Chaos Theory: 9-11; NOIWON, a linear process you may not know about

In a previous article I said: “At the most crucial time national level entities were pulling standard operating procedures off the shelf and attempting to jump start antiquated and outmoded linear processes.”  That list of processes includes the FAA’s primary net, the NMCC’s significant event conference/air threat conference call, Richard Clarke’s secure video teleconference (hereafter SVTS), and something we have not previously discussed, NOIWON.

This is the first in a series of three articles that deal with  national level processes that worked but were either irrelevant or non-productive, or both on 9-11.  In the next two articles we will adress SVTS and a thing called CRITIC.


Sometime in the 9:20 timeframe on 9-11 the Central Intelligence Agency initiated a NOIWON conference call. That simple act accomplished what the NMCC’s Significant Event Conference and the FAA’s Primary Net could not do, it linked DoD and FAA together in a secure multi-agency conference.

The NOIWON (National Operational Intelligence Watch Officer’s Network) has been around for a long time. It is a hotline that allows the several WAOC (Washington Area Operations Centers) 24-hour alert centers to informally discuss things that go bump in the night. Among its subscribers on 9-11 were the CIA, NSA, DIA, State Department, NMCC, FAA, and the White House Situation Room (WHSR). I knew from previous experience as a user of the NOIWON that it was not a recorded line. Nevertheless, the Commission Staff persistently asked agencies, specifically DoD, if the line was recorded that day. The ultimate answer was that it was not.

Any node on the network could activate the line at any time. Typically it was used to quickly share information and ask questions about untoward events. It was, primarily, an intelligence/information sharing line not an operational line. Despite its fancy sounding name and despite the fact it linked multiple locations together it did not play a major role on 9-11.

Twice Activated

We know from secondary source information that the NOIWON hotline was at least twice used on the morning on 9-11. A Log from the FAA’s Intelligence Watch shows that the line was activated by the CIA sometime after 9:16 and before 9:25. According to interviews with concerned FAA personnel CIA was asking what was going on, the line was left open, and subsequent conversations consisted mostly of people asking questions; what little information was exchanged was second hand. None of the primary source information from NEADS or the FAA’s Herndon Center was directly fed into the NOIWON conference.

NSA initiated a second NOIWON conference at 10:20.  We will speak to that conference in a subsequent article on CRITICS.

NOIWON treated seriously by the NMCC

The NMCC considered the NOIWON link a primary source of information and devoted a general officer solely to the line. Brig Gen Seipe, himself a trained DDO, was present that day attending the same closed door promotion board meeting as did the designated DDO, BG Winfield. In fact the NMCC had four trained DDO’s available for duty that morning; Winfield, Seipe, Navy Capt Leidig (the ADDO), and Army Colonel Susan Kuehl, the supervisor of day-day operations at the NMCC.

The NOIWON line rang in the DDO’s office and later after Winfield relieved Leidig he always had line-of-sight contact with Seipe.

NOIWON not recognized by FAA as a secure line of communication

By contrast, the FAA’s node was in the Intelligence Watch several floors below the Washington Operations Center and there was no direct secure communication link even within FAA headquarters. The Watch did maintain a small secure room off of the Operations Center but that capability was not immediately activated.  The NOIWON conference was never a factor in FAA’s attempt to gain operational contact with FAA DoD (corrected Oct 22, 2009).

Chaos not managed

We have consistently shown that linear processes, the default government solution across the board that morning, were ineffective if not counter-productive.  The government’s habitual reference to checklists, SOPs, and established protocols was not just a ‘failure of imagination’ it was a failure of performance.  No one at any level solved the ‘strange attractor’ equation and linked Herdon Command Center and NEADS together to fight the battle.

NOIWON was one status quo linear process available to share information.  It was not value added to the battle fought by  Colonel Bob Marr at NEADS and Ben Sliney at the Herndon Command Center.

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