This update provides additional information concerning NEADS primary source information, the NEADS tapes, and secondary source information, the NEADS logs. Specifically it addresses the question of whether NORAD/CONR/NEADS reviewed relevant documents prior to the White House meeting on September 17, 2001 and the subsequent release of the NORAD timeline on September 18, 2001. The answer is yes they did.
The Moore email and response
John Farmer in The Ground Truth wrote that “the Commission staff obtained the e-mail…sent late in the evening of September 16, 2001, from Brigadier General Doug Moore at CONR, under General Arnold’s command, to NEADS.” That email exchange is available at the History Commons Scribd web site.
Moore was asking for additional clarification to pass to FAA to use “to brief the White House tomorrow.” The night Director of Operations (DO) at NEADS, Clark Speicher, did the research and provided the answer. At the time, Col Clark Speicher was the Deputy Commander, NEADS. He reported directly to the NEADS Commander, Col Bob Marr.
AA 77 notification time to NEADS
Moore posed this question: “AA 77 1324Z, Which FAA organization passes notification of ‘a possible track heading to DC’?” Clearly, CONR/NORAD wanted that pinned down. Speicher responded, citing , in part, his research: “I have reviewed the crew MCC log book…The MCC log reveled (sic) the following: “1st question: AA 77, 1342Z: (emphasis added) Boston FAA says another A/c is missing AA77 flight to LA lost unable to contact.” However, my notes taken directly from the MCC/T log book reflect that the time was actually 13:34 (9:34), as recorded at NEADS. Col Speicher and NEADS got the entry right, but not the time.
Further, the MCC/T log book never mentioned AA 77 at 9:24 and Speicher did not confirm to Moore a 9:24 entry concerning the tail number of AA 11 which NEADS originally conflated to be AA 77. That original conflation is what Moore was now questioning. He did not get a direct answer to his original question.
In the rush of the moment NEADS and CONR made two errors. First, Col Speicher provided an incorrect time to Col Moore which appeared to simply transpose two digits. Second, Col Moore was in contact with FAA and knew that they could not support a notification time of 9:24, as we have discussed in recent articles concerning AA 77. Moore stayed with the original time of 9:24; he was not given a true reading of the accurate 1334 (9:34) entry. FAA apparently did not force the issue.
Additional information concerning the NEADS tapes
Col Speicher provided this additional information on the NEADS review. First, he established that NEADS did review the tapes. “…one of our MCC’s and I reviewed the audio tapes to answer your questions.”
Second, he detailed the difficulty and complexity of the tape review process. “We spent six hours trying to retrieve data from the voice tapes but the system has 24 channels recording two postions each channel and four tapes total from the llth.” He further elaborated: “the system is complex…it is rather cumbersome so analyzing the information is difficult to say the least.”
In the latter part of September, 2001, NEADS brought in a technician to try and transcribe the tapes. It is his work that became the NEADS partial transcript provided to the Commission. During his work one of the tapes was thought to be accidentally erased and his task was terminated and never completed.
Additional information about NORAD preparation for the May 2003 air defense hearing
A detailed radar review was accomplished by NORAD Headquarters to assist General McKinley, General Arnold, and, specifically, Col Scott in preparation for their May 23, 2003, testimony. Graphics related to that review have been made available by NARA.
Two things are noteworthy. First the FAA notification time for AA 77 continued to be 9:24. Second, accurate paths for the Otis and Langley fighters were provided to Col Scott. He blurred them as I wrote in a previous article.
I told both Michael Bronner and Phil Shenon during interview that my personal estimate was that the NORAD Generals were victims of shoddy staff work. That remains my perspective. The Colonels let the Generals down. The Generals did not put the Colonels ‘through the hoops,’ they trusted them to get it right.