The Collapse of Standard Operating Procedures on 9-11
“September 11 was not so unprecedented. Passenger jet hijackings have happened before, and the U.S. government has prepared detailed plans to handle them. On September 11 these plans were ignored in their entirety.”
(New York Press, Vol. 15, No. 2)
“For 60 decisive minutes, the military and intelligence agencies let the fighter planes stay on the ground.”
Andreas von Bülow, former
in the German Defence Ministry
(Tagesspiegel, 13 January 2002)
The sequence of events on 11th September 2001 was as follows:
· 8:45 a.m.—American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston smashed into the World Trade Center’s north tower.
“Yet the most amazing feature of the U.S. government’s response to these events was the almost complete absence of it,” notes American journalist George Szamuely in the New York Press, referring to the work of investigative journalist Jared Israel. “Jared Israel on his website www.tenc.net has blazed a trail with fascinating and meticulous research.” Jared Israel, a Colombia and Harvard University educated independent researcher, writing with Illarion Bykov, has indeed conducted a useful investigation of the sequence of events on 11th September:
“Andrews Air Force Base is a huge military installation about 10 miles from the Pentagon. On 11 September there were two entire squadrons of combat-ready fighter jets at Andrews…
Their job was to protect the skies over Washington D.C. They failed to do their job. Despite over one hour’s advance warning of a terrorist attack in progress, not a single Andrews fighter tried to protect the city. The FAA, NORAD and the military have cooperative procedures by which fighter jets automatically intercept commercial aircraft under emergency conditions. These procedures were not followed.”
Here, we will analyse the responses of the U.S. government and military to the air attacks on 9-11 in context with the normal rules of emergency response employed by air authorities in crisis situations.
Air Traffic Controllers routinely request fighter craft to intercept commercial planes for various reasons when problems faced cannot be solved through radio contact, e.g. to inform commercial pilots when their plane is off course, or simply to assess the situation directly.
The deviation of commercial planes from their designated flight paths is a common problem solved via interception. As a matter of mandatory Standard Operating Procedures, no approval from White House is required for interception. On the contrary, interception occurs on the basis of established flight and emergency response rules. Military interceptors do not need instructions from the White House to carry out emergency response procedures and other such services—they already have clear “instructions to act,” which are followed automatically in relation to varying situations. Detailed FAA and Department of Defense manuals are available online, clarifying that these instructions are exceedingly comprehensive, including issues from minor emergencies to full-blown hijackings. According to these instructions, serious problems are handed over to the National Military Command Center in the Pentagon, if necessary.
Commercial flights must adhere to Instrument Flight Rules (IFR). According to the IFR, before takeoff pilots must file a flight plan with the FAA:
“Commercial flights fly according to predefined flight plans. These flight plans are intended to provide quick routes that take advantage of favorable winds while avoiding the routes traveled by other aircraft. The usual flight plan is a series of three connected routes: a standard instrument departure (SID) route, an en route path, and a standard instrument arrival (STAR). Each route consists of a sequence of geographic points, or fixes, which, when connected, form a trajectory from the point of departure to the point of arrival.”
As soon as a plane deviates from its flight plan—for instance, by making a wrong turn at a ‘fix’—an Air Traffic Controller contacts the pilot. If the Controller fails to make contact or routine communication becomes impossible, established rules dictate that an aircraft will be requested to scramble and assess the situation by ‘interception’. A clear example of this routine procedure is the FAA’s response when the Lear jet chartered by golf professional Payne Stewart deviated from its flight path while the pilot failed to reply by radio. MS-NBC reported that:
“Pilots are supposed to hit each fix with pinpoint accuracy. If a plane deviates by 15 degrees, or two miles from that course, the flight controllers will hit the panic button. They’ll call the plane, saying ‘American 11, you’re deviating from course.’ It’s considered a real emergency, like a police car screeching down a highway at 100 miles an hour. When golfer Payne Stewart’s incapacitated Learjet missed a turn at a fix, heading north instead of west to Texas, F-16 interceptors were quickly dispatched.”
The FAA, in other words, immediately contacted the military when it was confirmed that the plane was off course, and communication with the plane was blocked. As CNN reported:
“Several Air Force and Air National Guard fighter jets, plus an AWACS radar control plane, helped the Federal Aviation Administration track the runaway Learjet and estimate when it would run out of fuel.”
Once a plane is intercepted by military jets, daytime communications with a commercial plane that fails to respond properly to radio contact are described by the FAA manual as follows: “… [The interceptor military craft communicates by] Rocking wings from a position slightly above and ahead of, and normally to the left of, the intercepted aircraft…” This action conveys the message: “You have been intercepted.” The commercial jet is then supposed to respond by rocking its wings to indicate compliance, upon which the interceptor performs a “slow level turn, normally to the left, on to the desired heading [direction].” The commercial plane then responds by following the escort.
The deviation of a plane from its designated flight path obviously creates a hazard in the form of a potential collision with another plane. The FAA thus has a clear definition of what constitutes an emergency situation: “Consider that an aircraft emergency exists... when: ... There is unexpected loss of radar contact and radio communications with any... aircraft.” Elsewhere, the FAA states: “EMERGENCY DETERMINATIONS: If... you are in doubt that a situation constitutes an emergency or potential emergency, handle it as though it were an emergency.”
An FAA Air Defense Liaison Officer stationed in the headquarters of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) plays the role of coordinating the FAA with the U.S. military to handle emergencies as efficiently as possible. While NORAD normally scrambles fighter jets, if necessary, other military jets can be scrambled as well: “Normally, NORAD escort aircraft will take the required action. However, for the purpose of these procedures, the term ‘escort aircraft’ applies to any military aircraft assigned to the escort mission.”
Again, the response to the deviation of Payne Stuart’s jet from its flight path provides an example. ABC News reported that:
“First, a fighter jet from Tyndall, Fla., was diverted from a routine training flight to check out the Learjet. Two F-16s from another Florida base then picked up the chase, later handing it over to two Air National Guard F-16s from Oklahoma, which handed it over to two F-16s from Fargo, North Dakota.”
As a matter of mandatory routine, the established instructions for a serious emergency are followed, and this includes emergencies involving the possibility of a hijacking. In the event of a serious emergency, or if a possible hijacking has occurred: “The escort service will be requested by the FAA hijack coordinator by direct contact with the National Military Command Center (NMCC).” The Department of Defense affirms the same, adding that once military planes are scrambled in accordance with immediate responses, the Department of Defense will be contacted for approval of special measures: “In the event of a hijacking, the NMCC will be notified by the most expeditious means by the FAA. The NMCC will, with the exception of immediate responses, ... forward requests for DoD [Department of Defense] assistance to the Secretary of Defense for approval.” An IEEE Spectrum Special Report citing an Air Traffic Control expert further emphasises that: “Procedures dictate that controllers alert the U.S. military when a hijacking is known to be under way. The typical response is for the Air Force to scramble intercept jets.” It should be reiterated that, as already noted, procedures also dictate that controllers immediately alert the military to scramble fighter craft if a plane deviates from its flight path and communication between the plane and controllers is blocked. This occurs whether or not the situation consists of a potential hijacking, as was the case with Payne Stuart’s Lear jet, which was intercepted by military planes almost immediately, and while communication with the jet was blocked.
Indeed, “The U.S. military has their own radar network …(NORAD). They are tied into the FAA computer in order to get information on incoming flights.” If a target is discovered “without flight plan information,” or in violation of the same, “they will call on the ‘shout’ line to the appropriate [Air Traffic Control] Center sector for an ID.” If the Center sector “has no datablock or other information on it, the military will usually scramble an intercept flight. Essentially always they turn out to be private pilots… not talking to anybody, who stray too far outside the boundary, then get picked up on their way back in. But, procedures are procedures, and they will likely find two F-18s on their tail within 10 or so minutes.” The NMCC can thus tap into radar stations to monitor emergencies and hijackings, as occurred during Payne Stewart’s flight when “officers on the Joint Chiefs were monitoring the Learjet on radar screens inside the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center.”
Indeed, according to the admission of NORAD spokesman Marine Corps Major Mike Snyder recorded in the Boston Globe, “its fighters routinely intercept aircraft”:
“When planes are intercepted, they typically are handled with a graduated response. The approaching fighter may rock its wingtips to attract the pilot’s attention, or make a pass in front of the aircraft. Eventually, it can fire tracer rounds in the airplane’s path, or, under certain circumstances, down it with a missile.”
The well-known example of Payne Stuart’s Learjet also gives an idea of the acceptable time periods of a routine air response. On 11th September, there was virtually no air response at all:
“... from the official National Transportation Safety Board crash report: 9:19 a.m. [of Payne Stewart’s plane]:
“The flight departs.
“9:24: The Learjet’s pilot responds to an instruction from air traffic control.
“9:33: The controller radios another instruction. No response from the pilot. For 4 ½ minutes the controller tries to establish contact.
“9:38: Having failed, the controller calls in the military. Note that he did not seek, nor did he require, the approval of the President of the United States, or indeed anyone. It’s standard procedure, followed routinely, to call in the Air Force when radio contact with a commercial passenger jet is lost, or the plane departs from its flight path, or anything along those lines occurs.
“9:54: 16 minutes later—the F-16 reaches the Learjet at 46,000 feet and conducts a visual inspection. Total elapsed time: 21 minutes”
Using the chronology of events compiled by ABC News just after 11th September, all four commercial planes involved in the attacks took to the air between 7:59a.m. and 8:14 a.m., 11th September 2001—including American Airlines Flight 11, United Airlines Flight 93, American Airlines Flight 77, and United Airlines Flight 175. By 8:20 a.m., Flight 11, whose flight plan indicated a Los Angeles destination, had made an unexpected hard turn left and begun heading toward New York. The craft’s transponder, which allows the air traffic controller to identify the plane, disappeared. Within moments, air traffic controllers noticed something was also very wrong with United Flight 175. Instead of heading west to its assigned destination California, it took a U-turn over New Jersey and headed northeast toward Manhattan’s World Trade Center. John Miller of ABC News reported that: “There doesn’t seem to have been alarm bells going off, traffic controllers getting on with law enforcement or the military. There’s a gap there that will have to be investigated…” Indeed, it appears that the FAA did nothing for 18 minutes: “Boston ATC notifies NORAD that Flight 11 has been hijacked at 8:38.” But when radar and cockpit contact is blocked, and/or when planes deviate from their flight plan, standard FAA procedure is to scramble fighter jets immediately in order to regain contact with the pilot. Indeed, the New York Press clarifies that:
“According to The New York Times, air traffic controllers knew at 8:20 a.m. ‘that American Airlines Flight 11, bound from Boston to Los Angeles, had probably been hijacked. When the first news report was made at 8:48 a.m. that a plane might have hit the World Trade Center, they knew it was Flight 11.’ There was little ambiguity on the matter. The pilot had pushed a button on the aircraft yoke that allowed controllers to hear the hijacker giving orders… The U.S. is supposed to scramble military aircraft the moment a hijacking is confirmed.”
In an earlier report on the subject, the New York Press also records that: “Initial reports suggested that no aircraft were scrambled to intercept or shoot down the hijacked jets.”
On 13th September, Acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Air Force General Richard B. Myers stated before the Senate Armed Services Committee: “When it became clear what the threat was, we did scramble fighter aircraft, AWACS, radar aircraft and tanker aircraft to begin to establish orbits in case other aircraft showed up in the FAA system that were hijacked.” Myers was then asked: “Was that order that you just described given before or after the Pentagon was struck? Do you know?” The Air Force General admitted that he did know, replying: “That order, to the best of my knowledge, was after the Pentagon was struck.” Myers was asked three times before the Committee about the failure to scramble planes, and each time confirmed the same. Spokesman for NORAD, Marine Corps Major Mike Snyder, corroborated Myers’ testimony, explaining that no U.S. fighter jets had been scrambled at all until after the Pentagon crash. Reporting on the NORAD statement, the Boston Globe reported on 15th September that: “[T]he command did not immediately scramble any fighters even though it was alerted to a hijacking 10 minutes before the first plane… slammed into the first World Trade Center tower... The spokesman said the fighters remained on the ground until after the Pentagon was hit…” The failure to act was particularly surprising since Snyder had also admitted that “fighters routinely intercept aircraft.”
The same was admitted by Vice-President Dick Cheney on 16th September in a ‘Meet the Press’ session with NBC News correspondent Tim Russert, who observed that: “The first hijacking was confirmed at 8:20, the Pentagon was struck at 9:40, and yet, it seems we were not able to scramble fighter jets in time to protect the Pentagon and perhaps even more than that.” Cheney did not dispute Russert’s assertion, and further suggested that it was the President who made the decision to allow planes to scramble after the Pentagon crash.
Suddenly, the official story changed. U.S. Air Force and government officials reneged on their own multiple testimonies, attempting to explain away the failure to respond to the attacks. Contradicting the initial reports and testimony of U.S. officials, it was later claimed that fighter jets had in fact been scrambled from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts when the first tower was hit. It is in this context that the New York Press takes to task the shift in the official explanation:
“So why were no fighters dispatched to intercept planes on an extraordinary day like Sept. 11? Within days the story changed and it turned out that two F-15 fighters had in fact been scrambled from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, MA. Whether this took place before or after the first tower was struck is not clear. In any case it was too late to make a difference.”
Thus at 8:45 a.m., Flight 11 slammed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center near the 100th floor of the 110 storey building. According to the modified official version of the sequence of events, hastily propagated a few days later in contradiction to previous confessions, fighters from Otis were indeed ordered to scramble—at 8:44 a.m.. Even if we take these accounts seriously, they only bring up further questions and hardly exonerate the U.S. FAA and military.
Firstly, there was a huge gap between when fighter jets were scrambled and 8:20 a.m., when Flight 11’s hijacking was fully confirmed. Secondly, there was a long gap before the fighters from Otis obeyed their already long overdue scrambling orders. Two F-15 Eagles managed to take off from the Otis ANG Base at 8:52 a.m.—8 minutes after being ordered to do so, which is almost triple the normal time for such aircraft to go from “scramble order” to 29,000 feet. Almost 32 minutes thus passed between the confirmation of the hijackings of Flight 11 and 175 and the scrambling of the intercept fighters—an ominous anomaly that has yet to be investigated.
At 9:03 a.m., eighteen minutes after Flight 11’s crash, Flight 175 smashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Centre, near the 90th floor. By this time, as noted by the New York Press: “When the second tower was hit the fighters were still 70 miles from Manhattan.”
But this should not have been a problem. The U.S. had eighteen minutes after the first plane hit the WTC in which to intercept Flight 175. New York City, where the WTC is based, is only 71 miles from McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey, a major and active facility. An F-15 strike eagle flies at 1850+ nmps, equivalent to Mach 2.5+. According to the U.S. Air Force’s own website, as a matter of routine the aircraft goes from “scramble order” to 29000 feet in only 2.5 minutes. At Mach 2, an F-15 could travel from the ground in New Jersey’s Air Force Base to New York in under 7 minutes, and thus could have easily intercepted Flight 175. Yet this never happened.
The New York Press has also addressed the anomalies in the new ‘official’ version of events in detail:
“Clearly another, more comforting, story was needed, and on the evening of Sept. 14 CBS launched it by revealing that the FAA had indeed alerted U.S. air defense units of a possible hijacking at 8:38 a.m. on Tuesday, that six minutes later two F-15s received a scramble order at Otis Air National Guard Base on Cape Cod and that by 8:56 the F-15s were racing toward New York. Unfortunately, the fighters were still 70 miles away when the second jet hit the south tower. Meanwhile, at 9:30 a.m., three F-16s were launched from Langley Air Force base, 150 miles south of Washington. But just seven minutes later, at 9:37 a.m., Flight 77 smashed into the Pentagon. The F-16s arrived in Washington just before 10 a.m.
This story, which has now become the ‘official’ version, raises more questions than it answers. F-15s can travel at speeds of 1875 mph while F-16s can travel at 1500 mph. If it took the F-16s half an hour to cover 150 miles, they could not have been traveling at more than 300 mph—at 20 percent capability. Boeing 767s and 757s have cruising speeds of 530 mph. Talk about a lack of urgency! Assuming Otis Air National Guard Base is about 180 miles away from Manhattan it should have taken the F-15s less than six minutes to get here. Moreover, since Washington, DC, is little more than 200 miles from New York, the two F‑15 fighters would have had time to get to DC, intercept Flight 77 and grab breakfast on the way.
Ah, but of course the transponders were turned off. So no one could keep track of the planes. If it were true that the moment a transponder is turned off a plane becomes invisible there would be no defense against enemy aircraft. Normal radar echo return from the metal surface of an aircraft would still identify it on the radar scope.”
Indeed, according to the Canadian Defense website, ‘Canada-United States Defense Regulations’:
“NORAD uses a network of ground-based radars, sensors and fighter jets to detect, intercept and, if necessary, engage any threats to the continent... Through outstanding cooperation and cohesiveness, NORAD has proven itself effective in its roles of watching, warning and responding.”
Even if we believe the later version of events espoused by the U.S. government, claiming that planes were scrambled prior to the Pentagon crash, a close analysis of this new official account only confirms the consistent failure to respond in accordance with Standard Operating Procedures.
The New York Press continues to analyse the fate of Flight 77:
“We also learned that two F-16 fighters had been scrambled from Langley Air Force Base to try to intercept Flight 77, but they also arrived too late. In fact, they only took off from Langley two minutes before the Boeing 757 smashed into the Pentagon.
There are a number of problems with this story. In the first place, 45 minutes had elapsed from the time the air traffic controllers lost contact with Flight 77 and its crash into the Pentagon. On Sept. 15 The New York Times reported: ‘Flight 77…would have been visible on the F.A.A.’s radar system as it reversed course in the Midwest…to fly back to Washington. The radars would have observed it even though its tracking beacon had been turned off’.”
Flight 77 had first deviated from its flight plan at about 8:46 a.m.. The New York Times noted that: “within a few minutes more... [i.e. 8:50] controllers would have known that... Flight 77 had probably been hijacked.” This was probably because “controllers at Washington Air Route Traffic Control Center—who handled American Airlines Flight 77, which hit the Pentagon—knew about the hijacking of American Flight 11 even before it crashed.” Indeed, at 9:00 a.m., Flight 77’s transponder signal ceased, as the plane flew back straight towards Washington DC. All this would normally have sufficed to compel the FAA to notify the military to scramble fighter craft, and in the extraordinary circumstances which had occurred with the hijacking of Flights 11 and 175 already confirmed, this would have been doubly necessary.
And again, when the first hijacked plane crashed into the World Trade Center, the emergency responses of U.S. air safety and defense systems should have been intensified. Apart from the fact that the Pentagon should already have been monitoring events, the country’s emergency services were externally notified almost immediately. According to Newsday, at “9:06, Washington notifies all air traffic facilities nationwide of the suspected hijacking of Flight 11.” The Pentagon was notified of the emergency simultaneously. New York Police broadcast at 9:06 a.m. that: “This was a terrorist attack. Notify the Pentagon.” Flight 77 hit the Pentagon at around 9:40a.m..
NORAD Commander Gen. Eberhart claimed in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee that the FAA had failed to notify NORAD and the Department of Defense that the flight was heading toward Washington DC and had probably been hijacked, until 9:24 a.m. This implies that there was an inexplicable gap of almost 45 minutes between the time the FAA had lost contact with Flight 77, which was heading directly toward Washinton DC, and the time the FAA notified NORAD. This is despite the fact that it was clear at 9:06 a.m. that what was occurring constituted a terrorist attack.
But anyhow, NORAD would have been monitoring the progress of these flights, including Flight 77, independently, and the Pentagon had already been notified. Indeed, according to the New York Times, “military officials in a command center on the east side of the [Pentagon] were urgently talking to law enforcement officials about what to do.” Taken into context with the fact that the Pentagon had been externally notified to the national emergency as early as 9:06, this means that military officials refused to scramble fighters for at least 20 minutes. The implications of this gap are even more ominous given that NORAD apparently chose not to scramble fighter craft that were much closer to Washington DC. Instead, they chose to scramble interceptors from Langley Air Force Base, which is 130 miles from Washington—rather than Andrews Air Force Base, which is 10 miles away. The result was that “the fighter planes that scrambled into protective orbits around Washington did not arrive until 15 minutes after Flight 77 hit the Pentagon.”
The U.S. Department of Defense initially issued reports that there were simply no local fighter jets available to intercept Flight 77. According to USA Today, attempting to provide an explanation based on U.S. Department of Defense sources: “Andrews Air Force Base, home to Air Force One, is only 15 miles [sic] away from the Pentagon, but it had no fighters assigned to it. Defense officials won’t say whether that has changed.” Yet in a report on the same day, USA Today stated in contradiction to its other story, that Andrews Air Force Base did actually have fighters present there—but supposedly they were not on alert: “The District of Columbia National Guard maintained fighter planes at Andrews Air Force Base, only about 15 miles [sic] from the Pentagon, but those planes were not on alert and not deployed.”
Both these reports amounted to disinformation, as is suggested by their mutual inconsistency. Quoting directly from U.S. National Guard sources, the San Diego Union-Tribune clarified the reality of the matter:
“Air defense around Washington is provided mainly by fighter planes from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland near the District of Columbia border. The D.C. Air National Guard is also based there and equipped with F-16 fighter planes, a National Guard spokesman said. ‘But the fighters took to the skies over Washington only after the devastating attack on the Pentagon’.”
It is thus clear that combat-ready fighters assigned to the protection of Washington DC did not do anything at all for almost one and a half hours, although it was known that Flight 77 was heading toward DC. Even when NORAD was, according to Gen. Eberhart, notified by the FAA at 9:24 of the danger posed by Flight 77, rather than scrambling Andrews fighter craft 10 miles away from Washington DC, craft from far-away Langley Air Force base were scrambled instead. Indeed, Andrews Air Force Base houses two combat-ready squadrons served by hundreds of full-time personnel: the 121st Fighter Squadron (FS-121) of the 113th Fighter Wing (FW-113), equipped with F-16 fighters; the 321st Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA-321) of the 49th Marine Air Group, Detachment A (MAG-49 Det-A), equipped with F/A-18 fighters. According to the authoritative U.S. military information website, DC Military:
“…as part of its dual mission, the 113th provides capable and ready response forces for the District of Columbia in the event of a natural disaster or civil emergency. Members also assist local and federal law enforcement agencies in combating drug trafficking in the District of Colombia. [They] are full partners with the active Air Force…In the best tradition of the Marine Corps, a ‘few good men and women’ support two combat-ready reserve units at Andrews AFB. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 321, a Marine Corps Reserve squadron, flies the sophisticated F/A-18 Hornet. Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 49, Detachment A, provides maintenance and supply functions necessary to maintain a force in readiness.”
In other words, Andrews Air Force Base, an “active” facility, had at least two “combat-ready” squadrons designated for “capable and ready response,” whose task was to defend DC in the event of “a natural disaster or civil emergency.” These squadrons provide “capable and ready response forces”, to maintain a “force in readiness”. These military terms constitute official Air Force jargon, which entail that fighter craft at Andrews are in a constant state of readiness to respond in the event of a disaster or emergency. In other words, they are available to be scrambled on emergencies. Other reports further show that Andrews aircraft were available to be alerted and activated in response to the Pentagon attack. The Sunday Telegraph observed that: “Within minutes of the attack American forces around the world were put on one of their highest states of alert— Defcon 3, just two notches short of all-out war—and F-16s from Andrews Air Force Base were in the air over Washington DC.”
The Denver Post similarly reported that:
“… an audible gasp went up from the rear of the audience as a large black plume of smoke arose from the Pentagon. Terrorism suddenly was at the doorstep and clearly visible through the big glass windows overlooking the Potomac River. Overhead, fighter jets scrambled from Andrews Air Force Base and other installations and cross-crossed the skies…A thick plume of smoke was climbing out of the hollow center of the Pentagon. Everyone on the train understood what had happened moments before.”
NBC similarly clarified that Andrews aircraft were only scrambled after the hijacked plane crashed into the Pentagon, and not at all before this time: “It was after the attack on the Pentagon that the Air Force then decided to scramble F-16s out of the DC National Guard Andrews Air Force Base to fly cover, a protective cover over Washington, DC.” As Jared Israel pointedly remarks: “The media should have demanded to know the truth about why fighter jets assigned to protect Washington didn’t scramble an hour before the Pentagon was hit.” He pointedly asks:
“… since planes were flying into buildings, and since Washington, DC was the city most likely to be the next target, why would planes be scrambled all the way from Langley Air Force Base, 129 miles from Washington, as late as 9:30? Why wouldn't they be scrambled from Andrews Air Force Base, 10 miles from the Pentagon, at around 8:50, when the military knew that a hijacked plane had hit the World Trade Center?”
An Egyptian military-strategic analyst whose expertise is accredited by both the U.S. Army and the British Ministry of Defence has asked a similar question. Retired Major General Dr. Mahmoud Khalaf—a Fellow at Egypt’s Higher Military Academy, Member of the Royal College of Defence Studies in London, Honorary Member of the Association of the United States Army in Fort Benning (Georgia), and a participant in several training courses with the U.S. Army in the United States and Germany—comments:
“The first question [is related to] the air-defense system, the North American aerospace defense command (NORAD). This system is a very sophisticated system, and it is supposed to detect any airplane that takes off...
One pilot did warn. He contacted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and indeed informed it that there was a hijacking, and the air-defense command was informed. We have a surprising case here. The air base in Andrews: this air base, by the way, has its own defense system around the base, which consists of two jet fighters (which can scramble); they would be in the air within 2-3 minutes. The squadron in Andrews received the alert in the same moment but did not fly? This issue disappeared and nobody talked about it. This is noteworthy.”
The official U.S. government explanation of this dire failure to protect Washington DC can be found in excerpts from an NBC press conference with U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney:
“Journalist Mr Russert: What’s the most important decision you think he [President Bush] made during the course of the day?
Dick Cheney: Well, the—I suppose the toughest decision was this question of whether or not we would intercept incoming commercial aircraft… We decided to do it. We’d, in effect, put a flying combat air patrol up over the city; F‑16s with an AWACS, which is an airborne radar system, and tanker support so they could stay up a long time… It doesn’t do any good to put up a combat air patrol if you don’t give them instructions to act, if, in fact, they feel it’s appropriate.”
Cheney had clearly created the impression that the U.S. military required Presidential authorisation to scramble fighter jets to intercept American Airlines Flight 77 before it hit the Pentagon. He seems to have done so on the basis of actual discussions within the White House related to this issue. He also avoided any discussion of the ominous failure to intercept this flight. Both these actions on his part amounted to disinformation, intended or unintended.
According to Air Force standard operating procedures, Presidential approval is required only for shooting down a civilian aircraft. Therefore, the idea that the interception of the incoming commercial aircraft by fighter planes was “the toughest decision” to be made on Presidential authority is in contradiction to the rules recorded in FAA documents, which establish that fighter jets routinely intercept commercial aircraft under designated circumstances. White House approval is not required for these interceptions.
Contrary to what Cheney implied, and as documented here, fighter jet interceptions of commercial aircraft are followed through automatically (and on mandatory basis) in emergencies, such as hijackings. The idea inadvertently suggested by Cheney, apparently based on the occurrence of White House discussions in which he was involved, is that the President had somehow intervened in these routine rules, leading to their almost total disruption. Cheney’s testimonial on NBC implied that it was the President who decided to allow planes to scramble one and a half hours too late, thus bearing principal responsibility for the sabotage of systems designed to protect civilians. Cheney further suggested that interception of the commercial flight automatically implied shooting it down. “It doesn’t do any good to put up a combat air patrol if you don’t give them instructions to act, if, in fact, they feel it’s appropriate,” he stated.
“Journalist Mr Russert: So if the United States government became aware that a hijacked commercial airline was destined for the White House or the Capitol, we would take the plane down?
Dick Cheney:: Yes. The president made the decision... that if the plane would not divert... as a last resort, our pilots were authorized to take them out. Now, people say, you know, that’s a horrendous decision to make. Well, it is. You’ve got an airplane full of American citizens, civilians, captured by... terrorists, headed and are you going to, in fact, shoot it down, obviously, and kill all those Americans on board?
“...It’s a presidential-level decision, and the president made, I think, exactly the right call in this case, to say, ‘I wished we’d had combat air patrol up over New York’.”
The American Heritage Dictionary defines “intercept” as follows: “to stop, deflect or interrupt the progress or intended course of.” Interception of a plane is thus aimed at changing its course and does not in itself imply violence. The question as to why no fighter craft were scrambled to intercept Flight 77, as would happen in any routine emergency, thus remains as pertinent as ever, since in this respect there was no burning issue of whether or not a commercial plane should be shot down. Another question also remains—Why did no fighter craft scramble before the Pentagon was hit?
Cheney apparently deflected attention from this issue in the astonishing assertion that: “It doesn’t do any good to put up a combat air patrol if you don’t give them instructions to act, if, in fact, they feel it’s appropriate.” Here, Cheney claimed not only that White House approval is necessary to consider whether or not the routine scrambling of fighters should occur—when in fact such scrambling takes place automatically, according to clear FAA rules—but that this was because detailed instructions are needed from White House as to what the craft should perform. Otherwise, Cheney asserted, there is no point in putting up “combat air patrol.” Cheney thus seemed to inadvertently admit that the White House Cabinet was responsible for the failure of combat air patrol to scramble, and thus responsible for the violation of Standard Operating Procedures. It is worth emphasising that Cheney’s statements indicate that his understanding of the President’s role in determining the response of the U.S. Air Force appears to be based on his direct experience of the decision-making process that occurred among members of his Cabinet.
Evaluating such evidence Jared Israel observes:
“Mr. Cheney’s implicit argument—that there is no point in sending up an escort unless the pilot has clearance to shoot down a commercial jet—is absurd. Why would such a decision have to be made in advance of scrambling the escort? Even if an airliner has been taken over by a terrorist with a suicide mission, how could Mr. Cheney, Mr. Bush or anyone else other than God Himself possibly predict how the hijacker would respond to an intercept by military jets? Even if a hijacker were ready to die for the glory of crashing into the Pentagon, does that mean he would also be ready to die for the glory of ignoring a military pilot’s order to land? So even if the military had no authority to shoot down Flight 77, why not send up escort planes? Isn’t that in fact how police and the military routinely handle hijack situations—by mobilizing a potentially overwhelming force in the hope of getting the hijacker to surrender?”
The question that thus remains is, why did no fighter craft scramble for interception between when Flight 77 was hijacked (between 8:50 and 8:55 AM) and the time the plane smashed into the Pentagon (very close to 9:41 a.m.)? Why were routine emergency response rules violated for so long and so consistently?
A recap of the events of 11th September only exacerbates these concerns. For 35 minutes, from 8:15 a.m. until 9:05 a.m., it was widely known within both the FAA and the U.S. military that four planes had been simultaneously hijacked and had subsequently deviated off their designated flight paths. Despite this, it was not until after Flight 77 smashed into the Pentagon at around 9:40 a.m. that any Washington-based Air Force planes were scrambled to intercept. And according to initial reports, no planes at all were scrambled throughout the U.S. until this time. In other words, the National Command Authority did virtually nothing for 75 minutes in systematic violation of its own rules and instructions for dealing with such situations, despite the fact that local ‘combat ready’ aircraft were available to be scrambled. Astonishingly, it was after over one whole hour and fifteen minutes—involving three crashes of aircraft into key U.S buildings—that U.S. fighter planes from Andrews finally scrambled and flew over Washington DC. It is noteworthy that this is the first time in history that such a failure has occurred—air authorities respond to problems and emergencies almost immediately on a routine basis.
The travesty did not end there, but continued with the fourth plane, United Airlines Flight 93. Director of the U.S. Air National Guard, Major General Paul Weaver, stated that: “[n]o Air National Guard or other military planes were scrambled to chase the fourth hijacked airliner, United Airlines Flight 93.” This is even more astonishing. Three hijacked commercial planes had already crashed consecutively into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, yet no military craft were scrambled to at least intercept the fourth hijacked plane—a plane which crashed in Pennsylvania almost an hour and a half after the first Tower was hit.
Downplaying the dire implications of the utter absence of interceptors being scrambled in accordance with compulsory FAA and Department of Defense rules, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz stated that: “[T]he Air Force was tracking the hijacked plane that crashed in Pennsylvania on Tuesday after other airliners slammed into the Pentagon and World Trade Center and had been in a position to bring it down if necessary.” Wolfowitz also explained that: “any military intervention would have ultimately been the decision of President George W. Bush.” But this obscured the facts. The Air Force should have immediately scrambled military craft to intercept the plane, yet the Director of the Air National Guard confirmed that no planes at all were scrambled—in violation of the Guard’s own rules governing methods of emergency response.
The issue is not whether the Air Force was monitoring Flight 93, which it certainly should and would have been, but why the mandatory procedure of scrambling fighter jets to at least intercept the plane was not followed. As the New York Press commented incredulously: “So why was it not brought down? Or at the very least intercepted? Three key buildings had been attacked. And there is still no emergency!”
U.S. military expert Stan Goff has summarised the sequence of events well. He observes:
“I have no idea why people aren’t asking some very specific questions about the actions of Bush and company on the day of the attacks…
Four planes get hijacked and deviate from their flight plans, all the while on FAA radar. The planes are all hijacked between 7:45 and 8:10 AM Eastern Daylight Time. Who is notified? This is an event already that is unprecedented. But the President is not notified and going to a Florida elementary school to hear children read.
By around 8:15 AM, it should be very apparent that something is terribly wrong. The President is glad-handing teachers. By 8:45, when American Airlines Flight 11 crashes into the World Trade Center, Bush is settling in with children for his photo ops at Booker Elementary. Four planes have obviously been hijacked simultaneously, an event never before seen in history, and one has just dived into the worlds best know twin towers, and still no one notifies the nominal Commander in Chief.
No one has apparently scrambled any Air Force interceptors either. At 9:03, United Flight 175 crashes into the remaining World Trade Center building. At 9:05, Andrew Card, the Presidential Chief of Staff whispers to George W. Bush. Bush ‘briefly turns somber’ according to reporters. Does he cancel the school visit and convene an emergency meeting? No. He resumes listening to second graders… and continues this banality even as American Airlines Flight 77 conducts an unscheduled point turn over Ohio and heads in the direction of Washington DC.
Has he instructed Chief of Staff Card to scramble the Air Force? No. An excruciating 25 minutes later, he finally deigns to give a public statement telling the United States what they already have figured out; that there’s been an attack by hijacked planes on the World Trade Center. There’s a hijacked plane beelining to Washington, but has the Air Force been scrambled to defend anything yet? No.
At 9:30, when he makes his announcement, American Flight 77 is still ten minutes from its target, the Pentagon. The Administration will later claim they had no way of knowing that the Pentagon might be a target, and that they thought Flight 77 was headed to the White House, but the fact is that the plane has already flown South and past the White House no-fly zone, and is in fact tearing through the sky at over 400 nauts.
At 9:35, this plane conducts another turn, 360 degrees over the Pentagon, all the while being tracked by radar, and the Pentagon is not evacuated, and there are still no fast-movers from the Air Force in the sky over Alexandria and DC. Now, the real kicker: A pilot they want us to believe was trained at a Florida puddle-jumper school for Piper Cubs and Cessnas, conducts a well-controlled downward spiral, descending the last 7,000 feet in two-and-a-half minutes, brings the plane in so low and flat that it clips the electrical wires across the street from the Pentagon, and flies it with pinpoint accuracy into the side of this building at 460 nauts.
When the theory about learning to fly this well at the puddle-jumper school began to lose ground, it was added that they received further training on a flight simulator. This is like saying you prepared your teenager for her first drive on I-40 at rush hour by buying her a video driving game… There is a story being constructed about these events.”
Stan Goff’s observations are very important, and should be duly noted. He testifies that, in his opinion as a U.S. military expert, the official version of events is not the reality, but rather a “story being constructed” by the government. He bases this conclusion on his in-depth understanding of the procedures and capabilities of the U.S. military. The question that then remains is this: from what is the government attempting to deflect attention by the construction of false “stories”? As this analysis has demonstrated with certainty, at every step during the escalating crisis on 11th September, the clear rules governing the emergency response of U.S. air authorities were systematically broken. The New York Press rightly concludes:
“Passenger jet hijackings are not uncommon and the U.S. government has prepared detailed plans to handle them. On Sept. 11 these plans were ignored in their entirety… Here are the FAA regulations concerning hijackings: ‘The FAA hijack coordinator…on duty at Washington headquarters will request the military to provide an escort aircraft for a confirmed hijacked aircraft… The escort service will be requested by the FAA hijack coordinator by direct contact with the National Military Command Center (NMCC).’ Here are the instructions issued by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on June 1, 2001: ‘In the event of a hijacking, the NMCC will be notified by the most expeditious means by the FAA. The NMCC will…forward requests for DOD assistance to the Secretary of Defense for approval.’… The U.S. is supposed to scramble military aircraft the moment a hijacking is confirmed.”
But the repeated testimony of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Vice-President and a NORAD spokesman confirms that no planes at all were scrambled until after the Pentagon attack. The next crucial question is then: why were these rules, normally adhered to with such routine, suddenly violated on 11th September—especially considering he extensive advanced warnings of the attacks that were received by the U.S. military intelligence community? What occurred on this tragic day was clearly just the sort of emergency that air authorities are fully trained, instructed, experienced, ready and available to deal with. Yet, although four planes were simultaneously hijacked, air authorities did almost nothing about it—in violation of the mandatory rules of response implemented on a regular basis for innumerable problems and emergency situations. It is, additionally, an integral aspect of these rules that emergency situations are passed on to NORAD and the National Command in the Pentagon, which, if necessary, are backed by government officials in the Department of Defense and other key U.S. leaders with military authority. It is their fundamental duty to monitor and oversee the process of responding to such emergencies. Therefore, these agencies bear ultimate responsibility for violation of the basic instructions, which were designed to deter crises and save lives in emergency situations.
It should also be noted that, on analysis of the official version of events, the FAA failed to contact the military in accordance with standard procedures (the military subsequently also failed to respond in accordance with standard procedures). It also appears that the FAA had “open lines” with the U.S. Secret Service—at least as soon as the first WTC Tower was hit. This suggests that the Secret Service, which was thereafter in constant contact with the FAA, was aware of, and involved in the situation. Therefore, the Secret Service bears additional responsibility for the latter’s violations of procedure.
Indeed, it is worth noting the observations of Anatoli Kornukov, the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Air Force—which of course is closely collaborating with the United States in the ‘war on terror’—on the official line of the U.S. government. The Russian current affairs periodical Pravda Online reported:
“‘Generally it is impossible to carry out an act of terror on the scenario which was used in the USA yesterday.’ This was said by the commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Force, Anatoli Kornukov. ‘We had such facts [i.e., events or incidents] too,’ said the general straightforwardly. Kornukov did not specify what happened in Russia and when and to what extent it resembled the events in the US. He did not advise what was the end of air terrorists’ attempts either. But the fact the general said that means a lot. As it turns out the way the terrorists acted in America is not unique. 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, Kornukov said. ‘As soon as something like that happens here, I am reported about that right away and in a minute we are all up,’ said the general.”
It is, of course, well known that the U.S. Air Force is far superior to Russia’s. There are few reasonable inferences one can draw from this analysis. Attempting to explain the almost absolute negligence of the Air Force on 11th September by describing the novelty of the threat, allegedly leading to mistakes as a result of tactical surprise, fails to account for the fact that established procedures are in place to anticipate such threats. As already noted, for instance, there is a manual governing emergency response rules for hijackings. The question that then remains is why Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) were not followed, and in this context, who ensured that SOP was not followed, and for what purpose?
An inkling of an answer to this question may be found in the shocking inaction of General Richard B. Myers, and of President George W. Bush Jr., on 11th September. According to the Washington Post, former NORAD Commander Gen. Richard B. Myers “was deeply involved in the military’s response [on 11th September] this week from the outset.” That morning, the New York Press reports, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Myers, was having a routine meeting on Capitol Hill with Senator Max Cleland. According to the American Forces Press Service (AFPS), just before the meeting began: “While in an outer office, he said, he saw a television report that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. ‘They thought it was a small plane or something like that,’ Myers said. So the two men went ahead with the office call.” In other words, having been notified of an unprecedented emergency in New York, with a plane for the first time in history ploughing into the World Trade Center, the response of these two officials, and specifically of Gen. Myers who has specific responsibility to oversee the military response to such emergencies, was to ignore it. This constituted a direct and apparently quite deliberate negligence of his military duty during this obviously unprecedented crisis. While Myers and Cleland chatted away, a “hijacked jet plowed into the World Trade Center’s north tower, another one plowed into the south tower and a third one into the Pentagon. And still they went on with their meeting.” The AFPS further noted in this connection that:
“Meanwhile, the second World Trade Center tower was hit by another jet. ‘Nobody informed us of that,’ Myers said. ‘But when we came out, that was obvious. Then, right at that time, somebody said the Pentagon had been hit’.
“Somebody thrust a cell phone in Myers’ hand. Gen. Ralph Eberhart, commander of U.S. Space Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command [NORAD] was on the other end of the line 'talking about what was happening and the actions he was going to take’.”
In his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Myers additionally confirmed that the decision to scramble fighter craft was made during his conversation with the current Commander of NORAD, Gen. Eberhart: “I spoke to the commander of NORAD, General Eberhart. And at that point, I think the decision was at that point to start launching aircraft.” This statement is particularly damning given that in the same testimony, Myers also confirmed that the Pentagon had been overseeing the crisis at least as soon as the first of the Twin Towers was hit:
“Senator Levin: The time that we don't have is when the Pentagon was notified, if they were, by the FAA or the FBI or any other agency, relative to any potential threat or any planes having changed direction or anything like that. And that's the same which you will give us because that's...
Myers: I can answer that. At the time of the first impact on the World Trade Center, we stood up our crisis action team. That was done immediately. So we stood it up. And we started talking to the federal agencies. The time I do not know is when NORAD responded with fighter aircraft. I don't know that time.”
These reports indicate, apart from Myers’ utter indifference to notification of an air attack on the WTC, and corroborating what has been discussed above, that the U.S. military had been monitoring the crisis at least as soon as the first tower had been hit. Yet Myers also testified that the military only began to consider actions to be taken in response to the attacks, after the Pentagon was hit. The Acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Myers was apparently contacted by NORAD Commander Gen. Eberhart about “the actions he was going to take,” after three hijacked civilian planes had already hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, at which time it was finally decided between them to scramble aircraft.
This suggests that both Air Force Gen. Myers and Gen. Eberhart knowingly violated mandatory standard emergency response procedures by considering a response to the hijackings almost one and a half hours later than they should have. Indeed, aircraft should have been scrambled immediately and automatically, as soon as the hijackings were confirmed—indeed, as soon as the planes had deviated from their flight paths, and communication between them and air control was blocked. Routine procedures dictate that high-level military approval is required in relation to special measures only after fighter craft have already scrambled. Yet, it appears that both Myers and Eberhart waited until after the Pentagon was attacked before allowing fighter craft to be scrambled. It is also worth noting that Senator Max Cleland, Chairman of the Personnel Subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee and member of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, was also involved in this astonishing process of indifference—he was fully aware of the unfolding crisis, yet like Myers, was quite unmoved.
George Bush Jr.’s response illustrated a similar indifference. The New York Press continues to note that meanwhile, in Florida, “just as President Bush was about to leave his hotel he was told about the attack on the first WTC tower. He was asked by a reporter if he knew what was going on in New York.” ABC News has confirmed this. John Cochran, who was covering the President's trip, informed Peter Jennings on ABC TV:
“He [the President] got out of his hotel suite this morning, was about to leave, reporters saw the White House chief of staff, Andy Card, whisper into his ear. The reporter said to the president, ‘Do you know what's going on in New York?’ He said he did, and he said he will have something about it [i.e. a statement] later.”
As the Press reports, “He said he did, and then went to an elementary school in Sarasota to read to children.” Another statement from Vice-President Cheney provides further insight into this: “The secret service has an arrangement with the FAA. They had open lines after the World Trade Center was…” Cheney never finished his sentence, but it is obvious that he had meant to say something along the lines of “hit”. It is also well known, as respected Canadian media critic Barry Zwicker points out, that:
“The (president of the United States)… travels with an entire staff… (including) the Secret Service, which is responsible for his safety. The members of this support team have the best communications equipment in the world. They maintain contact with, or can easily reach, Bush’s cabinet, the national Military Command Center in the Pentagon, the (FAA)…”
But Zwicker also reports that: “By 8:20, according to its own official report, the Federal Aviation Authority, the FAA, is fully aware of the unprecedented emergency in the skies.” The implications are duly noted by Zwicker as follows: “In other words, around 8:46 at the absolute latest the Secret Service and the President would have known of all four hijacked airliners and that one had hit the World Trade Center.” Yet only the President, Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. military, had the authority to order the shooting down of a civilian airliner. Additionally, the U.S. military command and Department of Defense—of which Air Force General Myers is a leading figure as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs—are integrally involved in responding and/or approving various measures once planes are scrambled. But rather than immediately holding an emergency meeting on the situation to consider instructions for interceptors, Bush continued to the elementary school where he went on to read to children. The sheer indifference of both Myers and Bush at a time when they carried, among other U.S. government and military officials, responsibility for the country’s security is both astonishing and revealing: indicative of a scale of negligence amounting to effective complicity.
If these individuals had acted sooner, they might have averted the later attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, saving thousands of lives. Yet by refusing to respond in any way at all to the attacks, and by deliberately continuing with their comparatively mundane activities, it seems that they shirked their specific duties to the American people, thereby playing their own role in virtually ensuring that the attacks went ahead unhindered.
It should be noted in this connection that the negligence displayed by President Bush further indicates a wider systematic negligence amongst the U.S. secret service and military command. Despite his own critical responsibility as Commander-in-Chief, particularly in relation to having sole authority to shoot down a civilian airplane, the President was able to continue traveling to the elementary school in Sarasota to read to children, without any apparent protest or advice from the secret service and military, which should have called him for an emergency meeting immediately after the first WTC attack had occurred. This broad circle of systematic, ongoing top-level U.S. military negligence, despite knowledge of the WTC attack and further impending attacks, since the flight paths of the other planes and their consequent destinations were being monitored through radar by the Pentagon, points to the possibility of their complicity through a deliberate, orchestrated failure to act.
Moreover, the damning implications of this sequence of events simply cannot be understood without considering that Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) were completely and inexplicably dropped on 11th September—an event that had never occurred before. The question then remains as to who was responsible for ensuring that routine rules of emergency response were not adhered to, and why.
In the opinion of this author, the fact that the Bush administration is totally uninterested in finding an answer to this question, so as to locate the roots of the collapse of SOP on 11th September, if anything, further incriminates this administration.
Jared Israel’s conclusions in his work, as featured by the New York Press, are disconcerting, but constitute an explanation that follows logically from an analysis of the available data concerning the terrible events of 11th September:
“Some of what happened on 9-11, such as planes flying into buildings, is unusual. But most of what happened, such as commercial jets flying off-course, transponder failures and possible hijackings, are common emergencies… [T]hese emergencies are routinely handled with expert efficiency based on clear rules…
“U.S. air safety and air defense emergency systems are activated in response to problems every day. On 9-11 they failed despite, not because of, the extreme nature of the emergency. This could only happen if individuals in high positions worked in a coordinated way to make them fail.”
It is conceivable that this sort of coodinated, high-level collapse could occur—either through deliberate intent on the part of these individuals to cause emergency systems to fail, or through systematic, unintentional incompetence—reaching to the highest levels of the U.S. military command. The latter is an extremely implausible scenario, because if such systematic, unintentional incompetence could occur simultaneously at such high levels, it would have to be the consequence of a grotesque degree of institutional incompetence throughout the emergency response services of the FAA, NORAD, the U.S. Air Force, and other relevant institutions. If this was the case, however, then evidence of institutional incompetence within these emergency response services should have frequently surfaced during previous responses to routine emergencies, possible hijackings, and so on. There is no such evidence.
As Israel rightly pointed out, “commercial jets flying off-course, transponder failures and possible hijackings, are common emergencies… [T]hese emergencies are routinely handled with expert efficiency based on clear rules.”
Israel further argues in relation to the coordinated collapse of emergency response systems on 11th September: “Such operatives would almost surely have failed if they tried to disrupt and abort routine protection systems without top-level support. The failure of the emergency systems would be noticed immediately.” This would be the case whether these operatives had acted out of intent to cause a collapse, or out of mere incompetence.
“Moreover, given the catastrophic nature of the attacks, the highest military authorities would be alerted. Acting on their own, the operatives could expect that their orders would be countermanded and that they themselves would be arrested [or dealt with in an otherwise appropriate manner].”
Thus, Israel concludes: “The sabotage of routine protective systems, controlled by strict hierarchies, would never have been contemplated let alone attempted absent the involvement of the supreme U.S. military command.”
Indeed, even if it had been intentionally contemplated and attempted, or had occurred as a consequence of unintentional incompetence, the “failure of the emergency systems would be noticed immediately” and measures taken to correct the failure without delay. Yet as we know, this never occurred. Thus, the most plausible, though admittedly distressing, explanation is that the “sabotage of routine protective systems, controlled by strict hierarchies,” could not have occurred without the consent of high-level officials, including “the supreme U.S. military command.”
“This includes at least U.S. President George Bush, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the then-Acting Head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force General Richard B. Myers. [This demonstrates] probable cause for charging the above-named persons with treason for complicity in the murders of thousands of people whom they had sworn to protect.”
Award-winning Canadian journalist and media analyst Barry Zwicker—former correspondent for the Toronto Sun and the Globe and Mail, and currently a media critic on CBC-TV, CTV’s News1, and Vision TV—boldly dissects the official line:
“Throughout the northeastern United States are many air bases. But that morning no interceptors respond in a timely fashion to the highest alert situation. This includes the Andrews squadrons which have the longest lead time and are 12 miles from the White house.
Whatever the explanation for the huge failure, there have been no reports, to my knowledge, of reprimands. This further weakens the ‘Incompetence Theory’. Incompetence usually earns reprimands. This causes me to ask—and other media need to ask—if there were ‘stand down’ orders.”
Elaborating on this in a media commentary for Vision TV, Zwicker concludes:
“The multiple hijackings are unprecedented. The first occurs at 7:45 in the morning. It’s a full hour before the first plane hits the World Trade Center. But it’s an hour and 20 minutes—and after the second plane hits—that the President allegedly becomes informed. Think about that. Then, he gives no orders. Why? He continues to listen to a student talk about her pet goat. Why?
“It’s another 25 minutes until he makes a statement, even as flight 77 is making a bee-line for Washington, DC. In the almost two hours of the total drama not a single U.S. Air Force interceptor turns a wheel until it’s too late. Why? Was it total incompetence on the part of aircrews trained and equipped to scramble in minutes?
“Well, unlike the U.S. Air Force, I’ll cut to the chase. Simply to ask these few questions is to find the official narrative frankly implausible. The more questions you pursue, it becomes more plausible that there’s a different explanation: namely, that elements within the top U.S. military, intelligence and political leadership—which are closely intertwined—are complicit in what happened on September the 11th.”
This conclusion is supported by the behaviour of President Bush, Gen. Myers, Gen. Eberhart, as well as other U.S. officials around them, while planes manned by Al-Qaeda terrorists were ploughing successively into the World Trade Center and Pentagon. In light of what appears to be their studious indifference to the attacks while they occurred, despite their responsibility for the nation’s security and their critical role in decisions relating to the behaviour of the Air Force, Israel’s inferences, like Zwicker’s, become only more pertinent. Indeed, the astonishing responses of Bush and Myers should be understood in context with the revelations contained in this previously discussed statement of U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney:
“… the toughest decision was this question of whether or not we would intercept incoming commercial aircraft…
“We decided to do it. We’d, in effect, put a flying combat air patrol up over the city; F-16s with an AWACS, which is an airborne radar system, and tanker support so they could stay up a long time… It doesn’t do any good to put up a combat air patrol if you don’t give them instructions to act, if, in fact, they feel it’s appropriate… It’s a presidential-level decision, and the president made, I think, exactly the right call in this case, to say, ‘I wished we’d had combat air patrol up over New York’.”
These observations place the testimony of Myers in context. What is indisputably clear from Cheney’s testimonials on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press,’ is that there were certain discussions among the nation’s top decision-makers in the White House, including the President, which fundamentally determined the response of the U.S. Air Force on 11th September 2001. Cheney confirms this on the basis of what appears to be his direct experience of, and participation in, these discussions. Cheney stated that the entire issue of scrambling planes for interception on 11th September was a “presidential-level decision”. Cheney also explicitly indicated that the decision to scramble planes was discussed by members of the White House Cabinet, who eventually “decided to do it” with Presidential authorisation. This is highly significant, in that it places direct responsibility for the behaviour of the U.S. Air Force on 11th September on the President and his Cabinet.
Furthermore, according to Cheney, the critical decision that was issued by leading members of the Cabinet, with Presidential authorisation, resulted in planes being scrambled over New York— nearly one and a half hours later than what is required by FAA and Department of Defense manuals. This is also highly significant, in that it indicates that the failure of the U.S. Air Force to immediately scramble planes, in violation of mandatory standard procedures, was the direct result of a high-level White House decision. At face value then, Cheney’s testimony suggests that the blame for the obstruction of mandatory standard procedures lies squarely on the President and members of his Cabinet.
Placing this in context with our above discussion, it thus appears that NORAD’s decision to scramble fighter craft, following Gen. Eberhart’s consultation with Gen. Myers and after the Pentagon attacks (as opposed to immediately), was the ultimate consequence of a Presidential-level decision from within the White House.
In the opinion of this author, this strongly suggests that significant, high-level elements of the U.S. military and the Bush administration bear direct responsibility for the terrorist acts that occurred on 11th September on U.S. soil, through what appears to be a combination of deliberate action and inaction. The facts on record weigh strongly in favour of this conclusion, providing reasonable grounds to believe that these elements were complicit in the 11th September attacks through the active obstruction of routine protective systems, which are designed to automatically deflect the type of emergencies that occurred on 11th September. This appears to have been maintained through the orchestrated prolongation (for up to one and a half hours) of systematic negligence as the attacks occurred, on the part of elements of the FAA, NORAD, the Pentagon, the secret service, the White House and the President—despite the clear danger they presented.
Of course, outside of a full-blown independent investigation, it is impossible to provide a conclusive analysis, and one cannot pretend that the documentation gathered here suffices as final proof of these conclusions. A further inquiry is therefore essential to fully understand the events of 11th September in context with the lack of response on the part of the U.S. Air Force. Nevertheless, pending such an inquiry and its findings, it is the opinion of this author that the inferences made here best explain the documentation presented.
 Szamuely, George, ‘Scrambled Messages’, New York Press, Vol. 14, No. 50, http://www.nypress.com/14/50/taki/bunker.cfm.
 Israel, Jared and Bykov, Illarion, ‘Guilty for 9-11: Bush, Rumsfield, Myers Part 1’, The Emperor’s New Clothes, 14 November 2001, Updated 17 November 2001, http://emperors-clothes.com/indict/indict-1.htm.
 See FAA Order 7400.2E, ‘Procedures for Handling Airspace Matters’, Effective Date: 7 December 2000 (Includes Change 1, effective 7 July 2001), Chapter 14-1-2. Full text posted at: http://www.faa.gov/ATpubs/AIR/air1401. html#14-1-2. Also see Dennis, Gregory and Torlak, Emina, ‘Direct-To Requirements’ http://sdg.lcs.mit.edu/atc/D2Requirements.htm.
 MS-NBC, 12 September 2001, http://www.msnbc.com/news/627524.asp.
 CNN, 26 October 1999.
 FAA ‘Aeronautical Information Manual: Official Guide to Basic Flight Information and Air Traffic Control (ATC) Procedures’, (Includes Change 3 Effective: 12 July 2001) Chapter 5-6-4 ‘Interception Signals’, Full text posted at: http://www.faa.gov/ATpubs/AIM/Chap5/aim0506.html#5-6-4.
 FAA Order 7110.65M, ‘Air Traffic Control’, (Includes Change 3 Effective: 12 July 2001), Chapter 10-2-5 ‘Emergency Situations’, Full text posted at: http://www.faa.gov/ATpubs/ATC/Chp10/atc1002.html#10-2-5.
 FAA Order 7110.65M, ‘Air Traffic Control’ (Includes Change 3 Effective: 12 July 2001), Chapter 10-1-1 ‘Emergency Determinations’, Full text posted at:
 FAA Order 7610.4J ‘Special Military Operations’ (Effective Date: 3 November 1998; Includes: Change 1, effective 3 July 2000; Change 2, effective 12 July 2001), Chapter 4, Section 5, ‘Air Defense Liaison Officers’. Full text posted at: http://www.faa.gov/ATpubs/MIL/Ch4/mil0405.html# Section%205.
 Ibid., Chapter 7, Section 1-2, ‘Escort of Hijacked Aircraft: Requests for Service’. Full text posted at: http://faa.gov/ATpubs/MIL/Ch7/mil0701.html#7-1-2.
 ABC News, 25 October 1999.
 See note 10.
 Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction 3610.01A, 1 June 2001, ‘Aircraft Piracy (Hijacking) and Destruction of Derelict Airborne Objects,’ 4.Policy (page 1) PDF available at: http://www.dtic.mil/doctrine/jel/cjcsd/ cjcsi/3610_01a.pdf.
 Bretz, Elizabeth A., ‘Hard Questions to Answer’, IEEE Spectrum Special Report, http://spectrum.ieee.org.
 Air Traffic Control Center, ‘ATCC Controller’s Read Binder’, Xavier Software, August 1998, http://www.xavius.com/080198.htm. This software is a “fully realistic simulation of actual traffic flows, radar sectors, ATC procedures, and rader equipment currently used throughout the U.S. Designed by a real controller, ATCC is ideal for pilots [and] controller trainees”.
 CNN, 26 October 1999.
 Johnson, Glen, ‘Facing Terror Attacks Aftermath: Otis Fighter Jets Scrambled Too Late to Halt the Attacks’, Boston Globe, 15 September 2001.
 Zwicker, Barry, ‘What Really Happened on Sept. 11th? – Part 2’, Straight Goods, 27 January 2002, http://www.straightgoods.ca/ViewMediaFile.cfm ?REF=138.
 ABC News, ‘Timeline of Disaster: From Flight School Training to Building Collapse’, 14 September 2001, http://www.ABCNews.com.
 CNN, 16 September 2001.
 Szamuely, George, ‘Nothing Urgent’, New York Press, Vol. 15, No. 2, http://www.nypress.com/15/2/taki/bunker.cfm
 Szamuely, George, ‘Scrambled Messages’, New York Press, Vol. 14, No. 50, http://www.nypress.com/14/50/taki/bunker.cfm.
 Testimony of General Richard B. Myers, ‘U.S. Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) Holds Hearing On Nomination of General Richard Myers to be Chairman of The Joint Chiefs of Staff’, Senate Armed Services Committee, Washington DC, 13 September 2001.
 Johnson, Glen, ‘Otis Fighter Jets Scrambled Too Late to Halt the Attacks’, Boston Globe, 15 September 2001.
 NBC News, ‘Meet the Press’, 16 September 2001, http://stacks.msnbc. com/news/629714.asp?cp1=1. Stan Goff, a 26-year U.S. veteran and expert in military science and doctrine, a retired Special Forces Master Sergeant who was tactics instructor at the U.S. Army’s Jungle Operations Training Center in Panama, taught Military Science at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and was involved in operations in eight designated conflict areas from Vietnam to Haiti, has similarly concluded on analysis of the chronology of the events that no U.S. Air Force jets at all were scrambled until after the Pentagon crash (Goff, Stan, ‘The So-called Evidence is a Farce’, Narco News, 10 October 2001, http://www.narconews.com).
 Szamuely, George, ‘Scrambled Messages’, op. cit.
 See for example, CNN, ‘Government failed to react to FAA warning’, 16 September 2001.
 Szamuely, George, ‘Scrambled Messages’, op. cit.
 Szamuely, George, ‘Nothing Urgent’, op. cit.
 Canada-United States Defence Relations, ‘NORAD’, http://www.dnd.ca/ menu/canada-us/bg00.010_e.htm.
 Szamuely, George, ‘Scrambled Messages’, op. cit.
 New York Times, 15 September 2001.
 Village Voice, 13 September 2001.
 Newsday, 23 September 2001, http://www.newsday.com/ny-uspent232380681sep23.story.
 Daily News (New York), 12 September 2001.
 Testimony of Gen. Eberhart, ‘Hearing on Role of Defense Department in Homeland Security’, Senate Armed Services Committee, Washington DC, 25 October 2001, http://www.ngaus.org/newsroom/HomelandDefense Transcript.doc.
 New York Times, 15 September 2001.
 New York Times, 15 September 2001.
 USA Today, 17 September 2001.
 San Diego Union-Tribune, 12 September 2001.
 DC Military, private website authorised by U.S. military to provide information for members of the armed forces, viewed November 2001,
 Sunday Telegraph, 14 September 2001.
 Denver Post, 11 September 2001.
 NBC Nightly News (6:30 PM ET), 11 September 2001.
 Israel, Jared. ‘Dan Rather’s Excellent New Fact’, The Emperor’s New Clothes, 3 January 2001, http://emperors-clothes.com/indict/faq2.htm.
 Transcript of presentation by Dr. Mahmoud Khalaf at Center for Asian Studies, University of Cairo, 5 December 2001.
 NBC, ‘Meet the Press’ (10:00 AM ET), 16 September 2001.
 Israel, Jared and Bykov, Illarion, ‘Mr. Cheney’s Cover Story: Guilty for 9-11: Bush, Rumsfield, Myers Part 2’, The Emperors New Clothes, 20 November 2001, Updated 21 November 2001, http://emperors-clothes.com/indict/indict-2.htm.
 Accounts of the general sequence of events have been published by CNN, ABC, MS-NBC, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and other sources.
 Seattle Times, 16 September 2001.
 Boston Herald, 15 September 2001.
 New York Times, 15 September 2001.
 Szamuely, George, ‘Scrambled Messages’, op. cit.
 Goff is a 26-year U.S. military veteran. He is a retired U.S. Army Special Forces Master Sergeant who was tactics instructor at the U.S. Army’s Jungle Operations Training Center in Panama, taught Military Science and Doctrine at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and was involved in operations in eight designated conflict areas from Vietnam to Haiti.
 Goff, Stan, ‘The So-Called Evidence is a Farce’, op. cit.
 Szamuely, George, ‘Nothing Urgent’, op. cit.
 Testimony of U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney, ‘Meet the Press’, NBC, 16 September 2001.
 Pravda Online, 13 September 2001, http://pravda.ru.
 ‘Figher Response After Attacks Questioned’, Washington Post, 14 September 2001.
 Szamuely, George, ‘Nothing Urgent’, op. cit.
 Rhem, Kathleen T. (Sergeant 1st class), ‘Myers and Sept. 11: “We Hadn’t Thought About This”’, American Forces Press Service, 23 October 2001, http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Oct2001/n10232001_200110236.html
 Szamuely, George, ‘Nothing Urgent’, op. cit.
 Rhem, Kathleen T., ‘Myers and Sept. 11: “We Hadn’t Thought About This”’, op. cit.
 Testimony of General Richard B. Myers, ‘U.S. Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) Holds Hearing On Nomination of General Richard Myers to be Chairman of The Joint Chiefs of Staff’, op. cit.
 Special Report, ‘Planes Crash into World Trade Center’, ABC News, 11 September 2001, 8:53 AM ET.
 Szamuely, George, ‘Nothing Urgent’, op. cit.
 NBC, ‘Meet the Press’, 16 September 2001.
 Zwicker, Barry, ‘The Great Deception’, Vision TV Insight, MediaFile, 18 February 2002.
 Israel, Jared and Bykov, Illarion, ‘Guilty for 9-11: Bush, Rumsfield, Myers Part 1’, op. cit.
 Zwicker, Barry, ‘The Great Deception: What Really Happened on Sept. 11th Part 2’, MediaFile, Vision TV Insight, 28 January 2002, http://www.visiontv.ca/programs/insight/mediafile_Jan28.htm.
 Zwicker, Barry, ‘The Great Deception: What Really Happened on Sept. 11th Part 1’, MediaFile, Vision TV Insight, 21 January 2002, http://www.visiontv.ca/programs/insight/mediafile_Jan21.htm.
 NBC, ‘Meet the Press’, 16 September 2001.