Saturday 29 December 2007

Ground Level Fireballs Disprove Official WTC Collapse Theories

People running from the collapse of World Trade Center
As the two entries from the Complete 9/11 Timeline copied below show, several witnesses have recalled seeing large fireballs coming from the bases of each of the Twin Towers when they collapsed on September 11, 2001. From their descriptions, it seems the fireballs erupted at the time the collapses began, or just before.

These accounts are important evidence, strongly refuting official explanations of why the World Trade Center fell. In its final report on the collapses of the Twin Towers, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) claimed the collapses "initiated at the fire and impact floors," and "progressed from the initiating floors downward." This would mean the collapse began, in the case of the South Tower, around the 78th to 84th floors, and for the North Tower, around the 93rd to 98th floors.

Why would a collapse that started way up towards the top of each building coincide with, or be preceded by, a massive fireball erupting from the bottom? The official theory--that structural damage and fire caused the collapses--cannot explain this. Nor can it explain why, according to several witnesses, the ground started shaking just before the collapse of the South Tower, and again just before the collapse of the North Tower.

The ground level fireballs make sense, however, when we consider what Mark Loizeaux--the president of Controlled Demolition Inc.--has said: "If I were to bring the towers down, I would put explosives in the basement to get the weight of the building to help collapse the structure."

Shortly Before 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001: Some Witnesses See Ground-Level Explosion Just Before WTC 2 Collapses
Some witnesses reportedly see a massive fireball at ground level, coming from the South Tower just before it starts to collapse. According to a report by the Mineta Transportation Institute (a research institute founded by Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta), "People inside the South Tower felt the floor vibrate as if a small earthquake were occurring.… The vibration lasted for about 30 seconds. The doors were knocked out, and a huge ball of flame created by the exploding diesel fuel from the building's own supply tank shot from the elevator shaft and out the doors of the South Tower, consuming everything in its path. Minutes later, at 9:59 a.m., the tower collapsed." [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 16] Around the same time, Port Authority Police Officer Will Jimeno is in a corridor leading toward the North Tower. "Suddenly the hallway began to shudder," and he sees "the giant fireball explode in the street," when the South Tower begins to collapse. [Bowhunter, 1/2003] Ronald DiFrancesco is the last person to make it out of the South Tower before it collapses. As he is heading toward the exit that leads onto Church Street, he hears a loud roar as the collapse begins. According to the Ottawa Citizen, "Mr. DiFrancesco turned to his right in the direction of Liberty Street, to see a massive fireball—compressed as the South Tower fell—roiling toward [him]." He bolts for the exit, before being knocked unconscious and blown many yards across the street. [USA Today, 12/18/2001; Ottawa Citizen, 6/4/2005; Ottawa Citizen, 6/5/2005; PBS NOVA, 9/5/2006] A number of other witnesses report feeling the ground shaking just seconds before the South Tower collapses (see Shortly Before 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001).

10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001: Reporter Sees Ground-Level Explosion When North Tower Collapses
CBS News correspondent Carol Marin witnesses what she describes as a "gigantic fireball" coming from the base of the North Tower as it starts to collapse. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Chicago Sun-Times, 9/12/2001; Daily Herald (Arlington Heights), 9/11/2002] Marin headed to the scene of the attacks and arrived on West Street after the South Tower collapsed. She then sees the second tower come down, later describing, "I was only a block or two away from the North Tower when the street trembled under my feet, a fireball of pooled jet fuel exploded out of the building's base, and it too, unbelievably, started to collapse right in front of me." [Chicago Sun-Times, 9/10/2006] (However, the explosion could not be due to "pooled jet fuel," as, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, "The jet fuel" from the planes "was mostly consumed within the first few minutes after impact." [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 6/18/2004; New York Times, 4/5/2005]) In one telling, Marin describes, "a roar seemed to come out of the earth," causing the fireball. [Gilbert et al., 2002] In another, she says, "there was a roar, an explosion, and we could see coming toward us a ball of flame, stories high." She runs, and a firefighter throws her against a building to protect her. She recalls, "The flame somehow stopped short of us." [CBS News, 2002, pp. 54] Other witnesses also describe the ground shaking before the North Tower collapse (see Shortly Before 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). And some witnesses similarly report seeing a fireball at ground level coming from the South Tower when it collapsed (see Shortly Before 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Saturday 17 November 2007

The Breakdown of the FBI Anti-Terror Team on 9/11

A brief but important NBC News report broadcast during the morning of 9/11 indicated how the FBI was rendered useless in its ability to respond to the kind of attacks that were taking place. Shortly after 10:00 a.m., correspondent Andrea Mitchell reported: "This very interesting information ... from the FBI: They have been operating a massive exercise from their hostage rescue unit. All of their top teams, about 50 personnel, helicopters, equipment, were in Monterey, California for the last two days, scheduled to fly back today commercially. So all of those people are out of place." She continued: "You've got all of their special experts on this stuck in Monterey, California, trying to get a military flight back because there are no longer commercial flights. So they are seriously out of pocket, and there is a real breakdown of the FBI anti-terror coordination team, which is of course the principal team that would lead any effort, and was so effective under Jim Kallstrom in New York City during the World Trade Center bombing and the TWA [Flight 800] explosion."

Despite the implications of this incredible information, only one newspaper covered it. In a report published that same day, USA Today briefly described: "The attack was so unexpected that a joint FBI/CIA anti-terrorist task force that specifically prepared for this type of disaster was on a training exercise in Monterey, Calif." The politics website also mentioned the incident, concluding: "just as the worst terrorist act was being committed on American lives and property, the chief federal agency responsible for preventing such crimes was being AWOL." But, in the six years since, this information has been ignored, and no mention was made of it in the 9/11 Commission Report.

If the official theory about 9/11 is correct, and the attacks were indeed perpetrated by Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, then the absence of the FBI's antiterrorist experts at the one time they were most needed must be a freak coincidence. However, if the official theory is wrong, then this could have been part of a deliberate attempt to 'stand down' normal lines of defense, so as to ensure that the attacks succeeded.

In her report, Mitchell also stated: "It's fair to say, according to sources that we've talked to here at NBC, that the FBI rescue operations and other FBI operations are really in chaos right now, because they can't reach their officials in New York, all of their phone lines are down." I have previously described evidence that communications may have been deliberately sabotaged on 9/11, particularly in the Washington, DC area. Key individuals, including government officials and members of the military, appear to have been affected. So when we hear a report about the FBI on 9/11, stating, "all of their phone lines are down," we must surely also wonder whether this was due to sabotage. A proper investigation of the 9/11 attacks is urgently needed to establish the truth.

Saturday 10 November 2007

"A Great Opportunity": President Bush Describes 9/11

Bush during the 2002 State of the Union address
How did President Bush feel about the September 11 attacks? In the following hours, weeks, and months, he repeatedly used one word. While most people no doubt felt that it was an absolute catastrophe, George W. Bush described 9/11--or at least the political climate it had engendered--as an "opportunity." He said this again and again:

September 11, 2001
Hours after the attacks, during a 9:30 p.m. meeting with his key advisers, Bush declared: "This is a great opportunity. We have to think of this as an opportunity." [1]

Later that evening, he dictated for his diary: "My hope is that this will provide an opportunity for us to rally the world against terrorism." [2]

September 13, 2001
During an appearance in the White House Oval Office, Bush said: "You know, through the tears of sadness I see an opportunity. ... And now is an opportunity to do generations a favor, by coming together and whipping terrorism." [3]

During the National Security Council meeting later that day, he said: "This is a new world. ... Start the clock. This is an opportunity. ... I want Afghan options ... I want decisions quick." [4]

September 19, 2001
During a photo opportunity at the White House, the president described: "Progress is being made. ... I said at the time, through my tears I see opportunity. One of the opportunities I saw was the ability not to put--not only for freedom-loving nations to come together to say resolutely we will fight terrorism, but I felt like there would be--this event may shake up the attitudes of the Middle East where people would end up resolving to show the world that there could be peace there as well." [5]

During another photo opportunity later in the day, he said: "Let me say that, in terms of foreign policy and in terms of the world, this horrible tragedy has provided us with an interesting opportunity. One of the opportunities is in the Middle East. ... I think there's some interesting opportunities to shake terrorism loose from sponsor states. And this government, working with Congress, are going to seize the moment." [6]

October 3, 2001
Bush told a meeting of business leaders in New York: "There's now a reassessment taking place all over America. ... [P]eople are reassessing: what can I do to help? I truly believe that out of this will come greater opportunities for peace; peace in the Middle East. This is a fantastic opportunity born out of sadness, and the question is--can we seize it?" [7]

October 21, 2001
During a press conference along with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Bush said: "Both of us see great opportunity. Both of us see positive good that has come out of the evil of September the 11th. Both of us are willing to work hard to seize the moment." [8]

October 29, 2001
Addressing the African Growth and Opportunity Forum, the president said: "Out of the sorrow of September 11th, I see opportunity, a chance for nations to strengthen and rethink and reinvigorate their relationships." [9]

January 29, 2002
During his State of the Union address, the president said: "In the sacrifice of soldiers, the fierce brotherhood of firefighters, and the bravery and generosity of ordinary citizens, we have glimpsed what a new culture of responsibility could look like. ... We've been offered a unique opportunity, and we must not let this moment pass. ... This time of adversity offers a unique moment of opportunity--a moment we must seize to change our culture. ... And we have a great opportunity during this time of war to lead the world toward the values that will bring lasting peace. ... In this moment of opportunity, a common danger is erasing old rivalries." [10]

July 19, 2002
Bush told journalist Bill Sammon that "the events of September 11 caused him to focus on two big goals that he believed the nation could achieve." One of these, the president said, was "peace. ... I believe we can achieve the peace in the Middle East. And I believe we can achieve a peace in South Asia. ... I view this as an opportunity that we will seize." And at home, he added: "the cultural shift toward personal responsibility is going to enable us to better deal with those who could be left behind. ... And one of my jobs is to seize this opportunity, to encourage its impact on our culture." [11]

It would appear that the president's feelings were similar to those articulated by a senior Pentagon official. In 2004, this unnamed official told Washington Times reporter Rowan Scarborough: "I hate to say this and would never say this in public, but 9/11 had its benefits." [12]

[1] Bob Woodward, Bush at War. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002, pp. 31-32.
[2] Dan Balz and Bob Woodward, "America's Chaotic Road to War." Washington Post, January 27, 2002.
[3] "President Pledges Assistance for New York in Phone Call With Pataki, Giuliani." White House, September 13, 2001; Elisabeth Bumiller and Jane Perlez, "The Overview; Bush and Top Aides Proclaim Policy of 'Ending' States That Back Terror; Local Airports Shut After an Arrest." New York Times, September 14, 2001.
[4] Dan Balz, Bob Woodward and Jeff Himmelman, "Afghan Campaign's Blueprint Emerges." Washington Post, January 29, 2002.
[5] "President Building Worldwide Campaign Against Terrorism." White House, September 19, 2001.
[6] "Remarks by the President at Photo Opportunity With House and Senate Leadership." White House, September 19, 2001.
[7] Karen Hughes, Ten Minutes From Normal. New York: Viking, 2004, pp. 267-268.
[8] "President Bush and Russian President Putin Discuss Progress." White House, October 21, 2001.
[9] "U.S., Africa Strengthen Counter-Terrorism and Economic Ties." White House, October 29, 2001.
[10] "President Delivers State of the Union Address." White House, January 29, 2002.
[11] Bill Sammon, Fighting Back: The War on Terrorism--From Inside the Bush White House. Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2002, pp. 382-383.
[12] Rowan Scarborough, Rumsfeld's War: The Untold Story of America's Anti-Terrorist Commander. Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2004, pp. iii.

Sunday 28 October 2007

Todd Beamer's Odd Phone Call and the Silent Crash of Flight 93

Airfone allegedly recovered from the Flight 93 debrisA key element of the official 9/11 story is the phone call Todd Beamer made from United Airlines Flight 93 shortly before it supposedly crashed in rural Pennsylvania. It was at the end of this call that Beamer was heard declaring: "Let's roll," before joining a passenger revolt against the terrorists. Without this now-famous call to battle, 9/11 would arguably have been less effective in motivating the public to get behind the war on terror. By May 2002, the Washington Post reported, Beamer's phrase "Let's roll" had been "Embraced and promoted by President Bush as a patriotic battle cry," and was "now emblazoned on Air Force fighter planes, city firetrucks, school athletic jerseys, and countless T-shirts, baseball caps and souvenir buttons. It's also commemorated in popular songs." [1] The London Evening Standard called Beamer's final words "a symbol of America's determination to fight back." [2] Rowland Morgan, author of the book Flight 93 Revealed, concluded: "Truly, the Let's Roll slogan had become a call to arms--just at a time the White House needed it most." [3] Yet, an examination of Todd Beamer's phone call reveals numerous oddities, coincidences, and seeming impossibilities.

For 13 minutes, Beamer had spoken with Lisa Jefferson, a customer service supervisor at GTE Airfone's Chicago call center. He explained to her that his plane had been hijacked, and, assisted by a flight attendant sitting next to him, provided details about the flight. He also talked about his pregnant wife and two young sons. Being a devout Christian, he asked Jefferson to recite the Lord's Prayer with him, and then recited the 23rd Psalm. Before declaring his famous last words, Beamer said some of the passengers were going to try and seize control of the plane. At around 9:58 a.m., he put the phone down and was heard saying to someone else: "You ready? OK. Let's roll." [4]

The first thing that was odd about this call is the simple fact that Beamer was able to talk to Jefferson continuously for 13 minutes. In her 2002 book, his wife Lisa Beamer revealed that Jefferson had informed her "it was a miracle that Todd's call hadn't been disconnected." The reason: "Because of the enormous number of calls that day, the GTE systems overloaded and lines were being disconnected all around her as she sat at the operator's station outside of Chicago, talking to Todd. [Jefferson] kept thinking, This call is going to get dropped! Yet Todd stayed connected ... all the way to the end." [5] Very fortunate indeed this was, because if the call had become disconnected there would have been no "Let's roll" slogan for the war on terror.

A further oddity was Todd Beamer's remarkable calmness, despite the catastrophic situation he was in. Jefferson recalled: "Todd, when he came to me, he was calm. ... [H]e stayed calm through the entire conversation." [6] In her 2006 book, Called, Jefferson wrote: "[H]is voice was devoid of any stress. In fact, he sounded so tranquil it made me begin to doubt the authenticity and urgency of his call." [7] She told Beamer's wife: "If I hadn't known it was a real hijacking, I'd have thought it was a crank call, because Todd was so rational and methodical about what he was doing." [8]

At some point during the call, Beamer said he did not think he was going to survive, telling Jefferson: "I know we're not going to make it out of here." [9] He gave her his home phone number and said: "If I don't make it out of this, would you please call my family and let them know how much I love them?" [10] Yet he refused offers to be put through to his wife. Jefferson has recalled: "I asked if he wanted to be connected to his wife." But, "he said no, that he did not want to upset her as they were expecting their third child in January." [11]

However, before reaching the call center, Todd Beamer had supposedly been trying to call his wife, but was simply unable to get through. [12] According to a summary of passenger phone calls presented at the 2006 trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, Beamer tried making this call just before 9:44 a.m., but it had been "terminated upon connection." [13] His wife has recalled that she heard her phone ring twice before stopping, and then, moments later, ringing once more. She said: "When I picked it up, it was dead air. I feel fairly confident that it was Todd. It would be on his mind to call me, to protect me." [14] According to some accounts, he reached the call center because his call was automatically routed there when his attempt at reaching his wife failed. [15] (However, other accounts claim he'd reached it by dialing "0" on the Airfone. [16])

The question remains: If Todd Beamer really did not want to talk to his wife because she was pregnant and he was afraid he might upset her, why had be been trying to phone her in the first place? Even if we somehow accept that he'd changed his mind over the space of a few minutes, another question arises: Why had Beamer not instead asked Jefferson to try and put him through to his parents, or one of his sisters, or another relative, or a friend? Instead, he'd apparently been content to talk with a stranger, explaining to Jefferson: "I just want to talk to somebody and just let someone know that this is happening." [17]

Perhaps the oddest aspect of the call is what happened after 9:58, when Todd Beamer put the phone down to join the passenger revolt against the hijackers. Jefferson has recalled: "After he said, 'Let's roll,' he left the phone, and I would assume that's at the point that they went to charge the cockpit. And I was still on the line and the plane took a dive, and by then, it just went silent. I held on until after the plane crashed--probably about 15 minutes longer and I never heard a crash--it just went silent because--I can't explain it. We didn't lose a connection because there's a different sound that you use. It's a squealing sound when you lose a connection. I never lost connection, but it just went silent." [18]

Now how is this possible? Firstly, how could the call have remained connected after the plane crashed? According to the summary of passenger phone calls presented at the Moussaoui trial, Beamer's call lasted "3,925 seconds." [19] This would mean it did not end until 10:49 a.m., about three-quarters of an hour after Flight 93 supposedly crashed. And, secondly, how could there have been silence when the crash occurred?

Considering that Todd Beamer's call is central to the official 9/11 narrative, it would be helpful if a recording of it were available to be properly analyzed. However, all that supposedly exists is a summary written by Jefferson. According to journalist and author Jere Longman: "GTE-Verizon did not routinely tape its telephone calls. As a supervisor, [Jefferson] would have been the one to monitor the taping, but she did not want to risk losing the call." [20] In her own book, Jefferson claimed she had "not had a chance to press the switch in my office that initiates the taping of a conversation." [21] Rowland Morgan has pointed out that this means the evidence of Beamer's call is "single-sourced, unsubstantiated hearsay of which there was no record. ... [Jefferson] had no idea what Beamer's voice sounded like, and she would never hear it again to judge whether he had actually been speaking to her." [22] However, a week after 9/11 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had claimed otherwise, stating that, "because it was to an operator," the call "was tape-recorded." [23] If a recording of the call indeed exists, it has been kept well hidden.

Todd Beamer's call in fact only came to light five days after the attacks, in a report in the Post-Gazette. [24] Beamer's wife first learned of it three days after the attacks, in a phone call from United Airlines. Until then, the FBI had been keeping the information private until it had an opportunity to review it. (Yet how long does it take to review a written summary of a 13-minute phone call?) [25] An FBI agent had phoned Lisa Jefferson on the afternoon of 9/11. She recalled: "I was told to maintain secrecy. In fact, he stressed the importance of keeping the matter under wraps." [26] But why? What was there to hide?

Clearly, many things seem odd about Todd Beamer's phone call. For now, it is really up to each of us to decide what we think was going on. But it should concern us all that the war on terror is founded upon such dubious evidence. This war, after all, has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans, tens of thousands of Afghans, and over a million Iraqis. It's time to go back and properly investigate the event that started it all.

[1] Peter Perl, "Hallowed Ground." Washington Post, May 12, 2002.
[2] James Langton, "Pain and Joy of 11." Evening Standard, August 19, 2002.
[3] Rowland Morgan, "Flight 93 'Was Shot Down' Claims Book." Daily Mail, August 18, 2006.
[4] Jere Longman, Among the Heroes: United Flight 93 and the Passengers and Crew Who Fought Back. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002, pp. 198-200 and 203-204; Wes Smith, "Operator Can't Forget Haunting Cries From Flight 93." Orlando Sentinel, September 5, 2002.
[5] Lisa Beamer and Ken Abraham, Let's Roll!: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Courage. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2002, p. 217.
[6] Wendy Schuman, "'I Promised I Wouldn't Hang Up.'" Beliefnet, 2006.
[7] Lisa Jefferson and Felicia Middlebrooks, Called. Chicago: Northfield Publishing, 2006, p. 33.
[8] Lisa Beamer and Ken Abraham, Let's Roll! p. 211.
[9] Douglas Holt, "Call Records Detail How Passengers Foiled 2nd Washington Attack." Chicago Tribune, September 16, 2001.
[10] Jere Longman, Among the Heroes, p. 200.
[11] Wes Smith, "Operator Can't Forget Haunting Cries From Flight 93."
[12] U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, "Stipulation [Regarding Flights Hijacked on September 11, 2001; September 11, 2001 Deaths; al Qaeda; Chronology of Hijackers' Activities; Zacarias Moussaoui; and the Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-Screening System (CAPPS)]." March 1, 2006, p. 11.
[13] U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, "Summary From Flight 93 Depicting: The Identity of Pilots and Flight Attendants, Seat Assignments of Passengers, and Telephone Calls From the Flight." July 31, 2006.
[14] Jaxon Van Derbeken, "Bound by Fate, Determination: The Final Hours of the Passengers Aboard SF-Bound Flight 93." San Francisco Chronicle, September 17, 2001.
[15] Karen Breslau, "The Final Moments of United Flight 93." Newsweek, September 22, 2001; Dennis B. Roddy, "Flight 93: Forty Lives, One Destiny." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 28, 2001; Glen Johnson, "Probe Reconstructs Horror, Calculated Attacks on Planes." Boston Globe, November 23, 2001; U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, March 1, 2006, p. 11.
[16] Jim McKinnon, "GTE Operator Connects With, Uplifts Widow of Hero in Hijacking." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 19, 2001; Jere Longman, Among the Heroes, pp. 198-199; Wes Smith, "Operator Can't Forget Haunting Cries From Flight 93."
[17] Jere Longman, Among the Heroes, p. 204.
[18] Wendy Schuman, "'I Promised I Wouldn't Hang Up.'"
[19] U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, July 31, 2006.
[20] Jere Longman, Among the Heroes, p. 199.
[21] Lisa Jefferson and Felicia Middlebrooks, Called, p. 36.
[22] Rowland Morgan, "Flight 93 'Was Shot Down' Claims Book."
[23] Jim McKinnon, "GTE Operator Connects With, Uplifts Widow of Hero in Hijacking."
[24] Jim McKinnon, "The Phone Line From Flight 93 Was Still Open When a GTE Operator Heard Todd Beamer Say: 'Are You Guys Ready? Let's Roll.'" Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 16, 2001.
[25] Lisa Beamer and Ken Abraham, Let's Roll! pp. 185-186.
[26] Lisa Jefferson and Felicia Middlebrooks, Called, p. 69.

Friday 19 October 2007

'Deaf, Dumb, and Blind': Were Communications Sabotaged on 9/11?

President Bush and Andrew CardOn September 12, 2001, the commander in chief of the Russian air force, General Anatoly Kornukov, offered his thoughts on the previous day's events: "Generally it is impossible to carry out an act of terror on the scenario which was used in the USA yesterday. ... The notification and control system for the air transport in Russia does not allow uncontrolled flights and leads to immediate reaction of the anti-missile defense. As soon as something like that happens here, I am reported about that right away and in a minute we are all up." [1] One would assume the defenses of the United States should have been more effective than those of Russia. Yet the 9/11 attacks seem to have proceeded with ease, and America's air defenses appear to have been almost non-existent at the time they were most needed.

While we still do not know exactly what caused this, evidence indicates that various methods were used to sabotage normal crisis responses, hence creating a state of paralysis. [2] Further evidence now shows that in the Washington, DC area (and elsewhere), various means of communication--including cell phones, secure government phones, and military radios--were not working properly on September 11, thus creating a communications blackout.

These problems hindered top government officials, members of the military, and emergency responders, as well as members of the public. A classified report was later produced, based on observations from a National Airborne Operations Center plane that was in the air that morning. According to author Dan Verton, this report "does not paint a favorable picture of the government's overall crisis management capabilities. According to one government official, the nation was 'deaf, dumb, and blind' for much of that horrible day in September." [3] The question we need to investigate is, were communications deliberately sabotaged, thereby helping to paralyze normal defenses and crisis management capabilities?

Of particular concern is that communications were so badly affected around the Pentagon, which, as the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense, had a crucial role to play that morning. These problems were summarized in the 2002 Arlington County After-Action Report on the Response to the September 11 Terrorist Attack on the Pentagon. This found that when the Pentagon was hit at 9:37 a.m., "all area communications seemed simultaneously overwhelmed. Firefighters calling the [Arlington County Emergency Communications Center] couldn't get through. Relatives of Pentagon workers found cellular and land lines jammed." The report added: "Cellular and landline telephone communications were virtually unreliable or inaccessible during the first few hours of the response." [4]

Furthermore, "Emergency traffic jammed radio channels." This is apparent in the account of Officer Aubrey Davis of the Pentagon police. Davis accompanied Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to the crash site immediately after the Pentagon was struck. Davis's radio was "crackling with frantic pleas from his control room regarding Rumsfeld's whereabouts." However, Davis has recalled: "I kept saying, 'We've got him,' but the system was overloaded, everyone on the frequency was talking, everything jumbled, so I couldn't get through and they went on asking." [5]

The problems didn't just occur around the Pentagon. Considering its role as a center of government, it is alarming that communications were also badly hit in the Washington, DC area in general. Numerous government officials were affected:

CIA Director George Tenet was in Washington at the time the first World Trade Center tower was hit, having breakfast at the St. Regis Hotel. After being informed of the attack in New York, he left the hotel to be driven back to CIA headquarters, located about eight miles outside Washington in Langley, Virginia. As Tenet described in his recent memoir: "With all hell breaking loose, it was hard to get calls through on the secure phone. Essentially, I was in a communications blackout between the St. Regis and Langley, the longest twelve minutes of my life." [6]

As speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert was third in line for the presidency, behind the vice president. He'd seen the second plane hitting the WTC live on television while in his office suite on the second floor of the U.S. Capitol building, and was then informed that Vice President Dick Cheney would soon be calling him on the secure phone in his office. However, the secure phone was not working properly, and several attempts at calling Cheney were unsuccessful. Hastert has recalled: "On that dreadful day I couldn't make the thing work. No matter what I did, I couldn't connect with the vice president. As the minutes passed, my frustrations grew." It was not until mid-morning that Cheney and Hastert were finally able to speak to each other. [7]

Secretary of State Colin Powell was away in Lima, Peru at the time the attacks occurred. During his seven-hour flight back to Washington, as journalist Bob Woodward described, "Powell found that he couldn't talk to anybody because his communications were connected to the system in the U.S., which was swamped." [8] In a speech at the State Department, Powell later complained: "I never felt more useless in my life than on the morning of the 11th of September. Phones [were] gone because of what happened here and what happened to the [communications] system here in Washington. They couldn't get a phone line through. I was able to get some radio communications--two radio spots on the way back--but for most of that seven-hour period, I could not tell what was going on here in my capital, and I'm the secretary of state!" [9]

Although he was away in Florida for a reading demonstration at a school in Sarasota, President George W. Bush reportedly experienced some serious problems in his attempts at contacting colleagues back in Washington. According to the 9/11 Commission Report: "The president told us he was frustrated with the poor communications that morning. He could not reach key officials, including Secretary Rumsfeld, for a period of time. The line to the White House shelter conference room--and the vice president--kept cutting off." [10] Thomas Kean, the chairman of the 9/11 Commission, has pointed out the significance of this: "That was scary on both sides because the president is the only one who can give certain orders that need to be given." [11]

After he left the school at 9:35 a.m. and was being driven to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, Bush was reportedly unable to contact his staff at the White House. According to the CBC, "all the secure telephone lines were down. The communications system [was] overloaded." The president ended up borrowing a cell phone, but reportedly even that did not work. [12]

The problems continued after he got on Air Force One. Despite the plane's elaborate communications equipment, its phones worked only sporadically. At some point later in the morning, the president's closest advisor Karen Hughes tried contacting Bush through the White House switchboard. Hughes has recalled: "[T]he military operator came back to me and in a voice that, to me, sounded very shaken said, 'Ma'am, I'm sorry, we can't reach Air Force One.'" Hughes described this as "a very, very, frightening moment," because "I never had that happen before." [13]

Why were lines of communication jammed at this most crucial time, while America was under attack and in the hours afterwards? The nearest thing to an official explanation seems to be that they somehow overloaded because of the increased volume of calls made by people reacting to the attacks. For example, according to the New York Times, within minutes of the attacks there were "tens of millions of [phone] calls--many from worried relatives and friends--that threatened to clog the system." [14] Similarly, the federally funded Arlington County After-Action Report on the response to the Pentagon attack referred to radio channels that were "initially oversaturated," and to "cellular telephone systems" that were "overloaded and ineffective." [15]

However, another possibility that needs to be properly investigated is that there was a deliberate assault on communications channels, carried out by powerful and treasonous individuals working within the U.S. government and military. This could have been one of the methods used to ensure the 9/11 attacks succeeded. We can see at least three goals this paralysis would have achieved:

1) Loyal and honest government and military employees would be severely hindered in their ability to react to the attacks. It would take longer for them to learn what was happening, and even after they knew, it might be impossible for them to organize an effective crisis response.

2) Officials within the U.S. government and military who were involved in planning and/or perpetrating the attacks could disguise their complicity. While the attacks were taking place, they could act as if they were genuinely trying to organize an emergency response, when in fact they knew that their communications would likely not get through and would be to no avail. For example, George Bush, Dick Cheney, and George Tenet all acted suspiciously on 9/11, and should be investigated as to whether they were in any way complicit in helping plan or perpetrate the attacks. Yet at the time the attacks occurred, all three appeared to be victims of the communication paralysis.

3) By sabotaging communications among members of the public, such as by jamming cell phone signals, the 9/11 perpetrators would have greater control over the flow of information from the scenes of the attacks. They would be better able to put out the official story, and get this well established in the public consciousness, before too much contradictory evidence leaked out.

Considering the communication difficulties experienced on September 11, it is curious to note changes that had recently taken place at the CIA headquarters in Langley. On August 7, 2001, a fire lasting several hours led to the forced evacuation of the old headquarters building and the nearby new headquarters building. The fire was supposedly started when a workman dropped a welder down an elevator shaft, igniting wood at the bottom. Subsequently, A. B. "Buzzy" Krongard, the CIA's executive director at the time, instigated evacuation procedures that were followed by CIA employees in response to the 9/11 attacks a month later. Significantly, he equipped key CIA officials with tiny walkie-talkies, so they could still communicate if cell phones were not working. [16]

Was the CIA just lucky? Or had Krongard known something that the rest of us did not, that there would come a day in the near future when cell phones would not work?

[1] "Sensation: Russia Also Became an Object for Air Terrorists' Attacks." Pravda Online, September 12, 2001. Note that this article refers to Kornukov as the commander in chief of the Russian Navy. However, countless other news articles confirm that he was in fact the commander of the air force.
[2] See, for example, my previous blog entries: "Ringing Like Crazy: Were U.S. Military Phones 'War-Dialed' on 9/11?" and "The Stratcom Stand Down on 9/11."
[3] Dan Verton, Black Ice: The Invisible Threat of Cyber-Terrorism. New York: Osborne/McGraw-Hill, 2003, pp. 150-151.
[4] Arlington County, Virginia, report, Titan Systems Corp., Arlington County: After-Action Report on the Response to the September 11 Terrorist Attack on the Pentagon. 2002, pp. A34 and C36.
[5] Ibid. p. A39; Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy. New York: Scribner, 2007, pp. 1-2.
[6] George Tenet, At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA. New York: HarperCollins, 2007, pp. 161-162.
[7] Dennis Hastert, "'We Still Feel the Pain of Sept. 11.'" Arlington Heights Daily Herald, September 11, 2002; Dennis Hastert, Speaker: Lessons From Forty Years in Coaching and Politics, Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2004, pp. 5-6; Stephen F. Hayes, Cheney: The Untold Story of America's Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President. New York: HarperCollins, 2007, pp. 340-341; David Espo, "Former House Speaker Seeks Graceful Exit." Associated Press, June 16, 2007.
[8] Bob Woodward, Bush at War. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2002, pp. 9-10.
[9] Steve Barrett, "Powell Asks NSTAC to Keep Nation Inside the Information Loop." Telecom News, 2002.
[10] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, Authorized Edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2004, p. 40.
[11] "The Secret History of 9/11: The U.S. Government Reacts." CBC, September 10, 2006.
[12] National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States: Twelfth Public Hearing. 9/11 Commission, June 17, 2004; Philip Shenon and Christopher Marquis, "Panel Says Chaos in Administration Was Wide on 9/11." New York Times, June 18, 2004; "The Secret History of 9/11: The U.S. Government Reacts." CBC, September 10, 2006.
[13] "The President's Story." CBS News, September 10, 2003; Meet the Press, NBC, April 4, 2004; "The Secret History of 9/11: The U.S. Government Reacts." CBC, September 10, 2006.
[14] Lisa Guernsey, "Keeping the Lifelines Open." New York Times, September 20, 2001.
[15] Arlington County, Virginia, report, Titan Systems Corp., Arlington County: After-Action Report on the Response to the September 11 Terrorist Attack on the Pentagon. 2002, pp. 12-13 and C9.
[16] "CIA Headquarters Evacuated for Fire." Associated Press, August 7, 2001; "Fire at CIA Headquarters Building to be Probed." Reuters, August 8, 2001; Ronald Kessler, The CIA at War: Inside the Secret Campaign Against Terror. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2003, pp. 222-223.

Wednesday 10 October 2007

The Stratcom Stand Down on 9/11

Stratcom's Command Center
It has been established that at the time the 9/11 attacks began, the United States Strategic Command (Stratcom) was in the middle of a major annual training exercise called Global Guardian. Stratcom is responsible for the readiness of America's nuclear forces, and the exercise aimed to test its ability to fight a nuclear war, being described as "one of many practice Armageddons" that the U.S. military routinely conducts. [1]

Questions arise over whether this exercise impeded the military--particularly the staff at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Nebraska, where Stratcom is headquartered--in its ability to respond to the crisis. Global Guardian was not canceled until after 9:03, when the second WTC tower was hit. [2] In fact, some accounts suggest it did not end until after 9:37, when the Pentagon was struck. [3] So could military personnel have mistaken reports of the real attacks for part of the exercise? And might vital resources that could have helped stop the attacks have been unavailable, being used instead for the exercise?

Other evidence indicates that Stratcom may have been further hindered that morning. Perversely, this obstruction came in the form of preparations for a charity fundraiser event.

September 11, 2001 happened to be the day that multibillionaire Warren Buffet was scheduled to host his annual golf and tennis charity event, the Omaha Classic. [4] As the Omaha World-Herald reported: "The attacks on that Tuesday morning occurred as a tour group was preparing to visit Stratcom's underground command center," which is located below Offutt Air Force Base. The tour group was "in town for the ninth annual Buffett Classic golf tournament," which "attracts high-powered business and news media people from around the country." The group was scheduled to tour the command center and receive an unclassified mission briefing. [5]

Therefore, before the attacks in New York occurred, "Staff members had left the command center in anticipation of the tour group's visit." Furthermore, "Some of the visitors already were at Stratcom, having breakfast with then-commander in chief Adm. Richard Mies." It was only after 9:03 a.m., when the second World Trade Center tower was hit, that "Mies had to excuse himself from the group." And it was only after the visitors' "tour was canceled" that "the battle staff reconvened in the [command] center." [6] In other words, at the one time when the Stratcom battle staff was most urgently needed, they had just cleared out of their command center. And when the Stratcom commander in chief was needed to defend his country, he was instead having breakfast with a group of VIPs.

Although it is unclear what effect the absence of Mies and the members of the battle staff had upon Stratcom's ability to respond effectively to the 9/11 attacks, the underground command center where they should have been had significant capabilities that could, presumably, have been of much use. The command center is a large, theater-like bunker, 60 feet below Offutt, with sophisticated communications systems. The Lincoln Journal Star described it as "a military nerve center that collects and assesses information from high-tech 'eyes and ears' across--and above--the globe." [7] According to Stratcom's website, the senior controller in the command center had "a direct line to the National Military Command Center in Washington, DC, and to the other major command headquarters." This system of communication, called the Joint Chiefs of Staff Alerting Network, gave the commander in chief of Stratcom (i.e. Admiral Mies) the ability to make "prompt contact with the president, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other unified commanders." Furthermore, "Through satellites and radio networks (VLF, LF, UHF and HF), the command center can communicate with aircraft in flight over any part of the world. A principal purpose of these networks is to pass National Command Authority [i.e. the president and secretary of defense] orders to the alert forces." Although only the U.S. president can order nuclear strikes, the commander in chief of Stratcom "can launch aircraft for survival." [8]

The command center had eight massive video screens on the wall. After Richard Mies finally returned from his breakfast, these were "loaded up with data" that provided him with "the latest information on the unfolding drama." [9] Later in the day, at around 2:50 p.m., President Bush arrived at Offutt. At that time, the battle staff in the Stratcom command center was reportedly "watching the skies over the United States," and "tracking a commercial airliner" that was suspected of having been hijacked, "on its way from Spain to the United States." [10] We can gather, therefore, that the center's capabilities ought to have been of much use earlier on, when the attacks began. Yet, at that time, the command center had apparently been vacated.

At present, we have few hard answers, but many questions. Did all the command center's personnel leave it in advance of the visitors' tour, or just some of them? At what time exactly were they back in the center and able to effectively resume their duties? What effect did Richard Mies' absence have? Precisely what capabilities did Stratcom possess that might have been useful in responding to the kind of attacks that occurred on 9/11? The 9/11 Commission appears not to have investigated any of these crucial questions. Yet while we have few answers, one thing is already clear: This all looks highly suspicious.

[1] William Arkin, "The Beat Goes On." Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November 1, 1997; Joe Dejka, "Inside Stratcom on Sept. 11 Offutt Exercise Took Real-Life Twist." Omaha World-Herald, February 27, 2002.
[2] Margo Bjorkman, "Weather Guard and Reservists Activate." Air Force Weather Observer, July/August 2002; Joe Dejka, "When Bush Arrived, Offutt Sensed History in the Making." Omaha World-Herald, September 8, 2002.
[3] Joe Dejka, "Inside Stratcom on Sept. 11 Offutt Exercise Took Real-Life Twist"; Dan Verton, Black Ice: The Invisible Threat of Cyber-Terrorism. New York: Osborne/McGraw-Hill, 2003, pp. 143-144.
[4] Grace Shim, "Warren Buffet, Others Speak About Terrorism at Omaha, Neb., Event." Omaha World-Herald, September 12, 2001; Stephen Buttry, "Final Words, Final Hours Before All Changed." Omaha World-Herald, September 10, 2002.
[5] Joe Dejka, "Inside Stratcom on Sept. 11 Offutt Exercise Took Real-Life Twist."
[6] Ibid.
[7] Don Walton, "Nelson, Stenberg on Nukes." Lincoln Journal Star, October 25, 2000; Joe Ruff, "Stratcom Commander: Mission is Broadening in Fight Against Terrorism." Associated Press, February 21, 2002.
[8] "Strategic Command Command Center." U.S. Strategic Command, June 22, 2001.
[9] Joe Dejka, "Inside Stratcom on Sept. 11 Offutt Exercise Took Real-Life Twist."
[10] Dan Balz and Bob Woodward, "America's Chaotic Road to War." Washington Post, January 27, 2002; "The President's Story." CBS News, September 10, 2003.

Wednesday 3 October 2007

"Ringing Like Crazy": Were U.S. Military Phones 'War-Dialed' on 9/11?

NORAD's Command Center

Activists and researchers have long tried to understand how the highly sophisticated U.S. military could have failed so completely to stop the attacks that took place on September 11, 2001. Statements made by several U.S. military personnel who were deeply involved in the crisis response that morning suggest an alarming method that may have been used to sabotage normal defenses. Revealed here for the first time, this is one possible reason that the military was in such a state of paralysis until it was too late to make a difference.

A key military installation on 9/11 was the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) operations center, located deep under Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. Major General Eric Findley, NORAD's director of combat operations, was there, and has recalled events around the time of the first attacks. He had just been finishing breakfast when a colleague said to him: "The Federal Aviation Administration's asked for NORAD assistance with a hijacking." As he then came back to the battle cab, someone told him: "Sir, you wanna have a look at this." The monitor was showing television footage of the North Tower of the World Trade Center, with a burning hole in it from having just been hit by an airplane. Before Findley knew it, TV showed the second tower being struck. He said: "We've got a coordinated attack." [1]

Crucially, Findley has recalled that, at that moment, "every phone in this cab, and every phone over in the command center, and every phone in all the centers in this building were ringing off the hook." [2] Master Corporal Daniel Milne, the emergency action controller on duty in the NORAD operations center, has similarly recalled: "The feeling was total disbelief. Then the phones started ringing like crazy. I could not believe that we were under attack." [3] This wasn't just happening at NORAD. The American Forces Press Service has described events in the National Military Command Center (NMCC), located within the Pentagon, based on the recollections of two officers who were there. Like the NORAD operations center, the NMCC would have been one of the most important parts of the military that morning. After the second plane hit the WTC, phones there "began ringing off the hook." [4]

What caused all these phones to suddenly ring? Could it have been an influx of concerned agencies suddenly requesting help, now it was obvious the U.S. was under attack? Or was it something more sinister? A clue is in a 1996 article from the U.S. Air Force's own magazine, Airman. The article quoted Stacey Knott, a technician in the NORAD operations center: "Things can be pretty quiet in here." However, she added: "One of the busiest times is during exercises. This room fills up. ... The phones are ringing off the hook, and I've got phones in each hand." [emphasis added] [5]

It just so happens that NORAD was in the middle of a major annual exercise the morning of 9/11, called Vigilant Guardian. It involved "all HQ NORAD levels of command," and "would pose an imaginary crisis to North American Air Defense outposts nationwide." Vigilant Guardian was conducted in conjunction with a U.S. Space Command exercise called Apollo Guardian and a U.S. Strategic Command exercise called Global Guardian. [6] While little is known about Apollo Guardian, Global Guardian has been confirmed as being "in full swing" at the time the real attacks started. [7]

Furthermore, a military newsletter reported in 1998: "For the last few years, United States Strategic Command has incorporated computer network attack (CNA) scenarios into its annual major exercise known as Global Guardian. The primary purpose of including CNA is to test the processes we have in place in case of a real attack against our information infrastructure." To carry out these attacks, the U.S. Strategic Command (Stratcom) would employ "red team" members "and other organizations to act as enemy agents." The attacks would range "from attempting to penetrate the Command from the Internet to a 'bad' insider with access to a key command and control system." Most significantly, "The attackers also 'war dialed' our phones to tie up the phones and sent faxes to numerous fax machines throughout the Command." [emphasis added] Could a "computer network attack" where the phones were "'war dialed" have been incorporated into the exercise on 9/11? The 1998 article had ended: "We plan to increase the level of CNA in future Global Guardian exercises to imitate as closely as possible the technical capabilities of a hostile source." [8]

This raises many questions. Might a CNA incorporated into Global Guardian have provided a smokescreen for sabotaging the phone system, at a time when the U.S. military needed to communicate most effectively so as to respond to the real world attacks? If so, who was behind this act of treason? A thorough and dedicated criminal investigation would be required to identify these rogue individuals.

Major General Eric Findley has tried to suggest that it was not a problem when all the NORAD operations center phones suddenly started ringing. He told the CBC: "The good news is we had lots of people here and we already had an operational architecture. We already had the command and control, the network, the phones, the data links. Everything was already in place that enabled us to react to the situation." [9] Yet how believable is this? As Findley had himself stated, "every phone" had been "ringing off the hook." Now I can imagine that would be quite a hindrance when you are trying to respond to an unprecedented emergency. And if telephones "ringing like crazy" were really such a harmless occurrence, the U.S. military would have had no need to practice dealing with it during training exercises.

[1] "NORAD and September 11." CBC, September 11, 2002.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ray Dick, "Inside NORAD." Legion Magazine, November/December 2004.
[4] Jim Garamone, "9/11: Keeping the Heart of the Pentagon Beating." American Forces Press Service, September 7, 2006.
[5] Pat McKenna, "The Border Guards." Airman, January 1996.
[6] Hart Seely, "Amid Crisis Simulation, 'We Were Suddenly No-Kidding Under Attack.'" Newhouse News Service, January 25, 2002; "Vigilant Guardian.", April 14, 2002.
[7] Joe Dejka, "Inside Stratcom on Sept. 11 Offutt Exercise Took Real-Life Twist." Omaha World-Herald, February 27, 2002.
[8] Ward Parker, "Incorporating IA Into Global Guardian." IANewsletter, Summer 1998.
[9] "NORAD and September 11." CBC, September 11, 2002.

Friday 28 September 2007

The Navy Jets That Never Arrived on 9/11

F-14s at Oceana Naval Air Station
According to the 9/11 Commission Report, "On 9/11, the defense of U.S. airspace depended on close interaction between two federal agencies: the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD)." NORAD in particular is tasked with defending the airspace over North America and protecting the continent. The attacks on 9/11 all took place within its Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), which, according to the 9/11 Commission, was able to call upon two 'alert' military sites for assistance: Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts and Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia. Each of these had just one pair of fighter jets at the ready. "Other facilities, not on 'alert,' would need time to arm the fighters and organize crews." [1]

This implied that the most sophisticated military in all history believed that four fighter aircraft was sufficient to defend 500,000 square miles of airspace and the 80 million people covered by it. However, there is good evidence that--as we would rationally expect--this was not the case at all, and the military had other lines of defense it could have called upon. One possibility totally ignored by the 9/11 Commission was that the Navy could have provided fighter jets to help defend America during the attacks of September 11.

The New York Daily News has reported: "Rudy Washington, one of Rudy Giuliani's deputy mayors on Sept. 11, 2001, ran New York for the first few hours after the attack." As he was being driven into downtown Manhattan after the first attack occurred, Washington saw the smoking North Tower and right away requested air defense over New York. He "immediately called Admiral Robert Natter, commander of the Atlantic Fleet." Natter was based at the Naval Station in Norfolk, Virginia, which is the world's largest naval base. Washington asked for air cover for the city. Natter "said he had to get in touch with NORAD and would call back." [2]

Right away, we have an important point to observe: When Rudy Washington wanted fighter jets over New York, he did not call NORAD, the FAA, the Air Force, or the Pentagon. The first place he turned to for help was the Navy. So he must have believed it was able to provide the kind of assistance that was required in the current crisis. What kind of support might the Navy have offered, then? Norfolk Naval Station is in the region of Naval Air Station Oceana. NAS Oceana's primary mission is "to train and deploy the Navy's fighter/attack squadron--the F-14 Tomcats and the F/A-18 Hornets." [3] At that time, twelve F-14 Tomcat fighter squadrons and eleven F/A-18 Hornet squadrons were based there. In total, there were 300 fighter jets. [4] These should have been a useful asset for dealing with emergencies, such as an aerial attack on the United States.

It is unclear exactly how long it took Admiral Natter to get the permission he sought from NORAD. At some time after the second WTC tower was hit (i.e. after 9:03 a.m.), Rudy Washington called Patrick Burns, who was at Norfolk Naval Station for his two-week Naval Reserve obligation. Among other things, he wanted to know about the status of the Navy jets. [5] Obviously, there was no sign of them yet having arrived over New York. Washington communicated with Natter again from City Hall, apparently fairly soon after the first WTC tower collapsed at 9:59 a.m. Natter said he had now received permission from NORAD to send some planes over New York. How long exactly it had taken him to get this permission is unspecified. [6] Also unspecified is what time the Navy jets were launched, and when--if at all--they reached New York. In describing events right after the second attack, Patrick Burns has claimed: "Air cover was already up with Navy jets out of Naval Air Station Oceana." [7] Yet the first fighters to arrive over New York were apparently two F-15s launched by NEADS from Otis Air Force Base. According to the 9/11 Commission Report, these arrived at 9:25 a.m. [8] In fact, the majority of witnesses on the ground have recalled first noticing fighter jets overhead at some time after 10 a.m. [9]

Further evidence that the Navy had the capability to provide fighters to protect the U.S. is the fact that individuals working in its Command Center were trying to get jets launched just before the Pentagon was attacked. Though it has not been stated explicitly, one would assume that, since they worked for the Navy, these men would have been calling upon Navy jets to help.

The Navy Command Center was located on the first floor of the Pentagon's southwest face. Inside it, Matthew Flocco, Edward Earhart, and their supervisor Nancy McKeown--all members of a small meteorological unit there--were watching the TV footage of the attacks in New York. McKeown reportedly asked Flocco and Earhart to bring up New York on the computer, because the Command Center was going to send some fighter jets there in case there was another attack on the city. She also told them to program weather updates for military aircraft converging on New York. [10] Another person in the Command Center was Ronald Vauk, the Navy's watch commander. Just before the Pentagon was hit, he was urgently trying to get fighter jets launched, reportedly to protect Washington, DC. [11] Tragically, except for McKeown, all of these individuals were killed just seconds later. The Navy Command Center was mostly destroyed when the Pentagon was hit at 9:37. [12]

The Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Vern Clark has recalled his actions in response to the attacks: "We had carriers at sea. I talked to Admiral Natter and Admiral Fargo [Adm. Thomas B. Fargo, commander in chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet] about immediate loadouts [of weapons and armed aircraft] and the positioning of our air defense cruisers. Fundamentally, those pieces were in place almost immediately and integrated into the interagency process and with the FAA." This again indicated that the Navy was capable of rapidly providing air defense over the U.S.: the "immediate loadouts" of "armed aircraft." Clark explained: "There has never been an experience like this in my lifetime. We were thinking about the immediate protection of the United States of America." [13]

But what time was he describing? 8:15 a.m., just after Flight 11 broke radio contact with controllers? 8:20, when it veered drastically off course? 8:25, when the air traffic controller was sure he was dealing with a hijacking? [14] Apparently not. Clark seems to have been referring to the period after the Pentagon attack at 9:37. Until then, he had been in his office on the fourth floor of the Pentagon. No reports describe him doing anything in response to the attacks in New York. When the Pentagon was hit, he was "receiving a budget briefing." A member of his staff then entered the office and told him he had to evacuate. After initially heading to the Pentagon's National Military Command Center (NMCC), he decided to re-establish the Navy's command center in another location in Washington, DC. [15] Presumably it was some time after he arrived at this new command center that he began "thinking about the immediate protection of the United States of America."

In his recollection, Clark referred to the Navy's air defense cruisers. The aircraft carrier USS George Washington, which is based at Norfolk, was at sea off the Virginia coast that morning, conducting training exercises. It was dispatched to New York, "following the recovery of armed F-14 Tomcats and F/A-18 Hornets from Naval Air Station Oceana." [16] Yet, none of these fighters appear to have been of any use in stopping the attacks.

To conclude, the U.S. Navy had many fighter jets available in the northeastern United States. Deputy Mayor Rudy Washington had requested some of these apparently minutes after 8:46, when the first attack took place. Yet it is unclear whether any Navy jets ever arrived over New York. They were certainly not there by 10 a.m. If they did arrive, it was only after the attacks had ended.

In spite of the Navy's therefore disastrous failure to protect the United States on 9/11, Admiral Robert Natter later commented: "I think we were responsive to something that came out of the clear blue, and I think naval forces reacted to it the way the taxpayers would have wanted. Readiness is the name of the game, and the ability of our people to respond is the second part of it." [17]

[1] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, Authorized Edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2004, pp. 14 and 16-17.
[2] "Aboard the USS Vela Gulf." CBS News, April 3, 2003; Stanley Crouch, "Forgotten Man of 9/11 Played Enormous Role." New York Daily News, May 20, 2004.
[3] Roger Richards, "Under Attack." Digital Journalist, October 2001; "Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana.", November 15, 2001.
[4] "History of Naval Air Station Oceana." Naval Air Station Oceana, April 3, 2001; "Vital Statistics." Naval Air Station Oceana, April 3, 2001.
[5] Patrick Burns, "Called to Ground Zero." Notre Dame Magazine, Spring 2007.
[6] Stanley Crouch, "Forgotten Man of 9/11 Played Enormous Role."
[7] Patrick Burns, "Called to Ground Zero."
[8] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 24.
[9] See "(9:45 a.m.-10:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Witnesses First Notice Military Jets Over New York, Later Than Claimed by 9/11 Commission." Complete 9/11 Timeline.
[10] Malcolm McConnell, "Brick by Brick." Reader's Digest, September 2002; "Stories of 9/11." Larry King Weekend, CNN, September 8, 2002.
[11] Francis X. Clines, "Perseverance, Not Vindictiveness, in a Family Bereaved by Terrorism." New York Times, November 17, 2001; Scott Shane, "9/11: One Year." Baltimore Sun, September 11, 2002.
[12] Richard Leiby, "The Last Watch." Washington Post, January 20, 2002.
[13] Gordon I. Peterson, "Bush: 'The Might of Our Navy is Needed Again.' Readiness Improvements Prove Critical in War on Terrorism, But Future Navy is at Risk." Sea Power, January 2002.
[14] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, pp. 18-19; Tom Brokaw, "The Skies Over America." NBC News, September 9, 2006.
[15] Gordon I. Peterson, "Bush: 'The Might of Our Navy is Needed Again.'"
[16] Allen G. Breed, "In South, Shock, Fear Over Terrorist Attacks Put Life on Hold." Associated Press, September 12, 2001; Jack Dorsey, "Navy Carriers Sent to Patrol off New York, DC." Virginian-Pilot, September 12, 2001; Gordon I. Peterson, "Bush: 'The Might of Our Navy is Needed Again'"; Patrick Burns, "Called to Ground Zero."
[17] Gordon I. Peterson, "Bush: 'The Might of Our Navy is Needed Again.'"

Wednesday 19 September 2007

The Air Force Crisis Action Team That Failed to Act on the Crisis of 9/11

The Pentagon on 9/11

It is well known within the 9/11 truth community that, on September 11, 2001, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) failed appallingly to protect the United States from the attacking aircraft, in the way we would have expected it to. But evidence indicates there were other military departments that could also have played a significant role in stopping the attacks. Yet, like NORAD, these appear to have been in a state of paralysis that morning. They only seem to have become properly active, and able to effectively perform their usual role, when it was too late for them to have made a difference.

Three new entries in the Complete 9/11 Timeline (copied below) focus on the Air Force's Crisis Action Team (CAT), which was working from the Air Force Operations Center in the basement of the Pentagon's C Ring. The CAT was reportedly activated at around 9 a.m. on 9/11, just before the second WTC tower was struck. After the second crash occurred, a member of staff in the Operations Center confirmed to another: "Just so you know, we're considering that we're under attack." Air Force Major Harry Brosofsky, who was in the Operations Center for some of that morning, has said that the CAT is "trained to know what to do in a crisis." Yet the CAT, and some of the most senior personnel involved with it, appears to have been extraordinarily slow in its response.

For example, two top officials--Secretary of the Air Force James Roche and Air Force Chief of Staff John Jumper--only seem to have got involved with the crisis response after the attack on the Pentagon. Both had been aware of the first crash in New York, and were together in Roche's office on the fourth floor of the Pentagon when they saw the second attack on television. They were then called down to the Air Force Operations Center. Yet they did not get there until after the Pentagon was hit at 9:37 a.m.

Incredibly, according to what Roche has said, at the time they arrived--soon after 9:37--the Operations Center had not yet made contact with NORAD. And even after these two men had entered the center, making contact with NORAD does not appear to have been a priority. Roche said the first thing he and Jumper did was "try and find out where our people were, to make sure they were safe and safely out of the building." It was only then that the "second thing we did was to try and hook up with the North American Air Defense Command, NORAD, and then to stand by and start to think of how we, the Air Force, could support any casualties or any other things that might develop during the day." Surely the Air Force should have been starting to think what support it could offer much earlier on? Some time around 8:20 a.m. would have been preferable, by which time Flight 11--the first errant plane--had already been out off communication with air traffic controllers for several minutes, its transponder had gone off, and it had abruptly changed course.

Underscoring the crucial role the Operations Center and the CAT should have played, Major Harry Brosofsky (who also arrived at the center after the Pentagon was hit) has said: "We became the eyes and ears of the Air Force." For example, the CAT worked with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to monitor flight activity over the U.S., and coordinated with NORAD to put fighter jets on alert in Alaska and Hawaii.

It seems, however, that the Air Force Operations Center and the Crisis Action Team must have been in a state of paralysis during the critical period between 8:20 a.m. and 9:40 a.m., when their assistance was most urgently needed. By the time they contacted NORAD and "became the eyes and ears of the Air Force," it was too late for them to have made much of a difference. The question is, what caused this paralysis?

From the Complete 9/11 Timeline:

(9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Air Force Crisis Action Team Activated
The Air Force's Crisis Action Team (CAT) at the Pentagon is activated. The CAT is under the command of the US Air Force chief of staff, and reportedly it "coordinates Air Force reaction to anything that might be a threat to the United States." After hearing the CAT has been activated, Major Donna Nicholas heads down to the Air Force Operations Center in the basement of the Pentagon's C Ring, where the CAT is carrying out its activities. She arrives there after 9:03, when the second WTC tower is hit, and someone tells her, "Just so you know, we're considering that we're under attack." The Operations Center is "a flurry of activity as Air Force officials worked to gather information, both from the media and from their own intelligence sources." [Dover Post, 9/19/2001; Syracuse University Magazine, 12/2001] The CAT's usual first in charge is away. So Lieutenant Colonel Matt Swanson, its second in command, has to take their place supervising emergency operations for the Air Force. But he is only called from his Pentagon office to the Air Force Operations Center to join the CAT after the time of the second attack. [Prospectus, 9/2006, pp. 3-6] Similarly, James Roche and John Jumper, the Air Force secretary and chief of staff respectively, will not arrive at the center until after the Pentagon is hit at 9:37 (see (After 9:03 a.m.-Shortly After 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

(After 9:03 a.m.-Shortly After 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Air Force Secretary and Chief of Staff Head to Operations Center But Only Arrive after Pentagon Has Been Hit
Secretary of the Air Force James Roche is in his office on the fourth floor of the Pentagon, along with Air Force Chief of Staff John Jumper. Both have learned of the first WTC crash. After seeing the second attack live on television, they get on the phone to the Air Force Operations Center, and are then called down there. [CNN, 10/10/2001; Airman, 10/2002] The Operations Center is located in the basement of the Pentagon's C Ring. In it, the Crisis Action Team (CAT) is carrying out emergency operations for the Air Force. [Syracuse University Magazine, 12/2001] However, Roche and Jumper apparently do not arrive there until after 9:37, when the Pentagon is hit. Roche later recalls, "Once in our crisis action center, we found out that the building had been hit by an aircraft." [CNN, 10/10/2001]

After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001: Air Force Crisis Action Team Responds to Attacks
Inside the Air Force Operations Center at the Pentagon, personnel do not feel when the building is hit. The Operations Center is located in the basement of the building's C Ring, on the opposite side to where the impact occurs. But alarms go off, and television news reports confirm that the Pentagon has been attacked. Secretary of the Air Force James Roche and Air Force Chief of Staff John Jumper arrive at the Operations Center shortly after the attack (see (After 9:03 a.m.-Shortly After 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to Roche, the first thing they do there is "try and find out where our people were to make sure they were safe and safely out of the building." Then, "The second thing we did was to try and hook up with the North American Air Defense Command, NORAD, and then to stand by and start to think of how we, the Air Force, could support any casualties or any other things that might develop during the day." Air Force Major Harry Brosofsky also arrives at the Operations Center shortly after the Pentagon is hit, to help the Air Force's Crisis Action Team (CAT) there. When he arrives, the CAT is taking calls coming in on numerous phone lines. As Brosofsky later describes, "We became the eyes and ears of the Air Force." The CAT works with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to monitor flight activity over the US. It also coordinates with NORAD to put fighter jets on alert in Alaska and Hawaii. Brosofsky says that while "We're trained to know what to do in a crisis,... at times we had information overload and had to decide quickly what to do with all the information that was pouring in." Around midday, the decision is made to leave the building, and the CAT relocates to a secret location outside Washington. [Dover Post, 9/19/2001; CNN, 10/10/2001; Syracuse University Magazine, 12/2001; Airman, 10/2002; Prospectus, 9/2006, pp. 3-6]


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Monday 10 September 2007

America's Leading Collapse Expert Thought South Tower Was Brought Down With Explosives

Ray Downey
Right after the first World Trade Center tower collapsed, at 9:59 a.m. on September 11, 2001, Father John Delendick--one of New York Fire Department's chaplains--ran down a ramp to below the nearby World Financial Center, so as to escape the dust cloud. There he met with Deputy Chief Ray Downey, the head of the FDNY's Special Operations Command. Delendick asked Downey if the jet fuel from the plane had blown up, thus causing the South Tower to collapse. According to Delendick, Downey "said at that point he thought there were bombs up there because it was too even." [1]

Coming from a senior firefighter, this claim is significant enough. But it is even more so because Downey was no ordinary firefighter. Prior to 9/11, he had "commanded rescue operations at many difficult and complex disasters, including the Oklahoma City Bombing, the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing, and many natural disasters worldwide." [2] As the chief of the FDNY Special Operations Command, he'd pioneered techniques for urban rescue and responding to terrorist attacks. "He was so respected, so beloved," according to CBS News, that "his men nicknamed him 'god.'" [3]

Of most importance is that one of Downey's areas of expertise was building collapses. 9/11 Commissioner Timothy Roemer referred to Downey as a "very, very respected expert on building collapse." [4] Robert Ingram, a battalion chief in the New York Fire Department, has called him "the premiere collapse expert in the country." [5] And Fire Chief Mike Antonucci, who was a best friend of Downey's, said he "was probably the most knowledgeable person on building collapses there was. That was his [hobby], to study building collapses--what affected the engineering of buildings, how they [would] weaken and how he could respond and stay safe." [6]

And this 39-year veteran of the New York Fire Department, who was the most highly decorated firefighter in its history, initially believed the South Tower had come down due to explosives, because the collapse had been "too even." Unfortunately, Ray Downey is not with us today, as he was killed when the North Tower collapsed at 10:28 a.m.

[1] World Trade Center Task Force Interview: Father John Delendick, City of New York, December 6, 2001.
[2] "Inaugural Ray Downey Courage and Valor Award to be Presented at FDIC 2002." Fire Engineering, 2002.
[3] "FDNY: The Next Generation." CBS News, September 11, 2006.
[4] National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States: Eleventh Public Hearing, May 18, 2004.
[5] Robert Ingram, Testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. October 11, 2001.
[6] Liset Marquez, "Upland Firefighters and Families Affected by 9-11 Tragedy." Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, September 7, 2006.

Friday 7 September 2007

On 9/11, the Captain of the USS Cole Said the U.S. Public Needed a 'Seminal' Terrorist Event

Kirk LippoldA new entry in the Complete 9/11 Timeline reveals that, shortly before the World Trade Center was first hit on 9/11, Kirk Lippold--who had been the commanding officer of the USS Cole--made an ominous statement. While having breakfast at the CIA's headquarters, he reportedly complained that it would take a "seminal event" to awaken the American public to the threat posed by terrorism:

(8:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Navy Commander Describes Need for 'Seminal' Terrorist Event
At the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, three senior CIA officers—John Russack, Don Kerr, and Charlie Allen—are having breakfast with Navy Commander Kirk Lippold. Lippold was the commanding officer of the USS Cole when it was attacked in Yemen the previous year (see October 12, 2000). The men's discussion is focused on terrorism. Lippold is upset that the American public still does not recognize the threat it poses, and says that it will take a "seminal event" to awaken them to the problem. Following the breakfast, Lippold heads to the Counterterrorist Center at CIA headquarters for some briefings. Just minutes later, after the WTC is hit, Charlie Allen will contact Lippold and tell him, "The seminal event just happened." [Tenet, 2007, pp. 162-163]

Lippold's prescient comments are reminiscent of remarks made by some top U.S. government officials around the same time that morning. For example, just before the first attack occurred, CIA Director George Tenet was having breakfast at a Washington hotel with former Senator David Boren. Boren asked: "What are you worried about these days?" to which Tenet replied: "Bin Laden." According to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, Tenet told Boren he "was convinced that bin Laden was going to do something big." When Boren asked: "How could one private person without the resources of a foreign government be such a threat?" Tenet responded: "You don't understand the capabilities and the reach of what they're putting together." (Bob Woodward, Bush at War. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2002, pp. 1-3.)

And during an 8:00 a.m. breakfast meeting at the Pentagon, according to his own recollection, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld warned that "without question, in the next six to eight months, those same people who [are] concerned about the Social Security lockbox [are] going to be wishing they were on the right side of these issues involving national security, because our history is just peppered with examples of surprises. And asymmetrical events, that who knows what they'll be or where they'll be or when they'll be." ("Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with the Washington Post." U.S. Department of Defense, January 9, 2002.)

As Rumsfeld continued: "And someone came in and said a plane had gone into the Trade Center."