I am establishing this page to document questions that I have received in some sensible manner that keeps me straight in what information I have provided. I will paraphrase each question in a non-attributable form and then provide the essential gist of my answer, but not any personal comments I make to any one correspondent. I think this new approach will be useful and informative.
December 26, 2022
A correspondent asked about information concerning United 93 and the Pittsburgh area. Pittsburgh Tower evacuated and relevant air traffic control communications were provided to the Commission. Commission tape 3007941A-s1 documents activity at the Arrival North position. Here are three relevant clips from that tape.
0944 EDT, Notification of UA 93 as a primary target.
0949 EDT Evacuation announcement.
February 14, 2014
Had an email on an unrelated topic from a practicing architect who owns his own firm. Took the opportunity to pose a 9/11 question. Here is how that went.
Me: “[redacted], a completely off the wall question. You ever hear of an outfit called Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth?
I was on the 9/11 Commission Staff and the above organization has taken exception with our work and the NIST report.”
Response: “Miles no I have not. Sounds like a fringe group though.”
June 21, 2012
I was recently asked who was the FAA’s Hijack Coordinator on 9/11, given that General Canavan, the Coordinator was TDY. Lynne Osmus was the acting Hijack Coordinator. She was on sick leave that morning but came in anyway once she learned what was happening. In her absence my recall is that the acting Coordinator was Claudio Manno. Retrospectively, I do not believe that Mano actually was aware of that that morning. Nor was the subject discussed during his interview.
According the the Osmus interview, she stated that Lee Longmire was the acting Coordinator. According to Longmire, his job was to run the FAA Operations Center and ” it was primarily his responsibility to coordinate FAA’s response to a hijacking, with ACS-1 (Canavan) working primarily with higher-level Administration officials, including the Secretary of Transportation.” It is not explicit in Longmire’s recall that he was aware he was The Hijack Coordinator.
There had been no hijacking in nearly a decade and no domestic hijacking in the memory of FAA personnel on duty that day. The role had not been exercised, nor was an actionable communication link with DoD established as events of the day revealed.
The Team 8 Team Leader, John Farmer, provided the Staff’s assesesment when Staff Statement 17 was read into the record on June 17, 2004. “On the morning of 9/11, the existing protocol was unsuited in every respect for what was about to happen. What ensued was the hurried attempt to create an improvised defense by officials who had never encountered or trained against the situation they faced.”
June 21, 2012
I received the following last month from Erik Larson concerning History Commons and its need for support. History Commons provides a useful catalog/compedium of disparate information concerning 9/11 and compiles it in chronologically. Their work is helpful in determining a start point for individual research. Moreover, Erik has saved me countless hours of work by tirelessly posting the work of the 9-11 Commission, to include my own work files. Erik continues to keep my informed of work in progress and for that I am also appreciative.
Erik and I differ on the analytic utility of the History Commons Timeline. It does not separate the wheat from the chaff; it does not winnow out spurious information. I rely on primary source information supplemented when necessary by secondary information. That approach is consistent with that of the National Security Archive which, according to its About page, “[is] a pioneer of evidence-based research and primary source documentation. . .”
Here is Erik’s broadcast email:
“Most of you receiving this email are familiar with historycommons.org fka cooperativeresearch.org; if you aren’t, I’m writing to you because your work demonstrates that you support transparency and accountability in governance, business and markets.
Historycommons.org is a unique and useful web-based tool for documenting facts that are suppressed or spun in Establishment narratives, for researching complex events and sometimes murky relationships between entities and events, and for educating the public (thus increasing transparency and facilitating accountability). The principal feature is a timeline composed of entries based on events and facts from mainstream or otherwise credible sources. These may or may not be well-known; often important details, such as might have been buried in the end notes of a government report, can be discovered by skimming or searching a timeline. Also, the significance of facts, events and relationships generally becomes clearer in the contexts provided by the entry and through association with other entries; the timelines also reveal the bigger picture. Members of the public are welcome to contribute information or edits to historycommons.org, but, unlike Wikipedia, each new entry or edit undergoes at least two levels of editorial review, to help ensure accuracy and stylistic consistency.
If you’re unfamiliar with historycommons.org, or are mainly familiar with the Complete 9/11 Timeline that it has primarily been known for, please explore the site. In the last several years, the 9/11 coverage has been improved and expanded, and the site has grown to include more than 30 timelines covering a diverse range of topics: http://www.historycommons.org/timelines.jsp Many more have been proposed: http://www.iraqtimeline.com/hctopics/index.html
I apologize for sending this mass email, and won’t send another on this topic, but, in addition to piquing your interest in historycommons.org, I wanted to alert you to the fact that the History Commons is in dire need of financial assistance. If funding does not significantly increase, the site may go offline by the end of this summer. The History Commons does not accept advertising and has never received funding from government, corporations or foundations. It has relied on the support of the grassroots, and needs to in order to remain independent. More information and donation links are here: https://hcgroups.wordpress.com/2012/05/19/fundraising-alert-2/
If you can’t offer financial support but do believe in the work the History Commons is doing, you can still help by letting others know about historycommons.org. If you’d like to contribute research, writing or editing on any timeline topic, that would be welcomed. And any feedback or ideas you have would also be appreciated.
volunteer History Commons admin, editor, contributor
The History Commons
January 29, 2012
Here is a conversation during the period January 24-27, 2012, with a correspondent who is seeking to learn more about the air defense response on 9/11, to include DoD policy and procedures at all levels and the history of air defense scrambles involving U.S. commercial flights. The net result of this extended conversation, from my perspective, is that the scramble history was documented in the compilation of NORAD forms 61, the required report by the air defense sector whenver a scramble occured. The relevant policies and procedures were documented in the checklists following by the different positions at NEADS. In the process of reaching that understanding I shared severals thought and insights. Here, I share them with all readers.
- I’m not at all sure any more on this issue [what organization holds which records]. For one, I don’t think NORTHCOM existed in 2001, so that is an intervening variable.In my estimation, all of the relevant/responsive documents were long ago gathered up by DoD and are in the mirrored set that DoD holds of all the material it provided to the Commission. So, any attempts to get at documents held by subordinate DoD agencies are not going to bear fruit. Rather, you should focus specifically on the DoD holdings and, concurrently, the NARA holdings. There are isolated specific items that will require access to Presidential libraries. Specifically, here I refer to the air threat conference tape and transcript. I, separately from your initiatives, have established “an interest” in those documents with the NARA curators of the Bush library. We can’t do anything until 2014 and then all we can do is set the stage for future historians.I say that about DoD for two very specific and very legal reasons. First, the DoD was under subpoena to provide “any and all….” Second, the DoD, and every other agency, was required to certify to the Commission that it had provided “any and all…” That last step was a formal end-game procedure by the Commission to put every agency on record as saying they had provided everything responsive, even though we not have specifically asked for a particular item.Ok, that said, let’s confine the discussion to the issues at hand which are the air defense response and the DoD knowledge of the air threat that day. Both those issues were thoroughly investigated by the Commission. Moreover, the latter was also thoroughly investigated, separately, by the Joint Inquiry. The correlation you seek between exercises and the events of 9/11 does not exist. Why? Because the threat was never defined in a formal estimate or other such document that would drive policy, procedures, the funding cycle, or any other mechanism that would have focused the FAA and the DoD on an internal attack using hijacked commercial airliners as missiles. Did various exercise scenarios, vignettes, and injects portray such a threat in non-specific terms. Certainly. But that was more the imagination of exercise directors and intelligence staffs than it was hard, actionable evidence.The evidence is conclusive that NORAD and the nation was focused outwards, not inwards, and that the nation was taken by surprise, at every level, up to and including the President. There is no evidence of any nefariousness or pre-knowledge or malicious actions or activity. It did not matter who was in charge, Bush or Gore.This was an attack against the US government bureaucracy, it was not an attack against a particular administration. Al Qaeda did not care who was in charge. The fact of the matter is that most of the strategic planning and activity took place under the Clinton administration. bin Laden knew that he had to strike in the inter-regnum, the transition from one administration to another, and he did not care whether that was to Bush or to Gore. He had to strike before the new administration got itself organized. As it was, they barely got within our decision-making cycle.This is nothing, not one whiff of evidence that leads serious, principled investigators down a Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Zelikow path of obstruction, prior knowledge, or malfeasance. There is no there, there.Listen to what Summers and Swan said in “The Eleventh Day” about conspiracies. That said, if the truth community is serious, truly serious, it needs to jettison [its toxic assets] and get on with business. Otherwise, that community is simply just wasting its time.
- A bit of background. All formal interactions and responses to the Commission flowed through legal channels. We had a primary POC in the Department of Justice who oversaw everything. As well, we also had a designated POC in the DoD OGC (Office of General Counsel). The OGC maintains a staging facility/reading room in Crystal City. All documents flowed through there to be Bates stamped (a one-up numbering system), page by page. The mirrored DOD set provided to the Commission will be under the jurisdiction of the OGC.First AF, as I recall, was Arnold’s second hat on 9/11. It was in his other hat, CONR, that he and the ANG became relevant, not through First AF, at least during the battle. As events transitioned to Operation Noble Eagle then First AF came into play. I have documented in my audio clips of interest where NEADS was flat told no, they could not use assets apart from those dedicated to the air defense mission. Off the top of my head I think that pertained to the “First, flight of 4” or “Force, flight of 4” from Langley to augment support for the return of AF One.I don’t think the NGB, an administrative headquarters, is a player in any of what you are seeking.And frankly, I’m still a bit confused as to what you are after. So, let’s take a step back and reassess. What should be out there are policies and procedures; tactics, techniques, and procedures, to include SOPs and Directives; logs and other secondary information of the day; tapes and files, such as radar, and other primary sources of the day; and back story information, such as exercises, estimates, staff studies, and so forth. We gathered up all that. Am I missing something?There are three primary sources of information of which I am immediately aware that have not been made available: the air threat conference, the CVR from UA93, and the CVR and Heads Up display from the Otis fighters. I have initiated the process to have the latter reviewed under MDR [mandatory declassification review].The one item on your list of interest to me is the file of NORAD forms 61, something I did not pull or request because there was no reason to do so. My only interest, now, is to help you understand that the air defenders did not scramble for civilian commercial airliners. The only civilian flight of interest, historically, was the Payne Stewart flight, itself non-commercial.There are two entities whose records would be nice to have, but they were routinely destroyed as part of the established document reduction program when so scheduled. Those are the records from Langley Command Post/Tower and those from Giant Killer. That said, those records would only serve to fill in a picture already painted. There would not be anything new or earth shattering in those records. [Another researcher] long ago pursued the Langley dead end. I pursued the Giant Killer dead end during my Commission work.At this stage in my own work I know the story in considerable detail. All I need is stuff that is literally on the margin, such as the E3 records from Tinker.The basic narrative for 9/11, as established by the Inquiry and the Commission, will not change. Nineteen Islamic fundamentalist terrorists hijacked four commercial aircraft and flew them to destined targets. Success rate 75%, to include near total destruction of the World Trade Center complex in the process. Airplanes and fires brought the towers down. The collateral damage destroyed WTC 7. There are intellectually dishonest people who continually attempt to say differently. They are all smart enough to know better.
- Ah Ha, now we are getting somewhere.First, the latter [scrambles]. All such responses should be documented by NORAD Forms 61. I doubt you will see any for the day of 9/11. Everyone was too busy to file them. Second, the former [policy and procedures]. What you are looking for is exactly what we requested, the SOPs for each position on the NEADS floor. Some, but perhaps not all, of those have been uploaded by History Commons. They are the checklists for each position. I printed out and archived enough of them to answer your questions.Again, the tapes for Sep 3-Sep 11 are instructive. Those tapes cover real world and exercise activity for that several day period. As you know, I spent the better part of 5 months, off and on, putting those days into perspective as to what was transpiring. For example, we know that real world weather was used for the exercise. We also know that when NEADS assumed air sovereignty for either WADS or SEADS they also assumed the real world mission.The key is that all, all, military units train as they are going to fight. That is a given. Therefore, the several exercise scenarios covered during Vigilant Guardian give you a solid feel for how NEADS was going to operate. Intersperse that with the real world activity and you get a feel for how quiet things could be on the NEADS floor when nothing was going on. It was, in some respects, exactly like a fire house, always poised, always alert, and always ready to expect the unexpected. Hence the routinized procedure for answering a call, “is that real world or exercise?”Given all that, you will find zero attention to transponding aircraft overland, in either the Forms 61 or the tapes for Sep 3-11. Why? Because NEADS assumed all such aircraft to be friendly, by definition. They had no idea of any discrepancies–NORDO, deviating, etc—unless one of the FAA Centers called them and asked for assistance. FAA was not in the habit of doing that, despite what Horden (Norden?) said. He was totally wrong in his portrayal of the air defense mission and that led [researchers] on a wild goose chase. Recall from the NEADS tapes, “get the Goddam friendlies out of my face.” Why did the surveillance technician say that? He was focused on unknowns, primary targets, search only targets.The checklists, SOPs and NORAD pubs should also give you a list of the “special” track designations. None of those pertain to transponding civilian aircraft with the exception of derelicts, such as Payne Stewart. The specials were largely focused on any and all flights from Russia, China, and Cuba, VIP flights, and the like. There are any number of examples of specials in the Sep 3-11 tapes, to include the notional rogue F-18 from Langley for which exercise shootdown authority was, briefly, transmitted to the cockpit.The ID and Surveillance technicians were constantly focused on the ADIZ. If a potential track was declared an unknown the ID Techs had 5 minutes to resolve the situation. (2 minutes, as I recall, if the track involved the Florida straits and Cuba) If they did not resolve the unknown the MCC was required to initiate a scramble. If, thereafter, the ID techs resolved the situation the scramble was called off. None of that activity involved domestic transponding traffic in any way, shape, or form, unless the traffic was a DVFR (Defense Visual Flight Rules) flight that exited the ADIZ.You will not find any correlation of NEADS activity and domestic commercial flights because there was none. On 9/11, the one time NEADS was given near accurate information they found the hijacked airline in well less than a minute and established a track. That was B32 for what turned out to be AA77. Why didn’t they find AA11? The locational information was a previous location by the time it got to the trackers. Their search box did not extend far enough South. Given a valid transponder code they found aircraft immediately, D1989, for example.
- Here is how it works. Higher headquarters issue instructions, regulations, and broad policy guidance. Lower headquarters implement via SOPs, checklists, and so forth. Policy and programs are centralized; execution is almost always decentralized. Why? Because higher headquarters have no business getting involved with the day-day business at the “pointy end of the spear,” in military slang. That is why one might get the impression that Marr and Arnold were hands off, detached. That is erroneous; they were very much hands on but only as value added, as it should be. Therefore, all tactical decisions are in the hands of those fighting the battle; in this case Nasypany and Alpha and Foxtrot flight personnel. There are excellent examples of how this works and I’ve captured some of them in my Nasypany series. For example, the surveillance chief, on his own recognizance, decided that the “exercise would just have to go on hold.” No one told him to do that and he had no need to ask permission. He knew what needed to be done. More to the point, when Nasypany recognized that the electronic exercise feed had started up he immediately barked out the necessary order and the surveillance technician carried that order out within seconds. Neither had to ask Marr; Marr did not have to ask NORAD.That is how it works in my personal experience and in my observations and study of NEADS. NEADS performed superbly, given the information they had available. The only hiccups were lack of awareness of why Langley scrambles typically proceeded as 090 for 60, and the transposition of coordinates when the Quit flight was briefly sent south on arrival in the DC area. None of that is nefarious or suspicious in any way shape or form, except to people such as [Mark]Gaffney who totally got that wrong in the “Mystery Plane.”As one listens and relistens to the surveillance channels, the ID techs, [Major] Deskins, the WD techs, one hears dedicated professionals trying to adhere to established checklists and procedures. For example, why the constant question “how many souls on board?” That is taken directly from the checklist at hand.If you listen to the Sep 3 – Sep 11 tapes you constantly hear people using and referring to checklists, just to give you a broader flavor on how that works. In fact, at one point, Capt Tiffany Shelley makes the specific point that there are two folders at her position, one for exercise and one for real world. That is how compartmented they were in working both requirements at the same time.If the truth community is seriously interested in understanding how NEADS and air defense works it needs to spend the time necessary with the several day window publicly available, the Sep 3-11 tapes. Those tapes are 24 by 7, exercise and real world.You are, I think, beginning to understand why and how the air defense happened as it did on 9/11. It was a responsible, swift, and professional reaction. The one thing it lacked was shootdown authority. As [General] Arnold testified in 2003 and answered when asked last November about what might have happened if the Langley fighters had been on site for the arrival of flight 77—-they probably would have stood by and watched, they had no authority.
- Some more insight. The FAA, ZBW specifically, moved with speed once they realized what they had. The fact that they called Otis direct served to put the Otis pilots on something close to battle stations, thus expediting the scramble when it occurred. Herndon and FAA HQ defaulted to Boston. The tapes will show that when the question of contacting the military was raised the answer was they “were going to the CARF, now.” That was, as we know, not the place to turn, but it served to give a facade of understanding that the military had been notified. John Farmer laid out in painful terms in Staff Statement 17 and in staff testimony at the June 2004 hearing how the hijack protocol was “unsuited in every respect…”People often narrowly construe that if the report, itself, doesn’t say something the Commission did not address it. That is simply wrong and ignores that fact that the body of work of the Commission includes the staff statements, hearings, and staff monographs. The latter now includes the unpublished audio monograph. I wrote about the worldwide response to that in my latest post on my website.Concerning UA175, once Pete Mulligan determined that fighters were already scrambled for AA11 he dropped the issue of further notification. That is understandable and logical.Concerning AA77, the false report of AA11 still airborne caused an immediate scramble, albeit briefly in the wrong direction. The NMCC had no knowledge to be value added and was just then getting the air threat conference call organized, without FAA.Concerning UA93. No one knew in the military about it until after the fact. By that time NEADS had opened a second SD position, Major Potter, and was already working the response problem to D1989.Concerning the NMCC, writ large, the air threat conference transcript and tape will show, as the Report mentioned I believe, that the only aircraft reported as hijacked was D1989. The NEADS tapes will show that by that time NEADS was trying to generate fighter assets from where ever they could find them–Toledo, Selfridge, Syracuse, etc, to include marshalling tanker support. That was a remarkable effort. They did not need the NMCC or anyone else to accomplish that task and they certainly did not need the hijack protocol.As John Farmer and I have written and said over and over again, the national level, including the NMCC, was irrelevant that morning. As I long ago wrote, this was a battle in a larger war on terror. Generals and Presidents fight wars, Colonels and Majors (and civilian equivalents) fight battles. The battle that morning was fought by Ben Sliney and Bob Marr, the operator and defender of the NAS, the specific system under attack.I flunked the NMCC in my report card for a very different reason than you are pursuing. I gave them failing marks for not knowing the disposition of friendly forces and, by extension, by being complicit in the foolish decision to send AF One westward. I may not have said so explicitly but I fault them for going to an air threat conference as opposed to an air event conference. There is a huge difference. The former has “SIOP overtones” and that helped steer the nation to an unneeded COOP and COG response. But no one knew that at the time. The mere fact of convening such a conference caused processes and procedures to kick in almost automatically.
September 8, 2011
A correspondent asked me about the tape of the cockpit voice recorder on flight United 93. A transcript of that tape has been in the public domain for some time. Here is the link to the transcript as uploaded to the web by History Commons on its Scribd account.
August 9, 2011
Found a document that responds to questions I’ve been asked over time about the 0843 notification time to the military about UA175
It is a Sep 20, 2001, summary, “Notifications to the Military” and appears to be page 7 of a fax to the Commission on Jan 19, 2004. My best estimate is tha it was prepared by Darlene Freeman as part of her task to pull together the FAA timeline. Thee are two entries of interest.
8:43am “New York Center asks the military liaison specialist at NY Center to get military assistance. (We believe this is still related to AAL 11 but it may be source of the NORAD press release shoing 8:43 am notification regarding UAL 175.
9:16-9:25am “NOIWON [redacted] NOIWON normally includes the military.” This time is consistent with an NSA NOIWON summary that was included in the NSA release of its CRITIC messages.
July 15, 2011
Today, a correspondent passed along a copy of a May 19, 2011, filing in United States District Court, Southern District of New York, “First memorandum of law in support of motion for entry of jugment by default against sovereign defendants.” This is the Havlish case number 1:02CV00305 transfered from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
The plaintiffs, Havlish et. al, filed against Osama bin-Laden and the Al-Qaeda/Islamic Army. More importantly, they filed against foreign state defendants, specifically the Islamic Republic of Iran, its leaders and its main institutions, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Also included is Hizbollah, an unincorporated association.
The plaintiffs are 9/11 family members: Fiona Havlish, Russa Steiner, Clara Chirchirillo, Tara Bane, Grace M. Parkinson-Godshalk, Ellen L. Sracini, and Theresann Lostrangio.
The filing draws extensively from the 9/11 Commission Report and includes expert witness statements from three members of the Commission staff: Janice L. Kephart, Dietrich l. Snell, and Dr David L. Byman, who also served on the staff of the Congressional Joint Inquiry.
Specifically, the filing “seeks entry of judgment by default against the The Islamic Republic of Iran and a number of Iranian officials, agencies and instrumentalities….based on Iran’s material support of al Qaeda and Iran’s direct support for, and sponsorship of, the most deadly act of terrorism in American history: the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.”
Plaintiffs argue that their “claims against Iran are authorized by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, as amended.”
The Havlish case dates to February 19, 2002, when it was initiated in the District Court of the District of Colombia. Now updated after the death of bin-Laden, the case has moved to a different jurisdiction.
One specific of note. The filing quotes the Commission Report as concluding, “we believe this topic [Iranian and Hizbollah complicity] requires further investigation by the U.S. Government.” Finding no further investigation, “The undersigned attorneys have [made] 22 trips abroad…conferring with key witnesses and innumrable officials, experts, and consultants. Herewith they present the evidence produced by the Havlish [italicized in original] investigation.”
The investigators found “exactly the evidence that the 9/11 Commission indicated it had not found, specifically, that Iran and Hizballah were aware of hte planning for the 9/11 attacks, and, furhter, that Iran and Hizballah were complicit in that planning.” (italicized as in original)
There is a second sealed Memorandum in which “the evidence further shows that Iran originated the general design of the 9/11 attacks and Iran provided material support to al Qaeda in connection with the recruitment and training of the 9/11 hijackers as well.”
July 7, 2011
Recently, a correspondent asked me to view and comment on a You Tube article, “Inside 9/11 – Hijacking the air defense.” I did so and here is an expanded version of my feedback.
The article’s author makes two fundamental errors common to casual researchers.
- He does not define a body of information—pre-event, event, post-event—to present his thesis in context
- He does not guard against imposing post-facto understanding and awareness of events onto the events as they occurred in real time.
Concerning the first error, it is not possible to take snapshots of 9/11 information and extrapolate them to a larger whole with meaning. I have an established frame of reference that anyone can use and adapt for his/her own work. No one that I know of has done so.
Concerning the second error, historians, researchers, and investigators must constantly guard against imposing retrospective awareness to events as they occurred. The staffs of the Congressional Joint Inquiry and the 9/11 Commission worked daily to avoid that analytical trap.
Nevertheless, the author established a thesis and built a slick presentation, with music, to try and support his position.
The Commander of the northeast sector of the US air defense (NEADS) tried successfully at least five times to obstruct or slow down the military response to the hijackings on 9/11
The author’s approach is argumentative. He considers Colonel Robert Marr guilty and then sets out to try and prove his case.
The chain of command all the way to the President was empty so the “real management” was in the hands of two people, Colonel Marr and the Mission Crew Commander, Major Kevin Nasypany.
That perspective is the same as mine, but for a very different reason. Several months ago I described the events of the morning as a battle in a larger war on terror. I stated that Presidents and Generals fight wars, battles are fought at lower echelons. In this case the attack was against the National Airspace System and the battle was fought by the defender of that system in the Northeast, Colonel Marr, and the operator of the system, Ben Sliney, the National Operations Manager. No one else in either chain of command had the time or the resources to engage. The battle was over before the national level could get itself organized and the “real management” was, in fact, in the hands of Marr and Sliney.
Having established that Marr was responsible the author then stated the charges against him. There were five.
- Marr delayed the Otis takeoff by 3-4 minutes
- Marr declined to scramble Langley at 9:09
- Marr order the Supervisor of Flying (SOF) at Langley airborne leaving the SOF position vacant (parenthetically he stated that the Langley scramble has never been explained)
- Marr did not convey the Vice President’s shootdown order to the cockpit
- Marr delayed the takeoff of the Syracuse fighters so that they could, unnecessarily, be fully armed
Here are the facts, in context of the total body of information available to the 9/11 Commission and in consideration of Marr’s action in real time.
The scramble sequence was straightforward and efficient. NEADS logged the notification time as 8:40, the time they received the initial set of coordinates from Boston Center. The order to battle stations came two minutes later, 8:42, followed by the scramble order at 8:46. The fighters were airborne at 8:52; elapsed time twelve minutes. That is a defensible response from any military perspective. (See my initial article on the battle from Major Nasypany’s perspective for details and links to primary source audio files.)
At 9:09, when Nasypany recommended a scramble, the situation was not clear. The Langley fighters were NEADS last remaining air defense assets. Two planes had been reported as hijacked to them and two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center. NEADS had no target and was still futilely looking for AA 11. Given the uncertainty, NEADS attention turned to continuity of operations which involved two distinct actions.
First, they had to arrange tanker support for an extended period. They dedicated the already airborne tanker, Maine 85, to the Otis fighters. They coordinated the use of two more airborne tankers, Team 23 and Team 24, to support Langley when scrambled.
Second, they had to generate additional fighter assets from wherever they could find them. The first order of business was to turn around the six fighters from Otis that took off on training flights after the air defense fighters were airborne. The second order of business was to see what else they could generate from Langley, they knew there were four planes there and an unknown number of pilots available.
The fact that Marr took the time to conserve assets while arranging tanker support and trying to find additional assets is defensible from any military perspective.
The Langley Supervisor of Flying
The call asking how many planes and pilots Langley had did not come from Colonel Marr as the author stated. It came from Major Anderson to Captain Borgstrom, the SOF, the only other pilot available. He was ordered to suit up. Borgstrom did not leave the SOF desk vacant. He did what the military knows to do intuitively; he turned the desk over to the next ranking person, a senior noncommissioned officer with experience. That person manned the SOF desk.
But it did not matter. Control of the Langley fighters was passed to Norfolk TRACON before they were airborne. The Langley scramble was explained in the Commission Report, as follows:
…Third, the lead pilot and local FAA controller incorrectly assumed the flight plan instruction to go “090 for 60” superseded the original scramble order.” (I expanded on that event in an article some months ago)
NEADS ordering the Langley SOF aloft is defensible from any military perspective.
The Shootdown Order
NEADS received that order at 10:31 long after the battle was over. There was residual false reporting concerning UA 93, but nothing actionable. It was a time of uncertainty.
We know from the Vigilant Guardian 01 tapes that NEADS took shootdown authority seriously. In my articles about Vigilant Guardian I discussed such authority exercised on Sep 10, the day before, concerning a rogue F-18. NEADS did, notionally, pass shootdown authority to the cockpit but took it back immediately when the air defense pilot “reported” that he was over a populated area.
It was prudent and proper for Colonel Marr on 9/11 to withhold that authority until a target could be identified. Nevertheless, within one-half hour, Marr did pass that authority to the cockpit after DEFCON 3 was declared.
The Syracuse fighters
This is a superfluous charge. By that time NEADS was generating fighter assets from multiple locations. Further, the Andrews fighters were joining the Langley fighters over the nation’s capital.
In the broad scheme of things, in real time, it was prudent and proper for Marr to direct that the Syracuse fighters take the time to get fully armed. They were not immediately needed.
The author failed to make his case with any of his five arguments. The only case that is at all problematic is the decision to hold the Langley fighters at battle stations at 9:09. Yes, retrospectively and with the 100% certainty of hindsight, we can wish that Marr had scrambled the fighters. But in the light of the situational awareness at NEADS, in FAA, and at the national level, the conservation of assets was the proper decision at the time.
The author concluded by saying that his thesis could be false but then immediately stated his real purpose: we “need a new public investigation of 9/11.” His thesis and argument are false and do not provide the support he intended. No new public investigation is necessary.
May 30, 2011
I recently attended my 50th class reunion at the Colorado School of Mines and was able to tour the National Earthquake Center. I took the opportunity to, separately, pose the question about the seismic crash time for UA 93 to staff at the Center. Here is the response.
The response from staff at the Earthquake Center is the same as the response I got from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources while the 9/11 Commission was in existence. In that case and this one professional organizations have opted not to get involved and have thrown the question back to Won-Young Kim.
December 6, 2010
Issue: A Correspondent, referring to my own work files concerning UA 93, asked how a radar time [84th RADES] of just before 10:03 at an altitude of 6100 feet could become a crash time of 10:03.
Answer: First, rounding. UA 93 was flown into the ground; a descent of a mile would only take a few seconds. Second, the UA 93 flight data recorder (FDR) is the definitive source.
I advised the correspondent that the FDR must be considered the primary source for any assessment of the flight of UA 93 and its demise.
August 16, 2010
Issue: A correspondent asked me to comment on the occasional references to exercises on the NEADS tapes. Specifically, he asked me to consider the approximate 9:30 request by the Mission Crew Commander (MCC), Major Nasypany, to cut the simulation switches. The question was: did the exercise activity at NEADS hinder the NEADS, and by extension, NORAD mission that day?
Answer. No, exercise activity did not hinder the NEADS/NORAD mission.
The relevant audio, with context, can be heard at this clip from Channel 2, DRM1, DAT 2, the MCC position. 0930 SIM switches off Clearly, the context is tanker support for air defense fighters not targets or a search for targets.
Situation. NEADS had just scrambled its last two air defense fighters, Quit 25 and Quit 26 from Langley. Immediately, as with the Otis fighters, the NEADS task was to arrange for tanker support for continuity of operations. Anyone who has listened to the totality of the NEADS tapes understands that a good portion of the activity that morning had to do with locating and vectoring tankers to support air defense operations.
At no time did exercise activity hinder real world operations concerning finding and locating targets. At the time in question NEADS, according to Major Nasypany as recorded on Channel 2, was aware of three potential hijacked planes, UA 175, whatever plane struck the World Trade Center north tower, and the apparently reborn AA 11, and no others. Specifically, NEADS did not yet know about AA 77, UA 93, and D 1989
Apart from Combat Air Patrol activity over New York City and Washington D.C., NEADS was cued to just three targets during the battle; AA 11, a fast moving unknown (AA 77), and D 1989. It quickly found and tracked the latter two. Other 9-11 researchers have done considerable work with the NEADS tapes concerning the hunt for AA 11. I will link to that work at a later date.
Additional suggested reading. Sometime ago, I put the whole issue of training, exercises, and war games in perspective and have added to that over the months. (Link here) Separately, I agree with Scott (Scott Trilogy) that the exercises actually facilitated not hindered the NORAD response. Finally, I put the whole NORAD issue in perspective in an in-depth article, “NORAD, should it and could it have done more.”
I advised my correspondent that taking snippets of information concerning 9-11 or snapshots of the Commission’s work and attempting to extrapolate to a larger whole led to false assumptions and conclusions.
July 29, 2010
Question: A correspondent advised that the issue of past NORAD exercises and the inclusion of hijack scenarios had again surfaced on the web. He asked if I had any additional insight.
Answer: I responded that I had moved beyond the exercise issue, but would put it back on my plate, but on the back burner. However, it may be useful for all readers to summarize my position for the record.
First: The innovation and imagination embedded into exercise injects and sub-scenarios did not translate into an intelligence assessment. There was no change in the operational imperative; there was no paradigm shift.
Second: Absent a defined threat, the continental United States air defense mission was headed for extinction. Only because the air national guard carved out a niche business for itself was there any capability at all on 9-11; just 14 aircraft at seven locations, only four available to NEADS that morning.
Third: The larger purpose of the exercises themselves had to do with command and control. Those who parse past exercises looking for something different miss that essential point.
Fourth: To respond to a threat NEADS required cueing and a target. Absent that essential information there could be no effective air defense response. NEADS identified just two targets that morning based on cueing: one B32 [AA 77] briefly before it faded; the other B89 (D 1989) which it forward told (electronically transmitted) to NORAD, which in turn reported it as the only plane it knew about on the NMCC-convened Air Threat Conference.
FAA was not on that conference. The overall past exercise objective of effective command and control had not been achieved.
July 13, 2010
Question: What insight do I have into General Arnold’s statement to Leslie Filson, as contained in her notes, that beginning with Delta 1989 CONR accumulated a list of 21 “potential hijacks?” Were those events significant and, if so, what documents would contain relevant information?
Answer: I don’t recall Arnold’s list, but caution that Arnold’s agenda with Filson was to support her narrative for Air War over America. FAA’s own list was about one-half that of Arnold’s, which is an indicator of what FAA thought was possibly significant. I don’t recall anything memorable from the several NORAD, CONR, and NEADS logs I reviewed, with one exception. The one memorable entry was a possible threat to Cheyenne Mountain that caused NORAD to close its blast doors for the first time in history. It is likely that Arnold’s list has several flights from overseas and if any of his list of 21 was significant it would show up in the MCC/T logs at NEADS, WADS, SEADS, and their Alaskan counterpart.
Issue: To support a correspondent I cut and pasted two audio clips from the tape “5 DCC 1923 Ops Phone #5128 Position 28 1415-1515 UTC, Herndon Center.
Information: One clip, 101715 Fighter Support AF One, pertained to the launch of Air Force One and a concurrent request for fighter escort from Andrews AFB. That two-minute conversation began at 10:16. The second clip, 103434 ATSC and TACNET, pertained to a question from the Air Traffic Services Cell at Herndon as to whether or not NORAD or the NMCC was on the FAA net. Neither was and the Services Cell said they would work to make that happen. That conversation began at 10:34:34.
July 4, 2010
Erik Larson, who has done persistent and diligent work in making the files of the 9-11 Commission available, provided an update to researchers. The GSA files are from the paper files of the Commission as stored at the GSA-provided office. Those files will ultimately be supplemented by the electronic files of the Commission. The Commission maintained two servers; both have been “mirrored” by NARA and NARA is working on how best to make those files available.
The T8 files attributed to me are analyst work files that I printed off as desk work files and then preserved during the archival process. Files marked “DH” and “DM” are work files of Dana Hyde and Dan Marcus, respectively.
Here is Erik’s update.
- DH B4- Farmer Memo re False Statements Fdr- Entire Contents- Memos and Drafts.pdf
- DM B8 Team 8 Fdr- 6/7/04 Memo from Zelikow and Farmer to 9/11 Commissioners.pdf
- GSA Files B115 RDOD03012832 Fdr- Entire Contents- 2003-04-29 Intvw- Wassel Joseph.pdf
- GSA Files B32 A RDOD 030050022 Fdr- Entire Contents- Mission Data Logs 803.pdf
- GSA Files B32 A RDOD 030050023 Fdr- Entire Contents- 2001-10-25 Intvw- Borgstrom Craig.pdf
- GSA Files B32 A RDOD 030050025 Fdr- Entire Contents- Mission Data Logs 805.pdf
- GSA Files B44 RFAA 03007801 Fdr- Entire Contents- FAA Report Aircraft Accident AAL 11- Boston ZBW.pdf
- GSA Files B48 RFAA 03007881X Fdr- Entire Contents- FAA Report Aircraft Accident AAL 77- Washington ZDC.pdf
- GSA Files B48 RFAA 03007881Z Fdr- Entire Contents- FAA Report Aircraft Accident UAL 175- NY ARTCC.pdf
- GSA Files B49 RFAA 03007887 Fdr- Entire Contents- FAA Report Aircraft Accident AAL 77- Washington DCA.pdf
- GSA Files B50 RFAA 03007898 Fdr- Entire Contents- FAA Report Aircraft Accident AAL 11 NY ARTCC ZNY.pdf
- GSA Files B54 RFAA 03007909 Fdr- Entire Contents- FAA Report Aircraft Accident AAL 77- Indianapolis ZID.pdf
- GSA Files B55 RFAA 03007910BB Fdr- Entire Contents- FAA Report Aircraft Accident UAL 93- Various.pdf
- T8 B10 McGuire AFB T Sgt Tollack James Fdr- Entire Contents- Intvw Notes and Qs 826.pdf
- T8 B10 NEADS T Sgt Watson Shelley Fdr- Entire Contents- 2004-01-20 MFR 829.pdf
- T8 B10 Otis T Sgt Kelly Michael Fdr- Entire Contents- 2003-10-14 MFR 828.pdf
- T8 B7 Kara Docs (1) JCS Fdr- 20 WN- Total in Fdr 823.pdf
- T8 B7 Kara Docs (1) JCS Fdr- Briefing Slides- Joint Staff and NMCC Orientation 825.pdf
- T8 B7 Kara Docs (1) JCS Fdr- Notes- Emails 824.pdf
- T8 B8 Kara Docs (2) Andrews AFB Fdr- Entire Contents- Email- 5 WN- Briefing Slides- Notes.pdf
- T8 B8 Kara Docs (3) Timelines Fdr- 10 WN- Total in Fdr.pdf
- T8 B8 Kara Docs (3) Timelines Fdr- 1st Fighter Wing History Excerpt- Jul-Dec 01- w Logs.pdf
- T8 B8 Kara Docs (3) Timelines Fdr- FAA SSI- Comm re 911 Hijacks 817.pdf
- T8 B8 Kara Docs (3) Timelines Fdr- Misc- Jim Slate C-130 Note- Phone List- Chronology 815.pdf
- T8 B8 Kara Docs (3) Timelines Fdr- NORAD Exercises Hijack Summary- w Kara Notes (see T8 B20 NEADS Trip 2 of 3 Fdr).pdf
- T8 B8 Kara-Hyde Work Files (4) DOD Fdr- 5 WN- Total in Fdr.pdf
- T8 B8 Kara-Hyde Work Files (4) DOD Fdr- Emails- Notes- Total in Fdr 821.pdf
- T8 B8 Kara-Hyde Work Files (4) DOD Fdr- Transcript- NEADS DRM 1 DAT 2 Ch 7 ID OP.pdf
- T8 B9 DOD Docs on ROE Fdr- Entire Contents (minus tabs)- 12 WN- Memos- Papers- Briefing Slides.pdf”
The History Commons
June 28, 2010
Question. Since the FOIA release of Secret Service documents correspondents have asked me about the Secret Service timeline and specifically about the shootdown authority issue.
I have nothing to add to the shootdown issue as discussed in the Commission Report and I defer to me team mates who worked the issue.
The release of the Secret Service documents reinforces my assessment that the national level did not begin to get itself immediately organized after UA 175 struck the World Trade Center south tower. Previously, I established that the FAA tactical net was activated at 9:20, followed by the 9:25 activation of the SVTS by the White House and the concurrent establishment of a Significant Event Conference by the NMCC. The Secret Service documents shows their initial efforts to organize began about 9:18.
The Role of the Secret Service
The role of the Secret Service is to protect the President and the Vice President (and others). The role of the President and the Vice President is to protect the nation. Those two roles became mutually exclusive the morning of 9-11 and the Vice President was not allowed to use the White House Situation Room as a command post and the President was not allowed to return to the nation’s capital. Concerning its protection role the Service was informed of three threat aircraft, according to the documents released.
Sometime during the timeframe 9:18-9:25 the Service learned of the false report of the rebirth of AA 11. Subsequently, and as a result of FAA reporting, the Service learned of the fast moving threat (AA 77) to the White House and to the approach of UA 93 from over Pennsylvania. Those are the only three planes/reports to which Van Steenbergen and Garabito can refer during their conversations about getting Air Force One airborne.
According to Van Steenbergen he learned what he knew from Garabito; Van Steenbergen never talked to the 10th floor (FAA WOC), according to the MFR of his interview. Van Steenbergen, therefore, was getting FAA information second hand from Garabito. None of that information was available immediately after UA 175 impacted, and the very real threat information about AA 77 and UA 93 was not known until after 9:33.
In sum, the Secret Service documents add to our knowledge about the national level attempts to gain situational awareness and are consistent with the Commission Report. They do not support a presence of either the Vice President or Norman Mineta in the PEOC at 9:20 receiving operational information on which to make decisions.
(Following added June 21, 2010)
Question. I was asked to comment on what I knew about the cockpit voice recorders (CVR) for AA 77 and UA 93.
Answer. The CVR for AA 77 was recovered; it was not exploitable. The NTSB provided a report to the Commission which explained the damage to the recorder.
The CVR for UA 93 was recovered and was exploitable. Members of several Commission teams, including me, participated in an extended session at NTSB to listen to the recording from UA 93. We were aided by NTSB technical staff and a fluent, native-language interpreter. The staff’s work was iterative; we parsed each segment of the tape until we reached agreement on the content. My recall is that it was inconclusive as to whether or not the passengers breached the cockpit.
Question. I have written that the 8:43 notification time re: Flight 175 was never adequately explained in documents or interviews. A correspondent pointed out that the FAA document “Chrolonology of September 11 Attacks and Subsequent Events through October 24, 2001” contains the 8:43 time. The writer also pointed out that Darlene Freeman pegged the time to an internal notification between ZNY and their own military liaison. Might the source of the time be internal FAA documents?
Answer. Yes. What we don’t know is how that time got adopted by NORAD. I further believe, without proof, that a discussion of the hijack time for UA 175 figured into the discussion and the error. I recall one NORAD person telling us that the point was moot since the Otis fighters had already been scrambled in response to AA 11.
Question. Did I ever become clear as to why FAA’s primary net was delayed, ineffectual, and eventually closed down?
Answer. The net was not necessarily delayed. It was the first national level response mechanism activated that morning, five minutes ahead of the SVTS activation and a few more minutes, yet, ahead of the NMCC’s significant event conference call activation.
The primary net never became operational, according to both Major Chambers at the NMCC and the NCO he tasked to listen after he heard nothing being communicated. At the FAA end, the primary net recorder, during interview, could not identify the person who sat at the primary net position at the FAA’s Washington Operations Center.
Audio files from Herndon Center reveal that the first external person to call the WOC, Jeff Bauer from the FBI’s SIOC, was linked into the FAA’s tactical net.
Question. Was “Air War over America” commissioned by the Air National Guard or the USAF?
Answer. I defer to the author, Leslie Filson, for a definitive answer. My recall is that it was commissioned by CONR and, therefore, an Air National Guard publication. My experience, however, tells me that at a minimum the Air Staff was briefed. I recall seeing such a briefing among the Commission’s paper files.
Question. Were there any non-alert bases that could have/should have responded on the day in a time and manner that might have been useful in terms of the four hijacked aircraft?
Answer. No. The Andrews response time is indicative of the amount of time it took a unit/base without the tactics, techniques and procedures in place to respond to the air defense mission. The one possible location was Atlantic City. However, when scrambled later that morning by NEADS (order issued by Powell and can be heard on the NEADS tapes) it still took Atlantic City an extended period to actually take off.
Question. The ZBW notification time for Delta 1989 to NEADS is 9:41; yet Commission work papers cite a time of 9:39. Which is correct?
Answer. The report time should be accepted; the citations were validated and verified by a team of reviewers. The Commission work papers likely rely on an extrapolation of the Alderson transcripts. The Alderson transcripts are not accurate, time-wise.
Question. Do I have any knowledge of the claims made by Lt. Anthony Kuczinski who flew an E-3 Sentry which accompanied two F-16s and who claims he was given direct orders to shoot down UA 93 prior to its crash?
Answer. I do not recall these claims. As a first order of business I used the 84th RADES radar files to search the skies over Pennsylvania before, during, and after UA 93 was in the area. There is nothing in radar, primary-only, or beacon (civilian or military) that tracks anything of interest in the area, other than Gofer 06 and the Falcon jet that was vectored to geospatially locate the crash site.
I recall that later in the morning there were likely such aircraft in the area. I speculate that Kuczinski compressed time, as did many people in their recall of events of the morning.
(Following added prior to June 21, 2010)
Question. When was shootdown or “weapons free” authority first issued and by whom? Reference was made to Nelson Garabito, Secret Service and Terry Van Steenburgen, FAA.
Comment. This question, with slight variance, has come from two different correspondents.
Answer. Refer to the Commission Staff Statement (#17) of the last air defense hearing held at NTSB. At that hearing the Staff played the audio file of the order being received on a chat log at NEADS. Concerning Garabito and Van Steenburgen, be aware that they both compressed time in their recall. I address that issue in an in-depth article published June 1. Concerning any Vice Presidential involvement I defer to my colleagues who actually worked that issue.
Question. The audio of my reference to the Powell-Cooper exchange at 8:38–“Is this real word or exercise?” and “…not an exercise, not a test,” is not available on NEADS files in the public domain. Where can it be found?
Answer. That exchange was recorded at both ends. See the ZBW tape for position 160, TMU MOS. I do not know why some FOIA releases do not include that NEADS file. Clearly, Michael Bronner had the file for use in his article in Vanity Fair.
Question. Do I have any sources for what was going on in Tucson in the late 1990’s concerning Hani Hanjour.
Answer. I do not, I did not work that issue.
Question. Isn’t the ZID radar issue a data processing issue, not a radar coverage issue as stated in the Commission Report?
Comment. I believe this to be a semantics issue.
Answer. We did work the sort box issue as far as we could in the time we hand. I agree it is primarily a data processing issue. However, our issue was what was being seen at the scope level. Whatever the processing limitations, the relevant position scopes did not display the primary track of AA 77 after the transponder was turned off.
Question. (A comment, actually, referring to an audio book) John Farmer’s book, Ground Truth, misused the term Mode 3 when what was meant was Mode C. “…it was Mode C not Mode 3 and the error was like fingernails on the chalkboard…extremely sloppy job of editing.”
Comment. For the record, I was a pre-publication reader of Farmer’s book.
Answer. There is a difference between Mode C and Mode 3. A quick Google search will provide the specificity for anyone interested. The terminology used and spoken in the audio version of the book was from transcripts of the NEADS audio files. What was spoken/written is exactly as it was spoken by NEADS personnel. They used the term Mode 3.