Update, August 18, 2015
An additional available photograph clearly shows that there were just four digital clocks in the PEOC on September 11, 2001. Here is a link to that photo.
The fourth clock appears to be set to NATO time, another logical possibility that I had no previously considered.
Also of note, the display, upper left, shows that the PEOC was in video-conference with four other locations.
This article updates, “9-11: Secret Service Timeline; in perspective, a most chaotic time,” written in 2011. At the conclusion of that article I wrote:
There is just one question at issue. Why did Norman Mineta testify to a precise time, [9:20 am] that was inaccurate? We may never know the answer. For anyone that has worked in an operations or command center with world-wide responsibilities there is a logical explanation. He looked at the wrong clock; Central Time.
On July 24, 2015, the National Archives (NARA) released 356 photographs concerning Vice President Cheney, to include activities in his office, in the PEOC (President’s Emergency Operations Center), and en route an undisclosed location on September 11, 2011. I asked NARA if the photos were date/time stamped. Here is the response, including a link to the entire set of photos:
All of the 9/11 images we released on Friday are available via NARA’s Flickr photostream at https://www.flickr.com/photos/usnationalarchives/sets/72157656213196901/. The photographs are from film and don’t have a camera date/time stamp. The quality of the images reflect that these are film and not digital. You are able to download these images from Flickr and enlarge or sharpen the individual images in a photo-viewing application.
That set of photos allows an update to my original assessment.
The Vice President and American Airlines Flight 77 (AA 77)
It is explicit and conclusive from the photographs released that the Vice President was in his office until shortly before AA 77 struck the Pentagon, and that the primary source account in my original article was accurate. If the Vice President was not in the PEOC, then neither was Secretary Mineta. Therefore, Secretary Mineta could not have been where he said he was at 9:20 as he testified before the 9/11 Commission.
The PEOC Clocks
One photo establishes that a set of vertical-stacked digital clocks was directly visible to PEOC participants. The details of the photo do not directly support the presence of a clock set to Central Daylight Time. From top to bottom, the three visible clocks display times of 1612, 1212 and 1012. The second clock, 1212, is faintly titled “Washington DC,” and establishes the time of that photo to be 12:12 EDT.
Therefore, the top clock is set to Zulu (GMT) time and the third clock is set to Mountain Daylight Time (NORAD). The setting of the fourth clock remains unknown. (It is conceivable there is a 5th clock in the stack).
There are two feasible, critical time zones that, in my experience, would be displayed. One is Central Standard Time. STRATCOM is located in the Central Time Zone, it was the ultimate destination for the President, and it was an important organization concerning ongoing discussions and activities concerning COOP (Continuity of Operations) and COG (Continuity of Government).
The other critical time, again in my experience, would have been Moscow time. Recall that, for the first time since the fall of the former Soviet Union, the Russians had scheduled a live-fire, air-launched cruise missile exercise. That was the most important exercise activity of the day at the national level. Among other activities, there was a national-level need for the Russians to be asked to call off the exercise.
My Assessment, Unchanged
Norman Mineta’s recall was off by one hour. The actions and activities attributed to him are consistent with the approach of United Airlines flight 93 (UA 93) to Washington D.C., not the approach of AA 77.
The national level account in the aftermath, at all levels, to include that of both Secretary Mineta and FAA Administrator, Jane Garvey, conflated and confused information about UA 93 to pertain to AA 77. That error remained unchallenged until the 9/11 Commission sorted things out.
There was no intent by national level authorities to deceive. They simply told the story that made sense to them at the time, given the information available. The fact that their story was distorted and nonsensical was never challenged by supporting staff at any level.
If anything, national level figures were biased to try and show that, somehow, they were alert and responsive. The battle unfolded too swiftly for the national level to even get itself organized, let alone react. By the time the national level did achieve some semblance of organization the only threat left with which to deal was the approach of UA 93, by then a ghost, long gone from all radar scopes, but still a track on a situation display.