9/11 Commission Report
Thomas H. Kean, CHAIR
Thomas Kean, chair, is
former governor of New Jersey (1982-1990) and, since 1990, the president
of Drew University. Kean also served for ten years in the New Jersey
Assembly, rising to the positions of majority leader, minority leader,
Lee H. Hamilton, VICE CHAIR
Lee Hamilton, vice chair,
is president and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for
Scholars. Prior to becoming director of the Woodrow Wilson Center in
1999, Hamilton served for 34 years in Congress representing Indiana's
Ninth District. During his tenure, he served as chairman and ranking
member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs (now the Committee on
International Relations), chaired the Subcommittee on Europe and the
Middle East from the early 1970s until 1993, the Permanent Select
Committee on Intelligence, and the Select Committee to Investigate
Covert Arms Transactions with Iran... Since leaving the House, Mr.
Hamilton has served as a commissioner on the influential United States
Commission on National Security in the 21st Century (the
He is currently a member of the
President's Homeland Security Advisory Council.
Richard Ben-Veniste -
Richard Ben-Veniste is a partner in the Washington law firm of Mayer,
Brown, Rowe & Maw. He served as assistant U.S. attorney, Southern
District New York, from 1968 to 1973, which included service as chief of
the Special Prosecution Section from 1971 to 1973. Mr. Ben-Veniste was
chief of the Watergate Task Force of the Watergate Special Prosecutor's
Office from 1973 to 1975 and Special Outside Counsel Senate Committee on
Government Operations from 1976 to 1977. From May 1995 to June 1996, Mr.
Ben-Veniste was chief counsel (minority) of the Senate Whitewater
Mr. Ben-Veniste is the co-author of Stonewall: The Real Story of the
[D] - Bob Kerrey is President
of New School University in New York City. For twelve years prior to
becoming President of New School University, Bob Kerrey represented the
State of Nebraska in the United States Senate. Before that he served as
Nebraska's Governor for four years.
Educated in pharmacy at the University of Nebraska, Bob Kerrey served
three years in the United States Navy.
Fred F. Fielding - Fred
Fielding is senior partner and head of Wiley, Rein, & Fielding's
Government Affairs, Business & Finance, Litigation and Crisis
Management/White Collar Crime Practices. From 1981-1986, he served as
Counsel to the President of the United States, as deputy counsel from
1972-1974 and as Associate Counsel from 1970-1972. He also served as
clearance counsel during the Bush-Cheney Presidential Transition. In
addition to his public service as White House counsel, Fielding has
served as the U.S.-designated arbitrator at the Tribunal on the U.S.-U.K.
Air Treaty Dispute (1989-1994), as a member of the president's
Commission on Federal Ethics Law Reform (1989) and as a member of the
secretary of transportation's Task Force on Aviation Disasters,
(1997-1998), as well as numerous other commissions.
John F. Lehman - John
Lehman is chairman of J.F. Lehman & Company, a private equity investment
firm. He is also chairman of OAO Technology Solutions, director of Ball
Corporation, Insurance Services Office, SDI Inc., Elgar Inc., and Racal
Instruments, Inc., and a member of the Advisory Board of Paribas
Affaires Industrielles. Lehman was formerly an investment banker with
Paine Webber Inc. He was president of Abington Corporation between 1977
and 1981. He served 25 years in the naval reserve.
Lehman was appointed Secretary
of the Navy by President Reagan in 1981 and served until 1987.
During his tenure as Secretary of the Navy, Lehman was responsible for
building a 600 ship Navy, establishing a strategy of maritime supremacy,
and reforming ship and aircraft procurement.
He has served as staff member to
Henry Kissinger on the National Security Council, as delegate to
the Force Reductions Negotiations in Vienna and as deputy director of
the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.
Jamie S. Gorelick [D] - Jamie
Gorelick is a partner at Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale & Dorr . Prior
to joining Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale & Dorr in July 2003, Gorelick
was vice chair of Fannie Mae... Prior to joining Fannie Mae in May 1997,
Gorelick was deputy attorney general of the United States, a position
she assumed in March 1994. From May 1993 until she joined the Justice
Department, Gorelick served as
general counsel of the Department of Defense. From 1979 to 1980
she was assistant to the secretary and counselor to the deputy secretary
of energy. In the private sector...Gorelick
was a litigator in Washington, D.C.,
representing major U.S.
companies on a broad range of legal and business matters. She
served as president of the District of Columbia Bar from 1992 to 1993.
Gorelick is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. She
also serves on several boards, including the Fannie Mae Foundation,
United Technologies Corporation, Schlumberger, Limited, The John D. and
Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Harvard College Board of
Overseers, America's Promise, the Washington Legal Clinic for the
Homeless, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Local
Initiatives Support Corporation, and The National Park Foundation.
She is also a member of the
Council on Foreign Relations and the American Law Institute.
Gorelick co-chaired, with Senator Sam Nunn, the Advisory Committee of
the President's Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection, and
currently serves on the Central
Intelligence Agency's National Security Advisory Panel as well as
the President's Review of
Timothy J. Roemer - Tim
Roemer is president of the Center for National Policy (CNP) and a
distinguished scholar at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University,
a non-profit research and educational institution dedicated to improving
public policy outcomes... From 1991-2003, Roemer represented the Third
District of Indiana in the U.S. House of Representatives, where
he served on the Permanent
Select Committee on Intelligence, the Committee on Education and
the Workforce and the Committee on Science. Before running for Congress,
he served on the staffs of John Brademas of Indiana (1978-1979) and
Senator Dennis DeConcini of Arizona (1985-1989)...
He was appointed to the
Intelligence Committee's Task Force on Homeland Security and Terrorism
and served on the bipartisan Joint Inquiry which issued a report on the
terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. He was the key author of the
legislation in the House of Representatives to establish the National
Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.
Slade Gorton [R] - Slade Gorton
is of counsel at Preston Gates & Ellis LLP. Prior to joining the firm,
he represented Washington State in the United States Senate for 18
years, from 1982-2000. While in the Senate, Gorton served on the
Appropriations, Budget, Commerce, Science and Transportation, and Energy
and Natural Resources Committees. He served as chairman of the Interior
Appropriations Subcommittee (1995-2001), the Commerce Subcommittees on
Consumer Affairs (1995-99), and Aviation (1999-2000). He was also a
member of the Republican leadership as counsel to the Majority Leader
(1996-2000). Gorton began his political career in 1958 as a Washington
state representative; he went on to serve as State House majority
leader. In 1968, he was elected attorney general of Washington state,
where he argued 14 cases before the Supreme Court. Gorton also served on
the president's consumer Advisory Council (1975-77) and on the
Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission (1969-1981).
2002 - Appointment of Slade Gorton angers
relatives of Sept. 11 victims because of his close ties to Boeing Co.
and several major airlines)
James R. Thompson - James
Thompson, Illinois' longest-serving governor (1977-1991), is chairman of
the law firm of Winston & Strawn, headquartered in Chicago... In 1971,
he became U.S. Attorney for the Northern District, where he established
a solid reputation for prosecuting corrupt public officials... Thompson
is also a director of FMC Corporation, FMC Technologies, Inc., the
Chicago Board of Trade, Hollinger International (publisher of the
Chicago Sun-Times), Prime Retail Inc., Prime Group Realty Trust,
Navigant Consulting Group, Public Review Board HEREIU, Japan Society
(New York), and MAXIMUS, Inc.
COMMISSION STAFF (Partial list)
Philip D. Zelikow, Executive Director
[R] - Philip Zelikow is the executive director of the National
Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, better known as
the "9/11 Commission."..
serving in government with the Navy, the State Department, and the
National Security Council... He was a
member of the President's
Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and served as executive
director of the National Commission on Federal Election Reform, chaired
by former Presidents Carter and Ford, as well as the executive director
of the Markle Foundation Task Force on National Security in the
Information Age. Zelikow's books
include The Kennedy Tapes (with Ernest May),
Germany Unified and Europe
Transformed (with Condoleezza Rice), and the rewritten Essence of
Decision (with Graham Allison). Zelikow has also been the director of
the Aspen Strategy Group, a policy program of the Aspen Institute.
Chris Kojm, Deputy Executive Director
- Christopher Kojm served from 1998 until February, 2003 as
Deputy Assistant Secretary for
Intelligence Policy and Coordination in the State Department's Bureau of
Intelligence and Research. He served previously in the Congress
on the staff of the House International Relations Committee, under
Ranking Member Lee Hamilton as Deputy Director of the Democratic staff
(1997-98), as Coordinator for Regional Issues (1993-1997) and under
Chairman Hamilton on the Europe and Middle East subcommittee staff
Release of 9/11 Commission Report
The Hon. Thomas H. Kean and the Hon. Lee H. Hamilton
July 22, 2004
Good morning. Today, we present this
Report and these recommendations to the President of the United States,
the United States Congress, and the American people.
represents the unanimous
conclusion of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon
the United States.
On September 11, 2001, 19 men armed with knives, box-cutters, mace and
pepper spray penetrated the defenses of the most powerful nation in the
world. They inflicted unbearable trauma on our people, and turned
the international order upside down.
We ask each of you to remember how you
felt that day—the grief, the enormous sense of loss. We also came
together that day as a nation—young and old, rich and poor, Republicans
and Democrats. We all had a deep sense of hurt. We also had a deep sense
of purpose. We knew what we had to do, as a nation, to respond. And we
But on that September day we were
unprepared. We did not grasp the magnitude of a threat that had been
gathering over time. As we detail in our report, this was a failure of
policy, management, capability, and – above all – a failure of
We recognize that we have the benefit of
hindsight. And, since the plotters were flexible and resourceful, we
cannot know whether any single step or series of steps would have
defeated them. What we can say with confidence is that none of the
measures adopted by the U.S. government before 9/11 disturbed or even
delayed the progress of the al Qaeda plot.
There were several unexploited
o Our government
did not watchlist future hijackers Hazmi and Mihdhar before they arrived
in the United States, or take adequate steps to find them once they were
o Our government
did not link the arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui, described as interested
in flight training for the purpose of using an airplane in a terrorist
act, to the heightened indications of attack.
o Our government
did not discover false statements on visa applications, or recognize
passports manipulated in a fraudulent manner.
o Our government
did not expand no-fly lists to include names from terrorist watchlists,
or require airline passengers to be more thoroughly screened.
These examples make up part of a broader
national security picture, where the government failed to protect the
American people. The United States government was simply not active
enough in combating the terrorist threat before 9/11.
o Our diplomacy
and foreign policy failed to extricate bin Laden from his Afghan
o Our military
forces and covert action capabilities did not have the options on the
table to defeat al Qaeda or kill or capture bin Laden and his chief
intelligence and law-enforcement agencies did not manage or share
information, or effectively follow leads, to keep pace with a nimble
o Our border,
immigration, and aviation security agencies were not integrated into the
counterterrorism effort; and
o Much of our
response on the day of 9/11 was improvised and ineffective, even as
extraordinary individual acts of heroism saved countless lives.
Our failure took place over many years and Administrations. There is no
single individual who is responsible for this failure. Yet individuals
and institutions are not absolved of responsibility. Any person in a
senior position within our government during this time bears some
element of responsibility for the government’s actions.
It is not our purpose to assign blame. As we said at the outset,
we look back so that we can look forward. Our goal is to prevent future
Every expert with whom we spoke told us
that an attack of even greater magnitude is now possible--and even
probable. We do not have the luxury of time. We must prepare and we must
The al Qaeda network and its affiliates
are sophisticated, patient, disciplined, and lethal. Usama Bin Ladin
built an infrastructure and organization that was able to attract, train
and use recruits against ever more ambitious targets. He rallied new
zealots with each demonstration of al Qaeda’s capability. His message
and hate-filled ideology have instructed and inspired untold recruits
and imitators. He and al Qaeda:
o despise America
and its policies;
political grievances and hopelessness within the Arab and Islamic world;
the disaffected and pervert one of the world’s great religions; and
o seek creative
methods to kill Americans in limitless numbers, including the use of
chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
Put simply, the United States is
presented with one of the great security challenges in our history. We
have struck blows against the terrorists since 9/11. We have prevented
attacks on the homeland. We believe we are safer today than we were on
9/11 – but we are not safe.
Because al Qaeda represents an ideology –
not a finite group of people – we should not expect the danger to recede
for years to come. No matter whom we kill or capture – including Usama
Bin Ladin – there will still be those who plot against us. Bin Ladin has
inspired affiliates and imitators. The societies they prey on are
vulnerable; the terrorist ideology is potent; and the means for
inflicting harm are readily available. We cannot let our guard down.
Recommendations – A Global Strategy
This Commission does not have all the
answers. But we have thought about
what to do
– a global strategy – and how to
do it – a different way of organizing our government. But, based on
our thorough review of the government’s performance, and our examination
of the enemy, we recommend the following elements for a counterterrorism
This strategy must be balanced. It must
integrate all the elements of national power: diplomacy, intelligence,
covert action, law-enforcement, economic policy, foreign aid, homeland
defense, and military strength. There is no silver bullet or decisive
blow that can defeat Islamist terrorism. It will take unity of effort
and sustained and effective use of every tool at our disposal:
We need to play offense: kill or
capture terrorists; deny them sanctuaries; and disrupt their ability to
move money and people around the globe.
We need to ensure that key
countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are stable,
capable, and resolute in opposing terrorism.
o We need to
sustain a coalition of nations that cooperates bilaterally and
multilaterally with us in the counterterrorism mission. We need a better
dialogue between the West and the Islamic world. We also highlight the
need to restrict and roll back the proliferation of the world’s most
o We need to put
forth an agenda of opportunity – economic, educational, and political –
so that young people in the Arab and Islamic world have peaceful and
productive avenues for expression and hope.
o We need to join
the battle of ideas within the Islamic world: communicating hope instead
of despair, progress in place of persecution, life instead of death.
This message should be matched by policies that encourage and support
the majority of Muslims who share these goals.
o At home, we
need to set clear priorities for the protection of our infrastructure,
and the security of our transportation. Resources should be allocated
based upon those priorities, and standards of preparedness should be
set. The private sector and local governments should play an important
part of this process.
o We need secure
borders, with heightened and uniform standards of identification for
those entering and exiting the country; and an immigration system able
to be efficient, allowing good people in while keeping terrorists out.
o If, God forbid,
there is another attack, we must be ready to respond. We must educate
the public, train and equip our first responders, and anticipate
Recommendations – Organizing Government
We recommend significant changes in the
organization of the government. We know that the quality of the people
is more important than the quality of the wiring diagrams. Good people
can overcome bad structures. They should not have to.
Day and night, dedicated public servants
are waging the struggle to combat terrorists and protect the homeland.
We need to ensure that our government maximizes their efforts through
information sharing; coordinated effort; and clear authority.
A critical theme that emerged throughout
our inquiry was the difficulty of answering the question: Who is in
charge? Who ensures that agencies pool resources, avoid duplication, and
plan jointly? Who oversees the massive integration and unity of effort
necessary to keep America safe? Too often the answer is: “no one.” Thus we are recommending:
Counterterrorism Center. We need unity of effort on
counterterrorism. We should create a National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC)
to unify all counterterrorism intelligence and operations across the
foreign-domestic divide in one organization. Right now, these efforts
are too diffuse across the government. They need to be unified.
-- A National Intelligence
Director. We need unity of effort in the Intelligence Community.
We need a much stronger head of the Intelligence Community, and an
intelligence community that organizes itself to do joint work in
national mission centers. We need reforms of the kind the military had
two decades ago. We need a
“Goldwater-Nichols” reform for the intelligence community. The
intelligence community needs a shift in mindset and organization,
so that intelligence agencies operate under the principle of joint
command, with information-sharing as the norm.
-- Reform in the
Congress. We need unity of effort in the Congress. Right now, authority
and responsibility are too diffuse. The Intelligence Committees do
not have enough power to perform their oversight work effectively.
Oversight for Homeland Security is splintered among too many Committees.
We need much stronger committees performing oversight of intelligence.
We need a single committee in each chamber providing oversight of the
Department of Homeland Security.
Reform in the FBI. We need a stronger national security
workforce within the FBI. We do
not support the creation of a new domestic intelligence agency.
What the FBI needs is a specialized and integrated national security
workforce, consisting of agents, analysts, linguists and surveillance
specialists. These specialists need to be recruited, trained, rewarded,
and retained to ensure the development of an institutional culture with
deep expertise in intelligence and national security.
Changes in Information Sharing. We need unity of effort in
information sharing. The U.S. government has access to a vast
amount of information. But it has a weak system for processing and using
that information. “Need to
share” must replace “need to know.”
We need a better process for transitions involving national security
officials, so that this Nation does not lower its guard every four or
These, and other, recommendations are
spelled out in great detail in our report. We have made a limited number
of recommendations, focusing on the areas we believe most critical.
We are acutely sensitive to the need to vigorously protect our liberties
as we guard our security. We endorse many of the actions taken in the
wake of 9/11 to facilitate government action and information sharing. But we stress that these
measures need to be accompanied by a commitment to our open society and
the principle of review – safeguards that are built into the process,
and vigorous oversight. We must, after all is said and done, preserve
the liberties that we are fighting for.
Before we close, we offer a few more
thoughts. We approached our task with a deep respect for the place of
September 11th in our nation’s history. Some have compared the shock we
felt to Pearl Harbor, others to the Kennedy assassination. There are no
comparisons. This was a moment unique in our long history.
As every four years in this democracy, we
are in the midst of a presidential campaign.
Our two great parties
will disagree, and that is right and proper. But at the same time we
must unite to make our country safer. Republicans and Democrats must
unite in this cause.
The American people must be prepared for
a long and difficult struggle. We face a determined enemy who sees this
as a war of attrition – indeed, as an epochal struggle.
We expect further attacks.
Against such an enemy, there can be no complacency. This is the
challenge of our generation. As Americans we must step forward to accept
We have reviewed 2.5 million pages of documents, and interviewed over
1,200 individuals – including experts and officials, past and present.
Our work has been assisted by a superb
staff. Each one of these professionals has provided dedication and
expertise that has exceeded our highest expectations.
We also had the high honor of working
with an extraordinary group of Commissioners. Each has shown skill,
determination, and collegiality.
We close by thanking the families who lost loved ones on 9/11. You
demanded the creation of this Commission. You have encouraged us
every step of the way as partners, and as witnesses. From your grief, we
have drawn strength. We are determined to do everything possible to
prevent other families from suffering your tragedy.
On that beautiful September day, we felt
deep hurt, but we believed and acted as one nation. We united as
Americans have always united in the face of a common foe. Five Republicans and five
Democrats have come together today with that same unity of purpose.
We file no additional views. We have no
dissents. We have each decided that we will play no active role in the
fall presidential campaign. We will, instead, work together in support
of the recommendations in this report. We believe that in acting
together, we can make a difference. We can make our nation safer and
We would be happy to take your questions.
Back to Top
We present the narrative of this report
and the recommendations that flow from it to the President of the United
States, the United States Congress, and the American people for their
Commissioners-five Republicans and five Democrats chosen by elected
leaders from our nation's capital at a time of great partisan
division-have come together to present this report without dissent.
We have come together with a unity of
purpose because our nation demands it. September 11, 2001, was a day of
unprecedented shock and suffering in the history of the United States. The nation was unprepared.
A NATION TRANSFORMED
At 8:46 on the morning of September 11,
2001, the United States became a nation transformed.
An airliner traveling at hundreds of
miles per hour and carrying some 10,000 gallons of jet fuel plowed into
the North Tower of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. At 9:03, a
second airliner hit the South Tower. Fire and smoke billowed upward.
Steel, glass, ash, and bodies fell below. The Twin Towers, where up to
50,000 people worked each day, both collapsed less than 90 minutes
At 9:37 that same morning, a third
airliner slammed into the western face of the Pentagon. At 10:03, a
fourth airliner crashed in a field in southern Pennsylvania. It had been
aimed at the United States Capitol or the White House, and was forced
down by heroic passengers armed with the knowledge that America was
More than 2,600 people died at
the World Trade Center; 125 died at the Pentagon; 256 died on the four
planes. The death toll surpassed that at Pearl Harbor in December
This immeasurable pain was
inflicted by 19 young Arabs acting at the behest of Islamist extremists
headquartered in distant Afghanistan. Some had been in the United
States for more than a year, mixing with the rest of the population.
Though four had training as pilots,
most were not well-educated.
Most spoke English poorly, some hardly at all.
In groups of four or five,
carrying with them only small knives, box cutters, and cans of Mace or
pepper spray, they had hijacked the four planes and turned them
into deadly guided missiles.
Why did they do this? How was the
attack planned and conceived? How did the U.S. government fail to
anticipate and prevent it? What can we do in the future to prevent
similar acts of terrorism?
A Shock, Not a Surprise
The 9/11 attacks were a shock,
but they should not have come as a surprise. Islamist extremists had
given plenty of warning that they meant to kill Americans
indiscriminately and in large numbers. Although Usama Bin Ladin
himself would not emerge as a signal threat until the late 1990s, the
threat of Islamist terrorism grew over the decade.
In February 1993, a group led by Ramzi Yousef tried to bring down the World Trade Center with a truck
bomb. They killed six
and wounded a thousand. Plans by Omar Abdel Rahman and others to blow up
the Holland and Lincoln tunnels and other New York City landmarks were
frustrated when the plotters were arrested.
In October 1993, Somali
tribesmen shot down U.S. helicopters, killing 18 and wounding
73 in an incident that came to be known as
"Black Hawk down." Years
later it would be learned that those Somali tribesmen had received help
from al Qaeda.
In early 1995, police in Manila
uncovered a plot by Ramzi Yousef to blow up a dozen U.S. airliners while
they were flying over the Pacific. [See
Operation Bojinka] In November 1995, a car bomb
exploded outside the office of the U.S. program manager for the
Saudi National Guard in Riyadh,
killing five Americans and two others.
In June 1996, a truck bomb
demolished the Khobar Towers apartment complex in Dhahran, Saudi
Arabia, killing 19 U.S.
servicemen and wounding hundreds. The attack was carried out
primarily by Saudi Hezbollah, an organization that had received help
from the government of Iran.
Until 1997, the U.S. intelligence
community viewed Bin Ladin as a financier of terrorism, not as a
terrorist leader. In February
1998, Usama Bin Ladin and four others issued a self-styled fatwa,
publicly declaring that it was God's decree that every Muslim should try
his utmost to kill any American, military or civilian, anywhere in the
world, because of American "occupation" of Islam's holy places and
aggression against Muslims.
In August 1998, Bin Ladin's
group, al Qaeda, carried out near-simultaneous truck bomb attacks on the
U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The attacks killed 224
people, including 12 Americans,
and wounded thousands more.
In December 1999, Jordanian police
foiled a plot to bomb hotels and other sites frequented by American
tourists, and a U.S. Customs agent arrested Ahmed Ressam at the U.S.
Canadian border as he was smuggling in explosives intended for an attack
on Los Angeles International Airport.
In October 2000, an al Qaeda
team in Aden, Yemen, used a motorboat filled with explosives to
blow a hole in the side of a destroyer, the USS Cole,
almost sinking the vessel and
killing 17 American sailors.
Americans killed allegedly by Islamic Extremists
New York City
"Black Hawk down"
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
Nairobi, Kenya &
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
(only 6 killed in the U.S.)
54 military (at least)
The 9/11 attacks on the World
Trade Center and the Pentagon were far more elaborate, precise, and
destructive than any of these earlier assaults. But by September
2001, the executive branch of the U.S. government, the Congress, the
news media, and the American public had received clear warning that
Islamist terrorists meant to kill Americans in high numbers.
Who Is the Enemy?
Who is this enemy that created an organization capable of inflicting
such horrific damage on the United States? We now know that these
attacks were carried out by various groups of Islamist extremists.
The 9/11 attack was driven by
Usama Bin Ladin.
In the 1980s, young Muslims from around
the world went to Afghanistan to join as volunteers in a jihad (or holy
struggle) against the Soviet Union. A wealthy Saudi, Usama Bin Ladin,
was one of them. Following the defeat of the Soviets
in the late 1980s, Bin Ladin and
others formed al Qaeda to mobilize jihads elsewhere.
The history, culture, and body of
beliefs from which Bin Ladin shapes and spreads his message are largely
unknown to many Americans. Seizing on symbols of Islam's past greatness,
he promises to restore pride to people who consider themselves the
victims of successive foreign masters. He uses cultural and religious
allusions to the holy Qur'an and some of its interpreters. He appeals to
people disoriented by cyclonic change as they confront modernity and
globalization. His rhetoric selectively draws from multiple
sources-Islam, history, and the region's political and economic malaise.
Bin Ladin also stresses
grievances against the United States widely shared in the Muslim world.
He inveighed against the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia,
which is the home of Islam's holiest sites, and against other
U.S. policies in the Middle East.
Upon this political and ideological
foundation, Bin Ladin built over the course of a decade a dynamic and
lethal organization. He built an infrastructure and organization in
Afghanistan that could attract, train, and use recruits against ever
more ambitious targets. He rallied new zealots and new money with each
demonstration of al Qaeda's capability. He had forged a close alliance
with the Taliban, a regime providing sanctuary for al Qaeda.
By September 11, 2001, al Qaeda
- leaders able to evaluate, approve,
and supervise the planning and direction of a major operation;
- a personnel system that could
recruit candidates, indoctrinate them, vet them, and give them the
- communications sufficient to enable
planning and direction of operatives and those who would be helping
- an intelligence effort to gather
required information and form assessments of enemy strengths and
- the ability to move people great
- the ability to raise and move the
money necessary to finance an attack.
1998 to September 11, 2001
The August 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania
established al Qaeda as a potent adversary of the United States.
After launching cruise missile
strikes against al Qaeda targets in Afghanistan and Sudan in retaliation
for the embassy bombings, the Clinton administration applied
diplomatic pressure to try to persuade the Taliban regime in Afghanistan
to expel Bin Ladin.
The administration also devised
covert operations to use CIA-paid foreign agents to capture or kill Bin
Ladin and his chief lieutenants. These actions did not stop Bin Ladin or dislodge al
Qaeda from its sanctuary.
By late 1998 or early 1999, Bin
Ladin and his advisers had agreed on an idea brought to them by Khalid
Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) called the "planes operation." It would eventually
culminate in the 9/11 attacks. Bin Ladin and his chief of
operations, Mohammed Atef, occupied undisputed leadership positions atop
al Qaeda. Within al Qaeda, they relied heavily on the ideas and
enterprise of strong-willed field commanders, such as KSM, to carry out
worldwide terrorist operations.
KSM claims that his original
plot was even grander than those carried out on 9/11-ten planes would
attack targets on both the East and West coasts of the United States.
This plan was modified by Bin Ladin, KSM said, owing to its scale and
complexity. Bin Ladin provided KSM with four initial operatives for
suicide plane attacks within the United States, and in the
fall of 1999
training for the attacks began.
New recruits included four from a cell of expatriate Muslim extremists
who had clustered together in Hamburg, Germany. One became the tactical
commander of the operation in the United States: Mohamed Atta.
U.S. intelligence frequently
picked up reports of attacks planned by al Qaeda. Working with
foreign security services, the CIA broke up some al Qaeda cells. The
core of Bin Ladin's organization nevertheless remained intact. In
December 1999, news about the arrests of the terrorist cell in Jordan
and the arrest of a terrorist at the U.S.-Canadian border became part of
a "millennium alert." The government was galvanized, and the public was
on alert for any possible attack.
In January 2000, the intense
intelligence effort glimpsed and then lost sight of two operatives
destined for the "planes operation." Spotted in Kuala Lumpur, the pair
were lost passing through Bangkok. On January 15, 2000, they arrived in
two al Qaeda operatives
had spent little time in the West and spoke little, if any, English, it
is plausible that they or KSM would have tried to identify, in advance,
a friendly contact in the United States. We explored suspicions
about whether these two operatives had a support network of accomplices
in the United States.
The evidence is thin-simply not
there for some cases,
more worrisome in others.
We do know that soon after arriving in
California, the two al Qaeda operatives sought out and found a group of
ideologically like-minded Muslims with roots in Yemen and Saudi Arabia,
individuals mainly associated with a young Yemeni and others who
attended a mosque in San Diego. After a brief stay in Los Angeles about
which we know little, the
al Qaeda operatives lived openly in San Diego under their true names.
They managed to avoid attracting much attention.
By the summer of 2000, three of the
four Hamburg cell members had arrived on the East Coast of the United
States and had begun pilot training.
In early 2001, a fourth future
hijacker pilot, Hani Hanjour, journeyed to Arizona with another
operative, Nawaf al Hazmi, and conducted his refresher pilot training
there. A number of al Qaeda operatives had spent time in Arizona during
the 1980s and early 1990s.
During 2000, President Bill
Clinton and his advisers renewed diplomatic efforts to get Bin Ladin
expelled from Afghanistan. They also renewed secret efforts with some of
the Taliban's opponents-the Northern Alliance-to get enough intelligence
to attack Bin Ladin directly. Diplomatic efforts centered on the
new military government in Pakistan, and they did not succeed. The
efforts with the Northern Alliance revived an inconclusive and secret
debate about whether the United States should take sides in
Afghanistan's civil war and support the Taliban's enemies.
The CIA also produced a plan to
improve intelligence collection on al Qaeda, including the use of a
small, unmanned airplane with a video camera, known as the Predator.
After the October 2000 attack on the
USS Cole, evidence accumulated that it had been launched
Qaeda operatives, but without confirmation that Bin Ladin had given the
order. The Taliban had earlier
been warned that it would be held responsible for another Bin Ladin
attack on the United States. The CIA described its findings as a
"preliminary judgment"; President Clinton and his chief advisers told us
they were waiting for a conclusion before deciding whether to take
military action. The military alternatives remained unappealing to them.
The transition to the new Bush
administration in late 2000 and early 2001 took place with the Cole
issue still pending.
President George W. Bush and his chief advisers accepted that al Qaeda
was responsible for the attack on the Cole, but did not like
the options available for a response.
Bin Ladin's inference may well have
been that attacks, at least at the level of the Cole, were risk
The Bush administration began
developing a new strategy with the stated goal of eliminating the al
Qaeda threat within three to five years.
During the spring and summer of
2001, U.S. intelligence agencies received a stream of warnings that al
Qaeda planned, as one report put it, "something very, very, very big."
Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet told us, "The system was
Although Bin Ladin was
determined to strike in the United States, as President Clinton had been
told and President Bush was reminded in a Presidential Daily Brief
article briefed to him in August 2001, the specific threat information
pointed overseas. Numerous precautions were taken overseas.
Domestic agencies were not effectively mobilized.
The threat did not
receive national media attention comparable to the millennium alert.
While the United States continued
disruption efforts around the world, its emerging strategy to eliminate
the al Qaeda threat was to include an enlarged covert action program in
Afghanistan, as well as diplomatic strategies for Afghanistan and
Pakistan. The process culminated
during the summer of 2001 in a draft presidential directive and
arguments about the Predator aircraft, which was soon to be
deployed with a missile of its own,
so that it might be used to attempt to kill Bin Ladin or his chief
lieutenants. At a September 4 meeting, President Bush's chief advisers
approved the draft directive of the strategy and endorsed the
concept of arming the Predator.
This directive on the al Qaeda strategy was awaiting President Bush's
signature on September 11, 2001.
Though the "planes operation" was
progressing, the plotters had problems of their own in 2001. Several
possible participants dropped out; others could not gain entry into the
United States (including one denial at a port of entry and visa denials
not related to terrorism). One
of the eventual pilots may have considered abandoning the planes
operation. Zacarias Moussaoui, who showed up at a flight training school
in Minnesota, may have been a candidate to replace him.
Some of the vulnerabilities of the
plotters become clear in retrospect. Moussaoui aroused suspicion for
seeking fast-track training on how to pilot large jet airliners. He was
arrested on August 16, 2001, for violations of immigration regulations.
In late August, officials in the intelligence community realized that
the terrorists spotted in Southeast Asia in January 2000 had arrived in
the United States.
These cases did not prompt
urgent action. No one working on these late leads in the summer of 2001
connected them to the high level of threat reporting. In the words of
one official, no analytic work foresaw the lightning that could connect
the thundercloud to the ground.
As final preparations were under way during the summer of 2001, dissent
emerged among al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan over whether to proceed.
The Taliban's chief, Mullah
Omar, opposed attacking the United States. Although facing opposition
from many of his senior lieutenants, Bin Ladin effectively overruled
their objections, and the attacks went forward.
September 11, 2001
The day began with the 19
hijackers getting through a security checkpoint system that they had
evidently analyzed and knew how to defeat. Their success rate in
penetrating the system was 19 for 19.
They took over the four flights,
taking advantage of air crews and cockpits that were not prepared
for the contingency of a suicide hijacking.
On 9/11, the defense of U.S. air
space depended on close interaction between two federal agencies: the
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and North American Aerospace
Defense Command (NORAD). Existing protocols on 9/11 were unsuited
in every respect for an attack in which hijacked planes were used as
What ensued was a hurried
attempt to improvise a defense by civilians who had never handled a
hijacked aircraft that attempted to disappear, and by a military
unprepared for the transformation of commercial aircraft into weapons of
A shootdown authorization was
not communicated to the NORAD air defense sector until 28 minutes after
United 93 had crashed in Pennsylvania. Planes were scrambled, but
ineffectively, as they did not know where to go or what targets they
were to intercept. And once the shootdown order was given, it was not
communicated to the pilots. In short, while leaders in Washington
believed that the fighters circling above them had been instructed to
"take out" hostile aircraft, the only orders actually conveyed to the
pilots were to "ID type and tail."
Like the national defense, the
emergency response on 9/11 was necessarily improvised.
In New York City, the Fire Department
of New York, the New York Police Department, the Port Authority of New
York and New Jersey, the building employees, and the occupants of the
buildings did their best to cope with the effects of almost unimaginable
events-unfolding furiously over 102 minutes. Casualties were nearly 100
percent at and above the impact zones and were very high among first
responders who stayed in danger as they tried to save lives. Despite
weaknesses in preparations for disaster, failure to achieve unified
incident command, and inadequate communications among responding
agencies, all but approximately
one hundred of the thousands of civilians who worked below the impact
zone escaped, often with help from the emergency responders.
At the Pentagon, while there were also
problems of command and control, the emergency response was generally
effective. The Incident Command System, a formalized management
structure for emergency response in place in the National Capital
Region, overcame the inherent complications of a response across local,
state, and federal jurisdictions.
We write with the benefit and handicap of hindsight. We are mindful of
the danger of being unjust to men and women who made choices in
conditions of uncertainty and in circumstances over which they often had
Nonetheless, there were specific points
of vulnerability in the plot and opportunities to disrupt it.
Operational failures-opportunities that were not or could not be
exploited by the organizations and systems of that time-included
not watchlisting future
hijackers Hazmi and Mihdhar, not trailing them after they traveled to
Bangkok, and not informing the FBI about one future hijacker's U.S.
visa or his companion's travel to the United States;
not sharing information
linking individuals in the Cole attack to Mihdhar;
not taking adequate steps in
time to find Mihdhar or Hazmi in the United States;
not linking the arrest of
Zacarias Moussaoui, described as interested in flight training for the
purpose of using an airplane in a terrorist act, to the heightened
indications of attack;
not discovering false
statements on visa applications;
not recognizing passports
manipulated in a fraudulent manner;
not expanding no-fly lists to
include names from terrorist watchlists;
not searching airline
passengers identified by the computer-based CAPPS screening system;
not hardening aircraft cockpit
doors or taking other measures to prepare for the possibility of
Since the plotters were flexible and
resourceful, we cannot know whether any single step or series of steps
would have defeated them. What
we can say with confidence is that none of the measures adopted by the
U.S. government from 1998 to 2001 disturbed or even delayed the progress
of the al Qaeda plot. Across the government, there were failures
of imagination, policy, capabilities, and management.
The most important failure was
one of imagination. We do not believe leaders understood the
gravity of the threat. The
terrorist danger from Bin Ladin and al Qaeda was not a major topic for
policy debate among the public, the media, or in the Congress. Indeed,
it barely came up during the 2000 presidential campaign.
Al Qaeda's new brand of terrorism
presented challenges to U.S. governmental institutions that they were
not well-designed to meet. Though top officials all told us that they
understood the danger, we believe there was uncertainty among them as to
whether this was just a new and especially venomous version of the
ordinary terrorist threat the United States had lived with for decades,
or it was indeed radically new, posing a threat beyond any yet
As late as September 4, 2001,
Richard Clarke, the White House staffer long responsible for
counterterrorism policy coordination,
asserted that the government had
not yet made up its mind how to answer the question: "Is al Qida a big
A week later came the answer.
Terrorism was not the overriding
national security concern for the U.S. government under either the
Clinton or the pre-9/11 Bush administration.
The policy challenges were linked to
this failure of imagination.
Officials in both the Clinton and Bush administrations regarded a full
U.S. invasion of Afghanistan as practically inconceivable before 9/11.
Before 9/11, the United States tried to solve the al Qaeda problem with
the capabilities it had used in the last stages of the Cold War and its
immediate aftermath. These capabilities were insufficient. Little was
done to expand or reform them.
The CIA had minimal capacity to conduct
paramilitary operations with its own personnel, and it did not seek a
large-scale expansion of these capabilities before 9/11. The CIA also
needed to improve its capability to collect intelligence from human
At no point before 9/11 was the
Department of Defense fully engaged in the mission of countering al
Qaeda, even though this was perhaps the most dangerous foreign
enemy threatening the United States.
America's homeland defenders
faced outward. NORAD itself was barely able to retain any alert bases at
all. Its planning scenarios occasionally considered the danger of
hijacked aircraft being guided to American targets, but only aircraft
that were coming from overseas.
The most serious weaknesses in agency
capabilities were in the domestic arena. The FBI did not have the
capability to link the collective knowledge of agents in the field to
national priorities. Other domestic agencies deferred to the FBI.
FAA capabilities were weak.
Any serious examination of the possibility of a suicide hijacking could
have suggested changes to fix glaring vulnerabilities-expanding no-fly
lists, searching passengers identified by the CAPPS screening system,
deploying federal air marshals domestically, hardening cockpit doors,
alerting air crews to a different kind of hijacking possibility than
they had been trained to expect.
Yet the FAA did not adjust either its own training or training with
NORAD to take account of threats other than those experienced in the
The missed opportunities to thwart the 9/11 plot were also symptoms of a
broader inability to adapt the way government manages problems to the
new challenges of the twenty-first century. Action officers should have
been able to draw on all available knowledge about al Qaeda in the
government. Management should have ensured that information was shared
and duties were clearly assigned across agencies, and across the
There were also broader management
issues with respect to how top leaders set priorities and allocated
resources. For instance, on December 4, 1998, DCI Tenet issued a
directive to several CIA officials and the DDCI for Community
Management, stating: "We are at war. I want no resources or people
spared in this effort, either inside CIA or the Community." The
memorandum had little overall effect on mobilizing the CIA or the
intelligence community. This episode indicates the limitations of the
DCI's authority over the direction of the intelligence community,
including agencies within the Department of Defense.
The U.S. government did not find a way
of pooling intelligence and using it to guide the planning and
assignment of responsibilities for joint operations involving entities
as disparate as the CIA, the FBI, the State Department, the military,
and the agencies involved in homeland security.
Beginning in February 1997, and
through September 11, 2001, the U.S. government tried to use diplomatic
pressure to persuade the Taliban regime in Afghanistan to stop being a
sanctuary for al Qaeda, and to expel Bin Ladin to a country where he
could face justice. These efforts included warnings and
sanctions, but they all failed.
The U.S. government also pressed two
successive Pakistani governments to demand that the Taliban cease
providing a sanctuary for Bin Ladin and his organization and, failing
that, to cut off their support for the Taliban.
Before 9/11, the United States
could not find a mix of incentives and pressure that would persuade
Pakistan to reconsider its fundamental relationship with the Taliban.
From 1999 through early 2001, the
United States pressed the United Arab Emirates, one of the Taliban's
only travel and financial outlets to the outside world, to break off
ties and enforce sanctions, especially those related to air travel to
Afghanistan. These efforts achieved little before 9/11.
Saudi Arabia has been a
problematic ally in combating Islamic extremism. Before 9/11, the
Saudi and U.S. governments did not fully share intelligence information
or develop an adequate joint effort to track and disrupt the finances of
the al Qaeda organization. On the other hand, government officials of
Saudi Arabia at the highest levels worked closely with top U.S.
officials in major initiatives to solve the Bin Ladin problem with
Lack of Military Options
In response to the request of policymakers, the military prepared an
array of limited strike options for attacking Bin Ladin and his
organization from May 1998 onward. When they briefed policymakers, the
military presented both the pros and cons of those strike options and
the associated risks. Policymakers expressed frustration with the range
of options presented.
Following the August 20, 1998,
missile strikes on al Qaeda targets in Afghanistan and Sudan,
both senior military officials and policymakers placed great emphasis on
actionable intelligence as the key factor in recommending or deciding to
launch military action against Bin Ladin and his organization. They did
not want to risk significant collateral damage, and they did not want to
miss Bin Ladin and thus make the United States look weak while making
Bin Ladin look strong. On three
specific occasions in 1998-1999, intelligence was deemed credible enough
to warrant planning for possible strikes to kill Bin Ladin. But
in each case the strikes did not go forward, because senior policymakers
did not regard the intelligence as sufficiently actionable to offset
their assessment of the risks.
The Director of Central Intelligence,
policymakers, and military officials expressed frustration with the lack
of actionable intelligence. Some officials inside the Pentagon,
including those in the special forces and the counterterrorism policy
office, also expressed frustration with the lack of military action.
The Bush administration began to
develop new policies toward al Qaeda in 2001, but military plans did not
change until after 9/11.
Problems within the
The intelligence community struggled throughout the 1990s and up to 9/11
to collect intelligence on and analyze the phenomenon of transnational
terrorism. The combination of an overwhelming number of priorities, flat
budgets, an outmoded structure, and bureaucratic rivalries resulted in
an insufficient response to this new challenge.
Many dedicated officers worked day and
night for years to piece together the growing body of evidence on al
Qaeda and to understand the threats. Yet, while there were many reports
on Bin Laden and his growing al Qaeda organization, there was no
comprehensive review of what the intelligence community knew and what it
did not know, and what that meant. There was no National Intelligence
Estimate on terrorism between 1995 and 9/11.
Before 9/11, no agency did more to
attack al Qaeda than the CIA. But there were limits to what the CIA was
able to achieve by disrupting terrorist activities abroad and by using
proxies to try to capture Bin Ladin and his lieutenants in Afghanistan.
CIA officers were aware of those limitations.
To put it simply, covert action was not
a silver bullet. It was important to engage proxies in Afghanistan and
to build various capabilities so that if an opportunity presented
itself, the CIA could act on it. But for more than three years, through
both the late Clinton and early Bush administrations, the CIA relied on
proxy forces, and there was growing frustration within the CIA's
Counterterrorist Center and in the National Security Council staff with
the lack of results. The development of the Predator and the push to aid
the Northern Alliance were products of this frustration.
Problems in the FBI
From the time of the first World Trade Center attack in 1993, FBI and
Department of Justice leadership in Washington and New York became
increasingly concerned about the terrorist threat from Islamist
extremists to U.S. interests, both at home and abroad. Throughout the
1990s, the FBI's counterterrorism efforts against international
terrorist organizations included both intelligence and criminal
investigations. The FBI's approach to investigations was case-specific,
decentralized, and geared toward prosecution. Significant FBI resources
were devoted to after-the-fact investigations of major terrorist
attacks, resulting in several prosecutions.
The FBI attempted several reform
efforts aimed at strengthening its ability to prevent such attacks, but
these reform efforts failed to implement organization-wide institutional
change. On September 11, 2001, the FBI was limited in several areas
critical to an effective preventive counterterrorism strategy. Those
working counterterrorism matters did so despite limited intelligence
collection and strategic analysis capabilities, a limited capacity to
share information both internally and externally, insufficient training,
perceived legal barriers to sharing information, and inadequate
Permeable Borders and
There were opportunities for intelligence and law enforcement to exploit
al Qaeda's travel vulnerabilities. Considered collectively, the 9/11
included known al Qaeda
operatives who could have been watchlisted;
manipulated in a fraudulent manner;
presented passports with
suspicious indicators of extremism;
made detectable false
statements on visa applications;
made false statements to
border officials to gain entry into the United States; and
violated immigration laws
while in the United States.
Neither the State Department's consular
officers nor the Immigration and Naturalization Service's inspectors and
agents were ever considered full partners in a national counterterrorism
effort. Protecting borders was
not a national security issue before 9/11.
Permeable Aviation Security
Hijackers studied publicly available materials on the aviation security
system and used items that had less metal content than a handgun and
were most likely permissible. Though two of the hijackers were on the
U.S.TIPOFF terrorist watchlist, the FAA did not use TIPOFF data. The
hijackers had to beat only one layer of security-the security checkpoint
process. Even though several hijackers were selected for extra screening
by the CAPPS system, this led only to greater scrutiny of their checked
baggage. Once on board, the hijackers were faced with aircraft personnel
who were trained to be nonconfrontational in the event of a hijacking.
The 9/11 attacks cost somewhere between $400,000 and $500,000 to
execute. The operatives spent more than $270,000 in the United States.
Additional expenses included travel to obtain passports and visas,
travel to the United States, expenses incurred by the plot leader and
facilitators outside the United States, and expenses incurred by the
people selected to be hijackers who ultimately did not participate.
The conspiracy made extensive use of
banks in the United States. The hijackers opened accounts in their own
names, using passports and other identification documents. Their
transactions were unremarkable and essentially invisible amid the
billions of dollars flowing around the world every day.
To date, we have not been able to
determine the origin of the money used for the 9/11 attacks. Al Qaeda
had many sources of funding and a pre-9/11 annual budget estimated at
$30 million. If a particular source of funds had dried up, al Qaeda
could easily have found enough money elsewhere to fund the attack.
An Improvised Homeland Defense
The civilian and military defenders of the nation's airspace-FAA and
NORAD-were unprepared for the attacks launched against them. Given that
lack of preparedness, they attempted and failed to improvise an
effective homeland defense against an unprecedented challenge.
The events of that morning do not
reflect discredit on operational personnel. NORAD's Northeast Air
Defense Sector personnel reached out for information and made the best
judgments they could based on the information they received. Individual
FAA controllers, facility managers, and command center managers were
creative and agile in recommending a nationwide alert, ground-stopping
local traffic, ordering all aircraft nationwide to land, and executing
that unprecedented order flawlessly.
At more senior levels, communication
was poor. Senior military and FAA leaders had no effective communication
with each other. The chain of command did not function well. The
President could not reach some senior officials.
The Secretary of
Defense did not enter the chain of command until the morning's key
events were over. Air National Guard units with different rules of
engagement were scrambled without the knowledge of the President, NORAD,
or the National Military Command Center.
The civilians, firefighters, police officers, emergency medical
technicians, and emergency management professionals exhibited steady
determination and resolve under horrifying, overwhelming conditions on
9/11.Their actions saved lives and inspired a nation.
Effective decisionmaking in New York
was hampered by problems in command and control and in internal
communications. Within the Fire Department of New York, this was true
for several reasons: the magnitude of the incident was unforeseen;
commanders had difficulty communicating with their units; more units
were actually dispatched than were ordered by the chiefs; some units
self-dispatched; and once units arrived at the World Trade Center, they
were neither comprehensively accounted for nor coordinated. The Port
Authority's response was hampered by the lack both of standard operating
procedures and of radios capable of enabling multiple commands to
respond to an incident in unified fashion. The New York Police
Department, because of its history of mobilizing thousands of officers
for major events requiring crowd control, had a technical radio
capability and protocols more easily adapted to an incident of the
magnitude of 9/11.
The Congress, like the executive branch, responded slowly to the rise of
transnational terrorism as a threat to national security. The
legislative branch adjusted little and did not restructure itself to
address changing threats. Its attention to terrorism was episodic and
splintered across several committees. The Congress gave little guidance
to executive branch agencies on terrorism, did not reform them in any
significant way to meet the threat, and did not systematically perform
robust oversight to identify, address, and attempt to resolve the many
problems in national security and domestic agencies that became apparent
in the aftermath of 9/11.
So long as oversight is undermined by
current congressional rules and resolutions, we believe the American
people will not get the security they want and need. The United States
needs a strong, stable, and capable congressional committee structure to
give America's national intelligence agencies oversight, support, and
Are We Safer?
Since 9/11, the United States and its allies have killed or captured a
majority of al Qaeda's leadership; toppled the Taliban, which gave al
Qaeda sanctuary in Afghanistan; and severely damaged the organization.
Yet terrorist attacks continue. Even as we have thwarted attacks, nearly
everyone expects they will come. How can this be?
The problem is that al Qaeda represents
an ideological movement, not a finite group of people. It initiates and
inspires, even if it no longer directs. In this way it has transformed
itself into a decentralized force. Bin Ladin may be limited in his
ability to organize major attacks from his hideouts. Yet killing or
capturing him, while extremely important, would not end terror. His
message of inspiration to a new generation of terrorists would continue.
Because of offensive actions against al
Qaeda since 9/11, and defensive actions to improve homeland security, we
believe we are safer today. But we are not safe. We therefore make the
following recommendations that we believe can make America safer and
Three years after 9/11, the national
debate continues about how to protect our nation in this new era. We
divide our recommendations into two basic parts: What to do, and how to
WHAT TO DO? A GLOBAL STRATEGY
The enemy is not just "terrorism." It
is the threat posed specifically by Islamist terrorism, by Bin Ladin and
others who draw on a long tradition of extreme intolerance within a
minority strain of Islam that does not distinguish politics from
religion, and distorts both.
The enemy is not Islam, the great world
faith, but a perversion of Islam. The enemy goes beyond al Qaeda to
include the radical ideological movement, inspired in part by al Qaeda,
that has spawned other terrorist groups and violence. Thus our strategy
must match our means to two ends: dismantling the al Qaeda network and,
in the long term, prevailing over the ideology that contributes to
The first phase of our post-9/11
efforts rightly included military action to topple the Taliban and
pursue al Qaeda. This work continues. But long-term success demands the
use of all elements of national power: diplomacy, intelligence, covert
action, law enforcement, economic policy, foreign aid, public diplomacy,
and homeland defense. If we favor one tool while neglecting others, we
leave ourselves vulnerable and weaken our national effort.
What should Americans expect from their
government? The goal seems unlimited: Defeat terrorism anywhere in the
world. But Americans have also been told to expect the worst: An attack
is probably coming; it may be more devastating still.
Vague goals match an amorphous picture
of the enemy. Al Qaeda and other groups are popularly described as being
all over the world, adaptable, resilient, needing little higher-level
organization, and capable of anything. It is an image of an omnipotent
hydra of destruction. That image lowers expectations of government
It lowers them too far. Our report
shows a determined and capable group of plotters. Yet the group was
fragile and occasionally left vulnerable by the marginal, unstable
people often attracted to such causes. The enemy made mistakes. The U.S.
government was not able to capitalize on them.
No president can promise that a
catastrophic attack like that of 9/11 will not happen again. But the
American people are entitled to expect that officials will have
realistic objectives, clear guidance, and effective organization. They
are entitled to see standards for performance so they can judge, with
the help of their elected representatives, whether the objectives are
We propose a strategy with three
dimensions: (1) attack terrorists and their organizations, (2) prevent
the continued growth of Islamist terrorism, and (3) protect against and
prepare for terrorist attacks.
didn't they propose a 4th strategy of stopping U.S. foreign policies
that cause resentment to the U.S.?
Attack Terrorists and Their
- Root out sanctuaries. The U.S.
government should identify and prioritize actual or potential
terrorist sanctuaries and have realistic country or regional
strategies for each, utilizing every element of national power and
reaching out to countries that can help us.
- Strengthen long-term U.S. and
international commitments to the future of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Confront problems with Saudi Arabia
in the open and build a relationship beyond oil, a relationship that
both sides can defend to their citizens and includes a shared
commitment to reform.
Prevent the Continued Growth of
In October 2003, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asked if enough
was being done "to fashion a broad integrated plan to stop the next
generation of terrorists." As part of such a plan, the U.S. government
- Define the message and stand as an
example of moral leadership in the world. To Muslim parents,
terrorists like Bin Ladin have nothing to offer their children but
visions of violence and death. America and its friends have the
advantage-our vision can offer a better future.
- Where Muslim governments, even those
who are friends, do not offer opportunity, respect the rule of law, or
tolerate differences, then the United States needs to stand for a
- Communicate and defend American
ideals in the Islamic world, through much stronger public diplomacy to
reach more people, including students and leaders outside of
government. Our efforts here should be as strong as they were in
combating closed societies during the Cold War.
- Offer an agenda of opportunity that
includes support for public education and economic openness.
- Develop a comprehensive coalition
strategy against Islamist terrorism, using a flexible contact group of
leading coalition governments and fashioning a common coalition
approach on issues like the treatment of captured terrorists.
- Devote a maximum effort to the
parallel task of countering the proliferation of weapons of mass
- Expect less from trying to dry up
terrorist money and more from following the money for intelligence, as
a tool to hunt terrorists, understand their networks, and disrupt
Protect against and Prepare for
- Target terrorist travel, an
intelligence and security strategy that the 9/11 story showed could be
at least as powerful as the effort devoted to terrorist finance.
Address problems of screening people
with biometric identifiers across agencies and governments, including
our border and transportation systems, by designing a comprehensive
screening system that addresses common problems and sets common
standards. As standards spread, this necessary and ambitious effort
could dramatically strengthen the world's ability to intercept
individuals who could pose catastrophic threats.
Quickly complete a biometric
entry-exit screening system, one that also speeds qualified travelers.
- Set standards for the issuance of
birth certificates and sources of identification, such as driver's
- Develop strategies for neglected
parts of our transportation security system. Since 9/11, about 90
percent of the nation's $5 billion annual investment in transportation
security has gone to aviation, to fight the last war.
- In aviation, prevent arguments about
a new computerized profiling system from delaying vital improvements
in the "no-fly" and "automatic selectee" lists. Also, give priority to
the improvement of checkpoint screening.
- Determine, with leadership from the
President, guidelines for gathering and sharing information in the new
security systems that are needed, guidelines that integrate safeguards
for privacy and other essential liberties.
- Underscore that as government power
necessarily expands in certain ways, the burden of retaining such
powers remains on the executive to demonstrate the value of such
powers and ensure adequate supervision of how they are used, including
a new board to oversee the implementation of the guidelines needed for
gathering and sharing information in these new security systems.
- Base federal funding for emergency
preparedness solely on risks and vulnerabilities, putting New York
City and Washington, D.C., at the top of the current list. Such
assistance should not remain a program for general revenue sharing or
- Make homeland security funding
contingent on the adoption of an incident command system to strengthen
teamwork in a crisis, including a regional approach. Allocate more
radio spectrum and improve connectivity for public safety
communications, and encourage widespread adoption of newly developed
standards for private-sector emergency preparedness-since the private
sector controls 85 percent of the nation's critical infrastructure.
HOW TO DO IT? A DIFFERENT WAY OF
The strategy we have recommended is
elaborate, even as presented here very briefly. To implement it will
require a government better organized than the one that exists today,
with its national security institutions designed half a century ago to
win the Cold War. Americans should not settle for incremental, ad hoc
adjustments to a system created a generation ago for a world that no
Our detailed recommendations are
designed to fit together. Their purpose is clear: to build unity of
effort across the U.S. government. As one official now serving on the
front lines overseas put it to us: "One fight, one team."
We call for unity of effort in five
areas, beginning with unity of effort on the challenge of
- unifying strategic intelligence and
operational planning against Islamist terrorists across the
foreign-domestic divide with a National Counterterrorism Center;
- unifying the intelligence community
with a new National Intelligence Director;
- unifying the many participants in
the counterterrorism effort and their knowledge in a network-based
information sharing system that transcends traditional governmental
- unifying and strengthening
congressional oversight to improve quality and accountability; and
- strengthening the FBI and homeland
Unity of Effort: A National
The 9/11 story teaches the value of integrating strategic intelligence
from all sources into joint operational planning-with both
dimensions spanning the foreign-domestic divide.
- In some ways, since 9/11, joint work
has gotten better. The effort of fighting terrorism has flooded over
many of the usual agency boundaries because of its sheer quantity and
energy. Attitudes have changed. But the problems of coordination have
multiplied. The Defense Department alone has three unified commands (SOCOM,
CENTCOM, and NORTHCOM) that deal with terrorism as one of their
- Much of the public commentary about
the 9/11 attacks has focused on "lost opportunities." Though
characterized as problems of "watchlisting," "information sharing," or
"connecting the dots," each of these labels is too narrow. They
describe the symptoms, not the disease.
- Breaking the older mold of
organization stovepiped purely in executive agencies, we propose a
National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) that would borrow the joint,
unified command concept adopted in the 1980s by the American military
in a civilian agency, combining the joint intelligence function
alongside the operations work.
- The NCTC would build on the existing
Terrorist Threat Integration Center and would replace it and other
terrorism "fusion centers" within the government. The NCTC would
become the authoritative knowledge bank, bringing information to bear
on common plans. It should task collection requirements both inside
and outside the United States.
- The NCTC should perform joint
operational planning, assigning lead responsibilities to existing
agencies and letting them direct the actual execution of the plans.
- Placed in the Executive Office of
the President, headed by a Senate-confirmed official (with rank equal
to the deputy head of a cabinet department) who reports to the
National Intelligence Director, the NCTC would track implementation of
plans. It would be able to influence the leadership and the budgets of
the counterterrorism operating arms of the CIA, the FBI, and the
departments of Defense and Homeland Security.
- The NCTC should not be a
policymaking body. Its operations and planning should follow the
policy direction of the president and the National Security Council.
Unity of Effort: A National
Since long before 9/11-and continuing to this day-the intelligence
community is not organized well for joint intelligence work. It does not
employ common standards and practices in reporting intelligence or in
training experts overseas and at home. The expensive national
capabilities for collecting intelligence have divided management.
structures are too complex and too secret.
- The community's head-the Director of
Central Intelligence-has at least three jobs: running the CIA,
coordinating a 15-agency confederation, and being the intelligence
analyst-in-chief to the president. No one person can do all these
- A new National Intelligence Director
should be established with two main jobs: (1) to oversee national
intelligence centers that combine experts from all the collection
disciplines against common targets- like counterterrorism or nuclear
proliferation; and (2) to oversee the agencies that contribute to the
national intelligence program, a task that includes setting common
standards for personnel and information technology.
- The national intelligence centers
would be the unified commands of the intelligence world-a long-overdue
reform for intelligence comparable to the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols law
that reformed the organization of national defense. The home
services-such as the CIA, DIA, NSA, and FBI-would organize, train, and
equip the best intelligence professionals in the world, and would
handle the execution of intelligence operations in the field.
[Click image for Hi-Res]
- This National Intelligence Director
(NID) should be located in the Executive Office of the President and
report directly to the president, yet be confirmed by the Senate. In
addition to overseeing the National Counterterrorism Center described
above (which will include both the national intelligence center for
terrorism and the joint operations planning effort), the NID should
have three deputies:
- For foreign intelligence (a deputy
who also would be the head of the CIA)
- For defense intelligence (also the
under secretary of defense for intelligence)
- For homeland intelligence (also
the executive assistant director for intelligence at the FBI or the
under secretary of homeland security for information analysis and
- The NID should receive a public
appropriation for national intelligence, should have authority to hire
and fire his or her intelligence deputies, and should be able to set
common personnel and information technology policies across the
- The CIA should concentrate on
strengthening the collection capabilities of its clandestine service
and the talents of its analysts, building pride in its core expertise.
- Secrecy stifles oversight,
accountability, and information sharing. Unfortunately, all the
current organizational incentives encourage overclassification. This
balance should change; and as a start, open information should be
provided about the overall size of agency intelligence budgets.
Unity of Effort: Sharing
The U.S. government has access to a vast amount of information. But it
has a weak system for processing and using what it has. The system of
"need to know" should be replaced by a system of "need to share."
- The President should lead a
government-wide effort to bring the major national security
institutions into the information revolution, turning a mainframe
system into a decentralized network. The obstacles are not
technological. Official after official has urged us to call attention
to problems with the unglamorous "back office" side of government
- But no agency can solve the problems
on its own-to build the network requires an effort that transcends old
divides, solving common legal and policy issues in ways that can help
officials know what they can and cannot do. Again, in tackling
information issues, America needs unity of effort.
Unity of Effort: Congress
Congress took too little action to adjust itself or to restructure the
executive branch to address the emerging terrorist threat. Congressional
oversight for intelligence-and counterterrorism-is dysfunctional. Both
Congress and the executive need to do more to minimize national security
risks during transitions between administrations.
- For intelligence oversight, we
propose two options: either a joint committee on the old model of the
Joint Committee on Atomic Energy or a single committee in each house
combining authorizing and appropriating committees. Our central
message is the same: the intelligence committees cannot carry out
their oversight function unless they are made stronger, and thereby
have both clear responsibility and accountability for that oversight.
- Congress should create a single,
principal point of oversight and review for homeland security. There
should be one permanent standing committee for homeland security in
- We propose reforms to speed up the
nomination, financial reporting, security clearance, and confirmation
process for national security officials at the start of an
administration, and suggest steps to make sure that incoming
administrations have the information they need.
Unity of Effort: Organizing
America's Defenses in the United States
We have considered several proposals relating to the future of the
domestic intelligence and counterterrorism mission. Adding a new
domestic intelligence agency will not solve America's problems in
collecting and analyzing intelligence within the United States. We do
not recommend creating one.
We propose the establishment of a
specialized and integrated national security workforce at the FBI,
consisting of agents, analysts, linguists, and surveillance
specialists who are recruited, trained, rewarded, and retained to
ensure the development of an institutional culture imbued with a deep
expertise in intelligence and national security.
At several points we asked: Who has
the responsibility for defending us at home? Responsibility for
America's national defense is shared by the Department of Defense,
with its new Northern Command, and by the Department of Homeland
Security. They must have a clear delineation of roles, missions, and
- The Department of Defense and its
oversight committees should regularly assess the adequacy of Northern
Command's strategies and planning to defend against military threats
to the homeland.
- The Department of Homeland Security
and its oversight committees should regularly assess the types of
threats the country faces, in order to determine the adequacy of the
government's plans and the readiness of the government to respond to
* * *
We call on the American people to
remember how we all felt on 9/11, to remember not only the unspeakable
horror but how we came together as a nation-one nation. Unity of purpose
and unity of effort are the way we will defeat this enemy and make
America safer for our children and grandchildren.
We look forward to a national debate on
the merits of what we have recommended, and we will participate
vigorously in that debate.
We present the narrative of this report
and the recommendations that flow from it to the President of the United
States, the United States Congress, and the American people for their
Commissioners-five Republicans and five Democrats chosen by elected
leaders from our nation's capital at a time of great partisan
division-have come together to present this report without dissent.
We have come together with a unity of
purpose because our nation demands it. September 11, 2001, was a day of
unprecedented shock and suffering in the history of the United States.
The nation was unprepared. How did this happen, and how can we avoid
such tragedy again?
To answer these questions,
the Congress and the President
created the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United
States (Public Law 107-306, November 27, 2002).
Our mandate was sweeping.
The law directed us to
investigate "facts and circumstances relating to the terrorist attacks
of September 11, 2001," including those relating to intelligence
agencies, law enforcement agencies, diplomacy, immigration issues and
border control, the flow of assets to terrorist organizations,
commercial aviation, the role of congressional oversight and resource
allocation, and other areas determined relevant by the Commission.
In pursuing our mandate, we have
reviewed more than 2.5 million pages of documents and interviewed more
than 1,200 individuals in ten countries. This included nearly every
senior official from the current and previous administrations who had
responsibility for topics covered in our mandate.
We have sought to be independent,
impartial, thorough, and nonpartisan. From the outset, we have been
committed to share as much of our investigation as we can with the
American people. To that end, we
held 19 days of hearings and took public testimony from 160 witnesses.
Our aim has not been to assign
individual blame. Our aim has been to provide the fullest
possible account of the events surrounding 9/11 and to identify lessons
We learned about an enemy who is
sophisticated, patient, disciplined, and lethal. The enemy rallies broad
support in the Arab and Muslim world by demanding redress of political
grievances, but its hostility toward us and our values is limitless. Its
purpose is to rid the world of religious and political pluralism, the
plebiscite, and equal rights for women. It makes no distinction between
military and civilian targets. Collateral damage is not in its
We learned that the institutions
charged with protecting our borders, civil aviation, and national
security did not understand how grave this threat could be, and did not
adjust their policies, plans, and practices to deter or defeat it. We
learned of fault lines within our government-between foreign and
domestic intelligence, and between and within agencies. We learned of
the pervasive problems of managing and sharing information across a
large and unwieldy government that had been built in a different era to
confront different dangers.
At the outset of our work, we said we
were looking backward in order to look forward. We hope that the
terrible losses chronicled in this report can create something
positive-an America that is safer, stronger, and wiser. That September
day, we came together as a nation. The test before us is to sustain that
unity of purpose and meet the challenges now confronting us.
We need to design a balanced strategy
for the long haul, to attack terrorists and prevent their ranks from
swelling while at the same time protecting our country against future
attacks. We have been forced to think about the way our government is
organized. The massive departments and agencies that prevailed in the
great struggles of the twentieth century must work together in new ways,
so that all the instruments of national power can be combined. Congress
needs dramatic change as well to strengthen oversight and focus
As we complete our final report, we
want to begin by thanking our fellow Commissioners, whose dedication to
this task has been profound. We have reasoned together over every page,
and the report has benefited from this remarkable dialogue. We want to
express our considerable respect for the intellect and judgment of our
colleagues, as well as our great affection for them.
We want to thank the Commission staff.
The dedicated professional
staff, headed by Philip Zelikow,
has contributed innumerable hours to the completion of this report,
setting aside other important endeavors to take on this all-consuming
assignment. They have conducted the exacting investigative work upon
which the Commission has built. They have given good advice, and
faithfully carried out our guidance. They have been superb.
We thank the Congress and the
President. Executive branch agencies have searched records and produced
a multitude of documents for us. We thank officials, past and present,
who were generous with their time and provided us with insight. The
PENTTBOM team at the FBI, the Director's Review Group at the CIA, and
Inspectors General at the Department of Justice and the CIA provided
great assistance. We owe a huge debt to their investigative labors,
painstaking attention to detail, and readiness to share what they have
learned. We have built on the work of several previous Commissions, and
we thank the Congressional Joint Inquiry, whose fine work helped us get
started. We thank the City of New York for assistance with documents and
witnesses, and the Government Printing Office and W.W. Norton & Company
for helping to get this report to the broad public.
We conclude this list of thanks by
coming full circle: We thank the
families of 9/11, whose persistence and dedication helped create the
Commission. They have been with us each step of the way, as
partners and witnesses. They know better than any of us the importance
of the work we have undertaken.
We want to note what we have done, and
not done. We have endeavored to
provide the most complete account we can of the events of September 11,
what happened and why.
This final report is only a summary of what we have done,
citing only a fraction of the sources we have consulted. But in an event of
this scale, touching so many issues and organizations, we are conscious
of our limits. We have not
interviewed every knowledgeable person or found every relevant piece of
paper. New information inevitably will come to light. We present
this report as a foundation for a better understanding of a landmark in
the history of our nation.
We have listened to scores of
overwhelming personal tragedies and astounding acts of heroism and
bravery. We have examined the staggering impact of the events of 9/11 on
the American people and their amazing resilience and courage as they
fought back. We have admired their determination to do their best to
prevent another tragedy while preparing to respond if it becomes
necessary. We emerge from this investigation with enormous sympathy for
the victims and their loved ones, and with enhanced respect for the
American people. We recognize the formidable challenges that lie ahead.
We also approach the task of
recommendations with humility. We have made a limited number of them. We
decided consciously to focus on recommendations we believe to be most
important, whose implementation can make the greatest difference. We
came into this process with strong opinions about what would work. All
of us have had to pause, reflect, and sometimes change our minds as we
studied these problems and considered the views of others. We hope our
report will encourage our fellow citizens to study, reflect-and act.
|Thomas H. Kean
|Lee H. Hamilton
HAVE SOME PLANES"
points of interest]
Tuesday, September 11, 2001, dawned
temperate and nearly cloudless in the eastern United States. Millions of
men and women readied themselves for work. Some made their way to the
Twin Towers, the signature structures of the World Trade Center complex
in New York City. Others went to Arlington, Virginia, to the Pentagon.
Across the Potomac River, the United States Congress was back in
session. At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, people began to line
up for a White House tour. In Sarasota, Florida, President George W.
Bush went for an early morning run.
For those heading to an airport,
weather conditions could not have been better for a safe and pleasant
journey. Among the travelers were Mohamed Atta and Abdul Aziz al Omari,
who arrived at the airport in Portland, Maine.
1.1 INSIDE THE FOUR FLIGHTS
Boarding the Flights
Boston: American 11 and United 175.
Atta and Omari boarded a
6:00 A.M. flight from Portland to Boston's Logan International Airport.1
When he checked in for his flight to
Boston, Atta was selected by a computerized prescreening system known as
CAPPS (Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System), created to
identify passengers who should be subject to special security measures.
Under security rules in place at the time, the only consequence of Atta's selection by CAPPS was that his checked bags were held off the
plane until it was confirmed that he had boarded the aircraft. This did
not hinder Atta's plans. 2
Atta and Omari arrived in Boston at
6:45. Seven minutes later, Atta apparently took a call from Marwan al
Shehhi, a longtime colleague who was at another terminal at Logan
Airport. They spoke for three minutes.3 It would be their
Between 6:45 and 7:40, Atta and Omari,
along with Satam al Suqami, Wail al Shehri, and Waleed al Shehri,
checked in and boarded American Airlines Flight 11, bound for Los
Angeles. The flight was scheduled to depart at 7:45.4
In another Logan terminal, Shehhi,
joined by Fayez Banihammad, Mohand al Shehri, Ahmed al Ghamdi, and Hamza
al Ghamdi, checked in for United Airlines Flight 175, also bound for Los
Angeles. A couple of Shehhi's colleagues were obviously unused to
travel; according to the United ticket agent, they had trouble
understanding the standard security questions, and she had to go over
them slowly until they gave the routine, reassuring answers.5
Their flight was scheduled to depart at 8:00.
The security checkpoints through which
passengers, including Atta and his colleagues, gained access to the
American 11 gate were operated by Globe Security under a contract with
American Airlines. In a different terminal, the single checkpoint
through which passengers for United 175 passed was controlled by United
Airlines, which had contracted with
Huntleigh USA to perform the
In passing through these checkpoints,
each of the hijackers would have been screened by a walk-through metal
detector calibrated to detect items with at least the metal content of a
.22-caliber handgun. Anyone who might have set off that detector would
have been screened with a hand wand-a procedure requiring the screener
to identify the metal item or items that caused the alarm. In addition,
an X-ray machine would have screened the hijackers' carry-on belongings.
The screening was in place to identify and confiscate weapons and other
items prohibited from being carried onto a commercial flight.7
None of the checkpoint supervisors recalled the hijackers or reported
anything suspicious regarding their screening.8
While Atta had been selected by CAPPS
in Portland, three members of his hijacking team-Suqami, Wail al Shehri,
and Waleed al Shehri-were selected in Boston. Their selection affected
only the handling of their checked bags, not their screening at the
checkpoint. All five men cleared the checkpoint and made their way to
the gate for American 11. Atta, Omari, and Suqami
took their seats in business class
(seats 8D, 8G, and 10B, respectively). The Shehri
brothers had adjacent seats in row 2
(Wail in 2A,Waleed in 2B),
in the first-class cabin. They boarded American 11 between 7:31 and 7:40.
aircraft pushed back from the gate at 7:40. 9
Shehhi and his team, none of whom had
been selected by CAPPS, boarded United 175 between 7:23 and 7:28 (Banihammad
in 2A, Shehri in 2B, Shehhi in 6C, Hamza al Ghamdi in 9C, and Ahmed al
Ghamdi in 9D). Their aircraft pushed back from the gate just before 8:00.10
Washington Dulles: American 77.
Hundreds of miles southwest of Boston, at Dulles International Airport
in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., five more men were
preparing to take their early morning flight.
At 7:15, a pair of them, Khalid al Mihdhar and Majed Moqed, checked in at the American Airlines
ticket counter for Flight 77, bound for Los Angeles. Within the next 20
minutes, they would be followed by Hani Hanjour and two brothers, Nawaf
al Hazmi and Salem al Hazmi.11
Hani Hanjour, Khalid al Mihdhar, and
Majed Moqed were flagged by CAPPS. The Hazmi brothers were also selected
for extra scrutiny by the air-line's customer service representative at
the check-in counter. He did so because one of the brothers did not have
photo identification nor could he understand English, and because the
agent found both of the passengers to be suspicious. The only
consequence of their selection was that their checked bags were held off
the plane until it was confirmed that they had boarded the aircraft.12
All five hijackers passed through the
Main Terminal's west security screening checkpoint; United Airlines,
which was the responsible air carrier, had contracted out the work to
The checkpoint featured
closed-circuit television that recorded all passengers,
hijackers, as they were screened. At 7:18, Mihdhar and Moqed entered the
Mihdhar and Moqed placed their carry-on
bags on the belt of the X-ray machine and proceeded through the first
metal detector. Both set off the alarm, and they were directed to a
second metal detector. Mihdhar did not trigger the alarm and was
permitted through the checkpoint. After Moqed set it off, a screener
wanded him. He passed this inspection.14
About 20 minutes later, at 7:35,
another passenger for Flight 77, Hani Han-jour, placed two carry-on bags
on the X-ray belt in the Main Terminal's west checkpoint, and proceeded,
without alarm, through the metal detector. A short time later, Nawaf and
Salem al Hazmi entered the same checkpoint. Salem al Hazmi cleared the
metal detector and was permitted through; Nawaf al Hazmi set off the
alarms for both the first and second metal detectors and was then hand-wanded
before being passed. In addition, his over-the-shoulder carry-on bag was
swiped by an explosive trace detector and then passed. The video footage
indicates that he was carrying an unidentified item in his back pocket,
clipped to its rim.15
When the local civil aviation security
office of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) later investigated
these security screening operations, the screeners recalled nothing out
of the ordinary. They could not recall that any of the passengers they
screened were CAPPS selectees. We asked a screening expert to review the
videotape of the hand-wanding, and he found the quality of the
screener's work to have been "marginal at best."
The screener should
have "resolved" what set off the alarm; and in the case of both Moqed
and Hazmi, it was clear that he did not.16
At 7:50, Majed Moqed and Khalid al
Mihdhar boarded the flight and were seated in
12A and 12B in coach. Hani
Hanjour, assigned to seat 1B (first class), soon followed. The Hazmi
brothers, sitting in 5E
and 5F, joined Hanjour in
the first-class cabin.17
Newark: United 93.
Between 7:03 and 7:39, Saeed al Ghamdi, Ahmed al Nami, Ahmad al Haznawi,
and Ziad Jarrah checked in at the United Airlines ticket counter for
Flight 93, going to Los Angeles. Two checked bags; two did not. Haznawi
was selected by CAPPS. His checked bag was screened for explosives and
then loaded on the plane.18
The four men passed through the
security checkpoint, owned by United Airlines and operated under
contract by Argenbright Security. Like the checkpoints in Boston, it
lacked closed-circuit television surveillance so there is no documentary
evidence to indicate when the hijackers passed through the checkpoint,
what alarms may have been triggered, or what security procedures were
administered. The FAA interviewed the screeners later; none recalled
anything unusual or suspicious.19
The four men boarded the plane between
7:39 and 7:48. All four had seats in the first-class cabin; their plane
had no business-class section. Jarrah was in
seat 1B, closest to the
cockpit; Nami was in 3C, Ghamdi in
3D, and Haznawi
The 19 men were aboard four
transcontinental flights.21 They were planning to hijack
these planes and turn them into large guided missiles, loaded with up to
11,400 gallons of jet fuel. By 8:00 A.M. on the morning of Tuesday,
September 11, 2001, they had defeated all the security layers that
America's civil aviation security system then had in place to prevent a
The Hijacking of American 11
American Airlines Flight 11 provided nonstop service from Boston to Los
Angeles. On September 11, Captain John Ogonowski and First Officer
Thomas McGuinness piloted the Boeing 767. It carried its full capacity
of nine flight attendants. Eighty-one passengers boarded the flight with
them (including the five terrorists).22
The plane took off at 7:59. Just before
8:14, it had climbed to 26,000 feet, not quite its initial assigned
cruising altitude of 29,000 feet. All communications and flight profile
data were normal. About this time the "Fasten Seatbelt" sign would
usually have been turned off and the flight attendants would have begun
preparing for cabin service.23
At that same time, American 11 had its
last routine communication with the ground when it acknowledged
navigational instructions from the FAA's air traffic control (ATC)
center in Boston. Sixteen seconds after that transmission, ATC
instructed the aircraft's pilots to climb to 35,000 feet. That message
and all subsequent attempts to contact the flight were not acknowledged.
From this and other evidence,
we believe the hijacking began at 8:14 or
Reports from two flight attendants in
the coach cabin, Betty Ong and Madeline "Amy" Sweeney, tell us most of
what we know about how the hijacking happened. As it began, some of the
hijackers-most likely Wail al Shehri and Waleed al Shehri, who were
seated in row 2 in first class-stabbed the two unarmed flight attendants
who would have been preparing for cabin service.25
We do not know exactly how the
hijackers gained access to the cockpit; FAA rules required that the
doors remain closed and locked during flight.
Ong speculated that they
had "jammed their way" in. Perhaps the terrorists stabbed the flight
attendants to get a cockpit key, to force one of them to open the
cockpit door, or to lure the captain or first officer out of the
cockpit. Or the flight attendants may just have been in their way.26
At the same time or shortly thereafter,
Atta-the only terrorist on board trained to fly a jet-would have moved
to the cockpit from his business-class seat, possibly accompanied by Omari. As this was happening,
passenger Daniel Lewin, who was seated in
the row just behind Atta and Omari, was stabbed by one of the
hijackers-probably Satam al Suqami, who was seated directly behind Lewin.
Lewin had served four years as an officer in the Israeli military.
He may have made an attempt to stop the hijackers in front of him, not
realizing that another was sitting behind him.27
The hijackers quickly gained control
and sprayed Mace, pepper spray, or some other irritant in the
first-class cabin, in order to force the passengers and flight
attendants toward the rear of the plane.
They claimed they had a bomb.28
About five minutes after the hijacking
began, Betty Ong contacted the American Airlines Southeastern
Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina, via an AT&T airphone to
report an emergency aboard the flight. This was the first of several
occasions on 9/11 when flight attendants took action outside the scope
of their training, which emphasized that in a hijacking, they were to
communicate with the cockpit crew.
The emergency call lasted
approximately 25 minutes, as Ong calmly and professionally relayed
information about events taking place aboard the airplane to authorities
on the ground.29
At 8:19, Ong reported: "The cockpit is
not answering, somebody's stabbed in business class-and I think there's
Mace-that we can't breathe-I don't know, I think we're getting
hijacked." She then told of the stabbings of the two flight attendants.30
At 8:21, one of the American employees
receiving Ong's call in North Carolina, Nydia Gonzalez, alerted the
American Airlines operations center in Fort Worth, Texas, reaching Craig
Marquis, the manager on duty. Marquis soon realized this was an
emergency and instructed the airline's dispatcher responsible for the
flight to contact the cockpit. At 8:23, the dispatcher tried
unsuccessfully to contact the aircraft. Six minutes later, the air
traffic control specialist in American's operations center contacted the
FAA's Boston Air Traffic Control Center about the flight. The center was
already aware of the problem.31
Boston Center knew of a problem on the
flight in part because just before 8:25 the hijackers had attempted to
communicate with the passengers. The microphone was keyed, and
immediately one of the hijackers said, "Nobody move. Everything will be
okay. If you try to make any moves, you'll endanger yourself and the
airplane. Just stay quiet."
Air traffic controllers heard the
transmission; Ong did not. The hijackers probably did not know how to
operate the cockpit radio communication system correctly, and thus
inadvertently broadcast their message over the air traffic control
channel instead of the cabin public-address channel. Also at 8:25, and
again at 8:29, Amy Sweeney got through to the American Flight Services
Office in Boston but was cut off after she reported someone was hurt
aboard the flight. Three minutes later, Sweeney was reconnected to the
office and began relaying updates to the manager, Michael Woodward.32
At 8:26, Ong reported that the plane
was "flying erratically." A minute later, Flight 11 turned south.
American also began getting identifications of the hijackers, as Ong and
then Sweeney passed on some of the seat numbers of those who had gained
unauthorized access to the cockpit.33
Sweeney calmly reported on her line
that the plane had been hijacked; a man in first class had his throat
slashed; two flight attendants had been stabbed-one was seriously hurt
and was on oxygen while the other's wounds seemed minor; a doctor had
been requested; the flight attendants were unable to contact the
cockpit; and there was a bomb in the cockpit. Sweeney told Woodward that
she and Ong were trying to relay as much information as they could to
people on the ground.34
At 8:38, Ong told Gonzalez that the
plane was flying erratically again. Around this time Sweeney told
Woodward that the hijackers were Middle Easterners,
naming three of
their seat numbers. One spoke very little English and one spoke
excellent English. The hijackers had gained entry to the cockpit, and
she did not know how. The aircraft was in a rapid descent.35
At 8:41, Sweeney told Woodward that
passengers in coach were under the impression that there was a routine
medical emergency in first class. Other flight attendants were busy at
duties such as getting medical supplies while Ong and Sweeney were
reporting the events.36
At 8:41, in American's operations
center, a colleague told Marquis that the air traffic controllers
declared Flight 11 a hijacking and "think he's [American 11] headed
toward Kennedy [airport in New York City]. They're moving everybody out
of the way. They seem to have him on a primary radar. They seem to think
that he is descending."37
At 8:44, Gonzalez reported losing phone
contact with Ong. About this same time Sweeney reported to Woodward, "Something is wrong. We are in a rapid descent . . . we are all over the
place." Woodward asked Sweeney to look out the window to see if she
could determine where they were. Sweeney responded: "We are flying low.
We are flying very, very low. We are flying way too low." Seconds later
she said, "Oh my God we are way too low." The phone call ended.38
At 8:46:40, American 11 crashed into
the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.39
All on board, along with an unknown number of people in the tower, were
The Hijacking of United 175
United Airlines Flight 175 was scheduled to depart for Los Angeles at
8:00. Captain Victor Saracini and First Officer Michael Horrocks piloted
the Boeing 767, which had seven flight attendants. Fifty-six passengers
boarded the flight.40
United 175 pushed back from its gate at
7:58 and departed Logan Airport at 8:14.
By 8:33, it had reached its
assigned cruising altitude of 31,000 feet. The flight attendants would
have begun their cabin service.41
The flight had taken off just
American 11 was being hijacked, and
at 8:42 the United 175 flight crew
completed their report on a "suspicious transmission" overheard from
another plane (which turned out to have been Flight 11) just after
takeoff. This was United 175's last communication with the ground.42
The hijackers attacked sometime between
8:42 and 8:46. They used
knives (as reported by two passengers and a
flight attendant), Mace (reported by one passenger),
and the threat of a
bomb (reported by the same passenger). They stabbed members of the
flight crew (reported by a flight attendant and one passenger). Both
pilots had been killed (reported by one flight attendant). The eyewitness
accounts came from calls made from the rear of the plane, from
passengers originally seated further forward in the cabin, a sign that
passengers and perhaps crew had been moved to the back of the aircraft.
Given similarities to American 11 in hijacker seating and in eyewitness
reports of tactics and weapons, as well as the contact between the
presumed team leaders, Atta and Shehhi, we believe the tactics were
similar on both flights.43
The first operational evidence that
something was abnormal on United 175 came at 8:47, when the aircraft
changed beacon codes twice within a minute. At 8:51, the flight deviated
from its assigned altitude, and a minute later New York air traffic
controllers began repeatedly and unsuccessfully trying to contact it.44
At 8:52, in Easton, Connecticut,
a man named Lee Hanson received a phone call from his son Peter,
a passenger on United 175. His son told him: "I think they've taken over the
cockpit-An attendant has been stabbed- and someone else up front may
have been killed. The plane is making strange moves. Call United
Airlines-Tell them it's Flight 175, Boston to LA." Lee Hanson then
called the Easton Police Department and relayed what he had heard.45
Also at 8:52, a male flight attendant
called a United office in San Francisco, reaching Marc Policastro. The
flight attendant reported that the flight had been hijacked,
had been killed, a flight attendant had been stabbed, and the hijackers
were probably flying the plane. The call lasted about two minutes, after
which Policastro and a colleague tried unsuccessfully to contact the
At 8:58, the flight took a heading
toward New York City.47
At 8:59, Flight 175 passenger Brian
David Sweeney tried to call his wife, Julie. He left a message on their
home answering machine that the plane had been hijacked. He then called
his mother, Louise Sweeney, told her the flight had been hijacked, and
added that the passengers were thinking about storming the cockpit to
take control of the plane away from the hijackers.48
At 9:00, Lee Hanson received a second
call from his son Peter:
It's getting bad, Dad-A stewardess
was stabbed-They seem to have knives and Mace-They said they have a
bomb-It's getting very bad on the plane-Passengers are throwing up and
getting sick-The plane is making jerky movements-I don't think the
pilot is flying the plane-I think we are going down-I think they
intend to go to Chicago or someplace
and fly into a building-Don't
worry, Dad- If it happens, it'll be very fast-My God, my God.49
The call ended abruptly. Lee Hanson had
heard a woman scream just before it cut off. He turned on a television,
and in her home so did Louise Sweeney. Both then saw the second aircraft
hit the World Trade Center.50
At 9:03:11, United Airlines Flight 175
struck the South Tower of the World Trade Center.51 All on
board, along with an unknown number of people in the tower, were killed
The Hijacking of American 77
American Airlines Flight 77 was scheduled to depart from Washington
Dulles for Los Angeles at 8:10. The aircraft was a Boeing 757 piloted by
Captain Charles F. Burlingame and First Officer David Charlebois. There
were four flight attendants. On September 11, the flight carried 58
American 77 pushed back from its
gate at 8:09 and took off at 8:20.
At 8:46, the flight reached its assigned
cruising altitude of 35,000 feet. Cabin service would have begun.
8:51, American 77 transmitted its last routine radio communication. The
hijacking began between 8:51 and 8:54. As on American 11 and United 175,
the hijackers used knives (reported by one passenger) and moved all the
passengers (and possibly crew) to the rear of the aircraft (reported by
one flight attendant and one passenger).
Unlike the earlier flights,
Flight 77 hijackers were reported by a passenger to have box cutters.
Finally, a passenger reported that an announcement had been made by the
"pilot" that the plane had been hijacked.
Neither of the firsthand
accounts mentioned any stabbings or the threat or use of either a bomb
or Mace, though both witnesses began the flight in the first-class
At 8:54, the aircraft deviated from its
assigned course, turning south. Two minutes later the transponder was
turned off and even primary radar contact with the aircraft was lost.
The Indianapolis Air Traffic Control Center repeatedly tried and failed
to contact the aircraft. American Airlines dispatchers also tried,
At 9:00, American Airlines Executive
Vice President Gerard Arpey learned that communications had been lost
with American 77. This was now the second American aircraft in trouble.
He ordered all American Airlines flights in the Northeast that had not
taken off to remain on the ground.
Shortly before 9:10, suspecting that
American 77 had been hijacked, American headquarters concluded that the
second aircraft to hit
the World Trade Center might have been Flight 77.
After learning that United Airlines was missing a plane, American
Airlines headquarters extended the ground stop nationwide.55
At 9:12, Renee May called her mother,
Nancy May, in Las Vegas. She said her flight was being hijacked by
who had moved them to the rear of the plane. She asked her
mother to alert American Airlines. Nancy May and her husband promptly
At some point between 9:16 and 9:26,
Barbara Olson called her husband, Ted Olson,
the solicitor general of
the United States. She reported that the flight had been hijacked, and
the hijackers had knives and box cutters. She further indicated that the
hijackers were not aware of her phone call, and that they had put all
the passengers in the back of the plane. About a minute into the
conversation, the call was cut off. Solicitor General Olson tried
unsuccessfully to reach Attorney General John Ashcroft.57
Shortly after the first call, Barbara
Olson reached her husband again. She reported that the pilot had
announced that the flight had been hijacked, and she asked her husband
what she should tell the captain to do.
Ted Olson asked for her location
and she replied that the aircraft was then flying over houses. Another
passenger told her they were traveling northeast.
The Solicitor General
then informed his wife of the two previous hijackings and crashes. She
did not display signs of panic and did not indicate any awareness of an
impending crash. At that point, the second call was cut off.58
At 9:29, the autopilot on American 77
was disengaged; the aircraft was at 7,000 feet and approximately 38
miles west of the Pentagon.59
At 9:32, controllers at the
Dulles Terminal Radar Approach Control "observed a primary radar target
tracking eastbound at a high rate of speed."
This was later determined
to have been Flight 77.
At 9:34, Ronald Reagan Washington
National Airport advised the Secret Service of an unknown aircraft
heading in the direction of the White House.
American 77 was then 5
miles west-southwest of the Pentagon and began a 330-degree turn. At the
end of the turn, it was descending through 2,200 feet, pointed toward
the Pentagon and downtown Washington. The hijacker pilot then advanced
the throttles to maximum power and dove toward the Pentagon.60
At 9:37:46, American Airlines Flight 77
crashed into the Pentagon,
traveling at approximately
530 miles per
hour.61 All on board, as well as many civilian and military
personnel in the building, were killed.
The Battle for United 93
At 8:42, United Airlines Flight
93 took off from Newark (New Jersey) Liberty International Airport bound
for San Francisco. The aircraft was piloted by Captain Jason Dahl and
First Officer Leroy Homer, and there were five flight attendants.
Thirty-seven passengers, including the hijackers, boarded the plane.
Scheduled to depart the gate at 8:00,
the Boeing 757's takeoff was
delayed because of the airport's typically heavy morning traffic.62
The hijackers had planned to take
flights scheduled to depart at 7:45 (American 11), 8:00 (United 175 and
United 93), and 8:10 (American 77). Three of the flights had actually
taken off within 10 to 15 minutes of their planned departure times.
United 93 would ordinarily have taken off about 15 minutes after pulling
away from the gate. When it left the ground at 8:42,
the flight was running more than 25 minutes late.63
As United 93 left Newark, the flight's
crew members were unaware of the hijacking of American 11.
the FAA, American, and United were facing the staggering realization of
apparent multiple hijackings. At 9:03, they would see another aircraft
strike the World Trade Center. Crisis managers at the FAA and the
airlines did not yet act to warn other aircraft.64
same time, Boston Center realized that a message transmitted just before
8:25 by the hijacker pilot of American 11 included the phrase,
No one at the FAA or the airlines that
day had ever dealt with multiple hijackings.
Such a plot had not been
carried out anywhere in the world in more than 30 years, and never in
the United States. As news of the hijackings filtered through the FAA
and the airlines, it does not seem to have occurred to their leadership
that they needed to alert other aircraft in the air that they too might
be at risk.66
United 175 was hijacked between 8:42
and 8:46, and awareness of that hijacking began to spread after 8:51.
American 77 was hijacked between 8:51 and 8:54. By 9:00, FAA and airline
officials began to comprehend that attackers were going after multiple
aircraft. American Airlines' nationwide ground stop between 9:05 and
9:10 was followed by a United Airlines ground stop.
FAA controllers at
Boston Center, which had tracked the first two hijackings, requested at
9:07 that Herndon Command Center "get messages to airborne aircraft to
increase security for the cockpit." There is no evidence that Herndon
took such action. Boston Center immediately began speculating about
other aircraft that might be in danger, leading them to worry about a
transcontinental flight-Delta 1989-that in fact was not hijacked. At
9:19, the FAA's New England regional office called Herndon and asked
that Cleveland Center advise Delta 1989 to use extra cockpit security.67
Several FAA air traffic control
officials told us it was the air carriers' responsibility to notify
their planes of security problems. One senior FAA air traffic control
manager said that it was simply not the FAA's place to order the
airlines what to tell their pilots.68 We believe such
statements do not reflect an adequate appreciation of the FAA's
responsibility for the safety and security of civil aviation.
The airlines bore responsibility, too.
They were facing an escalating number of conflicting and, for the most
part, erroneous reports about other flights, as well as a continuing
lack of vital information from the FAA about the hijacked flights.
found no evidence, however, that American Airlines sent any cockpit
warnings to its aircraft on 9/11.
United's first decisive action to
notify its airborne aircraft to take defensive action did not come until
9:19, when a United flight dispatcher, Ed Ballinger, took the initiative
to begin transmitting warnings to his 16 transcontinental flights:
"Beware any cockpit intrusion- Two a/c [aircraft] hit World Trade
Center." One of the flights that received the warning was United 93.
Because Ballinger was still responsible for his other flights as well as
his warning message was not
By all accounts, the first 46 minutes
of Flight 93's cross-country trip proceeded routinely. Radio
communications from the plane were normal. Heading, speed, and altitude
ran according to plan. At 9:24, Ballinger's warning to United 93 was
received in the cockpit. Within two minutes, at 9:26, the pilot, Jason
Dahl, responded with a note of puzzlement: "Ed, confirm latest mssg plz-Jason."70
The hijackers attacked at 9:28.
traveling 35,000 feet above eastern Ohio, United 93 suddenly dropped 700
feet. Eleven seconds into the descent, the FAA's air traffic control
center in Cleveland received the first of two radio transmissions from
the aircraft. During the first broadcast, the captain or first officer
could be heard declaring "Mayday" amid the sounds of a physical struggle
in the cockpit. The second radio transmission, 35 seconds later,
indicated that the fight was continuing. The captain or first officer
could be heard shouting:" Hey get out of here-get out of here-get out of
On the morning of 9/11, there were only
37 passengers on United 93-33 in addition to the 4 hijackers. This was
below the norm for Tuesday mornings during the summer of 2001. But there
is no evidence that the hijackers manipulated passenger levels or
purchased additional seats to facilitate their operation.72
The terrorists who hijacked three other
commercial flights on 9/11 operated in five-man teams. They initiated
their cockpit takeover within 30 minutes of takeoff.
On Flight 93,
however, the takeover took place 46 minutes after takeoff and there were
only four hijackers. The operative likely intended to round out the team
for this flight, Mohamed al Kahtani, had been refused entry by a
suspicious immigration inspector at Florida's Orlando International
Airport in August.73
Because several passengers on
United 93 described three hijackers on the plane, not four,
some have wondered whether one of the hijackers had been able to use the
cockpit jump seat from the outset of the flight. FAA rules allow use of
this seat by documented and approved individuals, usually air carrier or
FAA personnel. We have found no evidence indicating that one of the
hijackers, or anyone else, sat there on this flight. All the hijackers
had assigned seats in first class, and they seem to have used them. We
believe it is more likely that Jarrah, the crucial pilot-trained member
of their team, remained seated and inconspicuous until after the cockpit
was seized; and once inside, he would not have been visible to the
At 9:32, a hijacker, probably Jarrah,
made or attempted to make the following announcement to the passengers
of Flight 93:"Ladies and Gentlemen: Here the captain, please sit down
keep remaining sitting. We have a bomb on board. So, sit."
data recorder (also recovered) indicates that Jarrah then instructed the
plane's autopilot to turn the aircraft around and head east.75
The cockpit voice recorder data
indicate that a woman, most likely a flight attendant, was being held
captive in the cockpit. She struggled with one of the hijackers who
killed or otherwise silenced her.76
Shortly thereafter, the passengers and
flight crew began a series of calls from GTE airphones and cellular
phones. These calls between family, friends, and colleagues took place
until the end of the flight and provided those on the ground with
firsthand accounts. They enabled the passengers to gain critical
information, including the news that two aircraft had slammed into the
World Trade Center.77
At 9:39, the FAA's Cleveland Air Route
Traffic Control Center overheard a second announcement indicating that
there was a bomb on board, that the plane was returning to the airport,
and that they should remain seated.78 While
it apparently was
not heard by the passengers, this announcement, like those on Flight 11
and Flight 77, was intended to deceive them. Jarrah, like Atta earlier,
may have inadvertently broadcast the message because he did not know how
to operate the radio and the intercom.
To our knowledge none of them had
ever flown an actual airliner before.
At least two callers
from the flight reported that the hijackers knew that passengers were
making calls but did not seem to care. It is quite possible Jarrah knew of the success of
the assault on the World Trade Center. He could have learned of this
from messages being sent by United Airlines to the cockpits of its
transcontinental flights, including Flight 93, warning of cockpit
intrusion and telling of the New York attacks. But even without them, he
would certainly have understood that the attacks on the World Trade
Center would already have unfolded, given Flight 93's tardy departure
from Newark. If Jarrah did know that the passengers were making calls,
it might not have occurred to him that they were certain to learn what
had happened in New York, thereby defeating his attempts at deception.79
At least ten passengers and two crew
members shared vital information with family, friends, colleagues, or
others on the ground. All understood the plane had been hijacked. They
said the hijackers wielded knives and claimed to have a bomb. The
hijackers were wearing red bandanas, and they forced the passengers to
the back of the aircraft.80
Callers reported that a passenger had
been stabbed and that two people were lying on the floor of the cabin,
injured or dead-possibly the captain and first officer. One caller
reported that a flight attendant had been killed.81
One of the callers from United 93 also
reported that he thought the hijackers might possess a gun. But none of
the other callers reported the presence of a firearm. One recipient of a
call from the aircraft recounted specifically asking her caller whether
the hijackers had guns. The passenger replied that he did not see one.
No evidence of firearms or of their identifiable remains was found at
the aircraft's crash site, and the cockpit voice recorder gives no
indication of a gun being fired or mentioned at any time. We believe
that if the hijackers had possessed a gun, they would have used it in
the flight's last minutes as the passengers fought back.82
Passengers on three flights reported
the hijackers' claim of having a bomb. The FBI told us they found no
trace of explosives at the crash sites. One of the passengers who
mentioned a bomb expressed his belief that it was not real. Lacking any
evidence that the hijackers attempted to smuggle such illegal items past
the security screening checkpoints, we believe the bombs were probably
During at least five of the passengers'
phone calls, information was shared about the attacks that had occurred
earlier that morning at the World Trade Center. Five calls described the
intent of passengers and surviving crew members to revolt against the
hijackers. According to one call, they voted on whether to rush the
terrorists in an attempt to retake the plane. They decided, and acted.84
At 9:57, the passenger assault began.
Several passengers had terminated phone calls with loved ones in order
to join the revolt. One of the callers ended her message as follows:
"Everyone's running up to first class. I've got to go. Bye."85
The cockpit voice recorder captured the
sounds of the passenger assault muffled by the intervening cockpit door.
Some family members who listened to the recording report that they can
hear the voice of a loved one among the din. We cannot identify whose
voices can be heard. But the assault was sustained.86
In response, Jarrah immediately began
to roll the airplane to the left and right, attempting to knock the
passengers off balance. At 9:58:57, Jarrah told another hijacker in the
cockpit to block the door. Jarrah continued to roll the airplane sharply
left and right, but the assault continued.
At 9:59:52, Jarrah changed
tactics and pitched the nose of the airplane up and down to disrupt the
assault. The recorder captured the sounds of loud thumps, crashes,
shouts, and breaking glasses and plates.
At 10:00:03, Jarrah stabilized
Five seconds later, Jarrah asked, "Is
that it? Shall we finish it off?" A hijacker responded, "No. Not yet.
When they all come, we finish it off." The sounds of fighting continued
outside the cockpit. Again, Jarrah pitched the nose of the aircraft up
and down. At 10:00:26, a passenger in the background said, "In the
cockpit. If we don't we'll die!" Sixteen seconds later, a passenger
yelled, "Roll it!" Jarrah stopped the violent maneuvers at about
10:01:00 and said, "Allah
is the greatest! Allah is the greatest!" He
then asked another hijacker in the cock-pit, "Is that it? I mean, shall
we put it down?" to which the other replied, "Yes, put it in it, and
pull it down."88
they talking in their native language? If not, why?
The passengers continued their assault
and at 10:02:23, a hijacker said, "Pull it down! Pull it down!" The
hijackers remained at the controls but must have judged that the
passengers were only seconds from overcoming them. The airplane headed
down; the control wheel was turned hard to the right.
rolled onto its back, and one of the hijackers began shouting "Allah is
the greatest. Allah is the greatest." With the sounds of the passenger
counterattack continuing, the aircraft plowed into an empty field in
Shanksville, Pennsylvania, at 580 miles per hour, about 20 minutes'
flying time from Washington, D.C.89
Jarrah's objective was to crash his
airliner into symbols of the American Republic, the Capitol or the White
House. He was defeated by the alerted, unarmed passengers of United 93.
1.2 IMPROVISING A HOMELAND DEFENSE
The FAA and NORAD
On 9/11, the defense of U.S. airspace depended on close interaction
between two federal agencies: the FAA and the North American Aerospace
Defense Command (NORAD). The
most recent hijacking that involved U.S. air traffic controllers,
FAA management, and military coordination had
occurred in 1993.90 In order to understand how the two
agencies interacted eight years later, we will review their missions,
command and control structures, and working relationship on the morning
FAA Mission and Structure.
As of September 11, 2001, the FAA was mandated by law to regulate the
safety and security of civil aviation. From an air traffic controller's
perspective, that meant maintaining a safe distance between airborne
Many controllers work at the FAA's 22
Air Route Traffic Control Centers. They are grouped under
regional offices and coordinate closely with the national Air Traffic
Control System Command Center, located in Herndon,
FAA Air Traffic Control Centers
Reporting structure, Northeast Air
Graphics courtesy of ESRI
Virginia, which oversees daily traffic
flow within the entire airspace system.
FAA headquarters is ultimately
responsible for the management of the National Airspace System. The
Operations Center located at FAA headquarters receives
notifications of incidents, including accidents and hijackings.92
FAA Control Centers often receive
information and make operational decisions independently of one another.
On 9/11, the four hijacked aircraft were monitored mainly by the centers
in Boston, New York, Cleveland, and Indianapolis. Each center thus had
part of the knowledge of what was going on across the system. What
Boston knew was not necessarily known by centers in New York, Cleveland,
or Indianapolis, or for that matter by the Command Center in Herndon or
by FAA headquarters in Washington.
Controllers track airliners such as the
four aircraft hijacked on 9/11 primarily by watching the data from a
signal emitted by each aircraft's transponder equipment. Those four
planes, like all aircraft traveling above 10,000 feet, were required to
emit a unique transponder signal while in flight.93
On 9/11, the terrorists turned off the
transponders on three of the four hijacked aircraft. With its
transponder off, it is possible, though more difficult, to track an
aircraft by its primary radar returns. But unlike transponder data,
primary radar returns do not show the aircraft's identity and altitude.
Controllers at centers rely so heavily on transponder signals that
they usually do not display
primary radar returns on their radar scopes. But
they can change the configuration of their scopes so they can see
primary radar returns. They did this on 9/11 when the transponder
signals for three of the aircraft disappeared.94
Before 9/11, it was not unheard of for
a commercial aircraft to deviate slightly from its course, or for an FAA
controller to lose radio contact with a pilot for a short period of
time. A controller could also briefly lose a commercial aircraft's
transponder signal, although this happened much less frequently.
However, the simultaneous loss of radio and transponder signal would be
a rare and alarming occurrence, and would normally indicate a
catastrophic system failure or an aircraft crash. In all of these
instances, the job of the controller was to reach out to the aircraft,
the parent company of the aircraft, and other planes in the vicinity in
an attempt to reestablish communications and set the aircraft back on
course. Alarm bells would not start ringing until these efforts-which
could take five minutes or more-were tried and had failed.95
NORAD Mission and Structure.
NORAD is a binational command established in 1958 between the United
States and Canada. Its mission was, and is, to defend the airspace of
North America and protect the continent. That mission does not
distinguish between internal and external threats; but because NORAD was
created to counter the Soviet threat, it came to define its job as
defending against external attacks.96
The threat of Soviet bombers diminished
significantly as the Cold War ended, and the number of NORAD alert sites
was reduced from its Cold War high of 26. Some within the Pentagon
argued in the 1990s that the alert sites should be eliminated entirely.
In an effort to preserve their mission, members of the air defense
community advocated the importance of air sovereignty against emerging
"asymmetric threats" to the United States: drug smuggling, "non-state
and state-sponsored terrorists," and the proliferation of weapons of
mass destruction and ballistic missile technology.97
NORAD perceived the dominant threat to
be from cruise missiles. Other threats were identified during the late
1990s, including terrorists' use of aircraft as weapons. Exercises were
conducted to counter this threat, but they were not based on actual
intelligence. In most instances, the main concern was the use of such
aircraft to deliver weapons of mass destruction.
Prior to 9/11, it was understood that
an order to shoot down a commercial aircraft would have to be issued by
the National Command Authority (a phrase used to describe the president
and secretary of defense). Exercise planners also assumed that the
aircraft would originate from outside the United States, allowing time
to identify the target and scramble interceptors.
The threat of
terrorists hijacking commercial airliners within the United States-and
using them as guided missiles-was not recognized by NORAD before 9/11.98
Notwithstanding the identification of
these emerging threats, by 9/11 there were only seven alert sites left
in the United States, each with two fighter aircraft on alert. This led
some NORAD commanders to worry that NORAD was not postured adequately to
protect the United States.99
In the United States, NORAD is divided
into three sectors. On 9/11, all the hijacked aircraft were in NORAD's
Northeast Air Defense Sector (also known as NEADS), which is based in
Rome, New York. That morning NEADS could call on two alert sites, each
with one pair of ready fighters: Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape
Cod, Massachusetts, and Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia.100
Other facilities, not on "alert," would need time to arm the fighters
and organize crews.
NEADS reported to the Continental U.S.
NORAD Region (CONR) headquarters, in Panama City, Florida, which in turn
reported to NORAD headquarters, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The FAA and NORAD had developed protocols for working together in the
event of a hijacking. As they existed on 9/11, the protocols for the FAA
to obtain military assistance from NORAD required multiple levels of
notification and approval at the highest levels of government.101
FAA guidance to controllers on hijack
procedures assumed that the aircraft pilot would notify the controller
via radio or by "squawking" a transponder code of "7500"-the universal
code for a hijack in progress. Controllers would notify their
supervisors, who in turn would inform management all the way up to FAA
headquarters in Washington.
Headquarters had a hijack coordinator, who
was the director of the FAA Office of Civil Aviation Security or his or
If a hijack was confirmed, procedures
called for the hijack coordinator on duty to contact the Pentagon's
National Military Command Center (NMCC) and to ask for a military escort
aircraft to follow the flight, report anything unusual, and aid search
and rescue in the event of an emergency.
The NMCC would then seek
approval from the Office of the Secretary of Defense to provide military
assistance. If approval was given, the orders would be transmitted down NORAD's chain of command.103
The NMCC would keep the FAA hijack
coordinator up to date and help the FAA centers coordinate directly with
the military. NORAD would receive tracking information for the hijacked
aircraft either from joint use radar or from the relevant FAA air
traffic control facility. Every attempt would be made to have the
hijacked aircraft squawk 7500 to help NORAD track it.104
The protocols did not contemplate an
intercept. They assumed the fighter escort would be discreet, "vectored
to a position five miles directly behind the hijacked aircraft," where
it could perform its mission to monitor the aircraft's flight path.105
In sum, the protocols in place on 9/11
for the FAA and NORAD to respond to a hijacking presumed that
the hijacked aircraft would be
readily identifiable and would not attempt to disappear;
- there would be time to address the
problem through the appropriate FAA and NORAD chains of command; and
- hijacking would take the traditional
form: that is, it would not be a suicide hijacking designed to convert
the aircraft into a guided missile.
On the morning of 9/11, the existing
protocol was unsuited in every respect for what was about to happen.
American Airlines Flight 11 FAA
Awareness. Although the Boston Center air traffic controller
realized at an early stage that there was something wrong with American
11, he did not immediately interpret the plane's failure to respond as a
sign that it had been hijacked. At 8:14, when the flight failed to heed
his instruction to climb to 35,000 feet, the controller repeatedly tried
to raise the flight. He reached out to the pilot on the emergency
frequency. Though there was no response, he kept trying to contact the
At 8:21, American 11 turned off its
transponder, immediately degrading the information available about the
aircraft. The controller told his supervisor that he thought something
was seriously wrong with the plane, although neither suspected a
hijacking. The supervisor instructed the controller to follow standard
procedures for handling a "no radio" aircraft.107
The controller checked to see if
American Airlines could establish communication with American 11.
became even more concerned as its route changed, moving into another
sector's airspace. Controllers immediately began to move aircraft out of
its path, and asked other aircraft in the vicinity to look for American
At 8:24:38, the following transmission
came from American 11:
American 11: We have
some planes. Just stay quiet, and you'll be okay. We are returning to
The controller only heard something
unintelligible; he did not hear the specific words "we have some
planes." The next transmission came seconds later:
American 11: Nobody
move. Everything will be okay. If you try to make any moves, you'll
endanger yourself and the airplane. Just stay quiet.109
The controller told us that he then
knew it was a hijacking. He alerted his supervisor, who assigned another
controller to assist him. He redoubled his efforts to ascertain the
flight's altitude. Because the controller didn't understand the initial
transmission, the manager of Boston Center instructed his quality
assurance specialist to "pull the tape" of the radio transmission,
listen to it closely, and report back.110
Between 8:25 and 8:32, in accordance
with the FAA protocol, Boston
Center managers started notifying their chain of command that American
11 had been hijacked. At
8:28, Boston Center
called the Command Center in Herndon to advise that it believed American
11 had been hijacked and was heading toward New York Center's
By this time, American 11 had
taken a dramatic turn to the south.
the Command Center passed word of a possible hijacking to the Operations
Center at FAA headquarters. The
duty officer replied that security personnel at headquarters had just
begun discussing the apparent hijack on a conference call with the New
England regional office. FAA headquarters began to follow the hijack
protocol but did not contact the NMCC to request a fighter escort.111
The Herndon Command Center immediately
established a teleconference between Boston, New York, and Cleveland
Centers so that Boston Center could help the others understand what was
the Boston Center controller received a third transmission from American
American 11: Nobody
move please. We are going back to the airport. Don't try to make any
In the succeeding minutes, controllers
were attempting to ascertain the altitude of the southbound flight.114
Military Notification and
Response. Boston Center did not follow the protocol in seeking
military assistance through the prescribed chain of command. In addition
to notifications within the FAA, Boston Center took the initiative, at
8:34, to contact the military through the FAA's Cape Cod facility. The
center also tried to contact a former alert site in Atlantic City,
unaware it had been phased out. At 8:37:52, Boston Center reached NEADS.
This was the first notification received by the military-at any
level-that American 11 had been hijacked:115
FAA: Hi. Boston
Center TMU [Traffic Management Unit], we have a problem here. We have
a hijacked aircraft headed towards New York, and we need you guys to,
we need someone to scramble some F-16s or something up there, help us
NEADS: Is this
real-world or exercise?
FAA: No, this is not
an exercise, not a test.116
NEADS ordered to battle stations the
two F-15 alert aircraft at Otis Air Force Base in Falmouth,
Massachusetts, 153 miles away from New York City. The air defense of
America began with this call.117
At NEADS, the report of the hijacking
was relayed immediately to Battle Commander Colonel Robert Marr. After
ordering the Otis fighters to battle stations, Colonel Marr phoned Major
General Larry Arnold, commanding general of the First Air Force and
NORAD's Continental Region. Marr sought authorization to scramble the
Otis fighters. General Arnold later recalled instructing Marr to "go
ahead and scramble them, and we'll get authorities later." General
Arnold then called NORAD headquarters to report.118
F-15 fighters were scrambled at 8:46
from Otis Air Force Base. But NEADS did not know where to send the alert
fighter aircraft, and the officer directing the fighters pressed for
more information: "I don't know where I'm scrambling these guys to. I
need a direction, a destination." Because the hijackers had turned off
the plane's transponder, NEADS personnel spent the next minutes
searching their radar scopes for the primary radar return.
American 11 struck the North
Tower at 8:46.
Shortly after 8:50, while NEADS
personnel were still trying to locate the flight, word reached them that
a plane had hit the World Trade Center.119
Radar data show the
Otis fighters were
airborne at 8:53. Lacking a target, they were vectored toward
military-controlled airspace off the Long Island coast. To avoid New
York area air traffic and uncertain about what to do, the fighters were
brought down to military airspace to "hold as needed. "From 9:09 to
9:13, the Otis fighters stayed in this holding pattern.120
NEADS received notice of
the hijacking nine minutes before it struck the North Tower. That nine
minutes' notice before impact was the most the military would receive of
any of the four hijackings.121
United Airlines Flight 175 FAA
Awareness. One of the last transmissions from United Airlines
Flight 175 is, in retrospect, chilling. By 8:40, controllers at the
FAA's New York Center were seeking information on American 11.
approximately 8:42, shortly after entering New York Center's airspace,
the pilot of United 175 broke in with the following transmission:
UAL 175: New York
UAL 175 heavy.
FAA: UAL 175 go
UAL 175: Yeah. We
figured we'd wait to go to your center. Ah, we hearda suspicious
transmission on our departure out of Boston, ah, with someone, ah, it
sounded like someone keyed the mikes and said ah everyone ah stay in
FAA: Oh, okay. I'll
pass that along over here.122
Minutes later, United 175 turned
southwest without clearance from air traffic control.
At 8:47, seconds
after the impact of American 11, United 175's transponder code changed,
and then changed again. These changes were not noticed for several
minutes, however, because
the same New York Center controller was assigned to both
and United 175. The controller knew American
11 was hijacked; he was focused on searching for it after the aircraft
disappeared at 8:46.123
At 8:48, while the controller was still
trying to locate American 11, a New York Center manager provided the
following report on a Command Center teleconference about American 11:
Manager, New York Center:
Okay. This is New York Center. We're watching the airplane. I also had
conversation with American Airlines, and they've told us that they
believe that one of their stewardesses was stabbed and that there are
people in the cockpit that have control of the aircraft, and that's
all the information they have right now.124
The New York Center controller and
manager were unaware that American 11 had already crashed.
At 8:51, the controller noticed the
transponder change from United 175 and tried to contact the aircraft.
There was no response. Beginning at 8:52, the controller made repeated
attempts to reach the crew of United 175. Still no response. The
controller checked his radio equipment and contacted another controller
at 8:53, saying that "we may have a hijack" and that he could not find
Another commercial aircraft in the
vicinity then radioed in with "reports over the radio of a commuter
plane hitting the World Trade Center." The controller spent the next
several minutes handing off the other flights on his scope to other
controllers and moving aircraft out of the way of the unidentified
aircraft (believed to be United 175) as it moved southwest and then
turned northeast toward New York City.126
At about 8:55, the controller in charge
notified a New York Center manager that she believed United 175 had also
been hijacked. The manager tried to notify the regional managers and was
told that they were discussing a hijacked aircraft (presumably American
11) and refused to be disturbed. At 8:58, the New York Center controller
searching for United 175 told another New York controller "we might have
a hijack over here, two of them."127
Between 9:01 and 9:02, a manager from
New York Center told the Command Center in Herndon:
Manager, New York Center:
We have several situations going on here. It's escalating big, big
time. We need to get the military involved with us.. . . We're, we're
involved with something else, we have other aircraft that may have a
similar situation going on here.128
The "other aircraft" referred to by New
York Center was United 175. Evidence indicates that this conversation
was the only notice received by either FAA headquarters or the Herndon
Command Center prior to the second crash that there had been a second
While the Command Center was told about
this "other aircraft" at 9:01, New York Center contacted New York
terminal approach control and asked for help in locating United 175.
Terminal: I got
somebody who keeps coasting but it looks like he's going into one of
the small airports down there.
Center: Hold on a
second. I'm trying to bring him up here and get you-There he is right
there. Hold on.
Terminal: Got him
just out of 9,500-9,000 now.
Center: Do you know
who he is?
just, we just we don't know who he is.We're just picking him up now.
Center (at 9:02):
Alright. Heads up man, it looks like another one coming in.129
The controllers observed the plane in a
rapid descent; the radar data terminated over Lower Manhattan. At 9:03,
United 175 crashed into the South Tower.130
Meanwhile, a manager from Boston Center
reported that they had deciphered what they had heard in one of the
first hijacker transmissions from American 11:
Boston Center: Hey .
. . you still there?
New England Region:Yes,
Boston Center: . . .
as far as the tape, Bobby seemed to think the guy said that "we have
planes." Now, I don't know if it was because it was the accent, or if
there's more than one, but I'm gonna, I'm gonna reconfirm that for
you, and I'll get back to you real quick. Okay?
New England Region:
Unidentified Female Voice:
They have what?
Planes, as in plural.
Boston Center: It
sounds like, we're talking to New York, that there's another one aimed
at the World Trade Center.
New England Region:
There's another aircraft?
Boston Center: A
second one just hit the Trade Center.
New England Region:
Okay. Yeah, we gotta get-we gotta alert the military real quick on
Boston Center immediately advised the
New England Region that it was going to stop all departures at airports
under its control. At 9:05, Boston Center confirmed for both the FAA
Command Center and the New England Region that the hijackers aboard
American 11 said "we have planes." At the same time, NewYork
Center declared "ATC zero"-meaning that aircraft were not permitted to
depart from, arrive at, or travel through New York Center's airspace
until further notice.132
Within minutes of the second impact,
Boston Center instructed its controllers to inform all aircraft in its
airspace of the events in New York and to advise aircraft to heighten
cockpit security. Boston Center asked the Herndon Command Center to
issue a similar cockpit security alert nationwide. We have found no
evidence to suggest that the Command Center acted on this request or
issued any type of cockpit security alert.133
Military Notification and
Response. The first indication that the NORAD air defenders had
of the second hijacked aircraft, United 175, came in a phone call from
New York Center to NEADS at 9:03.The notice came at about the time the
plane was hitting the South Tower.134
By 9:08, the mission crew commander at
NEADS learned of the second explosion at the World Trade Center and
decided against holding the fighters in military airspace away from
Mission Crew Commander, NEADS:
This is what I foresee that we probably need to do. We need to talk to
FAA. We need to tell 'em if this stuff is gonna keep on going, we need
to take those fighters, put 'em over Manhattan. That's best thing,
that's the best play right now. So coordinate with the FAA. Tell 'em
if there's more out there, which we don't know, let's get 'em over
Manhattan. At least we got some kind of play.135
The FAA cleared the airspace. Radar
data show that at 9:13, when the Otis fighters were about 115 miles away
from the city, the fighters exited their holding pattern and set a
course direct for Manhattan. They arrived at 9:25 and established a
combat air patrol (CAP) over the city.136
Because the Otis fighters had expended
a great deal of fuel in flying first to military airspace and then to
New York, the battle commanders were concerned about refueling. NEADS
considered scrambling alert fighters from Langley Air Force Base in
Virginia to New York, to provide backup. The Langley fighters were
placed on battle stations at 9:09.137 NORAD had no indication
that any other plane had been hijacked.
American Airlines Flight 77
FAA Awareness. American 77 began deviating from its flight plan
at 8:54, with a slight turn toward the south. Two minutes later, it
disappeared completely from radar at Indianapolis Center, which was
controlling the flight.138
The controller tracking American 77
told us he noticed the aircraft turning to the southwest, and then saw
the data disappear. The controller looked for primary radar returns. He
searched along the plane's projected flight path and the airspace to the
southwest where it had started to turn. No primary targets appeared. He
tried the radios, first calling the aircraft directly, then the
air-line. Again there was nothing. At this point, the Indianapolis
controller had no knowledge of the situation in New York. He did not
know that other aircraft had been hijacked. He believed American 77 had
experienced serious electrical or mechanical failure, or both, and was
Shortly after 9:00, Indianapolis Center
started notifying other agencies that American 77 was missing and had
possibly crashed. At 9:08, Indianapolis Center asked Air Force Search
and Rescue at Langley Air Force Base to look for a downed aircraft. The
center also contacted the West Virginia State Police and asked whether
any reports of a downed aircraft had been received. At 9:09, it reported
the loss of contact to the FAA regional center, which passed this
information to FAA headquarters at 9:24.140
By 9:20, Indianapolis Center learned
that there were other hijacked aircraft, and began to doubt its initial
assumption that American 77 had crashed. A discussion of this concern
between the manager at Indianapolis and the Command Center in Herndon
prompted it to notify some FAA field facilities that American 77 was
lost. By 9:21, the Command Center, some FAA field facilities, and
American Airlines had started to search for American 77.They feared it
had been hijacked. At 9:25, the Command Center advised FAA headquarters
of the situation.141
The failure to find a primary radar
return for American 77 led us to investigate this issue further. Radar
reconstructions performed after 9/11 reveal that FAA radar equipment
tracked the flight from the moment its transponder was turned off at
8:56. But for 8 minutes and 13 seconds, between 8:56 and 9:05, this
primary radar information on American 77 was not displayed to
controllers at Indianapolis Center.142 The reasons are
technical, arising from the way the software processed radar
information, as well as from poor primary radar coverage where American
77 was flying.
According to the radar reconstruction,
American 77 reemerged as a primary target on Indianapolis Center radar
scopes at 9:05, east of its last known posi-tion. The target remained in
Indianapolis Center's airspace for another six minutes, then crossed
into the western portion of Washington Center's airspace at 9:10.As
Indianapolis Center continued searching for the aircraft, two managers
and the controller responsible for American 77 looked to the west and
southwest along the flight's projected path, not east-where the aircraft
was now heading. Managers did not instruct other controllers at
Indianapolis Center to turn on their primary radar coverage to join in
the search for American 77.143
In sum, Indianapolis Center never saw
Flight 77 turn around. By the time it reappeared in primary radar
coverage, controllers had either stopped looking for the aircraft
because they thought it had crashed or were looking toward the west.
Although the Command Center learned Flight 77 was missing, neither it
nor FAA headquarters issued an all points bulletin to surrounding
centers to search for primary radar targets. American 77 traveled
undetected for 36 minutes on a course heading due east for Washington,
By 9:25, FAA's Herndon Command Center
and FAA headquarters knew two aircraft had crashed into the World Trade
Center. They knew American 77 was lost. At least some FAA officials in
Boston Center and the New England Region knew that a hijacker on board
American 11 had said "we have some planes." Concerns over the safety of
other aircraft began to mount. A manager at the Herndon Command Center
asked FAA headquarters if they wanted to order a "nationwide ground
stop." While this was being discussed by executives at FAA headquarters,
the Command Center ordered one at 9:25.145
The Command Center kept looking for
American 77. At 9:21, it advised the Dulles terminal control facility,
and Dulles urged its controllers to look for primary targets. At 9:32,
they found one. Several of the Dulles controllers "observed a primary
radar target tracking eastbound at a high rate of speed" and notified
Reagan National Airport. FAA personnel at both Reagan National and
Dulles airports notified the Secret Service. The aircraft's identity or
type was unknown.146
Reagan National controllers then
vectored an unarmed National Guard C130H cargo aircraft, which had just
taken off en route to Minnesota, to identify and follow the suspicious
aircraft. The C-130H pilot spotted it, identified it as a Boeing 757,
attempted to follow its path, and at 9:38, seconds after impact,
reported to the control tower: "looks like that aircraft crashed into
the Pentagon sir."147
Military Notification and
Response. NORAD heard nothing about the search for American
77. Instead, the NEADS air defenders heard renewed reports about a
plane that no longer existed: American 11.
At 9:21, NEADS received a report from
Boston Center. I just had a report that American 11 is still in the
air, and it's on its way towards-heading towards Washington.
American 11 is still in the air?
NEADS: On its way
FAA: That was
another-it was evidently another aircraft that hit the tower. That's
the latest report we have.
FAA: I'm going to
try to confirm an ID for you, but I would assume he's somewhere over,
uh, either New Jersey or somewhere further south.
NEADS: Okay. So
American 11 isn't the hijack at all then, right?
FAA: No, he is a
11 is a hijack?
NEADS: And he's
heading into Washington?
FAA: Yes. This could
be a third aircraft.148
The mention of a "third aircraft" was
not a reference to American 77.There was confusion at that moment in the
FAA. Two planes had struck the World Trade Center, and Boston Center had
heard from FAA headquarters in Washington that American 11 was still
airborne. We have been unable to identify the source of this mistaken
The NEADS technician who took this call
from the FAA immediately passed the word to the mission crew commander,
who reported to the NEADS battle commander:
Mission Crew Commander, NEADS:
Okay, uh, American Airlines is still airborne. Eleven, the first guy,
he's heading towards Washington. Okay? I think we need to scramble
Langley right now. And I'm gonna take the fighters from Otis, try to
chase this guy down if I can find him.149
After consulting with NEADS command,
the crew commander issued the order at 9:23:"Okay . . . scramble
Langley. Head them towards the Washington area.. . . [I]f they're there
then we'll run on them.. . .These guys are smart." That order was
processed and transmitted to Langley Air Force Base at 9:24. Radar data
show the Langley fighters airborne at 9:30. NEADS decided to keep the
Otis fighters over New York. The heading of the Langley fighters was
adjusted to send them to the Baltimore area. The mission crew commander
explained to us that the purpose was to position the Langley fighters
between the reported southbound American 11 and the nation's capital.150
At the suggestion of the Boston
Center's military liaison, NEADS contacted the FAA's Washington Center
to ask about American 11. In the course of the conversation, a
Washington Center manager informed NEADS: "We're looking-we also lost
American 77."The time was 9:34.151This was the first notice
to the military that American 77 was missing, and it had come by chance.
If NEADS had not placed that call, the NEADS air defenders would have
received no information whatsoever that the flight was even missing,
although the FAA had been searching for it. No one at FAA headquarters
ever asked for military assistance with American 77.
At 9:36, the FAA's Boston Center called
NEADS and relayed the discovery about an unidentified aircraft closing
in on Washington: "Latest report. Aircraft VFR [visual flight rules] six
miles southeast of the White House. . . . Six, southwest. Six, southwest
of the White House, deviating away." This startling news prompted the
mission crew commander at NEADS to take immediate control of the
airspace to clear a flight path for the Langley fighters: "Okay, we're
going to turn it . . . crank it up. . . . Run them to the White House."
He then discovered, to his surprise, that the Langley fighters were not
headed north toward the Baltimore area as instructed, but east over the
ocean. "I don't care how many windows you break," he said. "Damn it.. .
. Okay. Push them back."152
The Langley fighters were heading east,
not north, for three reasons. First, unlike a normal scramble order,
this order did not include a distance to the target or the target's
location. Second, a "generic" flight plan-prepared to get the aircraft
airborne and out of local airspace quickly-incorrectly led the Langley
fighters to believe they were ordered to fly due east (090) for 60
miles. Third, the lead pilot and local FAA controller incorrectly
assumed the flight plan instruction to go "090 for 60" superseded the
original scramble order.153
After the 9:36 call to NEADS about the
unidentified aircraft a few miles from the White House, the Langley
fighters were ordered to Washington, D.C. Controllers at NEADS located
an unknown primary radar track, but "it kind of faded" over Washington.
The time was 9:38.The Pentagon had been struck by American 77 at
9:37:46.The Langley fighters were about 150 miles away.154
Right after the Pentagon was hit, NEADS
learned of another possible hijacked aircraft. It was an aircraft that
in fact had not been hijacked at all. After the second World Trade
Center crash, Boston Center managers recognized that both aircraft were
transcontinental 767 jetliners that had departed Logan Airport.
Remembering the "we have some planes" remark, Boston Center guessed that
Delta 1989 might also be hijacked. Boston Center called NEADS at 9:41
and identified Delta 1989, a 767 jet that had left Logan Airport for Las
Vegas, as a possible hijack. NEADS warned the FAA's Cleveland Center to
watch Delta 1989.The Command Center and FAA headquarters watched it too.
During the course of the morning, there were multiple erroneous reports
of hijacked aircraft. The report of American 11 heading south was the
first; Delta 1989 was the second.155
NEADS never lost track of Delta 1989,
and even ordered fighter aircraft from Ohio and Michigan to intercept
it. The flight never turned off its transponder. NEADS soon learned that
the aircraft was not hijacked, and tracked Delta 1989 as it reversed
course over Toledo, headed east, and landed in Cleveland.156
But another aircraft was heading toward Washington, an aircraft about
which NORAD had heard nothing: United 93.
United Airlines Flight 93
FAA Awareness. At 9:27, after having been in the air for 45
minutes, United 93 acknowledged a transmission from the Cleveland Center
controller. This was the last normal contact the FAA had with the
Less than a minute later, the Cleveland
controller and the pilots of aircraft in the vicinity heard "a radio
transmission of unintelligible sounds of possible screaming or a
struggle from an unknown origin."158
The controller responded, seconds
later: "Somebody call Cleveland? "This was followed by a second radio
transmission, with sounds of screaming. The Cleveland Center controllers
began to try to identify the possible source of the transmissions, and
noticed that United 93 had descended some 700 feet. The controller
attempted again to raise United 93 several times, with no response. At
9:30, the controller began to poll the other flights on his frequency to
determine if they had heard the screaming; several said they had.159
At 9:32, a third radio transmission
came over the frequency: "Keep remaining sitting. We have a bomb on
board." The controller understood, but chose to respond: "Calling
Cleveland Center, you're unreadable. Say again, slowly." He notified his
supervisor, who passed the notice up the chain of command. By 9:34, word
of the hijacking had reached FAA headquarters.160
FAA headquarters had by this time
established an open line of communication with the Command Center at
Herndon and instructed it to poll all its centers about suspect
aircraft. The Command Center executed the request and, a minute later,
Cleveland Center reported that "United 93 may have a bomb on board. "At
9:34, the Command Center relayed the information concerning United 93 to
FAA headquarters. At approximately 9:36, Cleveland advised the Command
Center that it was still tracking United 93 and specifically inquired
whether someone had requested the military to launch fighter aircraft to
intercept the aircraft. Cleveland even told the Command Center it was
prepared to contact a nearby military base to make the request. The
Command Center told Cleveland that FAA personnel well above them in the
chain of command had to make the decision to seek military assistance
and were working on the issue.161
Between 9:34 and 9:38, the Cleveland
controller observed United 93 climbing to 40,700 feet and immediately
moved several aircraft out its way. The controller continued to try to
contact United 93, and asked whether the pilot could confirm that he had
been hijacked.162 There was no response.
Then, at 9:39, a fourth radio
transmission was heard from United 93:
Ziad Jarrah: Uh,
this is the captain. Would like you all to remain seated. There is a
bomb on board and are going back to the airport, and to have our
demands [unintelligible]. Please remain quiet.
The controller responded: "United 93,
understand you have a bomb on board. Go ahead." The flight did not
From 9:34 to 10:08, a Command Center
facility manager provided frequent updates to Acting Deputy
Administrator Monte Belger and other executives at FAA headquarters as
United 93 headed toward Washington, D.C. At 9:41, Cleveland Center lost
United 93's transponder signal. The controller located it on primary
radar, matched its position with visual sightings from other aircraft,
and tracked the flight as it turned east, then south.164
At 9:42, the Command Center learned
from news reports that a plane had struck the Pentagon. The Command
Center's national operations manager, Ben Sliney, ordered all FAA
facilities to instruct all aircraft to land at the nearest airport. This
was an unprecedented order. The air traffic control system handled it
with great skill, as about 4,500 commercial and general aviation
aircraft soon landed without incident.165
At 9:46 the Command Center updated FAA
headquarters that United 93 was now "twenty-nine minutes out of
At 9:49, 13 minutes after Cleveland
Center had asked about getting military help, the Command Center
suggested that someone at headquarters should decide whether to request
They're pulling Jeff away to go talk about United 93.
Command Center: Uh,
do we want to think, uh, about scrambling aircraft?
Oh, God, I don't know.
Command Center: Uh,
that's a decision somebody's gonna have to make probably in the next
Uh, ya know everybody just left the room.166
At 9:53, FAA headquarters informed the
Command Center that the deputy director for air traffic services was
talking to Monte Belger about scrambling aircraft. Then the Command
Center informed headquarters that controllers had lost track of United
93 over the Pittsburgh area. Within seconds, the Command Center received
a visual report from another aircraft, and informed headquarters that
the aircraft was 20 miles northwest of Johnstown. United 93 was spotted
by another aircraft, and, at 10:01, the Command Center advised FAA
headquarters that one of the aircraft had seen United 93 "waving his
wings." The aircraft had witnessed the hijackers' efforts to defeat the
United 93 crashed in Pennsylvania at
10:03:11, 125 miles from Washington, D.C. The precise crash time has
been the subject of some dispute. The 10:03:11 impact time is supported
by previous National Transportation Safety Board analysis and by
evidence from the Commission staff's analysis of radar, the flight data
recorder, the cockpit voice recorder, infrared satellite data, and air
traffic control transmissions.168
Five minutes later, the Command Center
forwarded this update to headquarters:
Command Center: O.K.
Uh, there is now on that United 93.
There is a report of black smoke in the last position I gave you,
fifteen miles south of Johnstown.
From the airplane or from the ground?
Command Center: Uh,
they're speculating it's from the aircraft.
Command Center: Uh,
who, it hit the ground. That's what they're speculating, that's
The aircraft that spotted the "black
smoke" was the same unarmed Air National Guard cargo plane that had seen
American 77 crash into the Pentagon 27 minutes earlier. It had resumed
its flight to Minnesota and saw the smoke from the crash of United 93,
less than two minutes after the plane went down. At 10:17, the Command
Center advised headquarters of its conclusion that United 93 had indeed
Despite the discussions about military
assistance, no one from FAA headquarters requested military assistance
regarding United 93. Nor did any manager at FAA headquarters pass any of
the information it had about United 93 to the military.
Military Notification and
Response. NEADS first received a call about United 93 from the
military liaison at Cleveland Center at 10:07. Unaware that the aircraft
had already crashed, Cleveland passed to NEADS the aircraft's last known
latitude and longitude. NEADS was never able to locate United 93 on
radar because it was already in the ground.171
At the same time, the NEADS mission
crew commander was dealing with the arrival of the Langley fighters over
Washington, D.C., sorting out what their orders were with respect to
potential targets. Shortly after 10:10, and having no knowledge either
that United 93 had been heading toward Washington or that it had
crashed, he explicitly instructed the Langley fighters: "negative-
negative clearance to shoot" aircraft over the nation's capital.172
The news of a reported bomb on board
United 93 spread quickly at NEADS. The air defenders searched for United
93's primary radar return and tried to locate other fighters to
scramble. NEADS called Washington Center to report:
NEADS: I also want
to give you a heads-up, Washington.
FAA (DC): Go ahead.
NEADS: United nine
three, have you got information on that yet?
FAA:Yeah, he's down.
NEADS: He's down?
NEADS: When did he
land? 'Cause we have got confirmation-
FAA: He did not
NEADS: Oh, he's
FAA: Yes. Somewhere
up northeast of Camp David.
NEADS: Northeast of
FAA: That's the last
report. They don't know exactly where.173
The time of notification of the crash
of United 93 was 10:15.174 The NEADS air defenders never
located the flight or followed it on their radar scopes. The flight had
already crashed by the time they learned it was hijacked.
Clarifying the Record
The defense of U.S. airspace on 9/11 was not conducted in accord with
preexisting training and protocols. It was improvised by civilians who
had never handled a hijacked aircraft that attempted to disappear, and
by a military unprepared for the transformation of commercial aircraft
into weapons of mass destruction. As it turned out, the NEADS air
defenders had nine minutes' notice on the first hijacked plane, no
advance notice on the second, no advance notice on the third, and no
advance notice on the fourth.
We do not believe that the true picture
of that morning reflects discredit on the operational personnel at NEADS
or FAA facilities. NEADS commanders and officers actively sought out
information, and made the best judgments they could on the basis of what
they knew. Individual FAA controllers, facility managers, and Command
Center managers thought outside the box in recommending a nationwide
alert, in ground-stopping local traffic, and, ultimately, in deciding to
land all aircraft and executing that unprecedented order flawlessly.
Airlines Flight 11
Boston to Los Angeles
Airlines Flight 175
Boston to Los Angeles
||Last routine radio communication;
||Last radio communication
||Flight attendant notifies AA of
||Transponder is turned off
||Transponder code changes
||AA attempts to contact the cockpit
||Flight attendant notifies UA of
||Boston Center aware of hijacking
||UA attempts to contact the cockpit
||Boston Center notifies NEADS of
||New York Center suspects hijacking
||NEADS scrambles Otis fighter jets
in search of AA 11
||Flight 175 crashes into 2 WTC
||AA 11 crashes into 1 WTC (North
||New York Center advises NEADS that
UA 175 was the second aircraft crashed into WTC
||Otis fighter jets airborne
||UA headquarters aware that Flight
175 had crashed into WTC
||AA headquarters aware that Flight
11 has crashed into WTC
||Boston Center advises NEADS that
AA 11 is airborne heading for Washington
||NEADS scrambles Langley fighter
jets in search of AA 11
Airlines Flight 77
Washington,D.C., to Los Angeles
Airlines Flight 93
Newark to San Francisco
||Last routine radio communication
||Flight 93 receives warning from UA
about possible cockpit intrusion
||Last routine radio communication
||Flight 77 makes unauthorized turn
||Transponder is turned off
||Herndon Command Center advises FAA
headquarters that UA 93 is hijacked
||AA headquarters aware that Flight
77 is hijacked
||Flight attendant notifies UA of
hijacking; UA attempts to contact the cockpit
||Herndon Command Center orders
nationwide ground stop
||Transponder is turned off
||Dulles tower observes radar of
fast-moving aircraft (later identified as AA 77)
||Passenger revolt begins
||FAA advises NEADS that AA 77 is
||Flight 93 crashes in field in
||AA 77 crashes into the Pentagon
||Cleveland Center advises NEADS of
UA 93 hijacking
||AA headquarters confirms Flight 77
crash into Pentagon
||UA headquarters aware that Flight
93 has crashed in PA; Washington Center advises NEADS that Flight 93
has crashed in PA
More than the actual events, inaccurate
government accounts of those events made it appear that the military was
notified in time to respond to two of the hijackings, raising questions
about the adequacy of the response. Those accounts had the effect of
deflecting questions about the military's capacity to obtain timely and
accurate information from its own sources. In addition, they overstated
the FAA's ability to provide the military with timely and useful
information that morning.
In public testimony before this
Commission in May 2003, NORAD officials stated that at 9:16, NEADS
received hijack notification of United 93 from the FAA.175This
statement was incorrect. There was no hijack to report at 9:16. United
93 was proceeding normally at that time.
In this same public testimony, NORAD
officials stated that at 9:24, NEADS received notification of the
hijacking of American 77.176 This statement was also
incorrect. The notice NEADS received at 9:24 was that American 11 had
not hit the World Trade Center and was heading for Washington, D.C.177
In their testimony and in other public
accounts, NORAD officials also stated that the Langley fighters were
scrambled to respond to the notifications about American 77,178
United 93, or both. These statements were incorrect as well. The
fighters were scrambled because of the report that American 11 was
heading south, as is clear not just from taped conversations at NEADS
but also from taped conversations at FAA centers; contemporaneous logs
compiled at NEADS, Continental Region headquarters, and NORAD; and other
records. Yet this response to a phantom aircraft was not recounted in a
single public timeline or statement issued by the FAA or Department of
Defense. The inaccurate accounts created the impression that the Langley
scramble was a logical response to an actual hijacked aircraft.
In fact, not only was the scramble
prompted by the mistaken information about American 11, but NEADS never
received notice that American 77 was hijacked. It was notified at 9:34
that American 77 was lost. Then, minutes later, NEADS was told that an
unknown plane was 6 miles southwest of the White House. Only then did
the already scrambled airplanes start moving directly toward Washington,
Thus the military did not have 14
minutes to respond to American 77, as testimony to the Commission in May
2003 suggested. It had at most one or two minutes to react to the
unidentified plane approaching Washington, and the fighters were in the
wrong place to be able to help. They had been responding to a report
about an aircraft that did not exist.
Nor did the military have 47 minutes to
respond to United 93, as would be implied by the account that it
received notice of the flight's hijacking at 9:16. By the time the
military learned about the flight, it had crashed.
We now turn to the role of national
leadership in the events that morning.
1.3 NATIONAL CRISIS MANAGEMENT
When American 11 struck the World Trade
Center at 8:46, no one in the White House or traveling with the
President knew that it had been hijacked. While that information
circulated within the FAA, we found no evidence that the hijacking was
reported to any other agency in Washington before 8:46.179
Most federal agencies learned about the
crash in New York from CNN.180 Within the FAA, the
administrator, Jane Garvey, and her acting deputy, Monte Belger, had not
been told of a confirmed hijacking before they learned from television
that a plane had crashed.181 Others in the agency were aware
of it, as we explained earlier in this chapter.
Inside the National Military Command
Center, the deputy director of operations and his assistant began
notifying senior Pentagon officials of the incident. At about 9:00, the
senior NMCC operations officer reached out to the FAA operations center
for information. Although the NMCC was advised of the hijacking of
American 11, the scrambling of jets was not discussed.182
In Sarasota, Florida, the presidential
motorcade was arriving at the Emma
E. Booker Elementary School, where
President Bush was to read to a class and talk about education. White
House Chief of Staff Andrew Card told us he was standing with the
President outside the classroom when Senior Advisor to the President
Karl Rove first informed them that a small, twin-engine plane had
crashed into the World Trade Center. The President's reaction was that
the incident must have been caused by pilot error.183
At 8:55, before entering the classroom,
the President spoke to National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, who
was at the White House. She recalled first telling the President it was
a twin-engine aircraft-and then a commercial aircraft-that had struck
the World Trade Center, adding "that's all we know right now, Mr.
At the White House, Vice President Dick
Cheney had just sat down for a meeting when his assistant told him to
turn on his television because a plane had struck the North Tower of the
World Trade Center. The Vice President was wondering "how the hell could
a plane hit the World Trade Center" when he saw the second aircraft
strike the South Tower.185
Elsewhere in the White House, a series
of 9:00 meetings was about to begin. In the absence of information that
the crash was anything other than an accident, the White House staff
monitored the news as they went ahead with their regular schedules.186
The Agencies Confer
When they learned a second plane had struck the World Trade Center,
nearly everyone in the White House told us, they immediately knew it was
not an accident. The Secret Service initiated a number of security
enhancements around the White House complex. The officials who issued
these orders did not know that there were additional hijacked aircraft,
or that one such aircraft was en route to Washington. These measures
were precautionary steps taken because of the strikes in New York.187
The FAA and White House
Teleconferences. The FAA, the White House, and the Defense
Department each initiated a multiagency teleconference before 9:30.
Because none of these teleconferences-at least before 10:00- included
the right officials from both the FAA and Defense Department, none
succeeded in meaningfully coordinating the military and FAA response to
At about 9:20, security personnel at
FAA headquarters set up a hijacking teleconference with several
agencies, including the Defense Department. The NMCC officer who
participated told us that the call was monitored only periodically
because the information was sporadic, it was of little value, and there
were other important tasks. The FAA manager of the teleconference also
remembered that the military participated only briefly before the
Pentagon was hit. Both individuals agreed that the teleconference played
no role in coordinating a response to the attacks of 9/11.Acting Deputy
Administrator Belger was frustrated to learn later in the morning that
the military had not been on the call.188
At the White House, the video
teleconference was conducted from the Situation Room by Richard Clarke,
a special assistant to the president long involved in counterterrorism.
Logs indicate that it began at 9:25 and included the CIA; the FBI; the
departments of State, Justice, and Defense; the FAA; and the White House
shelter. The FAA and CIA joined at 9:40. The first topic addressed in
the White House video teleconference-at about 9:40-was the physical
security of the President, the White House, and federal agencies.
Immediately thereafter it was reported that a plane had hit the
Pentagon. We found no evidence that video teleconference participants
had any prior information that American 77 had been hijacked and was
heading directly toward Washington. Indeed, it is not clear to us that
the video teleconference was fully under way before 9:37, when the
Pentagon was struck.189
Garvey, Belger, and other senior
officials from FAA headquarters participated in this video
teleconference at various times. We do not know who from Defense
participated, but we know that in the first hour none of the personnel
involved in managing the crisis did. And none of the information
conveyed in the White House video teleconference, at least in the first
hour, was being passed to the NMCC. As one witness recalled, "[It] was
almost like there were parallel decisionmaking processes going on; one
was a voice conference orchestrated by the NMCC . . . and then there was
the [White House video teleconference].. . . [I]n my mind they were
competing venues for command and control and decisionmaking."190
At 10:03, the conference received
reports of more missing aircraft,"2 possibly 3 aloft," and learned of a
combat air patrol over Washington. There was discussion of the need for
rules of engagement. Clarke reported that they were asking the President
for authority to shoot down aircraft. Confirmation of that authority
came at 10:25, but the commands were already being conveyed in more
direct contacts with the Pentagon.191
The Pentagon Teleconferences.
Inside the National Military Command Center, the deputy director for
operations immediately thought the second strike was a terrorist attack.
The job of the NMCC in such an emergency is to gather the relevant
parties and establish the chain of command between the National Command
Authority-the president and the secretary of defense- and those who need
to carry out their orders.192
On the morning of September 11,
Secretary Rumsfeld was having breakfast at the Pentagon with a group of
members of Congress. He then returned to his office for his daily
intelligence briefing. The Secretary was informed of the second strike
in New York during the briefing; he resumed the briefing while awaiting
more information. After the Pentagon was struck, Secretary Rumsfeld went
to the parking lot to assist with rescue efforts.193
Inside the NMCC, the deputy director
for operations called for an all-purpose "significant event" conference.
It began at 9:29, with a brief recap: two aircraft had struck the World
Trade Center, there was a confirmed hijacking of American 11, and Otis
fighters had been scrambled. The FAA was asked to provide an update, but
the line was silent because the FAA had not been added to the call. A
minute later, the deputy director stated that it had just been confirmed
that American 11 was still airborne and heading toward D.C. He directed
the transition to an air threat conference call. NORAD confirmed that
American 11 was airborne and heading toward Washington, relaying the
erroneous FAA information already mentioned. The call then ended, at
It resumed at 9:37 as an air threat
conference call,* which lasted more than eight hours. The President,
Vice President, Secretary of Defense, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff, and Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley all
participated in this teleconference at various times, as did military
personnel from the White House underground shelter and the President's
military aide on Air Force One.195
Operators worked feverishly to include
the FAA, but they had equipment problems and difficulty finding secure
phone numbers. NORAD asked three times before 10:03 to confirm the
presence of the FAA in the teleconference. The FAA representative who
finally joined the call at 10:17 had no familiarity with or
responsibility for hijackings, no access to decisionmakers, and none of
the information available to senior FAA officials.196
* All times given for this
conference call are estimates, which we and the Department of Defense
believe to be accurate within a ± 3 minute margin of error.
We found no evidence that, at this
critical time, NORAD's top commanders, in Florida or Cheyenne Mountain,
coordinated with their counterparts at FAA headquarters to improve
awareness and organize a common response. Lower-level officials
improvised-for example, the FAA's Boston Center bypassed the chain of
command and directly contacted NEADS after the first hijacking. But the
highest-level Defense Department officials relied on the NMCC's air
threat conference, in which the FAA did not participate for the first 48
At 9:39, the NMCC's deputy director for
operations, a military officer, opened the call from the Pentagon, which
had just been hit. He began: "An air attack against North America may be
in progress. NORAD, what's the situation?" NORAD said it had conflicting
reports. Its latest information was "of a possible hijacked aircraft
taking off out of JFK en route to Washington D.C." The NMCC reported a
crash into the mall side of the Pentagon and requested that the
Secretary of Defense be added to the conference.198
At 9:44, NORAD briefed the conference
on the possible hijacking of Delta 1989.Two minutes later, staff
reported that they were still trying to locate Secretary Rumsfeld and
Vice Chairman Myers. The Vice Chairman joined the conference shortly
before 10:00; the Secretary, shortly before 10:30.The Chairman was out
of the country.199
At 9:48, a representative from the
White House shelter asked if there were any indications of another
hijacked aircraft. The deputy director for operations mentioned the
Delta flight and concluded that "that would be the fourth possible
hijack." At 9:49, the commander of NORAD directed all air sovereignty
aircraft to battle stations, fully armed.200
At 9:59, an Air Force lieutenant
colonel working in the White House Military Office joined the conference
and stated he had just talked to Deputy National Security Advisor
Stephen Hadley. The White House requested (1) the implementation of
continuity of government measures, (2) fighter escorts for Air Force
One, and (3) a fighter combat air patrol over Washington, D.C.201
By 10:03, when United 93 crashed in
Pennsylvania, there had been no mention of its hijacking and the FAA had
not yet been added to the tele-conference.202
The President and the Vice
The President was seated in a classroom when, at 9:05,Andrew Card
whispered to him: "A second plane hit the second tower. America is under
attack." The President told us his instinct was to project calm, not to
have the country see an excited reaction at a moment of crisis. The
press was standing behind the children; he saw their phones and pagers
start to ring. The President felt he should project strength and calm
until he could better understand what was happening.203
The President remained in the classroom
for another five to seven minutes, while the children continued reading.
He then returned to a holding room shortly before 9:15, where he was
briefed by staff and saw television coverage. He next spoke to Vice
President Cheney, Dr. Rice, New York Governor George Pataki, and FBI
Director Robert Mueller. He decided to make a brief statement from the
school before leaving for the airport. The Secret Service told us they
were anxious to move the President to a safer location, but did not
think it imperative for him to run out the door.204
Between 9:15 and 9:30, the staff was
busy arranging a return to Washington, while the President consulted his
senior advisers about his remarks. No one in the traveling party had any
information during this time that other aircraft were hijacked or
missing. Staff was in contact with the White House Situation Room, but
as far as we could determine, no one with the President was in contact
with the Pentagon. The focus was on the President's statement to the
nation. The only decision made during this time was to return to
The President's motorcade departed at
9:35, and arrived at the airport between 9:42 and 9:45. During the ride
the President learned about the attack on the Pentagon. He boarded the
aircraft, asked the Secret Service about the safety of his family, and
called the Vice President. According to notes of the call, at about 9:45
the President told the Vice President: "Sounds like we have a minor war
going on here, I heard about the Pentagon. We're at war . . .
some-body's going to pay."206
About this time, Card, the lead Secret
Service agent, the President's military aide, and the pilot were
conferring on a possible destination for Air Force One. The Secret
Service agent felt strongly that the situation in Washington was too
unstable for the President to return there, and Card agreed. The
President strongly wanted to return to Washington and only grudgingly
agreed to go elsewhere. The issue was still undecided when the President
conferred with the Vice President at about the time Air Force One was
taking off. The Vice President recalled urging the President not to
return to Washington. Air Force One departed at about 9:54 without any
fixed destination. The objective was to get up in the air-as fast and as
high as possible-and then decide where to go.207
At 9:33, the tower supervisor at Reagan
National Airport picked up a hotline to the Secret Service and told the
Service's operations center that "an aircraft [is] coming at you and not
talking with us." This was the first specific report to the Secret
Service of a direct threat to the White House. No move was made to
evacuate the Vice President at this time. As the officer who took the
call explained, "[I was] about to push the alert button when the tower
advised that the aircraft was turning south and approaching Reagan
American 77 began turning south, away
from the White House, at 9:34. It continued heading south for roughly a
minute, before turning west and beginning to circle back. This news
prompted the Secret Service to order the immediate evacuation of the
Vice President just before 9:36. Agents propelled him out of his chair
and told him he had to get to the bunker. The Vice President entered the
underground tunnel leading to the shelter at 9:37.209
Once inside, Vice President Cheney and
the agents paused in an area of the tunnel that had a secure phone, a
bench, and television. The Vice President asked to speak to the
President, but it took time for the call to be connected. He learned in
the tunnel that the Pentagon had been hit, and he saw television
coverage of smoke coming from the building.210
The Secret Service logged Mrs. Cheney's
arrival at the White House at 9:52, and she joined her husband in the
tunnel. According to contemporaneous notes, at 9:55 the Vice President
was still on the phone with the President advising that three planes
were missing and one had hit the Pentagon. We believe this is the same
call in which the Vice President urged the President not to return to
Washington. After the call ended, Mrs. Cheney and the Vice President
moved from the tunnel to the shelter conference room.211
United 93 and the Shootdown
On the morning of 9/11, the President and Vice President stayed in
contact not by an open line of communication but through a series of
calls. The President told us he was frustrated with the poor
communications that morning. He could not reach key officials, including
Secretary Rumsfeld, for a period of time. The line to the White House
shelter conference room-and the Vice President-kept cutting off.212
The Vice President remembered placing a
call to the President just after entering the shelter conference room.
There is conflicting evidence about when the Vice President arrived in
the shelter conference room. We have concluded, from the available
evidence, that the Vice President arrived in the room shortly before
10:00, perhaps at 9:58.The Vice President recalled being told, just
after his arrival, that the Air Force was trying to establish a combat
air patrol over Washington.213
The Vice President stated that he
called the President to discuss the rules of engagement for the CAP. He
recalled feeling that it did no good to establish the CAP unless the
pilots had instructions on whether they were authorized to shoot if the
plane would not divert. He said the President signed off on that
concept. The President said he remembered such a conversation, and that
it reminded him of when he had been an interceptor pilot. The President
emphasized to us that he had authorized the shootdown of hijacked
The Vice President's military aide told
us he believed the Vice President spoke to the President just after
entering the conference room, but he did not hear what they said. Rice,
who entered the room shortly after the Vice President and sat next to
him, remembered hearing him inform the President, "Sir, the CAPs are up.
Sir, they're going to want to know what to do." Then she recalled
hearing him say, "Yes sir." She believed this conversation occurred a
few minutes, perhaps five, after they entered the conference room.215
We believe this call would have taken
place sometime before 10:10 to 10:15.
Among the sources that reflect other
important events of that morning, there is no documentary evidence for
this call, but the relevant sources are incomplete. Others nearby who
were taking notes, such as the Vice President's chief of staff, Scooter
Libby, who sat next to him, and Mrs. Cheney, did not note a call between
the President and Vice President immediately after the Vice President
entered the conference room.216
At 10:02, the communicators in the
shelter began receiving reports from the Secret Service of an inbound
aircraft-presumably hijacked-heading toward Washington. That aircraft
was United 93.The Secret Service was getting this information directly
from the FAA. The FAA may have been tracking the progress of United 93
on a display that showed its projected path to Washington, not its
actual radar return. Thus, the Secret Service was relying on projections
and was not aware the plane was already down in Pennsylvania.217
At some time between 10:10 and 10:15, a
military aide told the Vice President and others that the aircraft was
80 miles out. Vice President Cheney was asked for authority to engage
the aircraft.218 His reaction was described by Scooter Libby
as quick and decisive, "in about the time it takes a batter to decide to
swing." The Vice President authorized fighter aircraft to engage the
inbound plane. He told us he based this authorization on his earlier
conversation with the President. The military aide returned a few
minutes later, probably between 10:12 and 10:18, and said the aircraft
was 60 miles out. He again asked for authorization to engage. The Vice
President again said yes.219
At the conference room table was White
House Deputy Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten. Bolten watched the exchanges
and, after what he called "a quiet moment," suggested that the Vice
President get in touch with the President and confirm the engage order.
Bolten told us he wanted to make sure the President was told that the
Vice President had executed the order. He said he had not heard any
prior discussion on the subject with the President.220
The Vice President was logged calling
the President at 10:18 for a two-minute conversation that obtained the
confirmation. On Air Force One, the President's press secretary was
taking notes; Ari Fleischer recorded that at 10:20, the President told
him that he had authorized a shootdown of aircraft if necessary.221
Minutes went by and word arrived of an
aircraft down in Pennsylvania. Those in the shelter wondered if the
aircraft had been shot down pursuant to this authorization.222
At approximately 10:30, the shelter
started receiving reports of another hijacked plane, this time only 5 to
10 miles out. Believing they had only a minute or two, the Vice
President again communicated the authorization to "engage or "take out"
the aircraft. At 10:33, Hadley told the air threat conference call: "I
need to get word to Dick Myers that our reports are there's an inbound
aircraft flying low 5 miles out. The Vice President's guidance was we
need to take them out."223
Once again, there was no immediate
information about the fate of the inbound aircraft. In the apt
description of one witness, "It drops below the radar screen and it's
just continually hovering in your imagination; you don't know where it
is or what happens to it." Eventually, the shelter received word that
the alleged hijacker 5 miles away had been a medevac helicopter.224
Transmission of the
Authorization from the White House to the Pilots
The NMCC learned of United 93's hijacking at about 10:03.At this time
the FAA had no contact with the military at the level of national
command. The NMCC learned about United 93 from the White House. It, in
turn, was informed by the Secret Service's contacts with the FAA.225
NORAD had no information either. At
10:07, its representative on the air threat conference call stated that
NORAD had "no indication of a hijack heading to DC at this time."226
Repeatedly between 10:14 and 10:19, a
lieutenant colonel at the White House relayed to the NMCC that the Vice
President had confirmed fighters were cleared to engage inbound aircraft
if they could verify that the aircraft was hijacked.227
The commander of NORAD, General Ralph
Eberhart, was en route to the NORAD operations center in Cheyenne
Mountain, Colorado, when the shootdown order was communicated on the air
threat conference call. He told us that by the time he arrived, the
order had already been passed down NORAD's chain of command.228
It is not clear how the shootdown order
was communicated within NORAD. But we know that at 10:31, General Larry
Arnold instructed his staff to broadcast the following over a NORAD
instant messaging system: "10:31 Vice president has cleared to us to
intercept tracks of interest and shoot them down if they do not respond
per [General Arnold]."229
In upstate New York, NEADS personnel
first learned of the shootdown order from this message:
You need to read this.. . .The Region Commander has declared that we
can shoot down aircraft that do not respond to our direction. Copy
Floor Leadership: So
if you're trying to divert somebody and he won't divert-
[Director of Operations] is saying no.
No? It came over the chat.. . .You got a conflict on that direction?
now no, but-
Okay? Okay, you read that from the Vice President, right? Vice
President has cleared. Vice President has cleared us to intercept
traffic and shoot them down if they do not respond per [General
In interviews with us, NEADS personnel
expressed considerable confusion over the nature and effect of the
The NEADS commander told us he did not
pass along the order because he was unaware of its ramifications. Both
the mission commander and the senior weapons director indicated they did
not pass the order to the fighters circling Washington and New York
because they were unsure how the pilots would, or should, proceed with
this guidance. In short, while leaders in Washington believed that the
fighters above them had been instructed to "take out" hostile aircraft,
the only orders actually conveyed to the pilots were to "ID type and
In most cases, the chain of command
authorizing the use of force runs from the president to the secretary of
defense and from the secretary to the combatant commander. The President
apparently spoke to Secretary Rumsfeld for the first time that morning
shortly after 10:00. No one can recall the content of this conversation,
but it was a brief call in which the subject of shootdown authority was
At 10:39, the Vice President updated
the Secretary on the air threat conference:
There's been at least three instances here where we've had reports of
aircraft approaching Washington-a couple were confirmed hijack. And,
pursuant to the President's instructions I gave authorization for them
to be taken out. Hello?
SecDef: Yes, I
understand. Who did you give that direction to?
Vice President: It
was passed from here through the [operations] center at the White
House, from the [shelter].
SecDef: OK, let me
ask the question here. Has that directive been transmitted to the
Vice President: Yes,
SecDef: So we've got
a couple of aircraft up there that have those instructions at this
Vice President: That
is correct. And it's my understanding they've already taken a couple
of aircraft out.
SecDef: We can't
confirm that. We're told that one aircraft is down but we do not have
a pilot report that did it.233
As this exchange shows, Secretary
Rumsfeld was not in the NMCC when the shootdown order was first
conveyed. He went from the parking lot to his office (where he spoke to
the President), then to the Executive Support Center, where he
participated in the White House video teleconference. He moved to the
NMCC shortly before 10:30, in order to join Vice Chairman Myers.
Secretary Rumsfeld told us he was just gaining situational awareness
when he spoke with the Vice President at 10:39. His primary concern was
ensuring that the pilots had a clear understanding of their rules of
The Vice President was mistaken in his
belief that shootdown authorization had been passed to the pilots flying
at NORAD's direction. By 10:45 there was, however, another set of
fighters circling Washington that had entirely different rules of
engagement. These fighters, part of the 113th Wing of the District of
Columbia Air National Guard, launched out of Andrews Air Force Base in
Maryland in response to information passed to them by the Secret
Service. The first of the Andrews fighters was airborne at 10:38.235
General David Wherley-the commander of
the 113th Wing-reached out to the Secret Service after hearing
secondhand reports that it wanted fighters airborne. A Secret Service
agent had a phone in each ear, one connected to Wherley and the other to
a fellow agent at the White House, relaying instructions that the White
House agent said he was getting from the Vice President. The guidance
for Wherley was to send up the aircraft, with orders to protect the
White House and take out any aircraft that threatened the Capitol.
General Wherley translated this in military terms to flying "weapons
free"-that is, the decision to shoot rests in the cockpit, or in this
case in the cockpit of the lead pilot. He passed these instructions to
the pilots that launched at 10:42 and afterward.236
Thus, while the fighter pilots under
NORAD direction who had scrambled out of Langley never received any type
of engagement order, the Andrews pilots were operating weapons free-a
permissive rule of engagement. The President and the Vice President
indicated to us they had not been aware that fighters had been scrambled
out of Andrews, at the request of the Secret Service and outside the
military chain of command.237 There is no evidence that NORAD
headquarters or military officials in the NMCC knew-during the morning
of September 11-that the Andrews planes were airborne and operating
under different rules of engagement.
NORAD officials have maintained consistently that had the passengers not
caused United 93 to crash, the military would have prevented it from
reaching Washington, D.C. That conclusion is based on a version of
events that we now know is incorrect. The Langley fighters were not
scrambled in response to United 93; NORAD did not have 47 minutes to
intercept the flight; NORAD did not even know the plane was hijacked
until after it had crashed. It is appropriate, therefore, to reconsider
whether United 93 would have been intercepted.
Had it not crashed in Pennsylvania at
10:03, we estimate that United 93 could not have reached Washington any
earlier than 10:13, and probably would have arrived before 10:23.There
was only one set of fighters circling Washington during that time
frame-the Langley F-16s.They were armed and under NORAD's control. After
NEADS learned of the hijacking at 10:07, NORAD would have had from 6 to
16 minutes to locate the flight, receive authorization to shoot it down,
and communicate the order to the pilots, who (in the same span) would
have had to authenticate the order, intercept the flight, and execute
At that point in time, the Langley
pilots did not know the threat they were facing, did not know where
United 93 was located, and did not have shoot-down authorization.
First, the Langley pilots were never
briefed about the reason they were scrambled. As the lead pilot
explained, "I reverted to the Russian threat. ...I'm thinking cruise
missile threat from the sea. You know you look down and see the Pentagon
burning and I thought the bastards snuck one by us.. . . [Y]ou couldn't
see any airplanes, and no one told us anything."The pilots knew their
mission was to divert aircraft, but did not know that the threat came
from hijacked airliners.239
Second, NEADS did not have accurate
information on the location of United 93. Presumably FAA would have
provided such information, but we do not know how long that would have
taken, nor how long it would have taken NEADS to locate the target.
Third, NEADS needed orders to pass to
the pilots. At 10:10, the pilots over Washington were emphatically told,
"negative clearance to shoot." Shootdown authority was first
communicated to NEADS at 10:31. It is possible that NORAD commanders
would have ordered a shootdown in the absence of the authorization
communicated by the Vice President, but given the gravity of the
decision to shoot down a commercial airliner, and NORAD's caution that a
mistake not be made, we view this possibility as unlikely.240
NORAD officials have maintained that
they would have intercepted and shot down United 93.We are not so sure.
We are sure that the nation owes a debt to the passengers of United
93.Their actions saved the lives of countless others, and may have saved
either the Capitol or the White House from destruction.
The details of what happened on the
morning of September 11 are complex, but they play out a simple theme.
NORAD and the FAA were unprepared for the type of attacks launched
against the United States on September 11, 2001.They struggled, under
difficult circumstances, to improvise a homeland defense against an
unprecedented challenge they had never before encountered and had never
trained to meet.
At 10:02 that morning, an assistant to
the mission crew commander at NORAD's Northeast Air Defense Sector in
Rome, New York, was working with his colleagues on the floor of the
command center. In a brief moment of reflection, he was recorded
remarking that "This is a new type of war."241
He was, and is, right. But the conflict
did not begin on 9/11. It had been publicly declared years earlier, most
notably in a declaration faxed early in 1998 to an Arabic-language
newspaper in London. Few Americans had noticed it. The fax had been sent
from thousands of miles away by the followers of a Saudi exile gathered
in one of the most remote and impoverished countries on earth.
1 "We Have Some Planes"
1. No physical, documentary, or
analytical evidence provides a convincing explanation of why Atta and
Omari drove to Portland, Maine, from Boston on the morning of September
10, only to return to Logan on Flight 5930 on the morning of September
11. However, Atta reacted negatively when informed in Portland that he
would have to check in again in Boston. Michael Touhey interview (May
27, 2004).Whatever their reason, the Portland Jetport was the nearest
airport to Boston with a 9/11 flight that would have arrived at Logan in
time for the passengers to transfer to American Airlines Flight 11,
which had a scheduled departure time of 7:45 A.M. See Tom Kinton
interview (Nov. 6, 2003); Portland International Jetport site visit
(Aug. 18, 2003).
Like the other two airports used by the
9/11 hijackers (Newark Liberty International Airport and Washington
Dulles International Airport), Boston's Logan International Airport was
a "Category X" airport: i.e., among the largest facilities liable to
highest threat, and generally subject to greater security requirements.
See FAA report, "Civil Aviation Security Reference Handbook," May 1999,
pp. 117-118.Though Logan was selected for two of the hijackings (as were
both American and United Airlines), we found no evidence that the
terrorists targeted particular airports or airlines. Nothing stands out
about any of them with respect to the only security layer that was
relevant to the actual hijackings: checkpoint screening. See FAA
briefing materials, "Assessment and Testing Data for BOS, EWR, and IAD,"
Oct. 24, 2001. Despite security problems at Logan (see, e.g., two local
Fox 25 television investigative reports in February and April 2001, and
an email in August 2001 from a former FAA special agent to the agency's
leadership regarding his concerns about lax security at the airport), no
evidence suggests that such issues entered into the terrorists'
targeting: they simply booked heavily fueled east-to-west
transcontinental flights of the large Boeing aircraft they trained to
fly that were scheduled to take off at nearly the same time. See Matt
Carroll, "Fighting Terror Sense of Alarm; Airlines Foiled Police Logan
Probe," Boston Globe, Oct. 17, 2001, p. B1.
2. CAPPS was an FAA-approved automated
system run by the airlines that scored each passenger's profile to
identify those who might pose a threat to civil aviation. The system
also chose passengers at random to receive additional security scrutiny.
Ten out of the 19 hijackers (including 9 out of 10 on the two American
Airlines flights) were identified via the CAPPS system. According to the
procedures in place on 9/11, in addition to those flagged by the CAPPS
algorithm, American's ticket agents were to mark as "selectees" those
passengers who did not provide correct responses to the required
security questions, failed to show proper identification, or met other
criteria. See FAA report, "Air Carrier Standard Security Program," May
2001, pp. 75-76; FAA record of interview, Donna Thompson, Sept. 23,
2001; Chuck Severance interview (Apr. 15, 2004); Jim Dillon interview
(Apr. 15, 2004); Diane Graney interview (Apr. 16, 2004). It appears that
Atta was selected at random. See Al Hickson briefing (June 8, 2004).
3.The call was placed from a pay phone
in Terminal C (between the screening checkpoint and United 175's
boarding gate). We presume Shehhi made the call, but we cannot be sure.
Logan International Airport site visit (Aug. 15, 2003); see also FBI
response to Commission briefing request no. 6, undated (topic 11).
4. Flight 11 pushed back from Gate 32
in Terminal B at 7:40. See AAL response to the Commission's February 3,
2004, requests, Mar. 15, 2004.
5. See UAL letter, "Flight 175-11Sep01
Passenger ACI Check-in History," July 11, 2002. Customer service
representative Gail Jawahir recalled that her encounter with the Ghamdis
occurred at "shortly before 7 A.M.," and when shown photos of the
hijackers, she indicated that Mohand al Shehri resembled one of the two
she checked in (suggesting they were Banihammad and Shehri). However,
she also recalled that the men had the same last name and had assigned
seats on row 9 (i.e., the Ghamdis), and that account has been adopted
here. In either case, she almost certainly was dealing with one set of
the Flight 175 hijackers. See FBI reports of investigation, interviews
of Gail Jawahir, Sept. 21, 2001; Sept. 28, 2001. Even had the hijackers
been unable to understand and answer the two standard security
questions, the only consequence would have been the screening of their
carry-on and checked bags for explosives. See FAA report, "Air Carrier
Standard Security Program," May 2001, p. 76.
6. For Flight 11, two checkpoints
provided access to the gate. The second was opened at 7:15 A.M. The FAA
conducted many screener evaluations between September 11, 1999, and
September 11, 2001.At the primary checkpoints, in aggregate, screeners
met or exceeded the average for overall, physical search, and X-ray
detection, while falling below the norm for metal detection. No FAA
Special Assessments (by "red teams") were done at Logan security
checkpoints during the two years prior to September 11, 2001. See FAA
briefing materials, "Assessment and Testing Data for BOS, EWR, and IAD,"
Oct. 24, 2001.
7. See Air Transport
Association/Regional Airlines Association (ATA/RAA) report, "Air
Carriers Checkpoint Operations Guide," Aug. 1999; FAA report, "Air
Carrier Standard Security Program, "May 2001, appendix VI.
8. Mary Carol Turano interview (Mar.
11, 2004); FBI reports of investigation, interview of Nilda Cora, Oct.
4, 2001; interview of William Thomas, Sept. 14, 2001; interview of
Jennifer Gore, Sept. 12, 2001; interview of Claudia Richey, Sept. 15,
2001; interview of Rosarito Rivera, Sept. 25, 2001.
9. See TSA report, "Selectee Status of
September 11th Hijackers," undated. For boarding and seating
information, see AAL record, SABRE information on Flight 11, Sept. 11,
2001.These boarding times from the American system are approximate only;
for Flight 11, they indicated that some passengers "boarded" after the
aircraft had pushed back from the gate. See AAL response to the
Commission's February 3, 2004, requests, Mar. 15, 2004.
10. See TSA report, "Selectee Status of
September 11th Hijackers, "undated; see also UAL letter, "Flight 175- 11
Sep01 Passenger ACI Check-in History," July 11, 2002.
11.The Hazmis checked in at 7:29; the
airline has not yet been able to confirm the time of Hanjour's check-in.
However, it had to have taken place by 7:35, when he appears on the
checkpoint videotape. See AAL record, SABRE information for Flight 77,
Sept. 11, 2001; AAL response to the Commission's February 3, 2004,
requests, Mar. 15, 2004; Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority
videotape, Dulles main terminal checkpoints, Sept. 11, 2001.
12. See TSA report, "Selectee Status of
September 11th Hijackers, "undated; see also FAA report, "Selectee List
AALA #77," undated; FBI report of investigation, interview of Vaughn
Allex, Sept. 12, 2001;Vaughn Allex interview (July 13, 2004).
13.The FAA conducted many screener
evaluations at Dulles between September 11, 1999, and September 11,
2001.While the test results for physical search exceeded the national
average, both the metal detector and X-ray results were below average.
See FAA briefing materials, "Assessment and Testing Data for BOS, EWR,
and IAD," Oct. 24, 2001.
14. Metropolitan Washington Airports
Authority videotape, Dulles main terminal checkpoints, Sept. 11, 2001;
see also Tim Jackson interview (Apr. 12, 2004).
15. Metropolitan Washington Airports
Authority videotape, Dulles main terminal checkpoints, Sept. 11, 2001;
see also Tim Jackson interview (Apr. 12, 2004).
16. For investigation findings, see FAA
report, "American Airlines Flight #77: Hijacking and Crash into the
Pentagon, Sept. 11, 2001," undated. For screener evaluations, see Tim
Jackson interview (Apr. 12, 2004).
17. See AAL record, SABRE information
for Flight 77, Sept. 11, 2001;AAL response to the Commission's February
3, 2004, requests, Mar. 15, 2004.
18. UAL record, Flight 93 EWR bag
loading status, Sept. 11, 2001; UAL record, Flight 93 EWR ACI passenger
history, Sept. 11, 2001; UAL record, Flight 93 EWR full bag history,
Sept. 11, 2001;TSA report, "Selectee Status of September 11th
Hijackers," undated; FBI report, "The Final 24 Hours," Dec. 8, 2003.
19.The FAA conducted many screener
evaluations at Newark between September 11, 1999, and September 11,
2001. Detection rates for metal detection, physical searches, and X-rays
all met or exceeded the national averages. See FAA briefing materials,
"Assessment and Testing Data for BOS, EWR, and IAD," Oct. 24, 2001; see
also FAA report, "United Airlines Flight 93, September 11, 2001,
Executive Report," Jan. 30, 2002.
20. UAL record, Flight 93 EWR ACI
passenger history, Sept. 11, 2001; see also FBI report, "The Final 24
Hours," Dec. 8, 2003.
21.While Flights 11 and 77 were at or
slightly above the average number of passengers for the respective
flights that summer, Flights 175 and 93 were well below their averages.
We found no evidence to indicate that the hijackers manipulated the
passenger loads on the aircraft they hijacked. Financial records did not
reveal the purchase of any tickets beyond those the hijackers used for
themselves. See FBI response to Commission briefing request no. 6,
undated (topic 8);AAL report, "Average Load Factor by Day-of-Week,"
undated (for Flights 11 and 77 from June 11, 2001, to Sept. 9, 2001);AAL
response to the Commission's supplemental document requests, Jan. 20,
2004; UAL report, Flight 175 BOS-LAX Load Factors, undated (from June 1,
2001, to Sept. 11, 2001); UAL report, "Explanation of Load Factors,"
22. See AAL response to the
Commission's February 3, 2004, requests, Mar. 15, 2004; AAL record,
Dispatch Environmental Control/Weekly Flight Summary for Flight 11,
Sept. 11, 2001;AAL report, "Flight Attendant Jump Seat Locations During
Takeoff And Flight Attendant Typical Cabin Positions During Start of
Cabin Service," undated; AAL report, "Passenger Name List, Flight
11/September 11," undated.
23. Commission analysis of NTSB and FAA
air traffic control and radar data. See AAL record, Dispatch
Environmental Control/Weekly Flight Summary for Flight 11, Sept. 11,
2001; NTSB report, "Flight Path Study-American Airlines Flight 11," Feb.
19, 2002; Bill Halleck and Peggy Houck interview (Jan. 8, 2004).The
initial service assignments for flight attendants on American 11 would
have placed Karen Martin and Bobbi Arestegui in first class; Sara Low
and Jean Roger in business class; Dianne Snyder in the midcabin galley;
Betty Ong and Amy Sweeney in coach; and Karen Nicosia in the aft galley.
Jeffrey Collman would have been assigned to work in coach, but to assist
in first class if needed. See AAL report, "Flight Attendant Jump Seat
Locations During Takeoff And Flight Attendant Typical Cabin Positions
During Start of Cabin Service," undated; Bob Jordan briefing (Nov. 20,
24. NTSB report, Air Traffic Control
Recording-American Airlines Flight 11, Dec. 21, 2001; NTSB report, Air
Traffic Control Recording-United Airlines Flight 175, Dec. 21, 2001.
Given that the cockpit crew of American 11 had been acknowledging all
previous instructions from air traffic control that morning within a
matter of seconds, and that when the first reporting of the hijacking
was received a short time later (the 8:19 call from Betty Ong) a number
of actions had already been taken by the hijackers, it is most likely
that the hijacking occurred at 8:14 A.M.
25.An early draft of an executive
summary prepared by FAA security staff for the agency's leadership
referred to an alleged report of a shooting aboard Flight 11.We believe
this report was erroneous for a number of reasons- there is no evidence
that the hijackers purchased firearms, use of a gun would be
inconsistent with the otherwise common tactics employed by the
hijackers, the alleged shooting victim was seated where witness accounts
place the stabbing victim (9B), and, most important, neither Betty Ong
nor Amy Sweeney, the only two people who communicated to the ground from
aboard the aircraft, reported the presence of a gun or a shooting. Both
reported knives and stabbings. AAL transcript, telephone call from Betty
Ong to Nydia Gonzalez, Sept. 11, 2001;AAL transcript, telephone call
from Nydia Gonzalez to Craig Marquis, Sept. 11, 2001; AAL transcript,
telephone call from Nancy Wyatt to Ray Howland, Sept. 11, 2001; Michael
Woodward interview (Jan. 25, 2004).The General Accounting Office looked
into the gun story and was unable to corroborate it. GAO report, summary
of briefing re investigation, Aug. 30, 2002.
26. Craig Marquis interview (Nov. 19,
2003); Michael Woodward interview (Jan. 25, 2004); Jim Dillon interview
(Apr. 15, 2004). See also AAL transcript, telephone call from Betty Ong
to Nydia Gonzalez, Sept. 11, 2001. At the time of the hijacking,
American Airlines flight attendants all carried cockpit keys on their
person. See Craig Marquis, Craig Parfitt, Joe Bertapelle, and Mike
Mulcahy interview (Nov. 19, 2003).
27. AAL transcript, telephone call from
Nydia Gonzalez to Craig Marquis, Sept. 11, 2001; Obituary, "Daniel Lewin,"
Washington Post, Sept. 22, 2001, p. B7.
28. AAL transcript, telephone call from
Betty Ong to Nydia Gonzalez, Sept. 11, 2001; AAL transcript, telephone
call from Nydia Gonzalez to Craig Marquis, Sept. 11, 2001. Regarding the
claim of a bomb, see Michael Woodward interview (Jan. 25, 2004).
29. Calls to American's reservations
office are routed to the first open line at one of several facilities,
among them the center in Cary, N.C. See Nydia Gonzalez interview (Nov.
19, 2003). On standard emergency training, see FAA report, "Air Carrier
Standard Security Program," May 2001, pp. 139j-139o; Don Dillman
briefing (Nov. 18, 2003); Bob Jordan briefing (Nov. 20, 2003).The call
from Ong was received initially by Vanessa Minter and then taken over by
Winston Sadler; realizing the urgency of the situation, he pushed an
emergency button that simultaneously initiated a tape recording of the
call and sent an alarm notifying Nydia Gonzalez, a supervisor, to pick
up on the line. Gonzalez was paged to respond to the alarm and joined
the call a short time later. Only the first four minutes of the phone
call between Ong and the reservations center (Minter, Sadler, and
Gonzalez) was recorded because of the time limit on the recently
installed system. See Nydia Gonzalez interview (Nov. 19, 2003); Nydia
Gonzalez testimony, Jan. 27, 2004.
30. AAL transcript, telephone call from
Betty Ong to Nydia Gonzalez, Sept. 11, 2001.
31. See Nydia Gonzalez interview (Nov.
19, 2003); Craig Marquis interviews (Nov. 19, 2003; Apr. 26, 2004); AAL
record, Dispatch Environmental Control/Weekly Flight Summary for Flight
11, Sept. 11, 2001; AAL transcript, telephone call from Bill Halleck to
BOS ATC, Sept. 11, 2001.The Air Carrier Standard Security Program
required airlines to immediately notify the FAA and FBI upon receiving
information that an act or suspected act of airplane piracy was being
32. See FAA recording, Boston Air Route
Traffic Control Center, position 46R, at 8:25 A.M.; Air Traffic Control
Recording-American Airlines Flight 11, Dec. 21, 2001. Starting at
8:22,Amy Sweeney attempted by airphone to contact the American Airlines
flight services office at Logan, which managed the scheduling and
operation of flight attendants. Sweeney's first attempt failed, as did a
second at 8:24.When she got through to Nunez, the latter thought she had
reported her flight number as 12. Michael Woodward, supervisor at the
Boston office, hearing that a problem had been reported aboard an
American airplane, went to American's gate area at Logan with his
colleague Beth Williams. Woodward noted that the morning bank of flights
had all departed Boston and the gate area was quiet. He further realized
that Flight 12 had not even departed yet, so he and Williams returned to
the office to try to clarify the situation. See FBI report, "American
Airlines Airphone Usage," Sept. 20, 2001; Michael Woodward interview
(Jan. 25, 2004).The phone call between Sweeney and Woodward lasted about
12 minutes (8:32-8:44) and was not taped. See AAL email, Woodward to
Schmidt, "Flight 11 Account of events," Sept. 19, 2001;AAL notes,
Michael Woodward handwritten notes, Sept. 11, 2001; FBI report of
investigation, interview of Michael Woodward, Sept. 13, 2001; AAL
report, interview of Michael Woodward, Sept. 11, 2001; AAL transcript,
telephone call from Nancy Wyatt to Ray Howland, Sept. 11, 2001.
33. See AAL transcript, telephone call
from Nydia Gonzalez to Craig Marquis, Sept. 11, 2001; NTSB report,
"Flight Path Study-American Airlines Flight 11," Feb. 19, 2002.AAL
transcript, telephone call from Nydia Gonzalez to Craig Marquis, Sept.
11, 2001; AAL transcript, telephone call from Nancy Wyatt to Ray
Howland, Sept. 11, 2001.
34. Michael Woodward interview (Jan.
35.AAL transcript, telephone call from
Nydia Gonzalez to Craig Marquis, Sept. 11, 2001; Michael Woodward
interview (Jan. 25, 2004);AAL, Michael Woodward notes, Sept. 11,
2001.Also at this time American Airlines completed its "lockout"
procedure for Flight 11, which restricted access to information about a
hijacked flight in accordance with the Air Carrier Standard Security
program. See FAA report,"Air Carrier Standard Security Program," May
2001, p. 110.
36.AAL transcript, telephone call from
Nancy Wyatt to Ray Howland, Sept. 11, 2001; Michael Woodward interview
(Jan. 25, 2004).
37. AAL transcript, telephone call from
Nydia Gonzalez to Craig Marquis, Sept. 11, 2001.
38. Ibid.; Michael Woodward interview
(Jan. 25, 2004).
39. NTSB report, "Flight Path
Study-American Airlines Flight 11," Feb. 19, 2002.
40.The 56 passengers represented a load
factor of 33.33 percent of the airplane's seating capacity of 168, below
the 49.22 percent for Flight 175 on Tuesdays in the three-month period
prior to September 11, 2001. See UAL report, Flight 175 BOS-LAX Load
Factors, undated (from June 1, 2001, to Sept. 11, 2001). Nine passengers
holding reservations for Flight 175 did not show for the flight. They
were interviewed and cleared by the FBI. FAA report, "Executive
Summary," Sept. 12, 2001; FAA report, "Executive Summary, Chronology of
a Multiple Hijacking Crisis, September 11, 2001," Sept. 17, 2001; UAL
record, Flight 175 ACARS report, Sept. 11, 2001; UAL record, Flight 175
Flight Data Recap, Sept. 11, 2001.
41. FAA report, "Executive Summary,"
Sept. 12, 2001; FAA report, "Executive Summary, Chronology of a Multiple
Hijacking Crisis, September 11, 2001," Sept. 17, 2001; NTSB report,
"Flight Path Study-United Airlines 175," Feb. 19, 2002; NTSB report, Air
Traffic Control Recording-United Airlines Flight 175, Dec. 21, 2001. At
or around this time, flight attendants Kathryn Laborie and Alfred
Marchand would have begun cabin service in first class; with Amy King
and Robert Fangman in business class; and with Michael Tarrou, Amy
Jarret, and Alicia Titus in economy class. See UAL report, "Flight 175
Flight Attendant Positions/Jumpseats," undated. United flight
attendants, unlike those at American, did not carry cockpit keys.
Instead, such keys were stowed in the cabin-on Flight 175, in the
overhead bin above seats 1A and 1B in first class. See Don Dillman
briefing (Nov. 18, 2003); Bob Jordan briefing (Nov. 20, 2003).
42.Asked by air traffic controllers at
8:37 to look for an American Airlines 767 (Flight 11), United 175
reported spotting the aircraft at 8:38. At 8:41, the flight crew
reported having "heard a suspicious transmission" from another aircraft
shortly after takeoff, "like someone keyed the mike and said everyone
stay in your seats." See NTSB report, Air Traffic Control
Recording-United Airlines Flight 175, Dec. 21, 2001.
43. See Marc Policastro interview (Nov.
21, 2003); FBI reports of investigation, interview of Lee Hanson, Sept.
11, 2001; interview of Marc Policastro, Sept. 11, 2001; interview of
Louise Sweeney, Sept. 28, 2001; interview of Ronald May, Sept. 11, 2001.
On both American 11 and United 175, Boeing 767 double-aisled aircraft,
the hijackers arrayed themselves similarly: two seated in first class
close to the cockpit door, the pilot hijacker seated close behind them,
and at least one other hijacker seated close behind the pilot hijacker.
Hijackers were seated next to both the left and right aisles. On
American 77 and United 93, Boeing 757 single-aisle aircraft, the pilot
hijacker sat in the first row, closest to the cockpit door. See FBI
report, "Summary of Penttbom Investigation," Feb. 29, 2004, pp. 67-69;
AAL schematics for Flight 11 and Flight 77; UAL schematics for Flight
175 and Flight 93.
44. NTSB report, "Flight Path
Study-United Airlines 175," Feb. 19, 2002; NTSB report, Air Traffic
Control Recording-United Airlines Flight 175, Dec. 21, 2001.
45. See FBI report of investigation,
interview of Lee Hanson, Sept. 11, 2001.
46. Flight crew on board UAL aircraft
could contact the United office in San Francisco (SAMC) simply by
dialing *349 on an airphone. See FBI report of investigation, interview
of David Price, Jan. 24, 2002.At some point before 9:00, SAMC notified
United's headquarters of the emergency call from the flight attendant.
See Marc Policastro interview (Nov. 21, 2003); FBI report of
investigation, interview of Marc Policastro, Sept.11, 2001; Rich Miles
interiew (Nov. 21, 2003).
47. NTSB report, "Flight Path
Study-United Airlines 175," Feb. 19, 2002.
48. See FBI reports of investigation,
interview of Julie Sweeney, Oct. 2, 2001; interview of Louise Sweeney,
Sept. 28, 2001.
49. See FBI report of investigation,
interview of Lee Hanson, Sept. 11, 2001.
50. See ibid.; interview of Louise
Sweeney, Sept. 28, 2001.
51. NTSB report, "Flight Path
Study-United Airlines 175," Feb. 19, 2002.
52. AAL report, "Flight Attendant Jump
Seat Locations During Takeoff And Flight Attendant Typical Cabin
Positions During Start of Cabin Service," undated;AAL email,Young to
Clark, "Flight Crews," Sept. 12, 2001;AAL record, Dispatch Environmental
Control/Weekly Flight Summary for Flight 11, Sept. 11, 2001.
53.AAL record, System Operations
Command Center (SOCC) log, Sept. 11, 2001, p. 2; NTSB report, "Flight
Path Study-American Airlines Flight 77," Feb. 19, 2002. Flight attendant
Renee May would likely have started working in the first-class galley;
Michele Heidenberger would have been in the aft galley; Jennifer Lewis
would have been in first class; and Kenneth Lewis would have been in the
main cabin. On cabin service, see AAL report, "Flight Attendant Jump
Seat Locations During Takeoff And Flight Attendant Typical Cabin
Positions During Start of Cabin Service," undated. For cruising
altitude, see NTSB report, "Flight Path Study-American Airlines Flight
77," Feb. 19, 2002. On events in the cabin, see FAA recording,
Indianapolis Air Traffic Control Center, position HNN R, Sept. 11, 2001;
FBI report of investigation, interview of Theodore Olson, Sept. 11,
2001; FBI report of investigation, interview of Ronald and Nancy May,
Sept. 12, 2001; AAL record, Dispatch Environmental Control/Weekly Flight
Summary for Flight 11, Sept. 11, 2001.
54.Air traffic control notified
American's headquarters of the problem, and the airline began attempts
to contact the flight by 8:59 via ACARS. See NTSB report, "Flight Path
Study-American Airlines Flight 77," Feb. 19, 2002. On American 11, the
transponder signal was turned off at 8:21; on United 175, the code was
changed at 8:47; on American 77, the signal was turned off at 8:56; and
on United 93, the signal was turned off at 9:41. See FAA report,
"Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events: September 11, 2001," Sept. 17,
2001; Richard Byard interview (Sept.
24, 2003); Linda Povinelli interview
(Sept. 24, 2003); see also NTSB report, Air Traffic Control
Recording-American Airlines Flight 77, Dec. 21, 2001; AAL record,
Dispatch Environmental Control/Weekly Flight Summary for Flight 11,
Sept. 11, 2001.
55. Gerard Arpey interview (Jan. 8,
2004); Larry Wansley interview (Jan. 8, 2004);AAL record, System
Operations Command Center (SOCC) log, Sept. 11, 2001.
56. FBI report, "American Airlines
Airphone Usage," Sept. 20, 2001; FBI report of investigation, interview
of Ronald and Nancy May, Sept. 12, 2001.
57.The records available for the phone
calls from American 77 do not allow for a determination of which of four
"connected calls to unknown numbers" represent the two between Barbara
and Ted Olson, although the FBI and DOJ believe that all four represent
communications between Barbara Olson and her husband's office (all
family members of the Flight 77 passengers and crew were canvassed to
see if they had received any phone calls from the hijacked flight, and
only Renee May's parents and Ted Olson indicated that they had received
such calls). The four calls were at 9:15:34 for 1 minute, 42 seconds;
9:20:15 for 4 minutes, 34 seconds; 9:25:48 for 2 minutes, 34 seconds;
and 9:30:56 for 4 minutes, 20 seconds. FBI report, "American Airlines
Airphone Usage," Sept. 20, 2001; FBI report of investigation, interview
of Theodore Olson, Sept. 11, 2001; FBI report of investigation,
interview of Helen Voss, Sept. 14, 2001;AAL response to the Commission's
supplemental document request, Jan. 20, 2004.
58. FBI report, "American Airlines
Airphone Usage," Sept. 20, 2001; FBI report of investigation, interview
of Theodore Olson, Sept. 11, 2001.
59. See FAA report, "Report of Aircraft
Accident," Nov. 13, 2001; John Hendershot interview (Dec. 22, 2003); FAA
report, "Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events: September 11, 2001,"
Sept. 17, 2001; NTSB report, "Flight Path Study-American Airlines Flight
77," Feb. 19, 2002; Commission analysis of radar data.
60. See FAA report, "Summary of Air
Traffic Hijack Events: September 11, 2001," Sept. 17, 2001; NTSB report,
"Flight Path Study-American Airlines Flight 77," Feb. 19, 2002; FAA
report, "Report of Aircraft Accident," Nov. 13, 2001.
61. See NTSB report, "Flight Path
Study-American Airlines Flight 77," Feb. 19, 2002;TSA report, "Criminal
Acts Against Civil Aviation for 2001," Aug. 20, 2002, p. 41.
62. The flight attendant assignments
and seating included Chief Flight Attendant Deborah Welsh (first class,
seat J1 at takeoff); Sandra Bradshaw (coach, seat J5);Wanda Green (first
class, seat J4); Lorraine Bay (coach, seat J3); and CeeCee Lyles (coach,
seat J6). See UAL response to Commission questions for the record, Apr.
5, 2004; FAA report, "Chronology of the September 11 Attacks and
Subsequent Events Through October 24, 2001," undated; UAL records,
copies of electronic boarding passes for Flight 93, Sept. 11, 2001; Bob
Varcadipane interview (May 4, 2004); Newark Tower briefing (May 4,
63. Although the flight schedule
indicates an 8:00 A.M. "departure," this was the time the plane left the
gate area. Taxiing from the gate to the runway normally took about 15
minutes. Bob Varcadipane interview (May 4, 2004); Newark Tower briefing
(May 4, 2004).
64. Commission analysis of FAA air
traffic control data. On the FAA's awareness of multiple hijackings, see
AAL transcript, telephone call from Nydia Gonzalez to Craig Marquis,
Sept. 11, 2001; Craig Marquis interview (Nov. 19, 2003);AAL record,
System Operations Command Center (SOCC) log, Sept. 11, 2001; UAL System
Operations Control briefing (Nov. 20, 2003); Rich Miles interview (Nov.
21, 2003); UAL report, "Timeline: Dispatch/SMFDO Activities-Terrorist
65. FAA audio file, Boston Center,
position 46R, 8:24:38 and 8:24:56; Peter Zalewski interview (Sept. 23,
66. On September 6, 1970, members of
the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hijacked a Pan
American Boeing 747, a TWA Boeing 707, and a Swissair DC-8. On September
9, a British airliner was hijacked as well. An attempt to hijack an
Israeli airliner was thwarted. The Pan American plane landed in Cairo
and was blown up after its passengers were released. The other three
aircraft were flown to Dawson Field, near Amman, Jordan; the passengers
were held captive, and the planes were destroyed. The international
hijacking crisis turned into a civil war, as the Jordanian government
used force to restore its control of the country. See FAA report, Civil
Aviation Reference Handbook, May 1999, appendix D.
The FAA knew or strongly suspected that
Flight 11 was a hijacking 11 minutes after it was taken over; Flight
175, 9 minutes after it was taken over. There is no evidence to indicate
that the FAA recognized Flight 77 as a hijacking until it crashed into
67. FAA audio file, Herndon Command
Center, line 5114, 9:07:13; FAA audio file, Herndon Command Center,
position 15, 9:19. At 9:07, Boston Air Traffic Control Center
recommended to the FAA Command Center that a cockpit warning be sent to
the pilots of all commercial aircraft to secure their cockpits. While
Boston Center sent out such warnings to the commercial flights in its
sector, we could find no evidence that a nationwide warning was issued
by the ATC system.
68. Ellen King interview (Apr. 5,
2004). FAA air traffic control tapes indicate that at 9:19 the FAA Air
Traffic Control System Command Center in Herndon ordered controllers to
send a cockpit warning to Delta 1989 because, like American 11 and
United 175, it was a transcontinental flight departing Boston's Logan
69. For American Airlines' response,
see AAL briefing (Apr. 26, 2004). For Ballinger's warnings, see Ed
Ballinger interview (Apr. 14, 2004). A companywide order for dispatchers
to warn cockpits was not issued until 9:21. See UAL report, "Timeline:
Dispatch/SMFDO Activities-Terrorist Crisis," undated. While one of
Ballinger's colleagues assisted him, Ballinger remained responsible for
multiple flights. See Ed Ballinger interview (Apr. 14, 2004). American
Airlines' policy called for the flight dispatcher to manage only the
hijacked flight, relieving him of responsibilities for all other
flights. On American Airlines' policy, see Craig Marquis, Craig Parfitt,
Joe Bertapelle, and Mike Mulcahy interview (Nov. 19, 2003). United
Airlines had no such "isolation" policy. UAL System Operations Control
briefing (Nov. 20, 2003).
70. On FDR, see NTSB report,
"Specialist's Factual Report of Investigation-Digital Flight Data
Recorder" for United Airlines Flight 93, Feb. 15, 2002; on CVR, see FBI
report, "CVR from UA Flight #93," Dec. 4, 2003; Commission review of
Aircraft Communication and Reporting System (ACARS) messages sent to and
from Flight 93 (which indicate time of message transmission and
receipt); see UAL record, Ed Ballinger ACARS log, Sept. 11, 2001. At
9:22, after learning of the events at the World Trade Center, Melody
Homer, the wife of co-pilot Leroy Homer, had an ACARS message sent to
her husband in the cockpit asking if he was okay. See UAL record, ACARS
message, Sept. 11, 2001.
71. On FDR, see NTSB report,
"Specialist's Factual Report of Investigation-Digital Flight Data
Recorder" for United Airlines Flight 93, Feb. 15, 2002; on CVR, see FBI
report, "CVR from UA Flight #93," Dec. 4, 2003; FAA report, "Summary of
Air Traffic Hijack Events: September 11, 2001," Sept. 17, 2001; NTSB
report, Air Traffic Control Recording-United Airlines Flight 93, Dec.
72.The 37 passengers represented a load
factor of 20.33 percent of the plane's seating capacity of 182,
considerably below the 52.09 percent for Flight 93 on Tuesdays in the
three-month period prior to September 11 (June 11-September 4, 2001).
See UAL report, Flight 93 EWR-SFO load factors, undated. Five passengers
holding reservations for Flight 93 did not show for the flight. All five
were interviewed and cleared by the FBI. FBI report, "Flight #93 'No
Show' Passengers from 9/11/01," Sept. 18, 2001.
73. INS record, Withdrawal of
Application for Admission for Mohamed al Kahtani, Aug. 4, 2001.
74. See FAA regulations, Admission to
flight deck, 14 C.F.R. § 121.547 (2001); UAL records, copies of boarding
passes for United 93, Sept. 11, 2001. One passenger reported that ten
first-class passengers were aboard the flight. If that number is
accurate, it would include the four hijackers. FBI report of
investigation, interview of Lisa Jefferson, Sept. 11, 2001; UAL record,
Flight 93 passenger manifest, Sept. 11, 2001.All but one of the six
passengers seated in the first-class cabin communicated with the ground
during the flight, and none mentioned anyone from their cabin having
gone into the cockpit before the hijacking. Moreover, it is unlikely
that the highly regarded and experienced pilot and co-pilot of Flight 93
would have allowed an observer into the cockpit before or after takeoff
who had not obtained the proper permission. See UAL records, personnel
files of Flight 93 pilots. For jumpseat information, see UAL record,
Weight and Balance Information for Flight 93 and Flight 175, Sept. 11,
2001;AAL records, Dispatch Environmental Control/Weekly Flight Summary
for Flight 11 and Flight 77, Sept. 11, 2001.
75. Like Atta on Flight 11, Jarrah
apparently did not know how to operate the communication radios; thus
his attempts to communicate with the passengers were broadcast on the
ATC channel. See FBI report, "CVR from UA Flight #93," Dec. 4,
2003.Also, by 9:32 FAA notified United's headquarters that the flight
was not responding to radio calls. According to United, the flight's
nonresponse and its turn to the east led the airline to believe by 9:36
that the plane was hijacked. See Rich Miles interview (Nov. 21, 2003);
UAL report, "United dispatch SMFDO activities-terrorist crisis," Sept.
76. In accordance with FAA regulations,
United 93's cockpit voice recorder recorded the last 31 minutes of
sounds from the cockpit via microphones in the pilots' headsets, as well
as in the overhead panel of the flight deck. This is the only recorder
from the four hijacked airplanes to survive the impact and ensuing fire.
The CVRs and FDRs from American 11 and United 175 were not found, and
the CVR from American Flight 77 was badly burned and not recoverable.
See FBI report, "CVR from UA Flight #93,"Dec. 4, 2003; see also FAA
regulations, 14 C.F.R. §§ 25.1457, 91.609, 91.1045, 121.359; Flight 93
CVR data. A transcript of the CVR recording was prepared by the NTSB and
77. All calls placed on airphones were
from the rear of the aircraft. There was one airphone installed in each
row of seats on both sides of the aisle. The airphone system was capable
of transmitting only eight calls at any one time. See FBI report of
investigation, airphone records for flights UAL 93 and UAL 175 on Sept.
11, 2001, Sept. 18, 2001.
78. FAA audio file, Cleveland Center,
position Lorain Radar; Flight 93 CVR data; FBI report, "CVR from UA
Flight #93," Dec. 4, 2003.
79. FBI reports of investigation,
interviews of recipients of calls from Todd Beamer, Sept. 11, 2001,
through June 11, 2002; FBI reports of investigation, interviews of
recipients of calls from Sandy Bradshaw, Sept. 11, 2001, through Oct. 4,
2001. Text messages warning the cockpit of Flight 93 were sent to the
aircraft by Ed Ballinger at 9:24. See UAL record, Ed Ballinger's ACARS
log, Sept. 11, 2001.
80. We have relied mainly on the record
of FBI interviews with the people who received calls. The FBI interviews
were conducted while memories were still fresh and were less likely to
have been affected by reading the accounts of others or hearing stories
in the media. In some cases we have conducted our own interviews to
supplement or verify the record. See FBI reports of investigation,
interviews of recipients of calls from Todd Beamer, Mark Bingham, Sandy
Bradshaw, Marion Britton, Thomas Burnett, Joseph DeLuca, Edward Felt,
Jeremy Glick, Lauren Grandcolas, Linda Gronlund, CeeCee Lyles, Honor
81. FBI reports of investigation,
interviews of recipients of calls from Thomas Burnett, Sept. 11, 2001;
FBI reports of investigation, interviews of recipients of calls from
Marion Britton, Sept. 14, 2001, through Nov. 8, 2001; Lisa Jefferson
interview (May 11, 2004); FBI report of investigation, interview of Lisa
Jefferson, Sept. 11, 2001; Richard Belme interview (Nov. 21, 2003).
82. See Jere Longman, Among the
Heroes-United Flight 93 and the Passengers and Crew Who Fought Back
(Harper-Collins, 2002), p. 107; Deena Burnett interview (Apr. 26, 2004);
FBI reports of investigation, interviews of recipients of calls from
Jeremy Glick, Sept. 11, 2001, through Sept. 12, 2001; Lyzbeth Glick
interview (Apr. 22, 2004). Experts told us that a gunshot would
definitely be audible on the CVR. The FBI found no evidence of a firearm
at the crash site of Flight 93. See FBI response to Commission briefing
request no. 6, undated (topic 11).
The FBI collected 14 knives or
portions of knives at the Flight 93 crash site. FBI report,
"Knives Found at the UA Flight 93 Crash Site," undated.
83. FBI response to Commission briefing
request no. 6, undated (topic 11); FBI reports of investigation,
interviews of recipients of calls from Jeremy Glick, Sept. 11, 2001,
through Sept. 12, 2001.
84. See FBI reports of investigation,
interviews of recipients of calls from United 93.
85. FBI reports of investigation,
interviews of recipients of calls from United 93. For quote, see FBI
report of investigation, interview of Philip Bradshaw, Sept. 11, 2001;
Philip Bradshaw interview (June 15, 2004); Flight 93 FDR and CVR data.
At 9:55:11 Jarrah dialed in the VHF Omni-directional Range (VOR)
frequency for the VOR navigational aid at Washington Reagan National
Airport, further indicating that the attack was planned for the nation's
86. Flight 93 FDR and CVR data.
89. Ibid. The CVR clearly captured the
words of the hijackers, including words in Arabic from the microphone in
the pilot headset up to the end of the flight. The hijackers'
statements, the clarity of the recording, the position of the microphone
in the pilot headset, and the corresponding manipulations of flight
controls provide the evidence. The quotes are taken from our listening
to the CVR, aided by an Arabic speaker.
90. In 1993, a Lufthansa aircraft was
hijacked from its Frankfurt to Cairo route and diverted to JFK Airport
in New York. The event lasted for 11 hours and was resolved without
incident. Tamara Jones and John J. Goldman, "11-Hour Hijack Ends Without
Injury in N.Y.,"Los Angeles Times, Feb. 12, 1993, p. A1.
91.The second half of the twentieth
century witnessed a tremendous growth of the air transport industry, and
the FAA's corresponding responsibilities grew enormously from the 1960s
through 2001.Throughout that time, the FAA focused on setting and
maintaining safety and efficiency standards. Since no plane had been
hijacked inside the United States since 1991, sabotage was perceived as
the most significant threat to civil aviation. For a broader discussion
of the perception of the threat, see section 3.3.
92. FAA report, "Administrator's Fact
Book," July 2001; Benedict Sliney interview (May 21, 2004); John
McCartney interview (Dec. 17, 2003).
93. FAA regulations, Air Traffic
Control transponder and altitude reporting equipment and use, 14 CFR §
94. DOD radar files, 84th Radar
Evaluation Squadron, "9/11 Autoplay," undated; Charles Thomas interview
(May 4, 2004); John Thomas interview (May 4, 2004); Joseph Cooper
interview (Sept. 22, 2003);Tim Spence interview (Sept. 30, 2003). For
general information on approaching terminals, see FAA report,
"Aeronautical Information Manual," Feb. 19, 2004. Times assigned to
audio transmissions were derived by the Commission from files provided
by the FAA and the Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) based on audio
time stamps contained within the files provided by the sender. FAA tapes
are certified accurate to Universal Coordinated Time by quality
assurance specialists at FAA air traffic facilities. NEADS files are
time-stamped as accurate to the Naval Observatory clock. We also
compared audio times to certified transcripts when available.
95. FAA Boston Center site visit (Sept.
96. NORAD's mission is set forth in a
series of renewable agreements between the United States and Canada.
According to the agreement in effect on 9/11, the "primary missions" of
NORAD were "aerospace warning" and "aerospace control" for North
America. Aerospace warning was defined as "the monitoring of
man-made objects in space and the detection, validation, and warning of
attack against North America whether by aircraft, missiles, or space
vehicles." Aerospace control was defined as "providing
surveillance and control of the airspace of Canada and the United
States." See DOS memo, Exchange of Notes Between Canada and the United
States Regarding Extension of the NORAD Agreement, Mar. 28, 1996; see
also DOS press release,"Extension of NORAD Agreement," June 16, 2000
(regarding the extension of the 1996 Agreement unchanged). For NORAD's
defining its job as defending against external attacks, see Ralph
Eberhart interview (Mar. 1, 2004).
97. DOD report,"NORAD Strategy Review:
Final Report," July 1992, p. 55.
98. For assumptions of exercise
planners, see Paul Goddard and Ken Merchant interview (Mar. 4, 2004).
For the authority to shoot down a commercial aircraft prior to 9/11,
granted to NORAD but not used against Payne Stewart's plane in 1999
after the pilot and passengers lost consciousness, see Richard Myers
interview (Feb. 17, 2004). A 1998 White House tabletop exercise chaired
by Richard Clarke included a scenario in which a terrorist group loaded
a Learjet with explosives and took off for a suicide mission to
Washington. Military officials said they could scramble fighter jets
from Langley Air Force Base to chase the aircraft, but they would need
"executive" orders to shoot it down. Chuck Green interview (Apr. 21,
2004). For no recognition of this threat, see Ralph Eberhart interview
(Mar. 1, 2004).
99. Richard Myers interview (Feb. 17,
2004). 100. Donald Quenneville interview (Jan. 7, 2004); Langley Air
Force Base 119th Fighter Wing briefing (Oct. 6-7, 2003).
101. Collin Scoggins interviews (Sept.
22, 2003; Jan. 8, 2004); FAA report,"Crisis Management Handbook for
Significant Events," Feb. 15, 2000; DOD memo, CJCS instruction,"Aircraft
Piracy (Hijacking) and Destruction of Derelict Airborne Objects," June
102. See FAA regulations, Hijacked
Aircraft, Order 7110.65M, para.10-2-6 (2001); David Bottiglia interview
(Oct. 1, 2003); FAA report,"Crisis Management Handbook for Significant
Events," Feb. 15, 2000. From interviews of controllers at various FAA
centers, we learned that an air traffic controller's first response to
an aircraft incident is to notify a supervisor, who then notifies the
traffic management unit and the operations manager in charge.The FAA
center next notifies the appropriate regional operations center (ROC),
which in turn contacts FAA headquarters. Biggio stated that for American
11, the combination of three factors-loss of radio contact, loss of
transponder signal, and course deviation-was serious enough for him to
contact the ROC in Burlington, Mass. However, without hearing the
threatening communication from the cockpit, he doubts Boston Center
would have recognized or labeled American 11 "a hijack." Terry Biggio
interview (Sept. 22, 2003); see also Shirley Miller interview (Mar. 30,
2004); Monte Belger interview (Apr. 20, 2004).
103. FAA regulations, Special Military
Operations, Requests for Service, Order 7610.4J, paras. 7-1-1, 7-1-2
(2001); DOD memo, CJCS instruction, "Aircraft Piracy (Hijacking) and
Destruction of Derelict Airborne Objects," June 1, 2001.
104. Ralph Eberhart interview (Mar. 1,
2004);Alan Scott interview (Feb. 4, 2004); Robert Marr interview (Jan.
23, 2004); FAA regulations, Position Reports within NORAD Radar
Coverage, Order 7610.4J, para. 7-4-2 (2001); DOD memo, CJCS
instruction,"Aircraft Piracy (Hijacking) and Destruction of Derelict
Airborne Objects," June 1, 2001.
105. FAA regulations,Air/Ground
Communications Security, Order 7610.4J, para. 7-1-6 (2001); FAA
regula-tions,Vectors, Order 7610.4J, para. 7-2-3 (2001).
106. Peter Zalewski interview (Sept.
22, 2003); Terry Biggio interviews (Sept. 22, 2003; Jan. 8, 2004);
Collin Scoggins interview (Sept. 22, 2003); Daniel Bueno interview
(Sept. 22, 2003). For evidence of the numerous attempts by air traffic
control to raise American 11, see FAA memo,"Full Transcript;Aircraft
Accident;AAL11; New York, NY; September 11, 2001," Feb. 15, 2002, p. 7.
107. DOD radar files, 84th Radar
Evaluation Squadron, "9/11 Autoplay," undated; Peter Zalewski interview
(Sept. 22, 2003); John Schippani interview (Sept. 22, 2003). 108. Peter
Zalewski interview (Sept. 22, 2003); John Schippani interview (Sept. 22,
2003). 109. FAA memo,"Full Transcript;Aircraft Accident;AAL11; New York,
NY; September 11, 2001," Feb. 15, 2002, p. 11; Peter Zalewski interview
(Sept. 23, 2003). 110. Peter Zalewski interview (Sept. 23, 2003); John
Schippani interview (Sept. 22, 2003);Terry Biggio interviews (Sept. 22,
2003; Jan. 8, 2004); Robert Jones interview (Sept. 22, 2003). 111. FAA
memo,"Full Transcript;Aircraft Accident;AAL11; New York, NY; September
11, 2001,"Apr. 19, 2002, p. 2; FAA record, Boston Center daily record of
facility operation, Sept. 11, 2001;Terry Biggio interviews (Sept. 22,
2003; Jan. 8, 2004); Daniel Bueno interview (Sept. 22, 2004). See also
FAA memo,"Transcription of 9/11 Tapes," Oct. 2, 2003, p. 2; FAA audio
file, Herndon Command Center, line 4525, 8:32-8:33.
112. See FAA memo,"Transcription of
9/11 Tapes," Oct. 2, 2003, pp. 2-3; FAA record, New England Region Daily
Log, Sept. 11, 2001; Daniel Bueno interview (Sept. 22, 2003);Terry
Biggio interviews (Sept. 22, 2003; Jan. 8, 2004).
113. FAA memo,"Full Transcript;Aircraft
Accident;AAL11; New York, NY; September 11, 2001," Feb. 15, 2002, p. 12.
114. FAA memo,"Full Transcript;Aircraft Accident;AAL11; New York, NY;
September 11, 2001," Jan. 28, 2002, p. 5. 115. FAA memo,"Full
Transcript;Aircraft Accident;AAL11; New York, NY; September 11,
2001,"Apr. 19, 2002, p. 5;Terry Biggio interview (Sept. 22, 2003);
Collin Scoggins interviews (Sept. 22, 2003; Jan. 8, 2004); Daniel Bueno
interview (Sept. 22, 2003).
116. On 9/11, NORAD was scheduled to
conduct a military exercise,Vigilant Guardian, which postulated a bomber
attack from the former Soviet Union. We investigated whether military
preparations for the large-scale exercise compromised the military's
response to the real-world terrorist attack on 9/11. According to
General Eber-hart,"it took about 30 seconds" to make the adjustment to
the real-world situation. Ralph Eberhart testimony, June 17, 2004.We
found that the response was, if anything, expedited by the increased
number of staff at the sectors and at NORAD because of the scheduled
exercise. See Robert Marr interview (Jan. 23, 2004).
117. For the distance between Otis Air
Force Base and New York City, see William Scott testimony, May 23, 2003.
For the order from NEADS to Otis to place F-15s at battle stations, see
NEADS audio file,Weapons Director Technician position, channel 14,
8:37:15. See also interviews with Otis and NEADS personnel: Jeremy
Powell interview (Oct. 27, 2003); Michael Kelly interview (Oct. 14,
2003); Donald Quenneville interview (Jan. 7, 2004), and interviews with
Otis fighter pilots: Daniel Nash interview (Oct. 14, 2003); Timothy
Duffy interview (Jan. 7, 2004). According to Joseph Cooper from Boston
Center,"I coordinated with Huntress ["Huntress" is the call sign for
NEADS]. I advised Huntress we had a hijacked aircraft. I requested some
assistance. Huntress requested and I supplied pertinent information. I
was advised aircraft might be sent from Otis." FAA record, Personnel
Statement of Joseph Cooper, Oct. 30, 2001.
118. Robert Marr interview (Jan. 23,
2004); Leslie Filson, Air War Over America (First Air Force,
2003), p. 56; Larry Arnold interview (Feb. 3, 2004).
119. NEADS audio file, Weapons Director
Technician position, channel 14; 8:45:54; Daniel Nash interview (Oct.
14, 2003); Michael Kelly interview (Oct. 14, 2003); Donald Quenneville
interview (Jan. 7, 2004); Timothy Duffy interview (Jan. 7, 2004); NEADS
audio file, Mission Crew Commander position, channel 2, 8:44:58; NEADS
audio file, Identification Technician position, channel 5, 8:51:13.
120. FAA audio file, Boston Center,
position 31R; NEADS audio file, Mission Crew Commander position, channel
2, 8:58:00; NEADS audio file, Mission Crew Commander position, channel
2, 8:54:55. Because of a technical issue, there are no NEADS recordings
available of the NEADS senior weapons director and weapons director
technician position responsible for controlling the Otis scramble.We
found a single communication from the weapons director or his technician
on the Guard frequency at approximately 9:11, cautioning the Otis
fighters: "remain at current position [holding pattern] until FAA
requests assistance." See NEADS audio file, channel 24. That corresponds
to the time after the Otis fighters entered the holding pattern and
before they headed for New York. NEADS controllers were simultaneously
working with a tanker to relocate close to the Otis fighters.At 9:10,
the senior director on the NEADS floor told the weapons director,"I want
those fighters closer in." NEADS audio file, Identification Technician
position, channel 5. At 9:10:22, the Otis fighters were told by Boston
Center that the second tower had been struck. At 9:12:54, the Otis
fighters told their Boston Center controller that they needed to
establish a combat air patrol over New York, and they immediately headed
for New York City. See FAA audio files, Boston Center, position 31R.
This series of communications explains why the Otis fighters briefly
entered and then soon departed the holding pattern, as the radar
reconstruction of their flight shows. DOD radar files, 84th Radar
Evaluation Squadron,"9/11 Autoplay," undated.
121. In response to allegations that
NORAD responded more quickly to the October 25, 1999, plane crash that
killed Payne Stewart than it did to the hijacking of American 11, we
compared NORAD's response time for each incident.The last normal
transmission from the Stewart flight was at 9:27:10 A.M. Eastern
Daylight Time. The Southeast Air Defense Sector was notified of the
event at 9:55, 28 minutes later. In the case of American 11, the last
normal communication from the plane was at 8:13 A.M. EDT. NEADS was
notified at 8:38, 25 minutes later. We have concluded there is no
significant difference in NORAD's reaction to the two incidents. See
NTSB memo, Aircraft Accident Brief for Payne Stewart incident, Oct. 25,
1999; FAA email, Gahris to Myers,"ZJX Timeline for N47BA accident," Feb.
122. FAA memo, "Full Transcript;
Aircraft Accident; UAL175; New York, NY; September 11, 2001," May 8,
2002, pp. 5-6.
123. FAA audio file, New York Center,
position R42, 8:42-8:45; FAA memo, "Full Transcript; Aircraft Accident;
UAL175; New York, NY; September 11, 2001," May 8, 2002, pp. 6-8; DOD
radar files, 84th Radar Evaluation Squadron,"9/11 Autoplay," undated.The
FAA-produced timeline notes,"Based on coordination received from [Boston
Center] indicating a possible hijack, most of the controller's attention
is focused on AAL 11." See FAA report,"Summary of Air Traffic Hijack
Events September 11, 2001," Sept. 17, 2001; see also David Bottiglia
interview (Oct. 1, 2003); FAA memo,"Full Transcript;Aircraft Accident;
UAL175; New York, NY; September 11, 2001," May 8, 2002, p. 9.
124. FAA audio file, Herndon Command
Center, New York Center position, line 5114, 8:48.
125. FAA memo, "Full Transcript;
Aircraft Accident; UAL175; New York, NY; September 11, 2001," May 8,
2002, pp. 12, 14.
126. Ibid., p. 15.At 8:57, the
following exchange between controllers occurred:"I got some handoffs for
you. We got some incidents going over here. Is Delta 2433 going to be
okay at thirty-three? I had to climb him for traffic. I let you United
175 just took off out of think we might have a hijack over here.Two of
them." See FAA memo, "Full Transcript;Aircraft Accident; UAL175; New
York, NY; September 11, 2001," May 8, 2002.
127. See FAA report,"Summary of Air
Traffic Hijack Events September 11, 2001," Sept. 17, 2001; Evanna Dowis
interview (Sept. 30, 2004); Michael McCormick interview (Dec. 15, 2003);
FAA record, Personnel Statement of Michael McCormick, Oct. 17, 2001. See
also FAA memo,"Full Transcript;Aircraft Accident; UAL175; New York, NY;
September 11, 2001," May 8, 2002, p. 17.
128. FAA memo,"Full Transcript; Command
Center; NOM Operational Position; September 11, 2001," Oct. 14, 2003,
129. FAA memo, "Full Transcript;
Aircraft Accident; UAL175; New York, NY; September 11, 2001," Jan. 17,
2002, p. 3.
130."N90 [New York Terminal Radar
Approach] controller stated 'at approximately 9:00 a.m., I observed an
unknown aircraft south of the Newark, New Jersey Airport, northeast
bound and descending out of twelve thousand nine hundred feet in a rapid
rate of descent, the radar target terminated at the World Trade
Center.'" FAA report,"Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events September 11,
2001,"Sept. 17, 2001. Former NORAD official Alan Scott testified that
the time of impact of United 175 was 9:02. William Scott testimony, May
23, 2003. We have determined that the impact time was 9:03:11 based on
our analysis of FAA radar data and air traffic control software logic.
131. FAA audio file, Herndon Command
Center, New York Center position, line 5114, 9:02:34.
132. Ibid., 9:03; FAA audio file,
Herndon Command Center, Cleveland/Boston position, line 5115, 9:05;
Michael McCormick interview (Oct. 1, 2003); David LaCates interview
(Oct. 2, 2003).
133. FAA Audio File, Herndon Command
Center, Boston Center position, line 5115, 9:05-9:07.
134. Joseph McCain interview (Oct. 28,
2003); Robert Marr (Jan. 23, 2004); James Fox interview (Oct. 29, 2003);
Dawne Deskins interview (Oct. 30, 2003).
135. NEADS audio file, Mission Crew
Commander position, channel 2, 9:07:32.
136. Daniel Nash interview (Oct. 14,
2003);Timothy Duffy interview (Jan. 7, 2004).
137. Because the Otis fighters had
expended a great deal of fuel in flying first to military airspace and
then to New York, the battle commanders were concerned about refueling.
As NEADS personnel looked for refueling tankers in the vicinity of New
York, the mission crew commander considered scrambling the Langley
fighters to New York to provide backup for the Otis fighters until the
NEADS Battle Cab (the command area that overlooks the operations floor)
ordered "battle stations only at Langley." The alert fighters at Langley
Air Force Base were ordered to battle stations at 9:09. Colonel Marr,
the battle commander at NEADS, and General Arnold, the CONR commander,
both recall that the planes were held on battle stations, as opposed to
scrambling, because they might be called on to relieve the Otis fighters
over New York City if a refueling tanker was not located, and also
because of the general uncertainty of the situation in the sky.According
to William Scott at the Commission's May 23, 2003, hearing,"At 9:09,
Langley F-16s are directed to battle stations, just based on the general
situation and the breaking news, and the general developing feeling
about what's going on." See NEADS audio file, Mission Crew Commander,
channel 2, 9:08:36; Robert Marr interview (Oct. 27, 2003); Larry Arnold
interview (Feb. 3, 2004). See also Colonel Marr's statement that "[t]he
plan was to protect New York City." Filson, Air War Over America,p.60.
138. Commission analysis of FAA radar
data and air traffic control transmissions.
139.The Indianapolis Center controller
advised other Indianapolis Center personnel of the developing
situa-tion.They agreed to "sterilize" the airspace along the flight's
westerly route so the safety of other planes would not be affected. John
Thomas interview (May 4, 2004).
140. John Thomas interview (Sept. 24,
2003). According to the FAA-produced timeline, at 9:09 Indianapolis
Center "notified Great Lakes Regional Operations Center a possible
aircraft accident of AMERICAN 77 due to the simultaneous loss of radio
communications and radar identification." FAA report,"Summary of Air
Traffic Hijack Events September 11, 2001," Sept. 17, 2001.
141. FAA audio file, Herndon Command
Center, National Operations Manager position, line 4525; FAA audio file,
Herndon Command Center, National Traffic Management Officer east
position, line 4530; FAA memo,"Full Transcription; Air Traffic Control
System Command Center, National Traffic Management Officer, East
Position; September 11, 2001," Oct. 21, 2003, p. 13.
142. Primary radar contact for Flight
77 was lost because the "preferred" radar in this geographic area had no
primary radar system, the "supplemental" radar had poor primary
coverage, and the FAA ATC software did not allow the display of primary
radar data from the "tertiary" and "quadrary" radars.
143. David Boone interview (May 4,
2004); Charles Thomas interview (May 4, 2004); John Thomas interview
(May 4, 2004); Commission analysis of FAA radar data and air traffic
control software logic.
144. John Thomas interview (May 4,
2004); Charles Thomas interview (May 4, 2004). We have reviewed all FAA
documents, transcripts, and tape recordings related to American 77 and
have found no evidence that FAA headquarters issued a directive to
surrounding centers to search for primary radar targets. Review of the
same materials also indicates that no one within FAA located American 77
until the aircraft was identified by Dulles controllers at 9:32. For
much of that time, American 77 was traveling through Washington Center's
airspace. The Washington Center's controllers were looking for the
flight, but they were not told to look for primary radar returns.
145. John White interview (May 7,
2004); Ellen King interview (Apr. 5, 2004); Linda Schuessler interview
(Apr. 6, 2004); Benedict Sliney interview (May 21, 2004); FAA memo,
"Full Transcription; Air Traffic Control System Command Center, National
Traffic Management Officer, East Position; September 11, 2001," Oct. 21,
2003, pp. 14, 27.
146. John Hendershot interview (Dec.
147. FAA memo, "Partial Transcript;
Aircraft Accident; AAL77; Washington, DC; September 11, 2001," Sept. 20,
2001, p. 7.
148. NEADS audio file, Identification
Technician position, channel 7, 9:21:10.
149. NEADS audio file, Mission Crew
Commander, channel 2, 9:21:50; Kevin Nasypany interview (Jan. 22-23,
150. NEADS audio file, Mission Crew
Commander, Channel 2, 9:22:34.The mission commander thought to put the
Langley scramble over Baltimore and place a "barrier cap" between the
hijack and Washington, D.C. Kevin Nasypany interview (Jan. 22-23, 2004).
151. NEADS audio file, Identification
Technician position, channel 5, 9:32:10; ibid., 9:33:58.
152. For first quote, see NEADS audio
file, Identification Technician position, channel 5, 9:35:50. For second
quote, see NEADS audio file, Identification Technician position,channel
7, 9:36:34; Kevin Nasypany interview (Jan. 22-23, 2004). For the third
quote, see NEADS audio file, Mission Crew Commander, channel 2, 9:39;
9:39:37; Kevin Nasypany interview (Jan. 22-23, 2004).
153. Dean Eckmann interview (Dec. 1,
2003); FAA memo,"Partial Transcript; Scramble Aircraft; QUIT25;
September 11, 2001," Sept. 4, 2003, pp. 2-4 (Peninsular Radar position);
FAA memo,"Partial Transcript; Scramble Aircraft; QUIT25; September 11,
2001," Sept. 4, 2003, pp. 2-5 (East Feeder Radar position).
154. NEADS audio file, Mission Crew
Commander, channel 2, 9:38:02; Dawne Deskins interview (Oct. 30,
2003).The estimated time of impact of Flight 77 into the Pentagon is
based on Commission analysis of FDR, air traffic control, radar, and
Pentagon elevation and impact site data.
155. Joseph Cooper interview (Sept. 22,
2003); NEADS audio file, Identification Technician position, recorder 1,
channel 7, 9:41.
156. NEADS audio file, Mission Crew
Commander position, channel 2, 9:42:08.
157. FAA memo, "Full Transcript;
Aircraft Accident; N591UA (UAL93); Somerset, PA; September 11, 2001,"
May 10, 2002, p. 10.
158.The United 93 timeline in FAA
report,"Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events September 11, 2001," Sept.
17, 2001, states that at 9:28:17 "a radio transmission of unintelligible
sounds of possible screaming or a struggle from an unknown origin was
heard over the ZOB [Cleveland Center] radio." See FAA memo,"Full
Transcript;Aircraft Accident; N591UA (UAL93); Somerset, PA; September
11, 2001," May 10, 2002, p. 11.
159.The United 93 timeline in FAA
report,"Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events September 11, 2001," Sept.
17, 2001, states that at 9:28:54 a "second radio transmission, mostly
unintelligible, again with sounds of possible screaming or a struggle
and a statement,'get out of here, get out of here' from an unknown
origin was heard over the ZOB [Cleveland Center] radio." FAA audio file,
Cleveland Center, Lorain Radar position; FAA memo, "Full Transcript;
Aircraft Accident; N591UA (UAL93); Somerset, PA; September 11, 2001,"
May 10, 2002, p. 11. At 9:31:48, ExecJet 56 also called in, reporting
that "we're just answering your call.We did hear that, uh, yelling too."
The FAA responded at 9:31:51,"Okay, thanks.We're just trying to figure
out what's going on." FAA memo,"Full Transcript;Aircraft Accident;
N591UA (UAL93); Somerset, PA; September 11, 2001," May 10, 2002, p. 15.
160. FAA memo, "Full Transcript;
Aircraft Accident; N591UA (UAL93); Somerset, PA; September 11, 2001,"
May 10, 2002, p. 15.
161. FAA memo,"Full Transcription;Air
Traffic Control System Command Center, National Traffic Management
Officer, East Position; September 11, 2001," Oct. 21, 2003, pp. 10, 13;
FAA audio file, Herndon Command Center, New York Center position, line
162. FAA memo, "Full Transcript;
Aircraft Accident; N591UA (UAL93); Somerset, PA; September 11, 2001,"
May 10, 2002, p. 19.
163. Ibid., p. 23.
164. FAA memo,"Full Transcription;Air
Traffic Control System Command Center, National Traffic Management
Officer, East Position; September 11, 2001," Oct. 21, 2003, pp. 16-17;
FAA audio file, Cleveland Center, Lorain Radar position; FAA memo, "Full
Transcript; Aircraft Accident; N591UA (UAL93); Somerset, PA; September
11, 2001," May 10, 2002, pp. 26-32.
165. FAA memo,"Full Transcription;Air
Traffic Control System Command Center, National Traffic Management
Officer, East Position; September 11, 2001," Oct. 21, 2003, pp. 17-19.
166. For 9:46 quotation, see ibid., pp.
19-20. For 9:49 discussion about military assistance, see ibid., p. 21.
167. For 9:53 discussion about
scrambling aircraft, see ibid., p. 23. Neither Monte Belger nor the
deputy director for air traffic services could recall this discussion in
their interviews with us. Monte Belger interview (Apr. 20, 2004); Peter
Challan interview (Mar. 26, 2004). Subsequently Belger told us he does
not believe the conversation occurred. Monte Belger, email to the
Commission, July 12, 2004. However, tapes from the morning reveal that
9:53 a staff person from headquarters
told the Command Center "Peter's talking to Monte now about scrambling."
FAA memo,"Full Transcription;Air Traffic Control System Command Center,
National Traffic Management Officer, East Position; September 11, 2001,"
Oct. 21, 2003, p. 23. For discussions about the status of United 93, see
ibid., pp. 24-27.
168. Ibid., pp. 23-27.We also reviewed
a report regarding seismic observations on September 11, 2001, whose
authors conclude that the impact time of United 93 was "10:06:05±5 (EDT)."Won-Young
Kim and G. R. Baum, "Seismic Observations during September 11,
2001,Terrorist Attack," spring 2002 (report to the Maryland Department
of Natural Resources). But the seismic data on which they based this
estimate are far too weak in signal-to-noise ratio and far too
speculative in terms of signal source to be used as a means of
contradicting the impact time established by the very accurate
combination of FDR, CVR, ATC, radar, and impact site data sets.These
data sets constrain United 93's impact time to within 1 second, are
airplane- and crash-site specific, and are based on time codes
automatically recorded in the ATC audiotapes for the FAA centers and
correlated with each data set in a process internationally accepted
within the aviation accident investigation community. Furthermore, one
of the study's principal authors now concedes that "seismic data is not
definitive for the impact of UA 93." Email from Won-Young Kim to the
Commission,"Re: UA Flight 93,"July 7, 2004; see also Won-Young
Kim,"Seismic Observations for UA Flight 93 Crash near Shanksville,
Pennsylvania during September 11, 2001," July 5, 2004.
169. FAA memo,"Full Transcription;Air
Traffic Control System Command Center, National Traffic Management
Officer, East Position; September 11, 2001," Oct. 21, 2003, p. 31.
170. For 10:17 discussion, see ibid.,
p. 34. For communication regarding "black smoke," see FAA memo,"Full
Transcript; Aircraft Accident; N591UA (UAL93) Somerset, PA; September
11, 2001," May 10, 2002, pp. 16-18 (Cleveland Center, Imperial Radar
position).This report from the C-130H was recorded on ATC audio about 1
minute and 37 seconds after the impact time of United 93 as established
by NTSB and Commission analysis of FDR, CVR, radar, and impact data
sets-more than a minute before the earliest impact time originally
posited by the authors of the seismic data report.
171. NEADS audio file, Identification
Technician, channel 5, 10:07.
172. NEADS audio file, Mission Crew
Commander, channel 2, 10:10.
173. NEADS audio file, Identification
Technician, channel 4, 10:14.
174. DOD record, NEADS MCC/T Log Book,
Sept. 11, 2001.
175.William Scott testimony, May 23,
176. Larry Arnold testimony, May 23,
177. See DOD record, NEADS MCC/T Log
Book, Sept. 11, 2001.The entry in this NEADS log records the tail number
not of American 77 but of American 11:"American Airlines #N334AA
hijacked." See also DOD record, Surveillance Log Book, Sept. 11, 2001.
178.William Scott testimony, May 23,
2003; DOD briefing materials,"Noble Eagle; 9-11 Timeline," undated.
179. For lack of knowledge about the
hijacking, see, e.g.,White House transcript, Card interview with Ron
Fournier of the Associated Press, Aug. 7, 2002. For information on the
hijacking within the FAA, see the discussion of American 11 in section
180. See White House record, Situation
Room Log, Sept. 11, 2001;White House record, Presidential Emergency
Operations Center (PEOC) Watch Log, Sept. 11, 2001; DOD record, Senior
Operations Officer log, Sept. 11, 2001.
181. Jane Garvey interview (Jun. 30,
2004); Monte Belger interview (Apr. 20, 2004).
182. For notifications, see DOD record,
Assistant Deputy Director Operations Passdown Log, Sept. 11, 2001. For
the call to the FAA, see DOD record, Senior Operations Officer log,
Sept. 11, 2001 ("9:00 NMCC called FAA, briefed of explosion at WTC
possibly from aircraft crash.Also, hijacking of American Flight 11 from
Boston to LA, now enroute to Kennedy"). For the scrambling of jets not
being discussed, see Ryan Gonsalves interview (May 14, 2004).
183. Secret Service records show the
motorcade arriving between 8:50 and 8:55. USSS record, shift log, Sept.
11, 2001 (8:55); USSS record, Command Post Protectee Log, Sept. 11, 2001
(8:50). For Andrew Card's recollection, see Andrew Card meeting (Mar.
31, 2004). For the President's reaction, see Andrew Card meeting (Mar.
31, 2004);White House transcript, President Bush interview with Bob
Schieffer of CBS News, Apr. 17, 2002.
184.White House transcript, Rice
interview with Evan Thomas of Newsweek, Nov. 1, 2001, p. 2; see
also White House record, President's Daily Diary, Sept. 11, 2001.
185.White House transcript,Vice
President Cheney interview with Newsweek, Nov. 19, 2001, p. 1.
186. For Rice's meeting, see White
House transcript, Rice interview with Bob Woodward of the Washington
Post, Oct. 24, 2001, pp. 360-361. For White House staff monitoring
the news, see, e.g., White House transcript, Rice interview with Evan
Thomas, Nov. 11, 2001, p. 388.
187. On White House staff reaction, see
White House transcript, Rice interview with Bob Woodward, Oct. 24, 2001,
p. 361; Andrew Card meeting (Mar. 31, 2004). On security enhancements,
see USSS memo, interview with Carl Truscott, Oct. 1, 2001, p. 1. On
security measures being precautionary, see Carl Truscott interview (Apr.
188. For the time of the
teleconference, see FAA record, Chronology ADA-30, Sept. 11, 2001. For
recollections of the NMCC officer, see Charles Chambers interview (Apr.
23, 2004). For recollections of the FAA manager, see Michael Weikert
interview (May 7, 2004). For Belger's reaction, see Monte Belger
testimony, June 17, 2004.
189. For the times of the video
teleconference, see White House record, Situation Room Communications
Log, Sept. 11, 2001 (9:25 start); CIA notes, Cofer Black timeline, Sept.
11, 2001 (CIA representatives joining at 9:40); FAA record, Chronology
ADA-30, Sept. 11, 2001 (FAA representatives joining at 9:40).
190. Patrick Gardner interview (May 12,
2004). For participants, see Jane Garvey interview (Oct. 21, 2003);
Monte Belger interview (Apr. 20, 2004); Jeff Griffith interview (Mar.
31, 2004). On the absence of Defense officials, see John Brunderman
interview (May 17, 2004).The White House video teleconference was not
connected into the area of the NMCC where the crisis was being
managed.Thus the director of the operations team-who was on the phone
with NORAD-did not have the benefit of information being shared on the
video teleconference. See, e.g., Charles Leidig interview (Apr. 29,
2004); Montague Winfield interview (Apr. 26, 2004); Patrick Gardner
interview (May 12, 2004). Moreover, when the Secretary and Vice Chairman
later participated in the White House video teleconference, they were
necessarily absent from the NMCC and unable to provide guidance to the
operations team. See DOD report, OT-2 Analysis of NMCC Response to
Terrorist Attack on 11 SEP 01, Oct. 4, 2001; John Brunderman interview
(May 17, 2004).
191. NSC notes, Paul Kurtz notes, Sept.
11, 2001; Paul Kurtz meeting (Dec. 22, 2003). For shootdown authority
having already been conveyed, see DOD transcript, Air Threat Conference
Call, Sept. 11, 2001.
192. Charles Leidig interview (Apr. 29,
2004). For the job of the NMCC in an emergency, see NMCC briefing (July
193. For the Secretary's activities,
see DOD memo, interview of Donald Rumsfeld, Dec. 23, 2002; Stephen
Cambone interview (July 8, 2004).
194. Charles Leidig interview (Apr. 29,
2004). Secure teleconferences are the NMCC's primary means of
coordinating emergencies, and they fall into two categories:"event" and
"threat." Event conferences seek to gather information. If the situation
escalates, a threat conference may be convened. On 9/11, there was no
preset teleconference for a domestic terrorist attack. NMCC and National
Military Joint Intelligence Center (NMJIC) briefing (July 21, 2003). For
the content of the conferences on 9/11, see DOD transcript,Air Threat
Conference Call, Sept. 11, 2001.
195. See DOD transcript, Air Threat
Conference Call, Sept. 11, 2001; see also White House notes, Thomas
Gould notes, Sept. 11, 2001.
196. On difficulties in including the
FAA, see NMCC and NMJIC briefing (July 21, 2003); John Brunderman
interview (May 17, 2004). On NORAD and the time of the FAA's joining,
see DOD transcript, Air Threat Conference Call, Sept. 11, 2001. For the
FAA representative, see Rayford Brooks interview (Apr. 15, 2004).
197. Richard Myers interview (Feb. 17,
2004); Charles Leidig interview (Apr. 29, 2004).
198. DOD transcript, Air Threat
Conference Call, Sept. 11, 2001.
199. On the briefing, see ibid.The Vice
Chairman was on Capitol Hill when the Pentagon was struck, and he saw
smoke as his car made its way back to the building. Richard Myers
interview (Feb. 17, 2004). For the Chairman being out of the country,
see DOD record, Deputy Director for Operations Passdown Log, Sept. 11,
200. DOD transcript, Air Threat
Conference Call, Sept. 11, 2001.
203. For the President being informed
at 9:05, see White House record, President's Daily Diary, Sept. 11,
2001. For Card's statement, see White House transcript, Card interview
with Ron Fournier, Aug. 7, 2002. For the Pres-ident's reaction, see
President Bush and Vice President Cheney meeting (Apr. 29, 2004).
204. For the President's activities,
see Education Channel videotape,"Raw Footage of President Bush at Emma
E. Booker Elementary School," Sept. 11, 2001 (remaining in classroom);
Deborah Loewer meeting (Feb. 6, 2004) (in the holding room). For his
calls, see White House record, President's Daily Diary, Sept. 11, 2001
(9:15 call to Vice President); Deborah Loewer meeting (Feb. 6, 2004)
(call to Rice); President Bush and Vice President Cheney meeting (Apr.
29, 2004) (call to Pataki); White House record, Secure Switchboard Log,
Sept. 11, 2001 (call to Mueller). For the decision to make a statement,
see Ari Fleischer interview (Apr. 22, 2004). For the Secret Service's
perspective, see Edward Marinzel interview (Apr. 21, 2004).
205. On the return to Washington, see
Deborah Loewer meeting (Feb. 6, 2004); Andrew Card meeting (Mar. 31,
2004). On consulting with senior advisers, see Ari Fleischer interview
(Apr. 22, 2004). On information about additional aircraft, see, e.g.,
Andrew Card meeting (Mar. 31, 2004). On decisions and the focus on the
President's speech, see President Bush and Vice President Cheney meeting
(Apr. 29, 2004); Ari Fleischer interview (Apr. 22, 2004); Andrew Card
meeting (Mar. 31, 2004).
206. On the motorcade, see USSS record,
shift log, Sept. 11, 2001 (departing 9:35, arriving 9:45); USSS record,
Command Post Protectee Log, Sept. 11, 2001 (departing 9:36, arriving
9:42). Fleischer deduced from his notes that the President learned about
the Pentagon while in the motorcade.Ari Fleischer interview (Apr. 22,
2004). For the President's actions and statements to the Vice President,
see Ari Fleischer interview (Apr. 22, 2004);White House notes, Ari
Fleischer notes, Sept. 11, 2001.
207. On not returning to Washington,
see Edward Marinzel interview (Apr. 21, 2004); USSS memo, interview of
Edward Marinzel, Oct. 3, 2001;Andrew Card meeting (Mar. 31, 2004). For
additional sources on the President's desire to return, see White House
transcript,Vice President Cheney interview with Newsweek, Nov.
19, 2001, p. 5. For the Vice President's recollection, see President
Bush and Vice President Cheney meeting (Apr. 29, 2004). For time of
departure, see USSS record, Command Post Protectee Log, Sept. 11, 2001.
On Air Force One's objectives on takeoff, see Edward Marinzel interview
(Apr. 21, 2004).
208. USSS memo, interview of Gregory
LaDow, Oct. 1, 2001, p. 1. Shortly after the second attack in New York,
a senior Secret Service agent charged with coordinating the President's
movements established an open line with his counterpart at the FAA, who
soon told him that there were more planes unaccounted for-possibly
hijacked- in addition to the two that had already crashed.Though the
senior agent told someone to convey this information to the Secret
Service's operations center, it either was not passed on or was passed
on but not disseminated; it failed to reach agents assigned to the Vice
President, and the Vice President was not evacuated at that time. See
Nelson Garabito interview (Mar. 11, 2004); USSS memo, interview of
Nelson Garabito, Oct. 1, 2001; see also Terry Van Steenbergen interview
(Mar. 30, 2004).
209. American 77's route has been
determined through Commission analysis of FAA and military radar data.
For the evacuation of the Vice President, see White House transcript,
Vice President Cheney interview with Newsweek, Nov. 19, 2001,
p. 2; USSS memo, interview of Rocco Delmonico, Oct. 1, 2001 (evacuation
of the White House); see also White House notes, Mary Matalin notes,
Sept. 11, 2001. On the time of entering the tunnel, see USSS
report,"Executive Summary: U.S. Secret Service Timeline of Events,
September 11-October 3, 2001," Oct. 3, 2001, p. 2. Secret Service
personnel told us that the 9:37 entry time in their timeline was based
on alarm data, which is no longer retrievable. USSS briefing (Jan. 29,
210.White House transcript,Vice
President Cheney interview with Newsweek, Nov. 19, 2001, p. 4;
President Bush and Vice President Cheney meeting (Apr. 29, 2004).
211. On Mrs. Cheney, see USSS report,
"Executive Summary: U.S. Secret Service Timeline of Events, September
11-October 3, 2001," Oct. 3, 2001, p. 2 (time of arrival);White House
transcript, Lynne Cheney interview with Newsweek, Nov. 9, 2001,
p. 2 (joining the Vice President). For the contemporaneous notes, see
White House notes, Lynne Cheney notes, Sept. 11, 2001. On the content of
the Vice President's call, see White House transcript,Vice President
Cheney interview with Newsweek, Nov. 19, 2001, p. 5.According to the
Vice President, there was "one phone call from the tunnel. And basically
I called to let him know that we were a target and I strongly urged him
not to return to Washington right away, that he delay his return until
we could find out what the hell was going on." For their subsequent
movements, see White House transcript,Vice President Cheney interview
with Newsweek, Nov. 19, 2001, p. 5;White House transcript,
Lynne Cheney interview with Newsweek,Nov. 9, 2001, p. 2.
212. On communications problems, see,
e.g., President Bush and Vice President Cheney meeting (Apr. 29, 2004).
On lack of an open line, see, e.g., Deborah Loewer meeting (Feb. 6,
213. On the Vice President's call, see
President Bush and Vice President Cheney meeting (Apr. 29, 2004). For
the Vice President's time of arrival in the shelter conference room, see
White House record, PEOC Shelter Log, Sept. 11, 2001 (9:58); USSS memo,
OVP 9/11 Timeline, Nov. 17, 2001 (9:52; Mrs. Cheney arrived White House
and joined him in tunnel);White House notes, Lynne Cheney notes (9:55;
he is on phone with President);White House transcript, Lynne Cheney
interview with Newsweek, Nov. 9, 2001, p. 2 ("And when I got
there, he was on the phone with the President . . . But from that first
place where I ran into him, I moved with him into what they call the
PEOC"); White House transcript,Vice President Cheney interview with
Newsweek, Nov. 19, 2001, p. 4
(9:35 or 9:36 arrival; he estimated a
15-minute stay); Carl Truscott interview (Apr. 15, 2004) (arrived with
Rice and the Vice President in conference room; called headquarters
immediately; call logged at 10:00); President Bush and Vice President
Cheney meeting,Apr. 29, 2004 (Vice President viewed television footage
of Pentagon ablaze in tunnel);White House transcript, Rice interview
with Evan Thomas, Nov. 1, 2001, p. 388 (Rice viewed television footage
of Pentagon ablaze in Situation Room). For the Vice President's
recollection about the combat air patrol, see President Bush and Vice
President Cheney meeting (Apr. 29, 2004); White House transcript,
President Bush interview with Bob Woodward and Dan Balz, Dec. 17, 2001,
214. President Bush and Vice President
Cheney meeting (Apr. 29, 2004); see also White House transcript,Vice
President Cheney interview with Newsweek, Nov. 19, 2001, pp.
215. Douglas Cochrane meeting (Apr. 16,
2004); Condeleeza Rice meeting (Feb. 7, 2004). For Rice entering after
the Vice President, see USSS report,"Executive Summary: U.S. Secret
Service Timeline of Events, September 11-October 3, 2001," Oct. 3, 2001,
p. 2; Carl Truscott interview (Apr. 15, 2004).
216. In reconstructing events that
occurred in the PEOC on the morning of 9/11, we relied on (1) phone logs
of the White House switchboard; (2) notes of Lewis Libby, Mrs. Cheney,
and Ari Fleischer; (3) the tape (and then transcript) of the air threat
conference call; and (4) Secret Service and White House Situation Room
logs, as well as four separate White House Military Office logs (the
PEOC Watch Log, the PEOC Shelter Log, the Communications Log, and the
217. DOD transcript, Air Threat
Conference Call, Sept. 11, 2001. For one open line between the Secret
Service and the FAA, see note 208. At Secret Service headquarters,
personnel from the intelligence division were also on a phone conference
with FAA headquarters. Chuck Green interview (Mar. 10, 2004). For
notification of an inbound aircraft at 10:02, see USSS record,
Intelligence Division timeline, Sept. 11, 2001; USSS record, Crisis
Center Incident Monitor, Sept. 11, 2001. For the FAA's projection, see
Tim Grovack interview (Apr. 8, 2004). For Secret Service updates, see
DOD transcript, Air Threat Conference Call, Sept. 11, 2001.
218.White House notes, Lynne Cheney
notes, Sept. 11, 2001;White House notes, Lewis Libby notes, Sept. 11,
219. For Libby's characterization, see
White House transcript, Scooter Libby interview with Newsweek,
Nov. 2001. For the Vice President's statement, see President Bush and
Vice President Cheney meeting (Apr. 29, 2004). For the second
authorization, see White House notes, Lynne Cheney notes, Sept. 11,
2001; White House notes, Lewis Libby notes, Sept. 11, 2001.
220. Joshua Bolten meeting (Mar. 18,
2004); see also White House notes, Lewis Libby notes, Sept. 11, 2001
("10:15-18:Aircraft 60 miles out, confirmed as hijack-engage? VP:Yes. JB
[Joshua Bolten]: Get President and confirm engage order").
221. For the Vice President's call, see
White House record, Secure Switchboard Log, Sept. 11, 2001;White House
record, President's Daily Diary, Sept. 11, 2001; White House notes,
Lewis Libby notes, Sept. 11, 2001. Fleischer's
10:20 note is the first mention of
shootdown authority. See White House notes,Ari Fleischer notes, Sept.
see also Ari Fleischer interview (Apr.
222. DOD transcript, Air Threat
Conference Call, Sept. 11, 2001.
223. On reports of another plane, see
White House notes, Lynne Cheney notes, Sept. 11, 2001;White House notes,
Lewis Libby notes, Sept. 11, 2001. On the Vice President's
authorization, see ibid.; DOD transcript,Air Threat Conference Call,
Sept. 11, 2001. For Hadley's statement, see DOD transcript, Air Threat
Conference Call, Sept. 11, 2001.
224. For the quotation, see White House
transcript, Libby interview with Newsweek, Nov. 2001. On the
air-craft's identity, see White House record,White House Military Office
Log, Sept. 11, 2001.
225. On the NMCC, see DOD
transcript,Air Threat Conference Call, Sept. 11, 2001. On the Secret
Service's contacts with the FAA, see notes 208, 217. On the Secret
Service conveying information to the White House, see DOD transcript,
Air Threat Conference Call, Sept. 11, 2001; Nelson Garabito interview
(Mar. 11, 2004).
226. DOD transcript, Air Threat
Conference Call, Sept. 11, 2001.
228. Ralph Eberhart interview (Mar. 1,
2004). On the morning of 9/11, General Eberhart was in his office at
headquarters-roughly 30 minutes away from Cheyenne Mountain, where the
operations center is located.
229. DOD record, Continental Region
chat log, Sept. 11, 2001.
230. NEADS audio file, Mission Crew
Commander position, channel 2, 10:32:12. For the text of the chat log
message, see DOD record, Continental Region chat log, Sept. 11, 2001.
231. For the statements of NEADS
personnel, see Robert Marr interview (Jan. 23, 2004) (NEADS commander);
Kevin Nasypany interview (Jan. 22, 2004) (mission commander); James Fox
interview (Oct. 29, 2004) (senior weapons director). On the
understanding of leaders in Washington, see DOD transcript, Air Threat
Conference Call, Sept. 11, 2001. For the orders to Langley pilots, see
NEADS audio file,Weapons Director position, recorder 1, channel 2,
232. For evidence of the President
speaking to Rumsfeld, see White House notes,Ari Fleischer notes, Sept.
11, 2001. On inability to recall this conversation, see Donald Rumsfeld
interview (Jan. 30, 2004).
233. DOD note, transcript of Air Threat
Conference Call, Sept. 11, 2001.
234. Donald Rumsfeld interview (Jan.
30, 2004).At 11:15, Secretary Rumsfeld spoke to the President and told
him DOD was working on refining the rules of engagement so pilots would
have a better understanding of the circumstances under which an aircraft
could be shot down. See, e.g., DOD notes, Stephen Cambone notes, Sept.
11, 2001. DOD did not circulate written rules of engagement until
sometime after 1:00 P.M. See DOD memo, rules of engagement, Sept. 11,
2001 (faxed to Andrews Air Force Base at 1:45 P.M.).
235. David Wherley interview (Feb. 27,
236.The 113th Wing first learned from
the FAA tower at Andrews that the Secret Service wanted fighters air-borne.The
FAA tower had been contacted by personnel at FAA headquarters, who were
on an open line with senior agents from the President's detail. See
Nelson Garabito interview (Mar. 11, 2004); Terry Van Steenbergen
interview (Mar. 30, 2004). On the Secret Service agent relaying
instructions, see USSS memo, Beauchamp to AD-Inspection, September 11
experience, Feb. 23, 2004. On the order to fly weapons free, see David
Wherley interview (Feb. 27, 2004); DOD memo, interview of David Wherley,
Oct. 3, 2001, p. 12.
237. President Bush and Vice President
Cheney meeting (Apr. 29, 2004).
238. These estimates are based on
analysis of Boeing 757 maximum operating speed data, FAA and military
radar data, and assumptions regarding how the airplane would be operated
en route to the Washington, D.C., area. The shortest time frame assumes
maximum speed without regard to overspeed warnings, a straight-line
path, and no time allowed for maneuvering or slowing to aim and crash
the airplane into its target.The probable time frame allows for speeds
consistent with the observed operation of the airplane prior to its
final maneuvers and crash, as well as for maneuvers and slowing in the
D.C. area to take aim.According to radar data, the fighters from Langley
Air Force Base arrived over Washington at about 10:00 A.M. Two of the
three Langley fighters were fully armed (i.e., with missiles and guns);
the third fighter carried only guns. Craig Borgstrom interview (Dec. 1,
239. For the pilots' awareness, see
Dean Eckmann interview (Dec. 1, 2003); Bradley Derrig interview (Dec. 1,
2003); Craig Borgstrom interview (Dec. 1, 2003). For the quotation, see
Dean Eckmann interview (Dec. 1, 2003). 240. For no authority at 10:10,
see NEADS audio file, Mission Crew Commander, channel 2. For shootdown
authority at 10:31, see DOD record,
Continental Region chat log, Sept. 11, 2001. For possibility of ordering
a shoot-down, see Larry Arnold interview (Feb. 2, 2004).
241. NEADS audio file, Identification
Technician position, recorder 1, channel 4, 10:02:22.
InFact 9/11 Commission Report Index