Service personnel mistook real-world events for exercise scenarios. And did the exercises cause any additional confusion, or otherwise impair the ability of Secret Service agents to respond to the real-world crisis?
Importantly, who was responsible for planning the exercises? Who decided what scenarios they would include? And who decided they would take place on the morning of September 11?
Furthermore, since any exercise scenarios based on attempted terrorist attacks could have been confused with the real-world events they coincided with, investigators should surely examine whether the exercises were part of a deliberate attempt to sabotage the responses of the Secret Service and other government agencies, so as to ensure the 9/11 attacks were successful. If this was the case, it would suggest that at least some of the people who planned the exercises were part of the group that planned and perpetrated the 9/11 attacks.
As previously stated, evidence suggests that if the apparent terrorist incidents described above were indeed parts of training exercises, the Secret Service was either running the exercises or was a key participant in them. And yet little has been revealed about the actions of the Secret Service on September 11. Many more documents relating to this subject should therefore be made public. And the actions of the Secret Service, and the possibility of its involvement in training exercises, would need to be important areas of inquiry in any new investigation of 9/11.
 Sarasota Police Department Incident Report #01-049053, Part 1. Sarasota Police Department, September 11, 2001; Sarasota Police Department Incident Report #01-049053, Part 2. Sarasota Police Department, September 11, 2001; Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan, The Eleventh Day: The Full Story of 9/11 and Osama bin Laden. New York: Ballantine Books, 2011, p. 457.
 Shay Sullivan, "Possible Longboat Terrorist Incident." Longboat Observer, September 26, 2001; "9/11: Timeline." Longboat Observer, September 7, 2011.
 Susan Taylor Martin, "Of Fact, Fiction: Bush on 9/11." St. Petersburg Times, July 4, 2004.
 Michael Elliott, "They Had a Plan." Time, August 12, 2002; Susan Taylor Martin, "The Man Who Would Have Led Afghanistan." St. Petersburg Times, September 9, 2002.
 Shay Sullivan, "Possible Longboat Terrorist Incident"; Robin Hartill, "9/11 Looking Back: Q&A With Former City Editor Shay Sullivan." Longboat Observer, September 7, 2011.
 Robin Hartill, "9/11 Looking Back: John Kintz." Longboat Observer, September 7, 2011.
 Robin Hartill, "9/11 Looking Back: Q&A With Former City Editor Shay Sullivan."
 Susan Taylor Martin, "Of Fact, Fiction."
 Robin Hartill, "9/11 Looking Back: Q&A With Former City Editor Shay Sullivan."
 Eric Shawn, "Command & Control: The Careful Job of Piloting the President on Sept. 11, 2001." Fox News, September 6, 2011; Mark W. Tillman, "Air Force One: Zero Failure." Speech presented at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, Dayton, Ohio, February 29, 2012.
 On Board Air Force One. National Geographic Channel, January 25, 2009.
 White House transcript, interview of White House communications director Dan Bartlett by Scott Pelley, CBS. White House, August 12, 2002.
 Mark W. Tillman, "Air Force One: Zero Failure"; Molly McMillin, "Air Force One Pilot Recalls 9/11 Attacks." Wichita Eagle, November 13, 2012.
 William Safire, "Inside the Bunker." New York Times, September 13, 2001; Bob Woodward, Bush at War. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002, p. 18.
 Bill Sammon, Fighting Back: The War on Terrorism--From Inside the Bush White House. Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2002, p. 106; Ari Fleischer, Taking Heat: The President, the Press, and My Years in the White House. New York: HarperCollins, 2005, pp. 141-142.
 Declan McCullagh, "Egads! Confidential 9/11 Pager Messages Disclosed." CBS News, November 25, 2009.
 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, p. 554; Robert J. Darling, 24 Hours Inside the President's Bunker: 9/11/01 The White House. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2010, pp. 60-61.
 Air Threat Conference Call, Transcript. U.S. Department of Defense, September 11, 2001; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 554.
 White House transcript, interview of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice by Evan Thomas of Newsweek magazine. White House, November 1, 2001.
 Robert J. Darling, 24 Hours Inside the President's Bunker, p. 61.
 Bill Sammon, Fighting Back, pp. 106-107; Ari Fleischer, Taking Heat, pp. 141-142.
 David Kohn, "The President's Story." CBS News, September 11, 2002.
 Evan Thomas, "The Day That Changed America." Newsweek, December 30, 2001.
 Ron Fournier, "Support Builds for Coalition." Associated Press, September 26, 2001; "Whopper of the Week: Karl Rove, Ari Fleischer, and Dick Cheney." Slate, September 28, 2001.
 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 554.
 Scot J. Paltrow, "Government Accounts of 9/11 Reveal Gaps, Inconsistencies." Wall Street Journal, March 22, 2004.
 Declan McCullagh, "Egads! Confidential 9/11 Pager Messages Disclosed."
 Scot J. Paltrow, "Government Accounts of 9/11 Reveal Gaps, Inconsistencies."
 White House transcript, interview of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice by Evan Thomas of Newsweek magazine.
 Mark W. Tillman, "Air Force One: Zero Failure."
 Evan Thomas, "The Day That Changed America."
 Robert J. Darling, 24 Hours Inside the President's Bunker, p. 62.
 On Board Air Force One.
 White House transcript, interview of General Mark V. Rosenker, director of the White House Military Office by CBS. White House, August 29, 2002.
 On Board Air Force One.
 Mark Knoller, "Air Force One Pilot Calls it Quits." CBS News, January 17, 2009.
 White House transcript, interview of Scooter Libby by Newsweek magazine. White House, November 14, 2001; Evan Thomas, "The Day That Changed America"; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 41.
 Robert J. Darling, 24 Hours Inside the President's Bunker, pp. 57-58.
 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, pp. 41-42.
 Robert J. Darling, 24 Hours Inside the President's Bunker, p. 59.
 Evan Thomas, "The Day That Changed America."
 Miles Kara, "Transcript of East NTMO, Line 4530, Admin Line." 9/11 Commission, November 4, 2003.
 "Memorandum for the Record: Interview With John White, Former Assistant. Program Manager for Administration at the ATCSCC, 'Command Center,' Herndon, VA." 9/11 Commission, May 7, 2004.
 "USSS Statements and Interview Reports." 9/11 Commission, July 28, 2003.
 Laura Bush, Spoken From the Heart. New York: Scribner, 2010, pp. 201-202.
 USSS memo, interview of Edward Marinzel. United States Secret Service, October 3, 2001.
 Mark K. Miller, "Three Hours That Shook America: A Chronology of Chaos." Broadcasting & Cable, August 25, 2002.
 J. Mel Poole, interview by Mark Schoepfle. National Park Service, December 17, 2001.
 Peter Geier, "Camp David Crash Rumor Proves False." Maryland Daily Record, September 12, 2001.
 J. Mel Poole, interview by Mark Schoepfle.
 Miles Kara, "Transcript of East NTMO, Line 4530, Admin Line."
 Pamela Freni, Ground Stop: An Inside Look at the Federal Aviation Administration on September 11, 2001. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, Inc., 2003, p. 42.
 Peter Geier, "Camp David Crash Rumor Proves False"; J. Mel Poole, interview by Mark Schoepfle.
 Peter Geier, "Camp David Crash Rumor Proves False."
 J. Mel Poole, interview by Mark Schoepfle.
 Peter Geier, "Camp David Crash Rumor Proves False."
 J. Mel Poole, interview by Mark Schoepfle.
 Air Threat Conference and DDO Conference, Transcript. U.S. Department of Defense, September 11, 2001.
 White House notes: Lynne Cheney notes, September 11, 2001; White House transcript, telephone interview of Mrs. Cheney by Newsweek magazine. White House, November 9, 2001; White House transcript, telephone interview of the vice president by Newsweek. White House, November 19, 2001.
 Nicholas Lemann, "The Options." New Yorker, October 1, 2001; Bill Sammon, Fighting Back, p. 117.
 Laura Bush, Spoken From the Heart, p. 202.
 Robert Draper, Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush. New York: Free Press, 2007, pp. 142-143.
 Air Threat Conference and DDO Conference, Transcript.
 Robert Draper, Dead Certain, p. 143.
 White House transcript, interview of press secretary Ari Fleischer by Terry Moran of ABC. White House, August 8, 2002.
 White House transcript, telephone interview of the vice president by Newsweek.
 "Unclassified Change 1: Exercise Amalgam Virgo 02-6 Exord/Red Spins." North American Aerospace Defense Command, July 31, 2003.
 "Mission Statement." United States Secret Service, 2002.
 White House transcript, interview of Scooter Libby by Newsweek magazine.
 "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.
 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: Pfeiffer, 2005, p. 175; Paul L. Nenninger, "One Secret Service Agent's Experience." Southeast Missourian, August 29, 2011.
 "Washington is Seeking Support to Handle Protests at 2 Meetings." New York Times, August 18, 2001; "UN General Security Council Condemns Attacks." New York Times, September 12, 2001; Mark Tran, "IMF and World Bank Meetings in Jeopardy." The Guardian, September 14, 2001; "Bush to Attend UN General Assembly." Associated Press, October 29, 2001; "National Special Security Events Fact Sheet." U.S. Department of Homeland Security, July 9, 2003.
 "National Special Security Events." United States Secret Service, 2002; "Statement of Brian L. Stafford, Director, United States Secret Service, Before the Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security." U.S. House of Representatives, July 9, 2002.
 "Members of Congress to Present Commendation to New York Field Office for Actions on September 11th." United States Secret Service news release, April 29, 2002; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 314; "Spotlight on: Barbara Riggs." PCCW Newsletter, Spring 2006.
 "Statement of Brian L. Stafford, Director, United States Secret Service, Before the Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Treasury and General Government." United States Senate, March 30, 2000.
 National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States: Tenth Public Hearing. 9/11 Commission, April 13, 2004.
 See "Training Exercises on 9/11." Complete 9/11 Timeline, n.d.
 Leslie Filson, Air War Over America: Sept. 11 Alters Face of Air Defense Mission. Tyndall Air Force Base, FL: 1st Air Force, 2003, p. 122; 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.
 Nuclear Weapon Systems Sustainment Programs. Washington, DC: Office of the Secretary of Defense, May 1997; Joe Wasiak, "Global Guardian '99." Collins Center Update, December 1999; Exercise Global Guardian 2001-2 Joint After-Action Report. United States Strategic Command, December 4, 2001, p. A2.
 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.
 Gerry J. Gilmore, "NORAD-Sponsored Exercise Prepares for Worst-Case Scenarios." American Forces Press Service, June 4, 2002.
 See, for example, Kevin Ryan, "Secret Service Failures on 9/11: A Call for Transparency." Washington's Blog, March 25, 2012; "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.
 Chitra Ragavan, "Under Cloudy Skies." U.S. News & World Report, December 1, 2002; Philip H. Melanson, The Secret Service: The Hidden History of an Enigmatic Agency. 2nd ed. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2005, p. 331.
 "September 11: Chronology of Terror." CNN, September 12, 2001; Dan Balz and Bob Woodward, "America's Chaotic Road to War." Washington Post, January 27, 2002.
 Philip H. Melanson, The Secret Service, pp. 330-331.