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Context of 'March 30, 2000: Lawyer’s Analysis Considers the Legal Aspects of Shooting Down a Hijacked Airliner'

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The US begins launching what the Pentagon calls “psychological operations,” or PSYOPS, against the USSR. The operations consist in part of military exercises designed to agitate and frighten the USSR into believing the US might be preparing for a military assault. Few outside of the White House and the Pentagon’s top officials—and Soviet officials, of course—know about the series of provocative exercises. Undersecretary of Defense Fred Ikle will later recall: “It was very sensitive. Nothing was written down about it, so there would be no paper trail.” The idea behind the operations is to keep the Soviets off-balance about what, if anything, the US might do. It also is designed to probe for gaps and vulnerabilities in the Soviets’ early warning intelligence system. General Jack Chain, a Strategic Air Command (SAC) commander, will later recall: “Sometimes we would send bombers over the North Pole and their radars would click on. Other times fighter-bombers would probe their Asian or European periphery.” Sometimes the operations send out several probes in a week, coming at irregular intervals to make the effect that much more unsettling. Then the probes stop, only to begin again several weeks later. Undersecretary of State for Military Assistance and Technology Dr. William Schneider will later recall: “It really got to them. They didn’t know what it all meant. A squadron would fly straight at Soviet airspace, and other radars would light up and units would go on alert. Then at the last minute the squadron would peel off and return home.” The operations include naval incursions as well as aerial missions, with US aircraft carrier groups regularly conducting exercises alarmingly close to Soviet military and industrial sites, often without being detected until the groups are already in place. Some exercises simulate surprise attacks on Soviet targets, sometimes simulating air assaults on Soviet fighter units. The naval pressure is particularly intense in the area of the North Atlantic called the “Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom (GIUK) gap.” (Fischer 3/19/2007)

In conjunction with his huge peacetime military buildup (see Early 1981 and After), President Reagan strongly opposes any sort of arms control or limitation discussions with the Soviet Union.
Rostow to ACDA - As a member of the Committee on the Present Danger (CPD—see 1976), Reagan had spoken out against the SALT II arms control treaty with the USSR (see June 18, 1979-Winter 1979), calling it “fatally flawed.” He has opposed every significant arms limitation agreement since 1963, no matter whether it was negotiated by Republican or Democratic administrations. To continue his opposition, Reagan appoints Eugene Rostow to head the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA). Rostow, a fellow CPD member, is flatly opposed to any sort of arms control or disarmament agreement with the Soviet Union, and had led the CPD fight against the SALT II agreement. “Arms control thinking drives out sound thinking,” he told the Senate. (Scoblic 2008, pp. 118-120) During his confirmation hearings, Rostow tells Senate questioners that the US could certainly survive a nuclear war, and gives World War II-era Japan as an example—that nation “not only survived but flourished after a nuclear attack.” When asked if the world could survive a full nuclear attack of thousands of nuclear warheads instead of the two that Japan had weathered, Rostow says that even though the casualties might be between “ten million… and one hundred million… [t]he human race is very resilient.” (Scoblic 2008, pp. 126) Rostow’s aide at the ACDA, Colin Gray, says that “victory is possible” in a nuclear war provided the US is prepared to fight. (Scoblic 2008, pp. 127)
Burt to State Department - Reagan names Richard Burt to head the State Department’s Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs, the State Department’s primary liaison with the Defense Department. Burt, a former New York Times reporter, is one of the few journalists synpathetic to the CPD, and recently called the SALT agreement “a favor to the Russians.” Just before joining the Reagan administration, Burt called for reductions in nuclear arms controls: “Arms control has developed the same kind of mindless momentum associated with other large-scale government pursuits. Conceptual notions of limited durability, such as the doctrine of mutual assured destruction [MAD], have gained bureaucratic constituencies and have thus been prolonged beyond their usefulness. There are strong reasons for believing that arms control is unlikely to possess much utility in the coming decade.” (Scoblic 2008, pp. 118-120; US Department of State 2008)
Perle to Defense Department - Perhaps the most outspoken opponent of arms control is neoconservative Richard Perle, named as assistant defense secretary for international security affairs. Perle, until recently the national security adviser to Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson (D-WA—see Early 1970s), will quickly become, in author J. Peter Scoblic’s words, “the administration’s chief arms control obstructionist, dubbed ‘the Prince of Darkness’ by his enemies.” Perle once said: “The sense that we and the Russians could compose our differences, reduce them to treaty constraints… and then rely on compliance to produce a safer world. I don’t agree with any of that.” Now Perle is poised to act on his beliefs. (Scoblic 2008, pp. 118-120)
Vice President Bush - Although seen as a pragmatist and not a hardline conservative (see January 1981 and After), Vice President George H. W. Bush is also optimistic about the chances of the US coming out on top after a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union. During the 1980 campaign, he told a reporter: “You have a survivability of command and control, survivability of industrial potential, protection of a percentage of your citizens, and you have a capability that inflicts more damage on the opposition tham it inflicts on you. That’s the way you can have a winner.” (Scoblic 2008, pp. 126-127)
Other Appointees - Perle’s immediate supervisor in Defense is Fred Ikle, who headed ACDA in 1973 and helped battle back part of the original SALT agreement. Ikle will be primarily responsible for the Pentagon’s “five-year plan” that envisions a “protracted nuclear war” as a viable option (see March 1982). Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger considers the standoff between the US and the Soviet Union akin to the situation between Britain and Nazi Germany in 1938, with himself and his ideological confreres as Britain’s Winston Churchill and any attempt at arms control as nothing but appeasement. Energy Secretary James B. Edwards says of a hypothetical nuclear war, “I want to come out of it number one, not number two.” Pentagon official Thomas Jones tells a reporter that the US could handily survive a nuclear exchange, and fully recover within two to four years, if the populace digs plenty of holes, cover them with wooden doors, and bury the structures under three feet of dirt. “If there are enough shovels to go around, everybody’s going to make it,” he says. Reagan’s second National Security Adviser, William Clark, will, according to Reagan official and future Secretary of State George Shultz, “categorically oppos[e] US-Soviet contacts” of any kind. Some of the administration’s more pragmatic members, such as Reagan’s first Secretary of State Alexander Haig, will have limited access to Reagan and be cut off from many policy-making processes by Reagan’s more hardline senior officials and staffers. (Scoblic 2008, pp. 118-120, 127; Halloran 3/2008)

President Reagan, recuperating from surgery to remove an assassin’s bullet, tells bedside visitor Terence Cardinal Cooke that God spared his life so that he might “reduce the threat of nuclear war.”
Censored Letter to Brezhnev - The day after his conversation with Cooke, Reagan pens a letter to Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev calling for “disarmament” and a “world without nuclear weapons.” Brezhnev does not read Reagan’s words; Reagan’s aides, horrified at the letter, rewrite it and strip out all the phrases calling for a reduction in nuclear weapons before sending it to Brezhnev.
Aides Refuse to Draw up Plans for Disarmament - In the following weeks, Reagan will call nuclear weapons “horrible” and “inherently evil,” and order his aides to draw up plans for their elimination. His aides will refuse to deliver those plans; one adviser, Richard Burt (see Early 1981 and After), will exclaim: “He can’t have a world without nuclear weapons! Doesn’t he understand the realities?”
Wants to Stop Nuclear Armageddon - Reagan believes in the literal Biblical story of Armageddon—the End Times—and believes that it will come about through the use of nuclear weapons. Unlike some conservative Christians (and some of his advisers), he does not relish the prospect, and in fact believes it is his task to prevent it from happening.
Plans to Reduce Nuclear Arms Based on Prescience, Ignorance - Author J. Peter Scoblic will note it is difficult to reconcile the view of Reagan as an advocate of nuclear disarmament with the confrontational, sometimes apocalyptic rhetoric and actions by him and his administration (see Early 1981 and After, Early 1981 and After, September 1981 through November 1983, March 1982, and Spring 1982), but Scoblic will write: “Each of these efforts, however, can also be interpreted as a sincere, if misguided, product of Reagan’s hatred of nuclear weapons. Reagan believed that the Soviets would reduce their atomic arsenal only if they were faced with the prospect of an arms race.” Reagan realizes—ahead of many of his advisers—that the USSR was moving towards a calamitous economic crisis, and believes that the Soviets will choose to step back from further rounds of escalation in order to save their economy from complete collapse. He also believes, with some apparent conflict in logic, that the only way to reduce US nuclear arms is to increase the nation’s military arsenal. “Reagan emphasized time and again, that the aim of his arms build-up was to attain deep cuts in nuclear weapons,” biographer Paul Lettow will write. “[M]ost people did not listen to what he was actually saying.” Scoblic cites what he calls Reagan’s profound ignorance of nuclear strategy and tactical capabilities as another driving force behind Reagan’s vision of nuclear disarmament. He is not aware that submarines and long-range bombers carry nuclear missiles; he believes that submarine-based nuclear missiles can be called back once in flight. Both ideas are wrong. He tells foreign policy adviser Brent Scowcroft that he did not realize the primary threat from the Soviet Union was that its gigantic arsenal of ICBMs might obliterate the US’s own ICBM stockpile. When journalists ask him how the MX missile program (see 1981) that he has asserted will rectify the threat to American ICBMs, as he has asserted, he confesses that he does not know. And he honestly does not seem to understand that his administration’s confrontational, sometimes overtly belligerent actions (see May 1982 and After, June 8, 1982, March 23, 1983, and November 2-11, 1983) cause apprehension and even panic among the Soviet military and political leadership. Scoblic will write that like other hardline conservatives, “Reagan could not believe that anyone could perceive the United States as anything but righteous.”
'Subject to Manipulation' - Reagan’s desire for a reduction in nuclear arms is not matched by any depth of understanding of the nuclear weapons issues. Therefore, Scoblic will observe, “[h]e was susceptible to manipulation by advisers who shared his militant anti-communism but not his distaste for nuclear deterrence and who wanted neither arms reduction nor arms control.” When he names George Shultz as his secretary of state in mid-1982, he gains a key ally in his plans for nuclear reduction and a counterweight to arms-race advocates such as Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and other hardliners who have worked (and continue to work) to sabotage the administration’s arms negotiations with the Soviet Union. He gains another ally when he replaces National Security Adviser William Clark with the more pragmatic Robert McFarlane. Both Shultz and McFarlane will support Reagan’s desire to begin sincere negotiations with the USSR on reducing nuclear arms, as does his wife, Nancy Reagan, who wants her husband to be remembered by history as reducing, not increasing, the risk of nuclear war. (Scoblic 2008, pp. 136-138)

Yuri Andropov, the head of the Soviet KGB intelligence agency, tells a group of KGB officers that the US is actively preparing for war with the USSR, and warns of “the possibility of a nuclear first strike” by the Americans. The KGB describes the program thusly: “One of the chief directions for the activity of the KGB’s foreign service is to organize detection and assessment of signs of preparation [for a surprise nuclear attack] in all possible areas, i.e., political, economic and military sectors, civil defense and the activity of the special services.” Andropov, who will become the head of the Soviet government in 1982, helps direct the KGB and GRU (the Soviet military intelligence agency) to make preparations for that strike its top priority. The agencies instruct Soviet agents in NATO capitals and Japan to make “close observation[s] of all political, military, and intelligence activities that might indicate preparations for mobilization.” The program, called VRYAN (the Soviet acronym for “Surprise Nuclear Missile Attack”), takes even greater priority once Andropov rises to power. (Fischer 3/19/2007; Scoblic 2008, pp. 134) (Others such as CIA researcher Benjamin Fischer will refer to the program in their writings as “Operation RYAN.”) Fischer will write that VRYAN, or RYAN, is based on “genuine fears” among the Soviet military and political leadership. Andropov’s KGB in particular feels that the international situation, or what the Soviets call the “correlation of world forces,” is “turning against the USSR and increasing its vulnerability.” In conjunction with the Reagan’s administration hardline stance towards the Soviet Union, an increase in US-led military exercises and psychological warfare missions conducted close to Soviet borders, and an increase in the US’s ability to thwart Soviet early warning systems, this perception prompts the Soviets to not only voice their concern over the possibility of a US first strike, but to prepare for it. Fischer also notes that in some ways, Operation VRYAN and Moscow’s uneasiness over the US threat is sparked by bitter memories of Operation Barbarossa, the 1941 surprise invasion of the Soviet Union by the Nazis. The program, Fischer will write, abandons caution and the usual tradecraft of intelligence-gathering, and instead relies on often-unreliable data supplied by East German intelligence sources. (Fischer 3/19/2007)

President Reagan, giving the commencement speech at West Point’s graduation ceremonies, makes a strong statement of his belief that the Soviet Union is an “evil empire” that must be defeated in one sense or another. “I am told there are links of a great chain that was forged and stretched across the Hudson [River] to prevent the British fleet from penetrating further into the valley,” he tells the graduates. “Today, you are that chain, holding back an evil force [communism] that would extinguish the light we’ve been tending for 6,000 years.” Days before, Reagan told another graduating class that the West would not “contain communism, it will transcend communism.” (Scoblic 2008, pp. 116)

Reagan officials reopen the stalled Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) arms limitation talks with the Soviet Union, against the advice of President Reagan’s more hardline officials (see January 1981 and After). The talks center on the Soviets’ SS-20 missile, designed to strike European targets. In return, then-President Carter had agreed to deploy US intermediate-range nuclear missiles—Pershing II’s and Tomahawks—in West Germany and Italy by 1983. According to author J. Peter Scoblic, the missiles have little real military value, as American ICBMs, submarine-based nuclear missiles, and long-range bombers could destroy Soviet targets with near-impunity. They do, however, have some political significance, mostly in helping tie European security to US security. Carter had agreed to open talks with the Soviets to get rid of the SS-20s entirely.
Hardliners Sabotage Talks - The more pragmatic Reagan officials succeed in reopening the talks; Reagan hardliners, thwarted in stopping the talks, set about sabotaging them in any way available. When arguments in favor of delays and “further study” finally fail, they pressure Reagan to offer an agreement they know the Soviets will refuse: the so-called “zero option,” which originates with Defense Department official Richard Perle (see Early 1981 and After). Perle says that the Soviets should remove all of the SS-20s, and in return, the US will not deploy its Pershings and Tomahawks—in essence, having the Soviets concede something for essentially nothing. State Department officials suggest a fallback position in case the Soviets reject Perle’s offering; in his turn, Perle appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee and compares anyone who opposes his zero-sum offering to Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Adolf Hitler in 1938.
'Walk in the Woods' - When the Soviets reject Perle’s option, Reagan hardliners argue that the government should accept no compromise. The head of the INF negotiation team, Paul Nitze—a Cold War figure who has come out against arms control (see January 1976) but is not fully trusted by the hardline ideologues because of his history as an arms negotiator—wants a compromise. In official negotiations, he sticks to the all-or-nothing position of Perle, but opens private, informal negotiations with his Soviet counterpart, Yuli Kvitsinsky. One afternoon in 1982, Nitze and Kvitsinsky go for what later becomes known as their “walk in the woods.” Sitting together on a log during an afternoon rainstorm, the two hammer out an agreement that greatly favors the US—mandating a 67 percent reduction in Soviet SS-20s and allowing the US to deploy an equal number of Tomahawks. Not only would the Soviets have to reduce their already-deployed contingent of missiles and the US be allowed to deploy missiles, because the Tomahawks carry more independent warheads than the SS-20s, the US would have a significant advantage in firepower. The deal also sets limits on SS-20 deployments in Asia, and forbids the Soviets from developing ground-launched cruise missiles. In return, the US would agree not to deploy its Pershing missiles.
Hardliners Block Agreement - Perle and his hardline allies in the Reagan administration succeed in blocking acceptance of the Nitze-Kvitsinsky agreement. As author J. Peter Scoblic later writes, “Perle’s ideological obstructionism—concisely conveyed in his disparagement of Nitze as ‘an inverterate problem-solver’—reached fantastic heights.” Perle first tried to block Reagan from even learning the details of the agreement, and lied to Reagan, asserting falsely that the Joint Chiefs of Staff opposed the agreement. Perle, in conjunction with Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, eventually convinces Reagan to stick to the “zero option.” Perle argues against pressure from key US allies such as Britain’s Margaret Thatcher, telling Reagan, “We can’t just do something; we’ve got to stand there—and stand firm.” In 1983, Perle tells Weinberger that it would be better for the US to deploy no missiles at all than to accept the agreement. Scoblic will write: “In other words, he argued that foregoing deployment in return for nothing was better than foregoing deployment in exchange for something. The position made no sense, but the Reagan team held firm to it, once again preventing the adoption of a viable arms control deal.” When the US deploys Pershing missiles in Europe in November 1983, the Soviets walk out of the talks. (Scoblic 2008, pp. 120-123)

In public, President Reagan says forcefully that nuclear war with the Soviet Union is not a viable option. In March, he says in response to a question as to the possibility of a victory in such a war, “I don’t believe there could be any winners… everybody would be a loser.” In April, he says flatly, “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” Yet out of the public eye, the Pentagon is preparing a document that espouses a “protracted nuclear war” as an officially viable alternative for the US (see March 1982). (Halloran 3/2008)

President Reagan, giving a speech at his alma mater, Eureka College, renames the US-USSR SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks) negotiations START (Strategic Arms Reduction Talks). The renamed negotiations reflect profound dissension within the administration for and against arms limitation talks (see January 1981 and After and Early 1981 and After). State Department official Richard Burt, formerly opposed to arms negotiations, wants to ramp up the SALT talks and seek reductions in warheads and launchers. Defense Department official Richard Perle, the neoconservative who is working to block another arms limitation with the Soviet Union (see September 1981 through November 1983), wants to focus on payloads and “throw weight.” The administration’s compromise between the two positions—START—“ma[kes] no sense whatsoever,” according to author J. Peter Scoblic.
Initial Proposal Unacceptable to Soviets - START’s initial position—reducing each side’s deployment to 850 nuclear missiles and 5,000 warheads, of which no more than 2,500 can be on ICBMs—sounds like a significant reduction on paper, but many experts on all sides of the nuclear arms issue worry that such an agreement, putting so many warheads on so few missiles, would actually encourage each side to consider a first strike in a crisis. Arms control proponent Paul Warnke says, “If the Russians accept Mr. Reagan’s proposal, he’ll be forced to reject it himself.” But because of the disparity in missile configurations between the US and the Soviets, such an agreement would require the Soviets to drastically reduce their nuclear arsenal by 60 percent, while the US would lose almost nothing; therefore, the Soviets would never agree to such a proposal. Scoblic will note that as an opening gambit this proposal might be successful, if the Americans were prepared to back down somewhat and give the Soviets something. But the US negotiators have no intention of backing down. The Soviets are keenly interested in the US agreeing to reduce the number of cruise missiles it has deployed, but Reagan signs a National Security Directive forbidding US negotiators from even discussing the idea until the Soviets made significant concessions on “throw weight,” essentially tying his negotiators’ hands.
Chief US Negotiator Insults Soviets - The negotiations are made more difficult by the US team’s chief negotiator, Edward Rowny. Rowny, a former national security adviser to hardline Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC), does not believe in diplomacy with anyone, particularly the Soviets. According to Scoblic, Rowny believes in “telling it like it is” to his Soviet counterparts, which Scoblic calls “insulting one’s negotiating opponents.” As he has no real negotiating latitude, Rowny’s diplomacy consists of little more than insults towards his Soviet counterparts. He tells them they do not understand the issues, boasts of his own Polish (i.e. anti-Russian) heritage, even stages walkouts over the seating arrangements. Rowny feels that he is opening a new era in negotiations, but in reality, the START talks are making no progress. (Scoblic 2008, pp. 123-124)

In another speech excoriating communism, President Reagan promises the British Parliament that “the march of freedom and democracy… will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash-heap of history as it has left other tyrannies which stifle the freedom and muzzle the self-expressionism of the people.” He promises that the “forces of good [will] ultimately rally and triumph over evil,” and says that the West cannot successfully coexist with communist regimes: “Must freedom wither in a quiet, deadening accomodation with totalitarian evil?” (Scoblic 2008, pp. 116-117)

Disgusted with the Reagan administration’s failure to make even the most basic progress in the START arms negotiations with the Soviet Union (see May 1982 and After), and viewing the administration’s position as not only untenable but dangerous, Congress steps in and threatens to withhold funding for the MX missile (see 1981) if something is not done. In return, President Reagan appoints a blue-ribbon panel to study the negotiations and recommend alternatives (see January 1983-April 1983). (Scoblic 2008, pp. 124)

One of five secret, underground ‘control rooms’ built by East German intelligence to help coordinate a Soviet counterattack against a US first strike.One of five secret, underground ‘control rooms’ built by East German intelligence to help coordinate a Soviet counterattack against a US first strike. [Source: Central Intelligence Agency]By the beginning of 1983, the world seems closer to a nuclear holocaust than it has since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. The idea of detente between the US and the Soviet Union has been all but abandoned, and European allies of the US use the term “Cold War II” to describe the new, chilly relations between the two superpowers. French President Francois Mitterrand compares the situation to the 1962 Cuban crisis and the 1948 confrontation over Berlin. American Cold War expert George Kennen says that the confrontation has the “familiar characteristics, the unfailing characteristics, of a march toward war—that and nothing else.” While there is little confrontation between the two in a military sense, the tensions are largely manifested in the rhetoric of the two sides, with President Reagan calling the USSR an “evil empire” (see March 8, 1983) and declaring that American democracy will leave Soviet communism on “the ash-heap of history” (see June 8, 1982). In return, Soviet General Secretary Yuri Andropov calls Reagan “insane” and “a liar.” The Soviet propaganda machine releases a storm of invective against Reagan and the US in general, comparing Reagan to Adolf Hitler and America to Nazi Germany. CIA analyst Benjamin Fischer will later write, “Such hyperbole was more a consequence than a cause of tension, but it masked real fears” (see May 1981). The Soviets are particularly worried about the US’s intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs), the Pershing IIs, to be deployed throughout Europe (see September 1981 through November 1983), as well as the Americans’ new cruise missiles, the Tomahawks. Once those missiles are in place, the US, if it so desired, could destroy most of the Soviets’ own ballistic missile sites with only four to six minutes’ warning. The Soviets’ own plans for pre-emptive strikes against the US have the destruction of the European Pershing and Tomahawk emplacements as a top priority. (Fischer 3/19/2007)

The KGB, the Soviet intelligence directorate, issues a “high alert” for its Operation VRYAN intelligence alert system monitoring the US for signs of a possible military and nuclear assault (see May 1981). Provoked by two years of US military provocations (see 1981-1983), fearing that the rhetorical war between the US and the USSR (see Early 1983) is ready to explode into something far more concrete, and disheartened by worries that the Soviet Union is losing ground in its global contest with the US (see Early 1981), the Kremlin informs all KGB “rezidenturas,” or station chiefs, that VRYAN has “acquired an especial degree of urgency” and is “now of particularly grave importance.” Forty station chiefs receive new orders marked “strictly personal,” instructing them to organize a “continual watch” using their entire operational staff. They are also ordered to redirect existing agents who might have access to VRYAN-related information, to recruit new agents, and to escalate surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations. (Fischer 3/19/2007)

President Reagan gives his famous “evil empire” speech to the National Association of Evangelicals. The speech is designed to dissuade Christian evangelicals from supporting a freeze on the production and deployment of nuclear weapons, as the Conference of Catholic Bishops had already done. The speech, written by Anthony Dolan, a follower of hard-line conservative philosopher William F. Buckley, is what author J. Peter Scoblic calls “a model conservative blend of religious traditionalism and anticommunism [that makes] explicit the link between Manicheanism and nuclear war fighting.” The cause is not merely peaceful co-existence, but an apocalyptic battle between good (the West) and evil (the Soviet empire), one that must be won no matter the costs. “We must never forget that no government schemes are going to perfect man,” Reagan tells his listeners. “We know that living in this world means dealing with what philosophers would call the phenomenology of evil or, as theologians would put it, the doctrine of sin. There is sin and evil in the world, and we are enjoined by Scripture and the Lord Jesus to oppose it with all our might.” Supporting the nuclear freeze movement would be to commit the sin of moral relativism, Reagan says, putting moral strictures aside for temporal, even political concerns. “I urge you to beware the temptation of pride,” he warns, “the temptation of blithely declaring yourself above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.” (Scoblic 2008, pp. 117)

The Reagan administration ignores the recommendations of a panel of experts named, at Congress’s behest, to provide alternatives to the stalled START arms reduction talks with the Soviet Union (see January 1983-April 1983). Spurred by hardliners in the administration, President Reagan instead instructs his negotiators to offer, not one unacceptable alternative, as initially offered to the Soviets (see May 1982 and After), but two unacceptable alternatives: either accept drastic limits on “throw weights,” or payloads, of their nuclear missiles, or accept harsh reductions in the number of ICBMs they can deploy, which will also reduce Soviet throw weight. The Soviets retort that the US is again trying to force them to disarm without agreeing to any reductions in their own nuclear arsenal. One Soviet official observes, “Your idea of ‘flexibility’ is to give a condemned man the choice between the rope and the ax.”
'Firing' the Executive Branch - Congressional leaders have had enough of the administration’s obstructionism, and brings in panel leader Brent Scowcroft to craft an alternative. In his 1984 book Deadly Gambits, future State Department official Strobe Talbott will write, “The Legislative Branch had, in effect, fired the Executive Branch for gross incompetence in arms control.” Scowcroft writes a proposal that enables both the US and USSR to reduce their nuclear arsenals with a measure of equivalence, taking into account the disparities between the two.
Misrepresenting the Proposal - The administration accepts Scowcroft’s proposal with some minor amendments, but the Soviets balk at the agreement, in part because chief US negotiator Edward Rowny, a hardliner who opposes arms negotiations on ideological grounds, misrepresents the proposal to his Soviet colleagues. The “basic position of this administration has not changed,” Rowny declares. In turn, the Soviets declare, “Ambassador Rowny is not a serious man.” When the talks come to their scheduled end in December 1983, the Soviets depart without setting a date for resumption.
More 'Sophisticated' Obstructionism - In 2008, author J. Peter Scoblic will write of the negotiations: “The conservative position had by now become far more sophisticated. By never rejecting negotiations outright, the administration could always claim that it was pursuing them with vigor, and if critics complained that its proposals were nonnegotiable, it could simply, if disingenuously, claim that it wanted to substantively reduce nuclear arsenals, not just perpetuate the status quo.” (Scoblic 2008, pp. 124-125)

Korean Airlines Flight 007 before takeoff.Korean Airlines Flight 007 before takeoff. [Source: Check-Six (.org)]A Soviet Su-15 fighter plane fires two missiles into a Korean Airlines 747 passenger plane, KAL 007. The plane, en route from Alaska to Seoul, South Korea, had strayed into Soviet air space, had not responded to radio communications, and had either ignored or not seen warning shots fired at it. The 747 crashes into the Sea of Japan, killing all 269 passengers, including conservative House Representative Larry McDonald (D-GA) and 62 other Americans. The Soviets insist that the passenger plane was deliberately sent into their airspace to test their military readiness; later investigation shows that a US spy plane had just left the area, agitating Soviet radar units, and, according to their own radio transmissions, the Soviets had honestly believed the 747 was another spy plane, most likely an American RC-135. Though it has definitely strayed into Soviet airspace at least twice, and flown over a sensitive Soviet airbase on the Kamchatka Peninsula, it is most likely shot down in international airspace. (Fischer 3/19/2007; Scoblic 2008, pp. 131)
Angry White House Officials Respond - Reagan administration officials are furious. Secretary of State George Shultz, dubbed “The Sphinx” by journalists for his remote demeanor, rails at the Soviets in a press conference called just four hours after the White House learns of the incident. (Scoblic 2008, pp. 131) Four days later, Reagan will denounce the Soviets in a primetime televised speech (see September 5, 1983).
Massive PR Campaign against USSR - The US will use the shootdown to mount a tremendous public relations campaign against the Soviets, focusing on the Soviet civilian leadership as well as Soviet international business interests; for example, the US will demand a global boycott of the Soviet airline Aeroflot. According to a memo issued to the Politburo by the Defense Ministry and the KGB, the Soviets well understood the political ramifications of the shootdown: “We are dealing with a major, dual-purpose political provocation carefully organized by the US special services. The first purpose was to use the incursion of the intruder aircraft into Soviet airspace to create a favorable situation for the gathering of defense data on our air defense system in the Far East, involving the most diverse systems including the Ferret satellite. Second, they envisaged, if this flight were terminated by us, [the US would use] that fact to mount a global anti-Soviet campaign to discredit the Soviet Union.” In its own counter-propaganda efforts, Soviet leader Yuri Andropov will say that an “outrageous military psychosis” has taken over US foreign policy. He adds, “[T]he Reagan administration, in its imperial ambitions, goes so far that one begins to doubt whether Washington has any brakes at all preventing it from crossing the point at which any sober-minded person must stop.” (Fischer 3/19/2007)
Exacerbating Tensions - After the shootdown and its aftermath, according to the Soviet ambassador to the US, Anatoly Dobrynin, both sides go “a little crazy.” The shootdown gives the US hard evidence of its worst-case assumptions about the Soviets. For the Soviets, the US reaction gives them hard evidence of their own assumptions about the US’s attempts to provoke the USSR into some sort of confrontation (see 1981-1983) and to embarrass the Soviet Union in the eyes of the world. Reagan’s use of the KAL 007 incident to ask Congress for more defense funding is, in the Soviets’ eyes, proof that the entire incident was engineered by the Americans for just such an outcome. (Fischer 3/19/2007)
Alternative Accounts - A number of alternative accounts about the incident spring up, in particular concerning McDonald. (Maier 4/16/2001)

Four days after the Soviet shootdown of a Korean Airlines passenger jet (see September 1, 1983), President Reagan delivers a televised speech from the Oval Office calling the incident a “massacre,” a “crime against humanity,” and “an atrocity.” (Scoblic 2008, pp. 131) The shootdown is, Reagan says, “an act of barbarism, born of a society which wantonly disregards individual rights and the value of human life and seeks constantly to expand and dominate other nations.” (Fischer 3/19/2007)

A week after President Reagan publicly denounced the Soviet Union for shooting down a Korean Airlines passenger jet (see September 1, 1983 and September 5, 1983), Secretary of State George Shultz meets with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko. Gromyko later recalls the conversation as “the sharpest exchange I ever had with an American secretary of state, and I have had talks with 14 of them.” The Reagan administration will deny Gromyko permission to fly into New York City, where he is scheduled to attend the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly. (Scoblic 2008, pp. 131)

Soviet Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov gives a press conference regarding the KAL 007 shootdown.Soviet Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov gives a press conference regarding the KAL 007 shootdown. [Source: Central Intelligence Agency]The Soviet Union, flustered and angry at the harsh denunciations heaped on it by the US after their shootdown of a Korean Airlines passenger jet (see September 1, 1983, September 5, 1983, and Mid-September, 1983), reacts badly to the US’s response. Between the KAL incident and other episodes—President Reagan’s terming the USSR an “evil empire” (see March 8, 1983), the refusal of the US to negotiate on arms reduction (see April 1983-December 1983), and the US’s launch of the Strategic Defense Initiative missile defense program (see April 1983-December 1983), the Soviets are not prepared to accept the US’s position on the shootdown, nor are they prepared to accept responsibility for shooting down a passenger plane full of civilians. Instead, the KAL incident provides what Anatoly Dobrynin, the Soviet ambassador to the US, will later call “a catalyst for the angry trends that were already inherent in relations during the Reagan presidency.” Newly installed Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov issues a statement saying that US-Soviet relations cannot improve so long as Reagan is president: “If anybody ever had any illusions about the possibility of an evolution to the better in the policy of the present American administration, these illusions are completely dispelled now.” Soviet statements begin referring to the danger of war and US nuclear first strikes. The Soviet press calls Reagan a “madman” and compares him to Adolf Hitler. Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko worries that “the world situation is now slipping towards a very dangerous precipice.” (Scoblic 2008, pp. 132)

Yuri Andropov.Yuri Andropov. [Source: BBC]Soviet leader Yuri Andropov issues an unusual “declaration” on US-Soviet relations that demonstrates the tension and mistrust between the two countries since the KAL 007 shootdown (see September 1, 1983). “The Soviet leadership deems it necessary to inform the Soviet people, other peoples, and all who are responsible for determining the policy of states, of its assessment of the course pursued in international affairs by the current US administration,” Andropov says. “In brief, it is a militarist course that represents a serious threat to peace.… If anyone had any illusion about the possibility of an evolution for the better in the policy of the present American administration, recent events have dispelled them completely.” According to the Soviet ambassador to the US, Anatoly Dobrynin, the last phrase is the key: the word “completely” was carefully chosen to express the Soviet consensus that the USSR cannot hope to reach any sort of understanding with the Reagan administration. In the following months, a “war scare” mentality engulfs the Soviet populace, fed by Soviet-generated propaganda, until it becomes so widespread that the Kremlin, fearing the agitation will get out of hand, takes steps in early 1984 to calm the fears it has helped generate. (Fischer 3/19/2007)

Test firing of a US Pershing II IRBM.Test firing of a US Pershing II IRBM. [Source: US Army / Public domain]The US and its NATO allies carry out a military exercise called “Able Archer,” or “Able Archer 83,” designed to simulate the use of nuclear weapons in an assault against the Soviet Union, and to test command and control procedures. The military exercise comes perilously close to touching off a real nuclear exchange with the USSR. The exercise—not the first of its kind, but the most expansive—is huge, spanning Europe from Turkey to Scandinavia; it involves the heads of state of countries like Great Britain and Germany; and, perhaps most alarmingly for the Soviets, involves NATO forces escalating their military alert levels to DEFCON-1, at which point NATO nuclear weapons have their safeguards disabled and are ready for launch. The Soviet’s VRYAN program to detect a possible assault (see May 1981) is extremely active. On November 8, Moscow sends high-priority telegrams to its KGB stations in Western Europe demanding information about a possible surprise first attack on the USSR. Though little actual evidence exists, some sources erroneously tell Moscow that NATO ground forces are mobilizing. The KGB concludes that “Able Archer” is a cover for a real military assault; Warsaw Pact fighter units armed with nuclear weapons are put on alert in East Germany and Poland. (Scoblic 2008, pp. 134-135; Miloudi 11/10/2008)
'Frighteningly Close' to Nuclear War, Says Soviet Intelligence Official - Oleg Gordievsky, the intelligence chief of the Soviet embassy in London and a British double agent, warns the British that the West is entering what he calls a “danger zone.” The Daily Telegraph will later write, “It was on Nov. 8-9 that the Kremlin had pressed what came close to a panic button.” (Washington Post 10/16/1988) In his memoirs, Gordievsky will write: “In the tense atmosphere generated by the crises and rhetoric of the past few months, the KGB concluded that American forces had been placed on alert—and might even have begun the countdown to war.… [D]uring ABLE ARCHER 83 it had, without realizing it, come frighteningly close—certainly closer than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.” (Fischer 3/19/2007)
Reagan 'Shocked' at Soviet Reaction - The exercise ends without incident, but National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane will later admit, “The situation was very grave.” Secretary of State George Shultz terms the exercise “a close call” and “quite sobering.” In early 1984, when the CIA reports that the Soviets had been convinced that the US was readying a nuclear strike, President Reagan will be, in author J. Peter Scoblic’s words, “shocked” to realize that he and his administration “had nearly started a nuclear war.” Reagan, in McFarlane’s recollection, will show “genuine anxiety” and begin talking about the concept of Armageddon—the Biblical end times—with his advisers. (Fischer 3/19/2007; Scoblic 2008, pp. 134-135)

Poster for ‘The Day After.’Poster for ‘The Day After.’ [Source: MGM]The made-for-TV movie The Day After airs on ABC. It tells the story of a group of Americans in Lawrence, Kansas—the geographical center of the continental United States—who survive a nuclear exchange between the US and the Soviet Union, and the harrowing days and weeks of their existence afterwards, as they slowly die from radiation poisoning and a lack of food and water. “Bootleged” copies of the movie have been available for months, adding to the anticipation and the controversy surrounding it.
Concerns of 'Anti-Nuclear Bias' from White House - The movie, described by Museum of Broadcast Communications reviewer Susan Emmanuel as “starkly realistic,” caused concern in the White House because of what it saw as its “anti-nuclear bias.” (The production had taken place without the cooperation of the Defense Department, which had insisted on emphasizing that the Soviet Union had started the exchange depicted in the movie. The filmmakers did not want to take a political stance, and preferred to leave that question unclear.) To address the White House’s concerns, ABC distributed a half-million viewers’ guides to schools, libraries, and civic and religious groups, and organized discussion groups around the country. It will also conduct extensive social research after the broadcast to judge the reactions among children and adults. A discussion group featuring Secretary of State George Shultz takes place immediately after the broadcast. Its original broadcast is viewed by roughly 100 million viewers, an unprecedented audience. It is shown three weeks later on Britain’s ITV network as part of a Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament recruitment drive. Emmanuel will later write, “Not since then has the hybrid between entertainment and information, between a popular genre like disaster, and the address to the enlightened citizen, been as successfully attempted by a network in a single media event. ” (Lometti 1992; Scoblic 2008, pp. 133; Emmanuel 1/26/2008) Even though the filmmakers tried to remain politically neutral—director Nicholas Meyer says his film “does not advocate disarmament, build-down, buildup, or freeze”—proponents of the “nuclear freeze” movement hail the movie and conservatives call it a “two hour commercial for disarmament.” (ABC’s social research later shows that the film does not have a strong impact on viewers either for or against nuclear disarmament.) Conservative evangelist Jerry Falwell threatens, but does not execute, a boycott of the commercial sponsors of the film. Some Congressional Democrats ask that the movie be made available for broadcast in the Soviet Union. (Lometti 1992)
Powerful Impact on President Reagan - The movie has a powerful impact on one viewer: President Reagan. He will reflect in his memoirs that the film leaves him “greatly depressed” and makes him “aware of the need for the world to step back from the nuclear precipice.” Author J. Peter Scoblic will later write: “If it seems vaguely ridiculous for a Cold War president to reach this conclusion only after watching a made-for-TV movie, remember that Reagan biographers have long noted that his connection to film was often stronger than his connection to reality. He also became far more intellectually and emotionally engaged when presented with issues framed as personal stories, rather than as policy proposals.” Reagan’s visceral reaction to the film heralds a fundamental shift in his approach to the US-Soviet nuclear arms race. (Scoblic 2008, pp. 133)

Though President Reagan has long vowed to reduce the number of nuclear weapons between the US and Soviet Union (see April 1981 and After and March-April 1982), because of a variety of factors—his recalcitrant anti-communism (see May 27, 1981, June 8, 1982, and March 8, 1983), his belief that escalating the arms race between the two countries would force the Soviets to give up their attempt to stay abreast of the Americans (see Early 1981 and After, Early 1981 and After, and Spring 1982), and his aides’ success at sabotaging the US-Soviet arms negotiations (see January 1981 and After, September 1981 through November 1983, May 1982 and After, and April 1983-December 1983)—recent events (see November 2-11, 1983 and November 20, 1983) have convinced him that he must fundamentally change the way he approaches the US’s dealings with the Soviets. He tells reporters that he will no longer refer to the USSR as “the focus of evil.” He drops what is known as “the standard threat speech” and begins speaking more frequently and openly of nuclear disarmament, to the dismay of many of his hardline advisers. In one speech, he says: “The fact that neither of us likes the other system is no reason to refuse to talk. Living in this nuclear age makes it imperative that we do talk.” Speechwriter Jack Matlock, a pragmatist recently put in charge of the National Security Council’s Soviet affairs desk, wins Reagan’s approval to insert a quote from a speech by President Kennedy: “So let us not be blind to our differences, but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved.” He stops using terms like “conflict” in favor of terms such as “misunderstandings.” The rhetoric of “good vs evil,” of “us vs them,” is set aside in favor of discussions of mutual interests and problem solving. (Scoblic 2008, pp. 138-139)

President Reagan’s new tone of reconciliation with the Soviet Union (see December 1983 and After) wins a positive response from Soviet Premier Konstantin Chernenko, a pragmatist who has just replaced the far more ideologically hardline Yuri Andropov. Chernonko writes that he sees an “opportunity to put our relations on a more positive track.” The National Security Council and State Department both begin moving to renew serious dialogue with the Soviets. (Scoblic 2008, pp. 139)

Buoyed by recent breakthroughs in dialogue with the Soviet Union (see February 23, 1984), the US and USSR resume arms control talks, these combining both the INF (see September 1981 through November 1983) and START (see May 1982 and After) talks into a single set of discussions. (Scoblic 2008, pp. 139)

Days before President Reagan’s scheduled Geneva summit with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev (see November 16-19, 1985), Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger attempts to sabotage the meeting by leaking to the press a letter he had recently written to Reagan outlining what he called systematic Soviet violations of existing arms treaties, and warning Reagan that if he makes any deal with Gorbachev, he implicitly accepts those infractions. Author J. Peter Scoblic will call it “a clumsy attempt to undermine the talks,” and one that angers the more moderate administration officials. Instead of undermining the negotiations as he had intended, Reagan takes Weinberger off the Geneva delegation. (Scoblic 2008, pp. 143)

Reagan and Gorbachev at the Geneva summit meeting.Reagan and Gorbachev at the Geneva summit meeting. [Source: Ronald Reagan Library]The long-awaited summit meeting between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev takes place in Geneva. The meeting, later known as the “fireside summit,” comes after months of Gorbachev’s reforms in the USSR—“glasnost,” or openness to government transparency; “perestroika,” a retooling of the moribund Stalinist economy; and a dogged anti-alcohol campaign, among others. Gorbachev has packed the Kremlin with officials such as new Foreign Minister Edvard Shevardnadze and chief economist Alexander Yakovlev, who back his reform campaigns. (Yakolev has even proposed democratization of the Soviet Communist Party.) Reagan and Gorbachev have exchanged several letters which have helped build relations between the two leaders. Reagan, unlike some of his hardline advisers, is excited about the summit, and has diligently prepared, even holding mock debates with National Security Council member Jack Matlock playing Gorbachev. Reagan has also quietly arranged—without the knowledge of his recalcitrant hardline advisers—for an extension of the scheduled 15-minute private meeting between himself and Gorbachev. The two actually talk for five hours. Nothing firm is agreed upon during this first meeting, but as Reagan later recalls, it marks a “fresh start” in US-Soviet relations. Gorbachev returns to the USSR promoting his and Reagan’s agreement on the need to reduce nuclear arms; Reagan presents the summit as a “victory” in which he did not back down to Soviet pressure, but instead emphasized the need for the Soviets to honor basic human rights for their citizens. Gorbachev realizes that Reagan’s abhorrence of nuclear weapons and his desire for a reduction in nuclear arms (see April 1981 and After) is personal and not shared by many of his administration’s officials, much less the US defense industry. As a result, he focuses on personal contacts and appeals to Reagan, and puts less stock in formal negotiations between the two. (Savranskaya and Blanton 11/22/2005; Scoblic 2008, pp. 139-140; Margaret Thatcher Foundation 1/23/2008)

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, following up on the successful “fireside summit” between himself and Ronald Reagan (see November 16-19, 1985), sends Reagan a letter calling for drastic reductions in US and Soviet nuclear weapons. He proposes the complete eradication of all nuclear weapons by the year 2000. He proposes cutting strategic arsenals by half, banning space-based weapons outright, and halting nuclear testing. He also proposes the complete dismantlement of all intermediate-range systems in Europe—in essence accepting the US’s “zero option” that was such a sticking point in earlier negotiations (see September 1981 through November 1983). (Scoblic 2008, pp. 139-140) One administration hardliner, chief arms negotiator Edward Rowny (see May 1982 and After), warns Reagan that the Soviets are inherently untrustworthy and begs him “not to go soft on this.” Instead of giving Rowny what he wants, Reagan launches into what Rowny will later recall as a Martin Luther King-like speech: “I have a dream. I have a dream of a world without nuclear weapons. I want our children and grandchildren particularly to be free of those weapons.” (Scoblic 2008, pp. 143)

Gorbachev and Reagan at the Reykjavik summit.Gorbachev and Reagan at the Reykjavik summit. [Source: Ronald Reagan Library]President Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev meet in Reykjavik, Iceland, for a second summit, to follow on the success of their first meeting almost a year before (see November 16-19, 1985). They base their discussion on Gorbachev’s January proposals of deep cuts in the two nations’ nuclear arsenals (see January 1986).
Elimination of All Nuclear Weapons by 1996 - Gorbachev and his negotiators begin by reiterating Gorbachev’s proposals for a 50 percent cut in all nuclear weapons, deep reductions in Soviet ICBMs, and the elimination of all European-based intermediate nuclear weapons. Reagan and his negotiators counter with a proposal for both sides to destroy half of their nuclear ballistic missiles in the next five years, and the rest to be destroyed over the next five, leaving both sides with large arsenals of cruise missiles and bomber-based weapons. Gorbachev ups the ante, proposing that all nuclear weapons be destroyed within 10 years. Reagan responds that it would be fine with him “if we eliminated all nuclear weapons,” implicitly including all tactical nuclear weapons in Europe and everywhere else. Gorbachev says, “We can do that,” and Secretary of State George Shultz says, “Let’s do it.”
Agreement Founders on SDI - The heady moment is lost when the two sides fail to reach an agreement on SDI—the Americans’ “Star Wars” missile defense system (see March 23, 1983). Gorbachev cannot accept any major reductions in nuclear weapons if the US has a viable missile defense system; Reagan is convinced that SDI would allow both sides to eliminate their nuclear weapons, and offers the SDI technology to the Soviets. Gorbachev finds Reagan’s offer naive, since there is no guarantee that future presidents would honor the deal. Reagan, in another example of his ignorance of the mechanics of the US nuclear program (see April 1981 and After), does not seem to realize that even a completely effective SDI program would not defend against Soviet cruise missiles and long-range bombers, and therefore would not end the threat of nuclear destruction for either side. Author J. Peter Scoblic will later write, “[SDI] would have convinced the Soviet Union that the United States sought a first-strike capability, since the Americans were so far ahead in cruise missile and stealth bomber technology.” Gorbachev does not ask that the US abandon SDI entirely, but simply observe the terms of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty (see May 26, 1972) and confine SDI research to the laboratory. Reagan refuses. Gorbachev says that if this is the US’s position, then they would have to “forget everything they discussed.” Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze breaks in, saying that the two nations are “so close” to making history that “if future generations read the minutes of these meetings, and saw how close we had come but how we did not use these opportunities, they would never forgive us.” But the agreement is not to be.
Participants' Reactions - As Shultz later says, “Reykjavik was too bold for the world.” Shultz tells reporters that he is “deeply disappointed” in the results, and no longer sees “any prospect” for a third summit. Gorbachev tells reporters that Reagan’s insistence on retaining SDI had “frustrated and scuttled” the opportunity for an agreement. Gorbachev says he told Reagan that the two countries “were missing a historic chance. Never had our positions been so close together.” Reagan says as he is leaving Iceland that “though we put on the table the most far-reaching arms control proposal in history, the general secretary [Gorbachev] rejected it.” Scoblic will later write, “In the end, ironically, it was Reagan’s utopianism, hitched as it was to a missile shield, that preserved the status quo.” (Cannon 10/13/1986; Scoblic 2008, pp. 140-142)
Hardline Sabotage - One element that contributes to the failure of the negotiations is the efforts to undermine the talks by hardline advisers Richard Perle and Ken Adelman, who tell Reagan that confining SDI to research facilities would destroy the program. Perle and Adelman are lying, but Reagan, not knowing any better, believes them, and insists that SDI remain in development. (Scoblic 2008, pp. 143-144)
Going Too Far? - Reagan’s negotiators, even the most ardent proponents of nuclear reduction, are shocked that he almost agreed to give up the US’s entire nuclear arsenal—with Shultz’s encouragement. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and French President Francois Mitterand are horrified at the prospect, given that NATO’s nuclear arsenal in Europe is the only real counterweight to the huge Red Army so close to the borders of Western European nations. (Scoblic 2008, pp. 140-142)
Failure of Trust - The US-Soviet talks may well have foundered on an inability of either side to trust the other one to the extent necessary to implement the agreements. During the talks, Soviet aide Gyorgy Arbatov tells US negotiator Paul Nitze that the proposals would require “an exceptional level of trust.” Therefore, Arbatov says, “we cannot accept your position.” (Savranskaya and Blanton 3/12/2008)

Gorbachev and Reagan sign the INF treaty.Gorbachev and Reagan sign the INF treaty. [Source: Ronald Reagan Library]US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev sign a fundamental disarmament agreement. The two sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which has been stalled for years (see September 1981 through November 1983). The INF Treaty eliminates an entire class of intermediate-range nuclear ballistic missiles. It also provides for on-site verifications for each side (which agrees with Reagan’s signature quote, “Trust but verify”). And it marks the first real multi-lateral reduction of nuclear weapons, even if it is only a 5 percent reduction.
Strong Approval from American Public - Reagan’s approval ratings, weakened by public outrage over the Iran-Contra affair, rebound, and Gorbachev becomes a celebrity to many Americans (he causes a near-riot in Washington when, the day before signing the treaty, he spontaneously leaps out of his limousine and wades into the gathered crowd of well-wishers). Altogether, some 80 percent of Americans support the treaty.
Unable to Continue Longer-Range Negotiations - Reagan wants to build on the INF agreement to reopen the similarly moribund START negotiations (see May 1982 and After), but recognizes that there is not enough time left in his administration to accomplish such a long-term goal. Instead, he celebrates his status as the first American president to begin reducing nuclear arms by scheduling a visit to the Soviet Union.
Conservative Opposition - Hardline conservatives protest Gorbachev’s visit to Washington, and the signing of the treaty, in the strongest possible terms. When Reagan suggests that Gorbachev address a joint session of Congress, Congressional Republicans, led by House member Dick Cheney (R-WY—see 1983), rebel. Cheney says: “Addressing a joint meeting of Congress is a high honor, one of the highest honors we can accord anyone. Given the fact of continuing Soviet aggression in Afghanistan, Soviet repression in Eastern Europe, and Soviet actions in Africa and Central America, it is totally inappropriate to confer this honor upon Gorbachev. He is an adversary, not an ally.” Conservative Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Committee is more blunt in his assessment of the treaty agreement: “Reagan is a weakened president, weakened in spirit as well as in clout, and not in a position to make judgments about Gorbachev at this time.” Conservative pundit William F. Buckley calls the treaty a “suicide pact.” Fellow conservative pundit George Will calls Reagan “wildly wrong” in his dealings with the Soviets. Conservatives gather to bemoan what they call “summit fever,” accusing Reagan of “appeasement” both of communists and of Congressional liberals, and protesting Reagan’s “cutting deals with the evil empire” (see March 8, 1983). They mount a letter-writing campaign, generating some 300,000 letters, and launch a newspaper ad campaign that compares Reagan to former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. Senators Jesse Helms (R-NC) and Steven Symms (R-ID) try to undercut the treaty by attempting to add amendments that would make the treaty untenable; Helms will lead a filibuster against the treaty as well.
Senate Ratification and a Presidential Rebuke - All the protests from hardline opponents of the treaty come to naught. When the Senate votes to ratify the treaty, Reagan says of his conservative opposition, “I think that some of the people who are objecting the most and just refusing even to accede to the idea of ever getting an understanding, whether they realize it or not, those people, basically, down in their deepest thoughts, have accepted that war is inevitable and that there must come to be a war between the superpowers.” (Scoblic 2008, pp. 142-145)

As the end of President Reagan’s final term approaches, conservatives and hardliners have radically changed their view of him. They originally saw him as one of their own—a crusader for good against evil, obstinately opposed to communism in general and to any sort of arms reduction agreement with the Soviet Union in specific. But recent events—Reagan’s recent moderation in rhetoric towards the Soviets (see December 1983 and After), the summits with Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev (see November 16-19, 1985 and October 11-12, 1986), and the recent arms treaties with the Soviets (see Early 1985 and December 7-8, 1987) have soured them on Reagan. Hardliners had once held considerable power in the Reagan administration (see January 1981 and After and Early 1981 and After), but their influence has steadily waned, and their attempts to sabotage and undermine arms control negotiations (see April 1981 and After, September 1981 through November 1983, May 1982 and After, and April 1983-December 1983), initially quite successful, have grown less effective and more desperate (see Before November 16, 1985). Attempts by administration hardliners to get “soft” officials such as Secretary of State George Shultz fired do not succeed. Conservative pundits such as George Will and William Safire lambast Reagan, with Will accusing him of “moral disarmament” and Safire mocking Reagan’s rapport with Gorbachev: “He professed to see in Mr. Gorbachev’s eyes an end to the Soviet goal of world domination.” It will not be until after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the tearing down of the Berlin Wall (see November 9, 1989 and After) that conservatives will revise their opinion of Reagan, in the process revising much of history in the process. (Scoblic 2008, pp. 143-145)

Robert Morgenthau.Robert Morgenthau. [Source: Robert Maass / Corbis]In the late 1980s, Osama bin Laden and his mentor Abdullah Azzam are running a charity front called Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK)/Al-Kifah in Peshawar, Pakistan, and it has an important branch in Brooklyn, New York, called the Al-Kifah Refugee Center that is sending money and recruits to fight in Afghanistan. The CIA apparently helps the Al-Kifah Brooklyn office send up to 200 people from the US to fight in Afghanistan (see 1986-1993). Many of them are US citizens. Zalmay Khalilzad, a State Department Afghan specialist who will go on to become a prominent neoconservative, will later deny knowing of any Arab-Americans fighting with the mujaheddin. But one anonymous Congressional aide will recall occasional mentions of Al-Kifah Refugee Center or its head Mustafa Shalabi by some of the most radical mujaheddin. He will say: “Among that cabal, the extreme militant fringes, Shalabi was known.… [T]hey were asking to talk to him so he could organize some particular assistance.” The Neutrality Act prevents US citizens from fighting against countries not at war with the US, but the New York Times will note, “Yet there is no sign that a criminal investigation ever took place even though federal agents had come across broad hints about the center’s activities when they investigated the [Meir] Kahane assassination [in 1990] (see November 5, 1990) and the slaying of Mr. Shalabi [in 1991]” (see (February 28, 1991)). Kahane’s assassin, El Sayyid Nosair, was one of Shalabi’s assistants. (Mitchell 4/11/1993) Apparently the CIA’s ties to the Al-Kifah Refugee Center prevent other US agencies from investigating it, even after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, when all of the bombers are found to have been tied to the center. While Al-Kifah closes itself down shortly after the WTC bombing, it immediately reopens in Boston under a different name and continues to publish the same newsletter and post from the same website (see April 1993-Mid-2003). Robert I. Friedman, writing for New York magazine, will comment, “[W]hen the fanatical fervor [the CIA] whipped up leads to unintended consequences—the assassination of a Jewish militant leader in Manhattan, the bombing of the World Trade Center, a terror conspiracy to blow up the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels and other Manhattan landmarks—[the CIA tried] to discourage local law enforcement agencies and the FBI from looking into the matter too deeply.” After Nosair assassinates Kahane, the FBI tells District Attorney Robert Morgenthau that Nosair was a lone gunman, not part of a broader conspiracy. However, the FBI had truckloads of evidence connecting to Al-Kifah strongly suggesting otherwise that it does not closely investigate. The FBI also blocks him from tying Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman to the WTC bombing (see After February 26, 1993). Morgenthau will later speculate the CIA may have encouraged the FBI not to pursue any other leads. “The FBI lied to me,” he will say. “They’re supposed to untangle terrorist connections, but they can’t be trusted to do the job.” (Friedman 3/17/1995) Counterterrorism expert Steven Emerson will call Al-Kifah “al-Qaeda’s operational headquarters in the United States.” (Emerson 2006, pp. 436) In 1994, a secret internal CIA report will conclude that the agency is “partially culpable” for the WTC bombing because of its support for radicals connected to Al-Kifah. One CIA source will say, “By giving these people the funding that we did, a situation was created in which it could be safely argued that we bombed the World Trade Center” (see January 24, 1994). But even after 1994 there is little evidence that the links from Al-Kifah were carefully explored by any US government agency. For instance, the government will not freeze Al-Kifah’s funds until shortly after 9/11, long after it ceased to exist (see September 24, 2001).

West and East Germans come together as the Berlin Wall is torn down.West and East Germans come together as the Berlin Wall is torn down. [Source: FreedomAgenda (.com)]The Berlin Wall, the fortified network of guarded walls and fences that separates East and West Berlin, is officially breached. East Germany’s communist government gives reluctant permission for gates along the Wall to be opened after hundreds of protesters in the East, and thousands in the West, converged on crossing points and demanded that the Wall be opened. When the gates open, hundred of East Berliners surge through to be welcomed by their Western fellows; shortly thereafter, crowds of people clamber atop the Wall and begin tearing it apart, chunk by chunk. The 28-mile Wall has stood since 1961, and has served as a symbol of the so-called “Iron Curtain” forcibly separating the communist East from the democratic West. The Wall became symbolically breached days before when a new and more liberal regime in Hungary opened its border and allowed its citizens to flee into West Germany. Czechoslovakia followed suit shortly thereafter. West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl calls the decision to open the Wall “historic.” (BBC 11/9/1989; Chronik Der Mauer 2/9/2008)
Symbolic End to Cold War - Many reporters and historians will mark the “Fall of the Wall” as the date, symbolic or real, when the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union officially ended. (Taylor 11/13/2008)

American conservatives, recently contemptuous of former President Ronald Reagan (see 1988), use the fall of the Berlin Wall (see November 9, 1989 and After) to resurrect the image of Reagan as the victorious Cold Warrior who triumphed over world communism.
Historical Revisionism - In doing so, they drastically revise history. In the revised version of events, Reagan was a staunch, never-wavering, ideologically hardline conservative who saw the Cold War as an ultimate battle between good (Western democracy) and evil (Soviet communism). As author J. Peter Scoblic will describe the revision, it was Reagan’s implacable resolve and conservative principles—and the policies that emanated from those principles—that “forced the Soviet Union to implode.” Conservatives point to the so-called “Reagan Doctrine” of backing anti-Soviet insurgencies (see May 5, 1985) and to National Security Decision Directive 75, accepting nuclear war as a viable policy option (see January 17, 1983), as evidence of their assertions. But to achieve this revision, they must leave out, among other elements, Reagan’s long-stated goal of nuclear disarmament (see April 1981 and After, March-April 1982, November 20, 1983, and Late November 1983), and his five-year history of working with the Soviet Union to reduce nuclear arms between the two nations (see December 1983 and After, November 16-19, 1985, January 1986, October 11-12, 1986, and December 7-8, 1987).
USSR Caused Its Own Demise - And, Scoblic will note, such revisionism does not account for the fact that it was the USSR which collapsed of its own weight, and not the US which overwhelmed the Soviets with an onslaught of democracy. The Soviet economy had been in dire straits since the late 1960s, and there had been huge shortages of food staples such as grain by the 1980s. Soviet military spending remained, in Scoblic’s words, “enormous, devouring 15 percent to 20 percent of [the USSR’s gross national product] throughout the Cold War (meaning that it imposed three times the economic burden of the US defense budget, on an economy that was one-sixth the size).” Reagan did dramatically increase US military spending during his eight years in office (see Early 1981 and After), and ushered new and potentially devastating military programs into existence (see 1981 and March 23, 1983). Conservatives will assert that Reagan’s military spending drove the USSR into implicit surrender, sending them back to the arms negotiation table with a newfound willingness to negotiate the drawdown of the two nations’ nuclear arsenals (see Early 1985). Scoblic will characterize the conservatives’ arguments: “Whereas [former President] Carter was left playing defense, the Gipper [Reagan] took the ball the final 10 yards against the Reds, spending them into the ground and leading the United States into the end zone.” Scoblic calls this a “superficially… plausible argument,” but notes that Carter, not Reagan, began the tremendous military spending increase (see Late 1979-1980), and more importantly, the USSR made no effort to match Reagan’s defense spending. “Its defense budget remained essentially static during the 1980s,” he will write. “In short, the Soviet Union suffered no economic distress as a result of the Reagan buildup.” Scoblic will also note that conservatives had long insisted that the USSR could actually outspend the US militarily (see November 1976), and never predicted that increasing US military spending could drive the Soviet Union into bankruptcy. (Scoblic 2008, pp. 145-149)

In a 2005 op-ed in The Guardian, British MP and former cabinet minister Michael Meacher will claim that Islamist militants from Pakistan were sent to Bosnia in the early 1990s to fight against Serbia. Citing the Observer Research Foundation, he will claim that about 200 Pakistani Muslims living in Britain were sent to Pakistan, where they trained in camps run by the Pakistani militant group Harkat ul-Ansar (which will change its name to Harkat ul-Mujahedeen after being banned by the US a few years later). The Pakistani ISI assisted with their training. They then joined Harkat ul-Ansar forces in Bosnia “with the full knowledge and complicity of the British and American intelligence agencies.” (Meacher 9/10/2005) Interestingly, Saeed Sheikh, who will later be accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks and the murder of reporter Daniel Pearl, follows this pattern. He left Britain to go to Bosnia with Harkat ul-Ansar, and also attended training camps partly run by the ISI (see April 1993 and June 1993-October 1994). There are also allegations that he worked with British intelligence (see Before April 1993).

Neil Herman.Neil Herman. [Source: Paul Schneck Photography]The Al-Kifah Refugee Center is bin Laden’s largest fundraising group in the US and has offices in many cities (see 1986-1993 and 1985-1989). Counterterrorism expert Steven Emerson will later call it “al-Qaeda’s operational headquarters in the United States.” (Emerson 2006, pp. 436) Nearly every figure involved in the 1993 WTC bombing has a connection to the Al-Kifah branch in Brooklyn, New York. (Turque 3/29/1993) Bob Blitzer, a former FBI terrorism chief who heads the FBI’s first Islamic terrorism squad, is stunned to discover the number of militants connected to Al-Kifah who have left the US to fight for Muslim causes overseas. He will later remember thinking, “What the hell’s going on?” Neil Herman, head of the FBI’s WTC bombing investigation, will comment, “It was like a modern underground railroad.” But no effort is made to keep track of who has gone overseas to fight, even though many of the WTC bombers had gone overseas to fight then came back to use their training to plan an attack in the US. Furthermore, the Al-Kifah office in Brooklyn shuts itself down, but all the other branch offices remain open. US News and World Report will later note that the offices “were left largely intact [and] helped form the nucleus of bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network.” Herman will say, “They certainly continued on, but were somewhat fragmented.” Over time, the other branches generally go underground. Soon their functions are largely replaced by a network of Islamic charities. For instance, the functions of the Brooklyn branch, including its newsletter and website, are directly taken over by a new Boston-based charity called Care International (see April 1993-Mid-2003). Another charity is the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF), run by Enaam Arnaout, who is a veteran of the Al-Kifah Brooklyn office. (Kaplan 6/2/2002) The US will not freeze the assets of Al-Kifah until shortly after 9/11, long after all the US branches have dissolved (see September 24, 2001). There is evidence to suggest that the CIA had ties to Al-Kifah and blocked FBI investigations of it (see Late 1980s and After).

Saeed Sheikh may be recruited by the British intelligence service MI6, according to a claim made in a book published in 2006 by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. According to Musharraf, Saeed Sheikh, who will be involved in the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl (see January 23, 2002) and will be said to wire money to the 9/11 hijackers (see Early August 2001), may be recruited by MI6 while studying in London, and when he goes to Bosnia to support the Muslim cause there, this may be at MI6’s behest (see April 1993). Musharraf will further speculate, “At some point, he probably became a rogue or double agent.” (McGrory 9/26/2006) The London Times will provide some support for this theory, suggesting that Saeed will later have dealings with British intelligence (see 1999).

Imad Mugniyah.
Imad Mugniyah. [Source: FBI]In February 1994, double agent Ali Mohamed goes to Sudan and trains Osama bin Laden’s bodyguards (see February 4-5, 1994 and Shortly Afterwards). While there, Mohamed arranges security for a meeting between bin Laden and Imad Mugniyah, the security chief for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah who is said to have directed the 1983 bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon (see April 18-October 23, 1983). Bin Laden and Mugniyah are said to discuss upcoming operations. Mugniyah is believed to be involved in the hijacking of an Air India jet in 1999 where passengers will be exchanged for three militants in Indian prisons, including Saeed Sheikh, who will be the paymaster for 9/11 (see December 24-31, 1999). Mohamed will later claim in court that Hezbollah subsequently provided explosives training for al-Qaeda and Islamic Jihad. (Los Angeles Times 10/21/2000; Sullivan and Neff 10/21/2001; Martin and Berens 12/11/2001; Crogan 5/24/2002) A number of al-Qaeda operatives train with Hezbollah in Lebanon after this meeting (see Mid-1990s). Dan Benjamin and Steve Simon, director and senior director of the National Security Council’s counterterrorism team, will later write that “The meeting between the two preeminent terrorists of the era reportedly did take place, and there was an agreement to cooperate. But there the record ends; there is little evidence that a long-term bond between the Sunni and Shiite groups was ever formed.” (Benjamin and Simon 2005, pp. 128) Mohamed will return to the US after an FBI agent phones him and asks to speak to him about an upcoming trial (see December 9, 1994).

Debt of Honor, by Tom Clancy.Debt of Honor, by Tom Clancy. [Source: HarperCollins]A novel by the military thriller writer Tom Clancy, one of America’s top-selling authors, includes a plotline of a suicide pilot deliberately crashing a commercial jet plane into the US Capitol building in Washington, DC. The story of Debt of Honor is based around a crisis between Japan and the United States. A short, armed conflict between the two nations arises and is won by the US. The book ends with a Japanese commercial airline pilot deliberately crashing a Boeing 747 into the US Capitol building during a joint session of Congress. The president is killed, along with most of the Senate, House, Supreme Court, and others. (Buckley 10/2/1994; Guinn 8/13/1996; Osava 9/15/2001; Pinkerton 5/20/2002) Clancy later describes to the BBC how he’d gone about writing this book: “I didn’t write Debt of Honor without first discussing it with an Air Force officer. And so I ran this idea past him and all of a sudden this guy’s eyeballing me rather closely and I said come on general, I know you must have looked at this before, you’ve got to have a plan for it. And the guy goes, ‘Mr. Clancy, to the best of my knowledge, if we had a plan to deal with this, it would be secret, I wouldn’t be able to talk to you about it, but to the best of my knowledge we’ve never looked at this possibility before.’” (BBC 3/24/2002) Debt of Honor makes number one on the New York Times bestseller list. (Mansfield 10/6/1994) Following the 9/11 attacks, there will be considerable interest in it, particularly because the Capitol building is considered to have been a likely intended target of Flight 93. (Lane and Pan 9/12/2001; Harnden 9/17/2001; Berger 1/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 14)

Saeed in an Indian hospital shortly after being arrestedSaeed in an Indian hospital shortly after being arrested [Source: Indian Express]Saeed Sheikh is imprisoned in India for kidnapping Westerners. While there, he meets Aftab Ansari, another prisoner, an Indian gangster who will be released from prison near the end of 1999. (India Today 2/25/2002) Saeed also meets another prisoner named Asif Raza Khan, who also is released in 1999. (Singh 11/17/2001) After Saeed is rescued from prison at the end of 1999, he works with Ansari and Khan to kidnap Indians and then uses some of the profits to fund the 9/11 attacks. (Swami 2/2/2002; Mitra, Chakravarty, and Ghosh 2/14/2002) Saeed also becomes good friends with prisoner Maulana Masood Azhar, a militant with al-Qaeda connections. (Fielding 4/21/2002) Saeed will later conduct operations together with Azhar’s group, Jaish-e-Mohammed. (Buncombe 2/26/2002)

Senator Sam Nunn.Senator Sam Nunn. [Source: Carnegie Corporation of New York]Time magazine’s cover story reports on the potential for anti-American militants to kill thousands in highly destructive acts. It mentions that, three weeks earlier, Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA) had outlined a scenario in which terrorists attack the US Capitol building on the night of a State of the Union address, by crashing a radio-controlled airplane into it, “engulfing it with chemical weapons and causing tremendous death and destruction.” The scenario is “not far-fetched,” and the required technology is readily available, Nunn said. (Nelan 4/3/1995) An almost identical scenario was included in the storyline of the Tom Clancy bestseller Debt of Honor, released the previous year, but this involved a plane guided by a suicide pilot, rather than radio control (see August 17, 1994). High-ranking al-Qaeda leaders will claim later that Flight 93’s target was the Capitol Building. (Tremlett 9/9/2002)

On July 4, 1995, six Western tourists are kidnapped in Kashmir, India. A Norwegian is soon found beheaded while an American manages to escape. The remaining hostages, two British, one German, and one American, are never found and are apparently killed in December 1995. The kidnapping is executed by an alias of the Pakistani militant group later known as Harkat ul-Mujahedeen. The kidnappers demand the release of a number of jailed Islamists, including Saeed Sheikh and Maulana Masood Azhar, both imprisoned in India (see November 1994-December 1999). Counterterrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna claims the leaders of the operation were trained by al-Qaeda. (Gunaratna 2003, pp. 284-285) In January 1996, a secret CIA report will say that, according to a foreign intelligence agency, Enaam Arnaout, the US director of the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF), was in Pakistan and matches the description of a man involved in the kidnapping who then left Pakistan in early October for Bosnia via the US. (Central Intelligence Agency 1/1996) Yet despite this information, the US will take no action against Arnaout or BIF. The US will not even designate Harkat ul-Mujahedeen until over two years after the kidnapping. (Gunaratna 2003, pp. 284-285) An airplane hijacking in 1999 will free Azhar and Sheikh (see December 24-31, 1999).

Shortly after Islamic Jihad blows up the Egyptian Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan in November 1995 (see November 19, 1995), Makhtab Al-Khidamat/Al-Kifah, a very crucial al-Qaeda charity front based in Pakistan, is shut down. This entity is not only helping to fund al-Qaeda, but is also involved in sending recruits to training camps in Afghanistan. But there are no arrests and activities are redirected to other charity fronts. As one book will later note, “[the] recruiting and military training circuit, perfected during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, was never dismantled, neither at the end of the war nor after the office was officially closed.” (Jacquard 2002, pp. 59)

In 1996, al-Qaeda assumes control of Ariana Airlines, Afghanistan’s national airline, for use in its illegal trade network. Passenger flights become few and erratic, as planes are used to fly drugs, weapons, gold, and personnel, primarily between Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Pakistan. The Emirate of Sharjah, in the UAE, becomes a hub for al-Qaeda drug and arms smuggling. Typically, “large quantities of drugs” are flown from Kandahar, Afghanistan, to Sharjah, and large quantities of weapons are flown back to Afghanistan. (Williams 11/18/2001) About three to four flights run the route each day. Many weapons come from Victor Bout, a notorious Russian arms dealer based in Sharjah. (Pasternak and Braun 1/20/2002) Afghan taxes on opium production are paid in gold, and then the gold bullion is flown to Dubai, UAE, and laundered into cash. (Farah 2/17/2002) Taliban officials regularly provide militants with false papers identifying them as Ariana Airlines employees so they can move freely around the world. For instance, one flight on a Ariana small plane in 2000 lists 33 crew members. A former National Security Council official later claims the US is well aware at the time that al-Qaeda agents regularly fly on Ariana Airlines. (However, US intelligence will not learn of the widespread use of forged Ariana IDs until after 9/11.) The CIA learns of Bout’s connection to Ariana and the Taliban in 1998, but takes no action (see 1998). The US presses the UAE for tighter banking controls, but moves “delicately, not wanting to offend an ally in an already complicated relationship,” and little changes by 9/11. (Williams 11/18/2001; Farah and Braun 2007, pp. 139) Much of the money for the 9/11 hijackers flows though these Sharjah, UAE, channels. There also are reports suggesting that Ariana Airlines might have been used to train Islamic militants as pilots. The illegal use of Ariana Airlines helps convince the United Nations to impose sanctions against Afghanistan in 1999, but the sanctions lack teeth and do not stop the airline. A second round of sanctions finally stops foreign Ariana Airlines flights, but its charter flights and other charter services keep the illegal network running. (Williams 11/18/2001) About nine of the 9/11 hijackers work at the Kandahar airport in 2000, which is Ariana’s main hub (see Summer 2000).

A secret CIA report indicates the Pakistani ISI is giving “at least $30,000 - and possibly as much as $60,000 - per month” to the Harkat ul-Ansar, a Pakistani radical militant group that will be renamed Harkat ul-Mujahedeen (HUM) one year later. By this time, US intelligence is aware this group kidnapped and killed Americans and other Westerners in 1995 (see July 4, 1995). The CIA reports that Pakistan says it is reducing some of its monetary support to the group, presumably in an effort to avoid being placed on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism. But apparently this is just posturing, because in 2001 the State Department will report that the ISI is continuing to fund HUM (see April 30, 2001). The CIA also notes that HUM “might undertake terrorist actions against civilian airliners.” Saeed Sheikh, an alleged 9/11 paymaster, is a leader of the group (see April 1993), and in 1999 an airplane hijacking will free him and another HUM leader from prison (see December 24-31, 1999). (Central Intelligence Agency 8/1996 pdf file) Several months later, another secret US report will note the growing ties between HUM, Osama bin Laden, and the Taliban. But the US will not take any serious action against HUM or Pakistan. (US Embassy (Islamabad) 2/6/1997 pdf file) HUM deputy chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil will be one of the cosigners to bin Laden’s 1998 fatwa declaring it a Muslim duty to kill Americans and Jews (see February 22, 1998). (Scott 2007, pp. 172)

Osama bin Laden (right), Mohammed Atef (center), and an unidentified militant at the press conference publicizing the expanded fatwa in May 1998. Ayman al-Zawahiri is out of the picture, sitting on the other side of bin Laden.Osama bin Laden (right), Mohammed Atef (center), and an unidentified militant at the press conference publicizing the expanded fatwa in May 1998. Ayman al-Zawahiri is out of the picture, sitting on the other side of bin Laden. [Source: BBC]Osama bin Laden issues a fatwa (religious edict), declaring it the religious duty of all Muslims “to kill the Americans and their allies—civilians and military… in any country in which it is possible.” (Al-Quds al-Arabi (London) 2/23/1998; PBS Frontline 2001; Mackay 9/16/2001) This is an expansion of an earlier fatwa issued in August 1996, which called for attacks in the Arabian Peninsula only (see August 1996). Ayman al-Zawahiri, the head of the Egyptian militant group Islamic Jihad, is one of many militant leaders who sign the fatwa. This reveals to the public an alliance between al-Qaeda and Islamic Jihad that has long been in effect. According to journalist Lawrence Wright, the fatwa was actually mostly written by al-Zawahiri the month before, even though it is released in bin Laden’s name only. (Some members of Islamic Jihad are upset by it and quit the group.) (Wright 2006, pp. 259-261) Also signing the fatwa are representatives from militant groups in Afghanistan, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Yemen, Eritrea, Djibouti, Kenya, Pakistan, Bosnia, Croatia, Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon, the Philippines, Tajikistan, Chechnya, Bangladesh, Kashmir, Azerbaijan, and Palestine. All these representatives call themselves allied to the “International Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders” (the name al-Qaeda has not been widely popularized yet). New York magazine will note, “The [fatwa gives] the West its first glimpse of the worldwide conspiracy that [is] beginning to form.” (Wright 9/9/2002) The fatwa is published by Khalid al-Fawwaz, who runs bin Laden’s European headquarters in London, and its publication is preceded by what authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory term a “barrage of calls” from bin Laden’s monitored satellite phone to al-Fawwaz. However, this does not motivate British authorities to take any action against al-Fawwaz. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 111) In March 1998, 40 Afghan clerics issue a fatwa calling for a jihad against the US. A group of Pakistani clerics issues a similar fatwa in April. These fatwas give much more religious authority to bin Laden’s fatwa. It is suspected that bin Laden “discreetly prompted these two bodies to issue the ordinances.” (Gunaratna 2003, pp. 62-63) Bin Laden then will hold a press conference in May 1998 to publicize the fatwa (see May 26, 1998).

Saeed Sheikh, imprisoned in India from 1994 to December 1999 for kidnapping Britons and Americans, meets with a British official and a lawyer nine times while in prison. Supposedly, the visits are to check on his living conditions, since he is a British citizen. (Watson and Barua 2/8/2002) However, the London Times will later claim that British intelligence secretly offers amnesty and the ability to “live in London a free man” if he will reveal his links to al-Qaeda. The Times claims that he refuses the offer. (Williams 7/16/2002; Hussain and McGrory 7/16/2002) Yet after he is rescued in a hostage swap deal in December, the press reports that he, in fact, is freely able to return to Britain. (Press Trust of India 1/3/2000) He visits his parents there in 2000 and again in early 2001 and is alleged to wire money to the 9/11 hijackers during this period (see Early August 2001). (BBC 7/16/2002; O'Neill 7/16/2002; Anson 8/2002) He is not charged with kidnapping until well after 9/11. Saeed’s kidnap victims call the government’s decision not to try him a “disgrace” and “scandalous.” (Press Trust of India 1/3/2000) The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review later suggests that not only is Saeed closely tied to both the ISI and al-Qaeda, but may also have been working for the CIA: “There are many in [Pakistani President] Musharraf’s government who believe that Saeed Sheikh’s power comes not from the ISI, but from his connections with our own CIA. The theory is that… Saeed Sheikh was bought and paid for.” (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 3/3/2002)

Giuliani’s emergency command center.Giuliani’s emergency command center. [Source: CNN]New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani opens a $13 million emergency command center on the 23rd floor of World Trade Center Building 7. (MacGowan 9/12/2001) The center is intended to coordinate responses to various emergencies, including natural disasters like hurricanes or floods, and terrorist attacks. The 50,000 square foot center has reinforced, bulletproof, and bomb-resistant walls, its own air supply and water tank, beds, showers to accommodate 30 people, and three backup generators. It also has rooms full of video monitors from where the mayor can oversee police and fire department responses. It is to be staffed around the clock and is intended as a meeting place for city leaders in the event of an act of terrorism. (CNN 6/7/1999; Bone 9/12/2001; Glanz and Lipton 2004, pp. 233) The center is ridiculed as “Rudy’s bunker.” (Pooley 12/22/2001) Author Philip Shenon will later comment that it “seemed the supreme example of how Giuliani’s ego and arrogance knew no bounds after four years in office,” and: “WABC Radio mocked Giuliani with a name-that-bunker contest for its listeners. Among the most popular entries: ‘Rudy’s Nuclear Winter Palace’ and ‘The Nut Shell.’” It is criticized because of the cost and because of the location, next to the WTC towers, one of the city’s top terrorist targets. In addition, the high floor it is on means it is vulnerable to power, water, and elevator outages. (Shenon 2008, pp. 346-347) Most controversial is the 6,000-gallon fuel tank. In 1998 and 1999, Fire Department officials warn that the fuel tank violates city fire codes and poses a hazard. According to one Fire Department memorandum, if the tank were to catch fire it could produce “disaster.” Building 7 will be destroyed late in the day on 9/11; some suspect this tank helps explains why. (Glanz and Lipton 12/20/2001)

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. [Source: Government of Pakistan]Gen. Pervez Musharraf becomes leader of Pakistan in a coup, ousting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. One major reason for the coup is the ISI (Pakistan’s intelligence agency) felt Sharif had to go “out of fear that he might buckle to American pressure and reverse Pakistan’s policy [of supporting] the Taliban.” (Frantz 12/8/2001) Shortly thereafter, Musharraf replaces the leader of the ISI, Brig Imtiaz, because of his close ties to the previous leader. Imtiaz is arrested and convicted of “having assets disproportionate to his known sources of income.” It is later revealed that he was keeping tens of millions of dollars earned from heroin smuggling in a Deutsche Bank account. (Raman 8/10/2001) Lieutenant General Mahmood Ahmed, a close ally of Musharraf, is instrumental in the success of the coup. Ahmed actually secured the capital and detained Sharif, but then honored the chain of command and stepped aside so Musharraf, as head of the military, could take over. Ahmed is rewarded by being made the new director of the ISI. (Harding 10/9/2001; Coll 2004, pp. 504-505)

Hijackers threaten the Indian Airlines plane, under Taliban supervision.Hijackers threaten the Indian Airlines plane, under Taliban supervision. [Source: Agence France-Presse/ Getty Images]Indian Airlines Flight 814 is hijacked and flown to Afghanistan where 155 passengers are held hostage for eight days. They are freed in return for the release of three militants held in Indian prisons. One of the hostages is killed. One of the men freed in the exchange is Saeed Sheikh, who will later allegedly wire money to the 9/11 hijackers (see Early August 2001). (BBC 12/31/1999) Another freed militant is Maulana Masood Azhar. Azhar emerges in Pakistan a few days later, and tells a crowd of 10,000, “I have come here because this is my duty to tell you that Muslims should not rest in peace until we have destroyed America and India.” (Hussain 1/5/2000) He then tours Pakistan for weeks under the protection of the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency. (Anson 8/2002) The ISI and Saeed help Azhar form a new Islamic militant group called Jaish-e-Mohammed, and Azhar is soon plotting attacks again. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 3/3/2002; McCarthy 7/16/2002; Lancaster and Khan 2/8/2003) The hijacking plot is blamed on Harkat ul-Mujahedeen (also known as Harkat ul-Ansar), a Pakistani militant group originally formed and developed in large part due to Pervez Musharraf in the early 1990s, and led by Azhar and Sheikh before their arrests in India (see Early 1993). Musharraf has just taken power in Pakistan in a coup two months earlier (see October 12, 1999). The Indian government publicly blames the ISI for backing the hijacking. Such claims are not surprising given the longstanding animosity between Pakistan and India; however, US officials also privately say the ISI backed the hijacking and may even have helped carry it out. The US and Britain demand that Pakistan ban Harkat ul-Mujahedeen and other similar groups, but Pakistan takes no action. (Rashid 2008, pp. 48) The five hijackers, all Pakistanis and members of Harkat ul-Mujahedeen, are released and return to Pakistan. They are never arrested. One of them will later be revealed to be Amjad Farooqi, a leader of both al-Qaeda and Pakistani militant groups who will be killed in mysterious circumstances in 2004 (see September 27, 2004). India is furious with the US for refusing to condemn Pakistan or pressure it to take action against the hijackers. According to some sources, al-Qaeda planned the hijacking in conjunction with Harkat ul-Mujahedeen. (Khan 9/27/2004; Rashid 2008, pp. 112-113) In 2001, the flight’s captain, Devi Sharan, will say that the hijackers of his plane used techniques similar to the 9/11 hijackers, suggesting a common modus operandi. The hijackers praised Osama bin Laden, had knives and slit the throat of a passenger, herded the passengers to the back of the plane where some of them used cell phones to call relatives, and one hijacker said he had trained on a simulator. (CNN 9/26/2001)

After his released from an Indian prison at the end of 1999 (see December 24-31, 1999), Saeed Sheikh stays in Kandahar, Afghanistan, for several days and meets with Taliban leader Mullah Omar. He also meets with bin Laden, who is said to call Saeed “my special son.” (Anson 8/2002) Saeed soon has a falling out with Pakistani militant leader Maulana Masood Azhar and draws closer to al-Qaeda. Based mostly in Karachi, Pakistan, he reports to al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida. Saeed is said to “soon [become] a key figure, especially in terms of fund-raising.” (Gunaratna 2003, pp. 286) He regularly travels to Afghanistan and helps train new al-Qaeda recruits in training camps there. (Jehl 2/25/2002; India Today 2/25/2002; Cienski 2/26/2002; McCarthy 7/16/2002) Saeed helps train some of the 9/11 hijackers, presumably in Afghanistan as well. (Bamber, Hastings, and Syal 9/30/2001) He also helps al-Qaeda develop a secure web-based communications system. His work is generally so impressive that there is talk he could one day succeed bin Laden. (O'Neill 7/16/2002; Anson 8/2002) Saeed forged a relationship while in Indian prison with Aftab Ansari, a Pakistani gangster who has fled to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (see November 1994-December 1999). Thanks to this connection, Sheikh is able to establish an al-Qaeda base for himself in Dubai, UAE. (Gunaratna 2003, pp. 286) Numerous 9/11 hijackers will later move through Dubai and some of the money sent to Mohamed Atta in 2001 will come from Sheikh and Ansari through Dubai (see Early August 2001). (McCarthy 2/9/2002) At the same time Saeed is strengthening his al-Qaeda ties, he is also openly working with the Pakistani ISI (see January 1, 2000-September 11, 2001).

Hamza Alghamdi in Afghanistan.Hamza Alghamdi in Afghanistan. [Source: Spiegel TV]Several of the 9/11 hijackers bring money into the US in the form of cash and traveler’s checks. At least $69,000 is imported this way:
bullet Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar bring in about $15,000 (see February 4, 2000);
bullet Marwan Alshehhi purchases $2,000 in traveler’s checks in New York on May 31, 2000, apparently using money withdrawn from his Dresdner bank account in Hamburg; (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 136 pdf file)
bullet Ziad Jarrah opens a bank account with a $2,000 deposit shortly after arriving in the US (see June 28-July 7, 2000);
bullet Majed Moqed, Wail Alshehri, Ahmed Alhaznawi, Saeed Alghamdi, Hamza Alghamdi, and Ahmed Alnami bring in traveler’s checks worth $43,980 purchased in the United Arab Emirates (see April 11-June 28, 2001); (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 137 pdf file)
bullet Khalid Almihdhar brings in traveler’s checks worth $4,900 purchased in Saudi Arabia. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 137 pdf file)

Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke leads a meeting of the interagency Counterterrorism Security Group (CSG) devoted largely to the possibility of an airline hijacking by al-Qaeda. The meeting is said to come during a period of low threat, after the millennium alerts had ended (see December 15-31, 1999). Clarke later will recall that the possibility of a suicide hijacking would have been only one of many speculative possibilities considered. The apparent suicide hijacking of EgyptAir Flight 990 off the coast of Massachusetts in late 1999 appears to have been a concern of the CSG around this time (see October 31, 1999). Also, one month earlier, a militant group connected to al-Qaeda successfully hijacked an airplane in India, won their demands, and escaped (see December 24-31, 1999). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 345, 561)

Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the 1st Air Force whose mission includes the protection of the continental US against air attacks, tells the Associated Press that he is deeply worried by the possibility of an airborne terrorist attack. He says: “I lie awake worrying. It is one thing to put a truck inside the twin trade towers and blow it up. It is quite another to be able to fly a weapon across our borders. That is an attack, a direct attack, an unambiguous attack from outside our country.” In 1999, a study commissioned by Arnold emphasized the continued importance of the Air Force’s air sovereignty mission and the threat of terrorism (see 1999). (Kaczor 2/1/2000; Kaczor 8/2/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 92) As one of the top commanders of NORAD, Arnold will play a pivotal role on the morning of 9/11 (see (8:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (10:08 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Code One Magazine 1/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20, 42)

9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar open an account at the Bank of America in San Diego with a $9,900 deposit. The 9/11 Commission will later report, “The $16,000 that [Khalid Shaikh Mohammed] said he gave Alhazmi to support his and Almihdhar’s travel and living expenses in the United States is the likely source of their funds.” (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 135-136 pdf file) The account is closed in early June when Almihdhar returns to the Middle East (see June 10, 2000). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 222)

Robert De La Cruz, a Justice Department lawyer, writes a detailed analysis that considers the legal issues that would be involved in shooting down an aircraft that was under the control of terrorists who intended to use it as a weapon. De La Cruz, a trial attorney with the Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Terrorism and Violent Crime Section (TVCS), apparently writes the analysis on his own initiative. He sends it to Cathleen Corken, the TVCS’s deputy chief for domestic terrorism. The 34-page document is titled “Aerial Intercepts and Shoot-Downs: Ambiguities of Law and Practical Considerations.” In it, among other things, De La Cruz discusses Article 3 bis of the Chicago Convention, a set of rules created after a Soviet fighter jet shot down Korean Airlines Flight 007, in 1983 (see September 1, 1983), which is “now considered to be international law.” He states that the “Federal Aviation Administration believes, or at least operates as if, Article 3 bis is binding upon the United States.”
Article States that Using Weapons against Civil Aircraft Should Be Avoided - De La Cruz notes that, according to the article, “The contracting states recognize that every state must refrain from resorting to the use of weapons against civil aircraft in flight and that, in case of interception, the lives of persons on board and the safety of the aircraft must not be endangered.” He also notes that “contracting states recognize that every state, in the exercise of its sovereignty, is entitled to require the landing at some designated airport of a civil aircraft flying above its territory without authority [or] if there are reasonable grounds to conclude that it is being used for any purpose inconsistent with the aims of this convention.” De La Cruz then describes what he considers three failures of Article 3 bis.
Action Is Only Permitted Once an Aircraft Has Entered a State's Airspace - The first problem is that the article “only permits a state to avail itself of the article’s provisions once the offending aircraft has entered the territorial airspace of the state.” If the aircraft was carrying a weapon of mass destruction, he explains, “awaiting territorial arrival of the aircraft may be too late.” In this scenario, if the aircraft was allowed to enter the “territorial airspace” of the state, “prevailing winds could theoretically spread an airborne-detonated biological weapon or chemical weapon onto the targeted state.”
Analysis Considers the Effects of a Plane Being Crashed into a Building - De La Cruz then states that this failure of the article could still apply if the offending aircraft was carrying no weapons. Significantly, in light of what will happen on September 11, 2001, he points out that this is because “the aircraft itself can be a potent weapon.” He considers the destruction that could result from a commercial airliner being crashed into a building, writing: “An airborne Boeing 747 can weigh in excess of 2 million pounds, retain structural integrity at flight speeds exceeding 500 miles per hour, and can carry many thousands of gallons of kerosene-based jet fuel. If used as a weapon, such an aircraft must be considered capable of destroying virtually any building located anywhere in the world.”
Article Fails to Authorize 'Deadly Force' against a Hostile Aircraft - The second problem with Article 3 bis, according to De La Cruz, is that it fails to specify what actions are permitted when an aircraft refuses to comply with instructions. While the article “requires states to make noncompliance punishable by ‘severe penalties,’” he writes, “it does not explicitly authorize the use of deadly force.”
Article Is Not Designed to Deal with Planes under the Control of Terrorists - The third failure De La Cruz describes regards “what actions are permissible when dealing with a terrorist-controlled, hijacked, or surreptitiously armed plane that is carrying a weapon of mass destruction to an intended target.” He notes, “Notwithstanding various works of fiction (see August 17, 1994), to date there are no reported actual incidents of a hijacked civil aircraft being deliberately and successfully used as a flying bomb.” All the same, he continues, “Article 3 bis was designed to protect otherwise legitimate civil aircraft that have wandered off course; it is not designed to deal with the issue of… a passenger airliner that has been deliberately converted for use as a kamikaze.” He concludes that the US should be prepared to shoot down a hostile aircraft, irrespective of what the article states. “It is certainly neither the policy nor intention of the United States to shoot down civil aircraft,” he comments, “but if necessity demands it we shall do it regardless of our formal or informal ratification of Article 3 bis.”
Document Will Be Called a 'Prescient Pre-9/11 Analysis' - It is unclear whether any action will be taken in response to De La Cruz’s analysis after the lawyer sends it to Corken. But the 9/11 Commission Report will call the document a “prescient pre-9/11 analysis of an aircraft plot.” (US Department of Justice 3/30/2000; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 346, 561) On September 11, senior government officials including the president and vice president will discuss the possibility of shooting down a hijacked commercial aircraft (see (Shortly After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (Between 10:00 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (Between 10:00 a.m. and 10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and 10:18 a.m.-10:20 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 40-41)

According to the 9/11 Commission, al-Qaeda financial facilitator Ali Abdul Aziz Ali uses the name “Mr. Ali” to make the first wire transfer from abroad to the 9/11 hijackers in the US. Five thousand dollars is wired from the Wall Street Exchange Center in Dubai to an account of an acquaintance of hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar in San Diego. The Exchange Center makes a copy of Ali’s work ID and notes his cell phone number and work address, which is helpful to the FBI after 9/11. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 220; 9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 134 pdf file) Ali, who is a nephew of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, is also accused of wiring hijacker Marwan Alshehhi $115,000 (see June 29, 2000-September 18, 2000). Although in a 2007 US military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay he will admit sending this amount to Alshehhi, he will deny sending $5,000 to Alhazmi, saying that his personal information was distributed to “thousands of people from different parts of the world,” so it could have been used by somebody else. Some reports indicate that Saeed Sheikh may also have wired the hijackers some money this year (see Summer 2000). (US Department of Defense 4/12/2007, pp. 17 pdf file) Although the hijackers have at least one US bank account (see February 4, 2000), they tell the administrator of their local mosque, Adel Rafeea, that they do not have one and ask him to allow the money to be paid into his account. It is unclear why they do this. The administrator will come forward after 9/11 and say that Alhazmi and Almihdhar initially described themselves as Saudi government clerks and needed his help to find an English school. After declining Alhazmi’s request for a loan, he permits his account to be used, but then distances himself from them because he is suspicious of the transfer: it came from the United Arab Emirates, not Saudi Arabia, where Alhazmi said it would come from, and the sender is only identified as “Ali.” This causes him to worry that Almihdhar might be an intelligence agent of the Saudi government. (US Congress 9/26/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 517; McDermott 2005, pp. 191)

Fred Sorbi, and the Cessna 172 used by the hijackers. Fred Sorbi, and the Cessna 172 used by the hijackers. [Source: San Diego Channel 10]9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar arrive at Sorbi’s Flying Club, a small school in San Diego, and announce that they want to learn to fly Boeing airliners. Alhazmi had previously had a lesson at another nearby flying school (see April 4, 2000). (Goldstein 9/30/2001) They are there with someone named “Hani”—possibly 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour—but only the two of them go up in an airplane. The 9/11 Commission will say that Hanjour is outside the US at this time, although some media reports will place him in San Diego (see (Early 2000-November 2000)). (Lipka 9/28/2001) Instructor Rick Garza says that the dream to fly big jets is the goal of practically every student who comes to the school, but he notices an unusual lack of any basic understanding of aircraft in these two. When he asks Almihdhar to draw the aircraft, Almihdhar draws the wings on backwards. Both speak English poorly, but Almihdhar in particular seems impossible to communicate with. Rather than following the instructions he was given, he would vaguely reply, “Very good. Very nice.” (Brandon 9/30/2001) The two offer extra money to Garza if he will teach them to fly multi-engine Boeing planes, but Garza declines. (Goldstein 9/30/2001) “I told them they had to learn a lot of other things first… It was like Dumb and Dumber. I mean, they were clueless. It was clear to me they weren’t going to make it as pilots.” (Helmore and Vulliamy 10/7/2001 Sources: Rick Garza)

Lieutenant General Mahmood Ahmed in 2000.Lieutenant General Mahmood Ahmed in 2000. [Source: Reuters]In 2002, French author Bernard-Henri Levy is presented evidence by government officials in New Delhi, India, that Saeed Sheikh makes repeated calls to ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed during the summer of 2000. Later, Levy gets unofficial confirmation from sources in Washington regarding these calls that the information he was given in India is correct. He notes that someone in the United Arab Emirates using a variety of aliases sends Mohamed Atta slightly over $100,000 between June and September of this year (see June 29, 2000-September 18, 2000 and (July-August 2000)), and the timing of these phone calls and the money transfers may have been the source of news reports that Mahmood Ahmed ordered Saeed Sheikh to send $100,000 to Mohamed Atta (see October 7, 2001). However, he also notes that there is evidence of Sheikh sending Atta $100,000 in August 2001 (see Early August 2001), so the reports could refer to that, or both $100,000 transfers could involve Mahmood Ahmed, Saeed Sheikh, and Mohamed Atta. (Levy 2003, pp. 320-324)

While in the US, future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta generally makes phone calls using pay phones with a variety of prepaid calling cards. One day after arriving in New York City on June 3, 2000 (see June 3, 2000), Atta buys a cell phone and calling card at a store in Manhattan. Later in the month, he uses the phone to make more than a dozen calls to al-Qaeda facilitator Ali Abdul Aziz Ali in the Middle East (see June 28-30, 2000). But after about a month, he stops using that phone, and uses pay phones and more difficult to trace prepaid calling cards for his overseas calls. For instance, from February 10 to 12, 2001, he makes a series of calls to his relatives in Egypt (mother, father, sister, and grandfather) from a pay phone in Georgia. At the same time, he generally uses a cell phone to make calls within the US. For instance, he leases a cell phone from January 2001 to the end of May 2001, and he uses others. Other hijackers, like Marwan Alshehhi and Hani Hanjour, also have their own cell phones for calls inside the US. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/2001, pp. 69 pdf file; Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/2001, pp. 119, 124, 147 pdf file; Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/2001 pdf file) But the hijackers use pay phones with prepaid calling cards often. Investigators will later determine that the hijackers used at least 133 different prepaid calling cards, making them hard to track. (Bamford 2008, pp. 53)

Document for wire transfer on June 21, 2000Document for wire transfer on June 21, 2000 [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]Plot facilitator Ramzi bin al-Shibh wires over $10,000 from Germany to 9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi in the US. The money is apparently withdrawn from Alshehhi’s Dresdner bank account, to which bin al-Shibh has access.
bullet On June 13, he wires $2,708.33 to Alshehhi in New York;
bullet On June 21, he wires $1,803.19 to Alshehhi in New York;
bullet On July 25, he wires $1,760.15 to Alshehhi in Florida;
bullet On September 25, he wires $4,118.14 to Alshehhi in Florida; (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 134-5 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/3/2006 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/3/2006 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/3/2006 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/3/2006 pdf file) Bin al-Shibh also sends money to Zacarias Moussaoui in the US (see July 29, 2001-August 3, 2001). The hijackers also receive various other transfers (see June 2000-August 2001).

The 9/11 hijackers living in Florida receive money from abroad via wire and bank transfers. After 9/11 the FBI and the 9/11 Commission will focus on just two sets of wire transfers, one totaling approximately $10,000 from hijacker associate Ramzi bin al-Shibh (see June 13-September 25, 2000) and another totaling about $110,000 from a plot facilitator later identified as Ali Abdul Aziz Ali (see June 29, 2000-September 18, 2000). (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 134-5 pdf file) Some reports indicate that these are not the only wire transfers and that the hijackers receive extra money that is not subsequently mentioned by the 9/11 Commission (see (July-August 2000), May 2001, Early August-August 22, 2001, Summer 2001 and before, and Late August-Early September 2001). The hijackers also receive money by other means (see January 15, 2000-August 2001).

From June 28 to 30, 2000, there are over a dozen calls from future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta’s cell phone in New York to the home phone of 9/11 facilitator Ali Abdul Aziz Ali (a.k.a. Ammar al-Baluchi) in the United Arab Emirates. Ali is the nephew of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. On June 29, Ali sends $5,000 to 9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi in the US, and more money from Ali to the hijackers follows over the next few months (see June 29, 2000-September 18, 2000). Ali will later be imprisoned by the US. In a 2007 tribunal hearing, in proclaiming his innocence, he will admit the calls and money transfers took place, but say that he spoke to Alshehhi, and he thought Alshehhi was just a businessman (see March 30, 2007). Atta and Alshsehhi are traveling together at the time. (US Department of Defense 4/12/2007 pdf file) It seems probable that US investigators will later learn of these calls because they are one of the rare times Atta’s cell phone is used for overseas calls (instead of using pay phones), and thus they show up on phone records (see June 4, 2000-September 11, 2001).

Ali Abdul Aziz Ali.Ali Abdul Aziz Ali. [Source: FBI]Hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi receive a series of five money transfers from the United Arab Emirates:
bullet On June 29, $5,000 is wired by a person using the alias “Isam Mansur” to a Western Union facility in New York, where Alshehhi picks it up;
bullet On July 18, $10,000 is wired to Atta and Alshehhi’s joint account at SunTrust from the UAE Exchange Centre in Bur Dubai by a person using the alias “Isam Mansur”;
bullet On August 5, $9,500 is wired to the joint account from the UAE Exchange Centre by a person using the alias “Isam Mansour”;
bullet On August 29, $20,000 is wired to the joint account from the UAE Exchange Centre by a person using the alias “Mr. Ali”;
bullet On September 17 $70,000 is wired to the joint account from the UAE Exchange Centre by a person using the alias “Hani (Fawar Trading).” Some sources suggest a suspicious activity report was generated about this transaction (see (Late September 2000)). (Willman 11/29/2001; Beith 12/2/2001; Eichenwald 12/10/2001; MSNBC 12/11/2001; US Congress 9/26/2002; 9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 134-5 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia; Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 pdf file) Hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar previously received a transfer from the United Arab Emirates from a “Mr. Ali” (see April 16-18, 2000). The 9/11 Commission say this money was sent by Ali Abdul Aziz Ali (a.k.a. Ammar al-Baluchi), a nephew of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 133-5 pdf file) Although he denies making the $5,000 transfer to Nawaf Alhazmi, Ali will admit sending Alshehhi these amounts and say that the money was Alshehhi’s (see March 30, 2007). He also admits receiving 16 phone calls from Alshehhi around this time (see June 4, 2000-September 11, 2001). (US Department of Defense 4/12/2007 pdf file) The hijackers may also receive another $100,000 around this time (see (July-August 2000)). It is suggested that Saeed Sheikh, who wires the hijackers money in the summer of 2001 (see Early August 2001), may be involved in one or both of these transfers. For example, French author Bernard-Henri Levy later claims to have evidence from sources inside both Indian and US governments of phone calls between Sheikh and Mahmood Ahmed, head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, during this same time period, and he sees a connection between the timing of the calls and the money transfers (see Summer 2000). (Swami 10/13/2001; Kak 10/18/2001; Levy 2003, pp. 320-324)

Mohamed Atta.Mohamed Atta. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]According to some media reports, 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta receives around $100,000 in wire transfers from abroad around this time, as does Marwan Alshehhi. The New York Times will write: “The money for the operation began arriving… in the summer of 2000. Mr. Atta received slightly more than $100,000, Mr. Shehhi just less than that amount.” (van Natta, and Zernike 11/4/2001; Eichenwald 12/10/2001) The Financial Times will say Atta “received $109,440 in four wire transfers from the United Arab Emirates,” and Marwan Alshehhi “also received wire transfers totaling $100,000 over several months.” (Griffith, Speigel, and Williamson 11/29/2001) PBS comments, “The FBI now says Atta and Alshehhi were being fed streams of money from abroad, eventually more than $100,000 each.” (PBS 1/17/2002) However, the 9/11 Commission will only mention an amount of approximately $100,000 that is paid into a joint account of which Alshehhi is the main holder (see June 29, 2000-September 18, 2000). Some other transfers to the hijackers are also reported, but not confirmed on-the-record by US authorities (see June 2000-August 2001).

Huffman Aviation logo.Huffman Aviation logo. [Source: Huffman Aviation]9/11 hijackers Marwan Alshehhi and Mohamed Atta attend Huffman Aviation, a flight school in Venice, Florida and enroll in its Accelerated Pilot Program, aiming to get commercial pilot licenses. According to the school’s owner Rudi Dekkers, Atta already has a private pilot’s license—though where and how he gained this is unstated—and wants to obtain a commercial license. Alshehhi wants to obtain both licenses. They begin their training in a Cessna 172 with instructor Thierry Leklou. According to the 9/11 Commission, by the end of July both are already taking solo flights. However, in August Leklou complains to Chief Flight Instructor Daniel Pursell that the two are failing to follow instructions and have bad attitudes. Pursell considers expelling them, but, according to Dekkers, after a warning they improve their behavior and continue without further problems. (US Congress 3/19/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 224, 227; Martin 7/25/2004) Yet Pursell later testifies that the school’s instructors breathed “a collective sigh of relief” when the two left Huffman. (Associated Press 3/23/2006) Furthermore, reportedly, “Atta and al-Shehhi would rent a plane from Huffman and be gone for days at a time, Pursell said. They could fly to 20 airports across the state and never be noticed.” (Martin 7/25/2004) Mark Mikarts, another of the school’s instructors, says Atta has “big problems with authority,” and doesn’t take instructions well. (Mollenkamp et al. 9/17/2001; 9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 17 pdf file) Susan Hall, Huffman’s office manager, refers to Atta as “the little terrorist” while he is at the school, because, she later says, “I just didn’t like the aura he gave off.” (Reuters 3/22/2006) In the middle of their training, in late September, Atta and Alshehhi enroll at another flight school, in nearby Sarasota. However, they are soon asked to leave it, and return to Huffman in October (see Late September-Early October 2000). While Atta and Alshehhi attend Huffman Aviation, another of the alleged hijackers, Ziad Jarrah, is taking lessons at a flight school just down the road from them (see (June 28-December 2000)). Yet no reports describe the three ever meeting up while they are all in Venice. According to official accounts, Atta and Alshehhi complete their schooling at Huffman on December 19, 2000, when they take their commercial pilot license tests. Rudi Dekkers says that after returning to the school to settle their bills, they leave and are never seen there again. (US Congress 3/19/2002; 9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 17 pdf file) Yet Daniel Pursell will later allege that early in 2001 the two are still connected with Huffman, being reported to the school for practicing nighttime landings in one of its planes at another Florida airport (see Between January and February 2001).

9/11 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi is helped by his landlord, FBI informant Abdussattar Shaikh, with whom he has been living for some time (see Mid-May-December 2000 and May 10-Mid-December 2000), to open an account with the Lemon Grove, California, branch of the Bank of America. Alhazmi deposits $3,000 to open the account. The origin of the $3,000 is unclear, as the last known cash injection Alhazmi received was five months earlier and totaled only $5,000 (see April 16-18, 2000). (Crary 9/21/2001; CBS News 9/27/2001) Hijacker Khalid Almihdhar had previously opened and closed a bank account in San Diego (see February 4, 2000).

After 9/11 it will be claimed that a suspicious activity report was filed about one of the money transfers made to the hijackers. The report is sometimes associated with a transfer of around $70,000 made from the United Arab Emirates to the joint SunTrust Bank account of Marwan Alshehhi and Mohamed Atta. This transaction is one of several transfers totaling about $100,000 that are made to Alshehhi and Atta in 2000 (see June 29, 2000-September 18, 2000). (Eggen and Day 10/7/2001; Willman 11/29/2001; Heifetz 9/2002) The claim will also be made in a UN report, but will be denied by the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). The FinCEN will state no report was filed before 9/11 “on terrorist Mohamed Atta.” However, the transfer was allegedly made to a joint account of which Alshehhi was the primary holder. (Associated Press 5/24/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 528) If filed, it is not clear what impact such report would have, as Law and Policy in International Business comments, “most of these reports are stashed away in basements and remain unread by overworked and under-resourced government employees.” (Heifetz 9/2002) In addition, the Wall Street Journal will comment that the bank that handled Atta’s “transaction was sufficiently suspicious that some crime was involved that it alerted authorities last year… But the first time [FinCEN], which is the chief reviewer of [SARs], became aware of the document in its own file was after Mr. Atta is believed to have flown a plane into the side of the World Trade Center… James Sloan, director of FinCEN, declined comment on the report filed about Mr. Atta, citing legal constraints.” (Phillips 10/10/2001) United Arab Emirates Central Bank governor Sultan Nasser al-Suwaidi will also claim that the $70,000 transfer was reported to US officials, but will apparently later back away from this statement in discussions with the FBI. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 135 pdf file)

9/11 Hijacker Ahmed Alhaznawi departs Saudi Arabia. The exact date of his departure is unknown, but it must be after he obtains a US visa at the US consulate in Jeddah on November 12 (see November 12, 2000). Although Alhaznawi’s precise destination is unknown, he reportedly returns to Afghanistan for training by early 2001 (see (December 2000-March 2001)) and will also arrive in the United Arab Emirates from Pakistan in early 2001 (see April 11-June 28, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 15, 36 pdf file) According to the 9/11 Commission, Alhaznawi may have had a passport containing an indicator of Islamic extremism (see Before November 12, 2000). Such indicators were used by the Saudi authorities to track some of the hijackers before 9/11 (see November 2, 2007).

Hijacker pilot Hani Hanjour opens an account with Citibank in Deira, Dubai, with a deposit of $3,000. Hanjour’s movements between September 25, 2000, when he obtained a US visa in Jeddah, and this date are unclear, but he flies to the US three days later (see December 8, 2000). (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 13-14 pdf file) According to the 9/11 Commission, plot facilitator Ali Abdul Aziz Ali gave him the initial $3,000 and later deposits another $5,000 in the account. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 138 pdf file) However, these deposits will not be mentioned at a military hearing to determine Ali’s combat status, although other transactions between Ali and the hijackers will be (see March 30, 2007). (US Department of Defense 4/12/2007 pdf file) Hanjour uses the money on this account, together with $9,600 that is deposited in his account with the Saudi British Bank, to pay some of his expenses in the US. Hijackers Fayez Ahmed Banihammed (see June 25, 2001), Marwan Alshehhi (see July 1999-November 2000), and possibly Mohamed Atta (see Late October 2001) also have accounts in the UAE through which money is passed to fund the plot. Khalid Almihdhar and Abdulaziz Alomari (see September 7, 2001) also draw on money from Saudi bank accounts. (US Congress 9/26/2002; 9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 138 pdf file)

Hani Hanjour, from a 2000 US visa application.
Hani Hanjour, from a 2000 US visa application. [Source: 9/11 Commission]In January 2001, the Arizona flight school JetTech alerts the FAA about hijacker Hani Hanjour. No one at the school suspects Hanjour of terrorist intent, but they tell the FAA he lacks both the English and flying skills necessary for the commercial pilot’s license he has already obtained. For instance, he had taken classes at the University of Arizona but failed his English classes with a 0.26 grade point average. A JetTech flight school manager “couldn’t believe he had a commercial license of any kind with the skills that he had.” A former employee says, “I’m still to this day amazed that he could have flown into the Pentagon. He could not fly at all.” They also note he is an exceptionally poor student who does not seem to care about passing his courses. (Yardley 5/4/2002; CBS News 5/10/2002) An FAA official named John Anthony actually sits next to Hanjour in class and observes his skills. He suggests the use of a translator to help Hanjour pass, but the flight school points out that goes “against the rules that require a pilot to be able to write and speak English fluently before they even get their license.” (Associated Press 5/10/2002) The FAA verifies that Hanjour’s 1999 pilot’s license is legitimate (see April 15, 1999), but takes no other action. However, his license should have been rejected because it had already expired in late 1999 when he failed to take a manadatory medical test. (Kelley 9/15/2001; CBS News 5/10/2002) An Arizona FAA inspector later says, “There should have been a stop right then and there.” He will claim that federal law would have required Hanjour to be re-examined. (Associated Press 6/13/2002) In February, Hanjour begins advanced simulator training, “a far more complicated task than he had faced in earning a commercial license.” (Yardley and Thomas 6/19/2002) The flight school again alerts the FAA about this and gives a total of five alerts about Hanjour, but no further action on him is taken. The FBI is not told about Hanjour. (CBS News 5/10/2002) Ironically, in July 2001, Arizona FBI agent Ken Williams will recommend in a memo that the FBI liaison with local flight schools and keep track of suspicious activity by Middle Eastern students (see July 10, 2001).

President Bush, after having trouble making a telephone call, instructs Joseph Hagin, the White House deputy chief of staff for operations, to fix the problem and ensure that he is able to make calls at any time, but the issue will not have resolved by September 11, when Bush experiences significant communication problems. While he is being driven through Washington, DC, in his limousine, Bush tries to make a phone call but is unable to get a signal and hears only static. When he arrives at the White House, he calls Hagin over to discuss the problem. (Ambinder 4/11/2011) Hagin is a little known but influential member of the White House staff who, according to Politico, “manages everything around the president and the presidency except politics and policy.” (Allen 7/3/2008; Abramowitz 7/4/2008) Bush tells him the president should be able to call anyone at any time. “He essentially said to me, ‘We need to fix this and fix it quickly,’” Hagin will later recall. Bush adds, “What would we do if something really serious happened and this didn’t work?” (Ambinder 4/11/2011) Presumably as part of Hagin’s effort to resolve the problem, in the spring of 2001, the White House commissions the Department of Defense to study a communications upgrade. (Yellin 12/20/2006) However, Hagin’s task will not have been completed by September 11. On that day, Bush and other senior government officials will experience serious communication problems (see (After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001; (9:04 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001; and (9:34 a.m.-9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Ambinder 4/11/2011) But the 9/11 attacks, according to the Associated Press, “spurred on the effort to modernize White House communications.” Hagin subsequently “took the White House’s cell phone technology digital, upgraded the systems in the president’s cars, and moved staffers to the BlackBerry wireless communicator, while not freeing them from carrying pagers as well.” (Associated Press 8/22/2003) According to Thomas Kean, the chairman of the 9/11 Commission, “[T]he fix to the presidential communications was one of the first things that was done after 9/11.” (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004)

An advertisement for ‘The Lone Gunmen.’An advertisement for ‘The Lone Gunmen.’ [Source: Fox]The pilot episode of a short-lived Fox television program involves a scenario chillingly similar to the 9/11 attacks that occur six months later. In the episode of The Lone Gunmen, which is a spin-off of the popular show The X-Files, a small, radical faction within the US government takes over a large passenger jet plane from the ground, using remote control, and then tries to crash it into the World Trade Center. Their intention is to blame the attack on foreign terrorists and therefore revive the arms race. Their plot is thwarted at the last moment, with the pilots regaining control of the plane and steering it upwards over the Twin Towers. (Harmon 9/14/2001; Martin 6/20/2002 pdf file) In the program, the plane is destined for Boston, where two of the hijacked aircraft will in fact take off from on September 11. (Fox Television 3/4/2001; Howe and Brelis 9/12/2001) One of its stars, Bruce Harwood, will later call the storyline a “strange awful coincidence,” and add, “[W]ho knows if it was the source of inspiration for September 11.” (Mirror 11/26/2002) Ratings are good for the show, with 13 million people watching it. (Ausiello 3/9/2001) Yet despite the similarity to the actual attacks on the WTC, there will be very little commentary about this after September 11. Media commentator Jack Myers will observe, “This seems to be collective amnesia of the highest order.” (Martin 6/20/2002 pdf file) A best selling 1994 novel by Tom Clancy had similarly included a large passenger jet used as a weapon, being deliberately crashed into the US Capitol building (see August 17, 1994). (Pinkerton 5/20/2002)

Satam al Suqami.Satam al Suqami. [Source: FBI]Two of the 9/11 hijackers travel to Malaysia and spend some time there. Satam al Suqami arrives on April 1 and stays there for just under two weeks, before traveling to the United Arab Emirates. Abdulaziz Alomari arrives on May 7 and spends three weeks there, before departing for the same destination. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 42, 50 pdf file) There are no reports about what Alomari and al Suqami do in Malaysia or who they meet. Lead hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar visit Malaysia before 9/11 and meet other extremists there (see January 5-8, 2000), as does Zacarias Moussaoui (see September-October 2000). Almihdhar again visits Malaysia in the summer of 2001 (see June 2001), and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, an associate of the plot leaders, travels there in June 2001. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 243-4)

The muscle hijackers arrive in Dubai on their way to the US (see April 23-June 29, 2001):
bullet April 11: It is not known when Ahmed Alghamdi first arrives in Dubai, but he leaves on April 8, traveling to an unknown destination, and returns on April 11;
bullet April 12: Satam al Suqami arrives in the United Arab Emirates from Malaysia (see April 1-May 27, 2001);
bullet May 7, 2001: Ahmed Alhaznawi arrives in Abu Dhabi from Karachi by plane;
bullet May 13: Ahmed Alnami arrives in the United Arab Emirates by plane from Saudi Arabia;
bullet May 26: Hamza Alghamdi enters the United Arab Emirates;
bullet May 27: Abdulaziz Alomari arrives in Dubai from Malaysia (see April 1-May 27, 2001);
bullet June 1: It is not known when Wail Alshehri first arrives in Dubai, but he leaves on May 29, traveling to an unknown destination, and returns on June 1 with Ahmed Alhaznawi, who previously arrived on May 7, but must have left in the meantime;
bullet June 12: Saeed Alghamdi arrives in the United Arab Emirates from Saudi Arabia;
bullet June 28: Salem Alhazmi arrives in the United Arab Emirates from Saudi Arabia. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 42-50 pdf file)
The hijackers typically remain in Dubai for a few weeks before moving on to the US (see April 23-June 29, 2001). While in Dubai the hijackers purchase traveler’s checks:
bullet April 28: Majed Moqed purchases $2,980 in MasterCard travelers’ checks from the Thomas Cook Exchange in the nearby emirate of Sharjah;
bullet May 27, 2001: Ahmed Alnami purchases $10,000 of American Express travelers’ checks and Hamza Alghamdi purchases the same amount of Visa travelers’ checks in Dubai;
bullet June 6, 2001: Ahmed Alhaznawi purchases $3,000 of American Express travelers’ checks in Dubai;
bullet June 7, 2001: Wail Alshehri purchases $14,000 of American Express travelers’ checks in Sharjah;
bullet June 24: Fayez Ahmed Banihammad purchases $4,000 of Thomas Cook travelers’ checks in Sharjah. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 44-48 pdf file)
In addition, Wail Alshehri obtains an international driving permit in Sharjah on June 5. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 47 pdf file) Some of these hijackers are assisted by plot facilitator Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi (see Early-Late June, 2001). It is not clear who helps the others, although Dubai-based Ali Abdul Aziz Ali previously assisted some of the hijackers (see June 29, 2000-September 18, 2000), and Saeed Sheikh, who has Dubai connections, may also assist some of them (see Early August 2001). In addition, Victor Bout, an arms dealer who flies shipments for al-Qaeda and the Taliban through the UAE, is based in Sharjah (see Mid-1996-October 2001).

The most famous image of Mohamed Atta came from his Florida driver’s license.
The most famous image of Mohamed Atta came from his Florida driver’s license. [Source: 9/11 Commission]At least six 9/11 hijackers get more than one Florida driver’s license. They get the second license simply by filling out change of address forms:
bullet Waleed Alshehri—first license May 4, duplicate May 5;
bullet Marwan Alshehhi—first license, April 12, duplicate in June;
bullet Ziad Jarrah—first license May 2, duplicate July 10;
bullet Ahmed Alhaznawi—first license July 10, duplicate September 7 (see September 7, 2001);
bullet Hamza Alghamdi—first license June 27, two duplicates, the second in August; and
bullet “A sixth man” with a Florida duplicate is not named. (Lipka 9/28/2001) Additionally, some hijackers obtained licenses from multiple states. For instance, Nawaf Alhazmi had licenses from California, New York, and Florida at the same time, apparently all in the same name. (Riley and Perlman 9/21/2001; Lipka 9/28/2001; Lipka 9/28/2001; Clay and Ellis 1/20/2002)

Mohand Alshehri, apparently in Afghanistan.Mohand Alshehri, apparently in Afghanistan. [Source: As Sahab]Some of the “muscle hijackers” transit London when traveling between Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and the US (see April 11-June 28, 2001 and April 23-June 29, 2001):
bullet Satam al Suqami and Waleed Alshehri leave Dubai on April 22, change planes in London, and arrive in Orlando the next day.
bullet Majed Moqed and Ahmed Alghamdi fly from Dubai via London to Washington on May 2.
bullet Hamza Alghamdi, Ahmed Alnami, and Mohand Alshehri pass through London on their way from Dubai to Miami on May 28.
bullet Ahmed Alhaznawi and Wail Alshehri travel from Dubai to Miami via London on June 8.
bullet Fayez Ahmed Banihammad and Saeed Alghamdi transit London en route from Dubai to Orlando on June 27. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 42-50 pdf file)
There are also some reports that some of the hijackers spend more time in Britain (see January-June 2001 and June 2001). Ahmed Alghamdi is later said to have been on a British watch list and the Sunday Herald will say that he should have been “instantly ‘red-flagged’ by British intelligence” as he passed through Britain. Alghamdi was linked by the FBI to Raed Hijazi, an associate of Osama bin Laden in prison in Jordan for plotting a bombing campaign there, so the British may have watchlisted him based on information from the US. Two other hijackers that may have been on the British watch list are Satam al Suqami and Hamza Alghamdi, who were investigated by US customs together with Ahmed Alghamdi. If Ahmed Alghamdi was watchlisted based on US information, the names of the other two hijackers may have been passed to the British along with his name. Al Suqami and Ahmed Alghamdi are connected to both Hijazi and one of his associates, Nabil al-Marabh, and are reported to be under investigation, starting between autumn 2000 and spring 2001, by US customs and the FBI (see September 2000, Spring 2001 and September 11, 2001). A British intelligence source will say: “There is no way that MI5 and MI6 should have missed these guys. Britain has a history of having Islamic extremists in the country. We should have been watching them.” (MacKay 9/30/2001) Alghamdi appears to have been questioned about bin Laden after arriving in the US from London, but he is not stopped from entering the country (see May 2, 2001). According to The Times, the identities of some of the men are in question: “Officials hope that the inquiries in Britain will disclose the true identities of the suicide team. Some are known to have arrived in Britain using false passports and fake identities that they kept for the hijack. There are serious question marks over the identities of at least four of the visitors to Britain.” (McGrory and Kennedy 9/26/2001)

This Ahmed Al-Haznawi picture is a photocopy of his 2001 US visa application.This Ahmed Al-Haznawi picture is a photocopy of his 2001 US visa application. [Source: 9/11 Commission]The 13 hijackers commonly known as the “muscle” allegedly first arrive in the US. The muscle provides the brute force meant to control the hijacked passengers and protect the pilots. (Goldstein 9/30/2001) Yet, according to the 9/11 Commission, these men “were not physically imposing,” with the majority of them between 5 feet 5 and 5 feet 7 tall, “and slender in build.” (9/11 Commission 6/16/2004, pp. 8) According to FBI Director Mueller, they all pass through Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and their travel was probably coordinated from abroad by Khalid Almihdhar. (US Congress 9/26/2002) However, some information contradicts their official arrival dates:
bullet April 23: Waleed Alshehri and Satam Al Suqami arrive in Orlando, Florida. Suqami in fact arrived before February 2001. A man named Waleed Alshehri lived with a man named Ahmed Alghamdi in Virginia and Florida between 1997 and 2000. However, it is not clear whether they were the hijackers or just people with the same name (see 1999). (Telegraph 9/20/2001) Alshehri appears quite Americanized in the summer of 2001, frequently talking with an apartment mate about football and baseball, even identifying himself a fan of the Florida Marlins baseball team. (Associated Press 9/21/2001)
bullet May 2: Majed Moqed and Ahmed Alghamdi arrive in Washington. Both actually arrived by mid-March 2001. A man named Ahmed Alghamdi lived with a man named Waleed Alshehri in Florida and Virginia between 1997 and 2000. However, it is not clear whether they were the hijackers or just people with the same name (see 1999). (Telegraph 9/20/2001) Alghamdi apparently praises Osama bin Laden to Customs officials while entering the country and Moqed uses an alias (see May 2, 2001).
bullet May 28: Mohand Alshehri, Hamza Alghamdi, and Ahmed Alnami allegedly arrive in Miami, Florida. Alnami may have a suspicious indicator of terrorist affiliation in his passport (see April 21, 2001), but this is apparently not noticed by US authorities. The precise state of US knowledge about the indicator at this time is not known (see Around February 1993). The CIA will learn of it no later than 2003, but will still not inform immigration officials then (see February 14, 2003). According to other reports, however, both Mohand Alshehri and Hamza Alghamdi may have arrived by January 2001 (see January or July 28, 2001).
bullet June 8: Ahmed Alhaznawi and Wail Alshehri arrive in Miami, Florida. Alhaznawi may have a suspicious indicator of terrorist affiliation in his passport (see Before November 12, 2000), but this is apparently not noticed by US authorities.
bullet June 27: Fayez Banihammad and Saeed Alghamdi arrive in Orlando, Florida.
bullet June 29: Salem Alhazmi and Abdulaziz Alomari allegedly arrive in New York. According to other reports, however, Alhazmi arrived before February 2001. Alhazmi has a suspicious indicator of terrorist affiliation in his passport (see June 16, 2001), but this is apparently not noticed by US authorities.
After entering the US (or, perhaps, reentering), the hijackers arriving at Miami and Orlando airports settle in the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, area along with Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, and Ziad Jarrah. The hijackers, arriving in New York and Virginia, settle in the Paterson, New Jersey, area along with Nawaf Alhazmi and Hani Hanjour. (US Congress 9/26/2002) Note the FBI’s early conclusion that 11 of these muscle men “did not know they were on a suicide mission.” (Rose 10/14/2001) CIA Director Tenet’s later claim that they “probably were told little more than that they were headed for a suicide mission inside the United States” (US Congress 6/18/2002) and reports that they did not know the exact details of the 9/11 plot until shortly before the attack (CBS News 10/9/2002) are contradicted by video confessions made by all of them in March 2001 (see (December 2000-March 2001)).

Kay NehmKay Nehm [Source: Generalbundesanwalt]An associate of the hijackers named Mounir El Motassadeq sends $1,000 to an account of Mohamed Atta in Florida. The money is sent from an account of hijacker Marwan Alshehhi in Germany for which El Motassadeq has a power of attorney. This transaction is not mentioned by US authorities, but is disclosed by Kay Nehm, a prosecutor in the case against El Motassadeq in Germany. El Motassadeq will later be convicted for membership of al-Qaeda (see August 19, 2005). (Gill 9/1/2002; CNN 2/19/2003 Sources: Kay Nehm)

9/11 hijacker Ahmed Alhaznawi enters Saudi Arabia. The exact date on which he does so is unknown, but it must be between May 7, when he arrives in the United Arab Emirates from Pakistan (see April 11-June 28, 2001) and June 1, when he leaves Saudi Arabia (see June 1, 2001). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/2001, pp. 151 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 42-50 pdf file) According to the 9/11 Commission, Alhaznawi may have had a passport with an indicator of Islamic extremism (see Before November 12, 2000). Such indicators were used by the Saudi authorities to track some of the hijackers before 9/11 (see November 2, 2007).

Several of the 9/11 hijackers make trips to Las Vegas and the west coast over the summer:
bullet May 24-27: Marwan Alshehhi flies to Vegas (see May 24-27, 2001);
bullet June 7-10: Ziad Jarrah takes a trip to Vegas (see June 7-10, 2001);
bullet June 28-July 1: Mohamed Atta takes his first trip to Vegas, flying from Fort Lauderdale to Boston and then, the next day, to Las Vegas via San Francisco with United Airlines. He stays there three nights, then returns to Boston via Denver, and flies to New York the next day;
bullet July 31-August 1: Waleed Alshehri flies from Fort Lauderdale to Boston and then takes American Airlines flight 195 to San Francisco the next day. After spending a night at the La Quinta Inn, he returns to Miami via Las Vegas; (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 1-2, 16, 18 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 55-7 pdf file)
bullet August 1: Actor James Woods sees four people he will later suspect are hijackers, including individuals he believes to be Khalid Almihdhar and Hamza Alghamdi, on a transcontinental flight (see August 1, 2001). Abdulaziz Alomari is reported to try to get into the cockpit on a different flight from Vegas on the same day (see August 1, 2001);
bullet August 13-14: Atta, Hani Hanjour, and Nawaf Alhazmi all fly to Vegas, possibly meeting some other hijackers there (see August 13-14, 2001).
Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar also made frequent car trips to Las Vegas from San Diego, where they lived in 2000. (McDermott 9/1/2002; McDermott 2005, pp. 192) The reason for these trips is never definitively determined, although there will be speculation the hijackers are casing aircraft similar to those they will hijack on 9/11. The 9/11 Commission will comment, “Beyond Las Vegas’s reputation for welcoming tourists, we have seen no credible evidence explaining why… the operatives flew to or met in Law Vegas.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 242, 248) After 9/11, it will be reported that the hijackers may use these cross-country flights to take pictures of airline cockpits and check out security at boarding gates. During the flights, the hijackers apparently take notes, watch the crews, and even videotape them. There are some reports that two, or perhaps more, of the hijackers sit in “jumpseats” in the pilot’s cabin, a courtesy extended by airlines to other pilots, during the surveillance flights (see Summer 2001) and on the day of 9/11 itself (see November 23, 2001). (Johnson 11/23/2001; Associated Press 5/29/2002) There are reports that the hijackers drink alcohol, gamble, and frequent strip clubs while they are in Las Vegas. For example, according to a dancer named “Samantha,” Marwan Alshehhi stares up at her blankly while she “undulate[s] her hips inches from his face” and only gives her $20, although he is a “light drinker.” (Fagan 10/4/2001; Thomas 10/15/2001)

A military instruction is issued by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, outlining the procedure for dealing with hijackings within the United States. The instruction, titled “Aircraft Piracy (Hijacking) and Destruction of Derelict Airborne Objects,” states that “the administrator, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), has exclusive responsibility to direct law enforcement activity related to actual or attempted aircraft piracy (hijacking) in the ‘special aircraft jurisdiction’ of the United States. When requested by the administrator, Department of Defense will provide assistance to these law enforcement efforts.” It adds that the National Military Command Center (NMCC) within the Pentagon “is the focal point within Department of Defense for providing assistance. In the event of a hijacking, the NMCC will be notified by the most expeditious means by the FAA. The NMCC will, with the exception of immediate responses as authorized by reference d, forward requests for DOD assistance to the secretary of defense for approval.” (US Department of Defense 6/1/2001 pdf file) Some will later assume that this requirement for defense secretary approval was new with this instruction. (Sheehy 6/20/2004) But it has in fact been a requirement since 1997, when the previous instruction was issued, if not earlier. (US Department of Defense 7/31/1997 pdf file) Although the defense secretary has this responsibility, the 9/11 Commission will conclude that, on the day of 9/11, the “secretary of defense did not enter the chain of command until the morning’s key events were over.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 15 pdf file) Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will later claim that, up to 9/11, terrorism and domestic hijackings were “a law enforcement issue.” (9/11 Commission 3/23/2004; PBS 3/25/2004; US Department of Defense 6/14/2005)

Documentation used by Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi in the United Arab Emirates.Documentation used by Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi in the United Arab Emirates. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi assists four hijackers transiting Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on their way to the US: Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, Salem Alhazmi, Abdulaziz Alomari, and Saeed Alghamdi. Banihammad stays at al-Hawsawi’s flat in nearby Sharjah for two or three weeks and they open bank accounts together (see June 25, 2001 and Early August-August 22, 2001), and al-Hawsawi recognizes Alghamdi and Alhazmi from Afghanistan. He coordinates their arrival dates in telephone conversations with Mohamed Atta (see Late June-August, 2001) and then purchases tickets for them, paying for Alomari and Alhazmi. Al-Hawsawi provides this information to the US under interrogation, which is considered by some to make it unreliable (see June 16, 2004), and then again before a military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay to determine his combat status (see March 9-April 28, 2007). (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 pdf file; US department of Defense 3/21/2007 pdf file) It is unclear who assisted the nine muscle hijackers who transited Dubai before this: Waleed Alshehri, Satam Al Suqami, Ahmed Alghamdi, Maqed Moqed, Hamza Alghamdi, Mohand Alshehri, Ahmed Alnami, Ahmed Alhaznawi, and Wail Alshehri (see April 11-June 28, 2001 and April 23-June 29, 2001).

All the hijackers based in New Jersey open at least one bank account there:
bullet Hani Hanjour opens an account with the Hudson United Bank on June 27, 2001;
bullet He opens another account with the same bank three days later, when Nawaf Alhazmi also opens one;
bullet Ahmed Alghamdi, Nawaf Alhazmi, and Majed Moqed open accounts with the Dime Savings Bank on July 9, 2001;
bullet Khalid Almihdhar opens an account with the Hudson United Bank on July 18, 2001. He closes it on August 31;
bullet Salem Alhazmi opens an account with the Hudson United Bank on July 21, 2001;
bullet Abdulaziz Alomari opens an account with the Hudson United Bank on July 26, 2001;
bullet Khalid Almihdhar opens an account with the First Union National Bank on August 22, 2001 with a $50 deposit. He changes his contact address on September 5;
bullet Hani Hanjour opens an account with First Union National Bank on August 23, 2001 with a $50 deposit. He then attempts to withdraw $5,000 on September 5 and $4,900 from it on September 7, despite it containing nothing but the original $50. Unable to make the withdrawal, he cashes a $20 check instead. Hanjour closes the account the next day. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 pdf file) These hijackers will subsequently fly on three of the planes on 9/11. In its Terrorist Financing monograph the 9/11 Commission will note: “Among other things they used the debit cards to pay for hotel rooms—activity that would have enabled the FBI to locate them, had the FBI been able to get the transaction records fast enough. Moreover, Alhazmi used his debit card on August 27 to buy tickets for himself… and fellow Flight 77 hijacker Salem Alhazmi. If the FBI had found either Almihdhar or Nawaf Alhazmi, it could have found the other. They not only shared a common bank but frequently were together when conducting transactions. After locating Almihdhar and Alhazmi, the FBI could have potentially linked them through financial records to the other Flight 77 hijackers… Nawaf Alhazmi and Flight 77 pilot Hani Hanjour had opened separate savings accounts at the same small New Jersey bank at the same time and both gave the same address. On July 9, 2001, the other Flight 77 muscle hijacker, Majed Moqed, opened an account at another small New Jersey bank at the same time as Nawaf Alhazmi, and used the same address. Given timely access to the relevant records and sufficient time to conduct a follow-up investigation, the FBI could have shown that Hani Hanjour, Majed Moqed, and Salem al Hazmi were connected to potential terrorist operatives Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi.” (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 58-59, 141 pdf file) The hijackers also open several other bank accounts (see June 28-July 7, 2000).

Jean Waldorf, the owner of the Shipping Post, a mail service business in Punta Gorda, Florida, will later report seeing Mohamed Atta and an unidentified associate visiting her store some four to six times. According to Waldorf, Atta purchases US postal money orders in denominations of $100 to $200, paying for them with cash, but she does not know how they are spent. Waldorf says that the money orders, which can only be cashed in the US, are “not traceable.” The owner of a local childcare center, Anna Brookbank, later says she recognizes Atta, having seen him shopping at a Punta Gorda supermarket during this period. (CNN 10/1/2001; Margasak 10/2/2001; Arnold 10/2/2001; Arnold and Martin 10/3/2001) Punta Gorda is about 30 miles south of Venice, where Atta, along with Marwan Alshehhi, previously attended flight school in 2000 (see July 6-December 19, 2000). According to official accounts, the only time Atta was in this area was during his time at the flight school. (US Congress 9/26/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 223-253)

The ransom for a wealthy Indian shoe manufacturer kidnapped in Calcutta, India, two weeks earlier is paid to an Indian gangster named Aftab Ansari. Ansari is based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and has ties to the Pakistani ISI and Saeed Sheikh. Ansari gives some of the about $830,000 in ransom money to Saeed, who sends about $100,000 of it to future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta. (Watson 1/23/2002; Popham 1/24/2002) The Times of India will later report that Lieutenant General Mahmood Ahmed, the director of the ISI, instructed Saeed to transfer the $100,000 into Atta’s bank account. This is according to “senior government sources,” who will claim that the FBI has privately confirmed the story. (Joshi 10/9/2001) According to some accounts, the money is moved through a charity, the Al Rashid Trust. Some of the money is also channelled to the Taliban, as well as Pakistani and Kashmiri militant groups. (NewsInsight 1/4/2002; Press Trust of India 4/3/2002) The money is apparently paid into two of Atta’s accounts in Florida (see Summer 2001 and before). The Al Rashid Trust will be one of the first al-Qaeda funding vehicles to have its assets frozen after 9/11 (see September 24, 2001). A series of recovered e-mails will show the money is sent just after August 11. This appears to be one of a series of Indian kidnappings this gang carries out in 2001. (Mitra, Chakravarty, and Ghosh 2/14/2002; Srivastava 2/14/2002) Saeed provides training and weapons to the kidnappers in return for a percentage of the profits. (Swami 2/2/2002; India Today 2/25/2002) This account will frequently be mentioned in the Indian press, but will appear in the US media as well. For instance, veteran Associated Press reporter Kathy Gannon will write, “Western intelligence sources believe Saeed sent $100,000 to Mohamed Atta, the suspected ringleader of the Sept. 11 terrorist hijackings,” although they apparently think the hawala system was used for this. (Gannon 2/9/2002) Some evidence suggests Saeed may also have sent Atta a similar amount in 2000 (see (July-August 2000) and Summer 2000).

Several deposits are made to the 9/11 hijackers’ accounts. Details are available for some of the deposits for eleven of the nineteen hijackers: Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, Ziad Jarrah, Hani Hanjour, Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Ahmed Alhazmawi, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, Hamza Alghamdi, Waleed Alshehri, and Satam Al Suqami. Over $40,000 is deposited in their accounts, much in cash. The largest amounts deposited in one day occur on August 24, when $8,000 is split equally between Hamza Alghamdi’s account and a joint account of Atta and Alshehhi, and September 5, when a total of $9,650 is split between Banihammad’s and Hamza Alghamdi’s accounts, and the joint Atta/Alshehhi account. The smallest deposit is $120, paid into Khalid Almihdhar’s First Union National Bank account on September 9. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 pdf file) Although it is impossible to trace the exact origins of the deposits, possible sources include withdrawals from other hijackers’ bank accounts, cash and traveler’s checks brought in by the hijackers in the spring/early summer (see January 15, 2000-August 2001), car sales, and money distributed by Atta, who reportedly received around $100,000 in early August (see Early August 2001, Summer 2001 and before, and Mid-July-Mid-August 2001).

9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta receives $100,000 from accounts in Pakistan. The money is transferred to two of his accounts in Florida. (Fox News 10/2/2001; Margasak 10/2/2001; US Congress 10/3/2001; CNN 10/6/2001; Ressa 10/8/2001) This will later be reported in various media. For example, ABC News will say that federal authorities track “more than $100,000 from banks in Pakistan to two banks in Florida to accounts held by suspected hijack ringleader Mohamed Atta.” (ABC News 9/30/2001) Law enforcement sources will tell CNN, “[T]he wire transfers from Pakistan were sent to Atta through two banks in Florida.” (CNN 10/1/2001) One of the hijackers’ financiers, the Pakistan-based Omar Saeed Sheikh, is said to wire Atta around $100,000 in August (see Early August 2001). The transfers from Pakistan will be disclosed a few weeks after 9/11 but will then fade from view (see September 30-October 7, 2001), until 2003 when John S. Pistole, deputy assistant director of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, tells the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs that the FBI has traced the origin of funding for 9/11 back to accounts in Pakistan (see July 31, 2003). However, in 2004 the 9/11 Commission will fail to mention any funding coming directly from Pakistan (see Late-September 2001-August 2004).

9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta receives two wire transfers from Egypt through a small Florida money-wiring business. (Cohen 10/1/2001) These transfers are not mentioned by the 9/11 Commission. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004; 9/11 Commission 8/21/2004 pdf file) Atta, an Egyptian, was in contact with his family in Cairo, Egypt, about once a month while he was in the US, although his father subsequently claimed not to know he was there (see September 19, 2001). Atta celebrates his birthday roughly around this time, on August 27 (8 Jumada al-Thani 1388 A.H.) or September 1, depending on whether he was going be the Muslim or Western calendar. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria District 7/31/2006 pdf file; Rabiah (.com) 12/3/2006)

Thomas Bergeson.Thomas Bergeson. [Source: Samuel Rogers / United States Air Force]Fighter jets and personnel from the 71st Fighter Squadron, which is stationed at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, are away in Nevada at the time of the 9/11 attacks, participating in the “Red Flag” training exercise, and only return to base about a week later. (Sizemore 9/24/2001; 1st Fighter Association 2003; Doscher 9/15/2006) Langley AFB is located 130 miles south of the Pentagon, and fighters from there are launched on 9/11 to protect Washington, DC (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Weisman 9/16/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27) The “host unit” at the base is the 1st Fighter Wing, which includes the 71st Fighter Squadron and two other fighter squadrons: the 27th FS and the 94th FS. (Langley Air Force Base 11/2003; GlobalSecurity (.org) 2/12/2006) The 71st FS includes about 25 pilots. Its members are participating in Red Flag in preparation for an expected deployment to Iraq this coming December. (Skiba 10/19/2001) Col. Thomas Bergeson, the commander of the 71st FS, will later recall, “We had most of our F-15s at Nellis” Air Force Base in Nevada, for the exercise. (Doscher 9/15/2006)
Red Flag - Red Flag is a realistic combat training exercise, held four times a year at Nellis Air Force Base, involving the air forces of the US and its allies. (GlobalSecurity (.org) 10/19/2002; Arkin 2005, pp. 476) Various aircraft are involved, and more than 100 pilots are participating in the current exercise. (Boyne 11/2000; Las Vegas Review-Journal 8/22/2001) The exercise began on August 11 and ends on September 7. (Wessels 7/28/2001; Las Vegas Review-Journal 8/22/2001) But the 71st FS pilots only fly their F-15s back to Langley AFB around September 17. (Sizemore 9/24/2001)
The 71st Fighter Squadron - The mission of the 71st Fighter Squadron is “to maintain a combat-ready force able to conduct air-superiority operations anywhere in the world for the United States and its allies.” (Langley Air Force Base 1/2005) Although Langley Air Force Base, where it is stationed, is one of the two “alert sites” upon which NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) can call to get jets quickly launched, NEADS’s alert fighters at the base do not belong to the 71st FS or either of the other two fighter squadrons of the 1st Fighter Wing. Instead, the two alert jets are part of a small detachment from Fargo, North Dakota’s 119th Fighter Wing, which is located on the opposite side of the runway to the central facilities of Langley AFB. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 17; Spencer 2008, pp. 114) However, some F-15s belonging to the 71st FS are launched from Langley AFB on 9/11, following the attacks, to patrol the skies of the East Coast. Some of the 71st FS jets that are deployed to Nevada are the first fighters to get airborne to patrol Las Vegas and southern California in response to the attacks. (Langley Air Force Base 1/2005; 1st Fighter Association 3/14/2006)
Other Units Away on 9/11 - The 94th Fighter Squadron, which is also based at Langley AFB, is away on September 11 as well, for a 90-day combat deployment to Saudi Arabia to enforce the no-fly zone over southern Iraq (see September 2001). (BBC 12/29/1998; 1st Fighter Association 2003) Around this same time, members of the 121st Fighter Squadron of the District of Columbia Air National Guard (DCANG) also participate in Red Flag, and only return to their base three days before 9/11 (see Late August-September 8, 2001). (Vogel 4/8/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 156)

F-15s from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base patrol the southern no-fly zone in support of Operation Southern Watch.F-15s from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base patrol the southern no-fly zone in support of Operation Southern Watch. [Source: Jack Braden / United States Air Force]At the time of the 9/11 attacks, the 94th Fighter Squadron, which is stationed at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, is away on a 90-day combat deployment to Saudi Arabia for Operation Southern Watch, to enforce the no-fly zone over southern Iraq. Two days before 9/11, on September 9, the 27th Fighter Squadron, which is also stationed at Langley AFB, returns from Saudi Arabia, where it has been performing the same mission. (BBC 12/29/1998; Air Force Association 10/2/2002; 1st Fighter Association 2003) The 94th and 27th Fighter Squadrons are two of the three F-15 fighter squadrons that are part of the 1st Fighter Wing, which is the “host unit” at Langley AFB. The third of these is the 71st Fighter Squadron. Between them, the three squadrons have 54 “primary assigned” F-15C fighter jets. (Langley Air Force Base 11/2003; GlobalSecurity (.org) 2/12/2006) On September 11, most of the F-15s of the 71st FS are also away from base, for the Red Flag exercise in Nevada (see (Late August-September 17, 2001)). (Sizemore 9/24/2001; Doscher 9/15/2006)
Langley Jets Not Part of NORAD Alert Unit - Langley Air Force Base, which is 130 miles south of the Pentagon, is one of two “alert sites” that NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) can call upon to get jets quickly launched. However, the F-15s of the 1st Fighter Wing are not involved in this mission. Instead, that task belongs to the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 119th Fighter Wing, which has a small detachment at Langley AFB and keeps two fighter jets there ready to take off when required. (Weisman 9/16/2001; Hebert 2/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 17; Spencer 2008, pp. 114) Despite not being part of the NORAD alert unit, aircraft from the 1st Fighter Wing are involved in the military response to the 9/11 attacks. Jets belonging to the 27th FS are airborne within two hours of the attacks, “providing protection for the National Command Authority and the rest of the nation’s civilian and military leadership.” (Air Force Association 10/2/2002) And F-15s belonging to the 71st FS are launched from Langley AFB following the attacks, to patrol the skies of the East Coast. (Langley Air Force Base 1/2005; 1st Fighter Association 3/14/2006)
Possible Effect on 9/11 Response - Whether the deployment of the 94th Fighter Squadron to Saudi Arabia diminishes Langley AFB’s ability to respond on 9/11 is unknown. However, Air Force units are cycled through deployments like Operation Southern Watch by the Aerospace Expeditionary Force (AEF) Center, which is at Langley Air Force Base. And according to NORAD Commander Larry Arnold, “Prior to Sept. 11, we’d been unsuccessful in getting the AEF Center to be responsible for relieving our air defense units when they went overseas.” (Camelo 6/2000; GlobalSecurity (.org) 12/21/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 99)

New York City’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) set up at Pier 92 on the Hudson River following the 9/11 attacks.New York City’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) set up at Pier 92 on the Hudson River following the 9/11 attacks. [Source: ArcNews]At Pier 92 on the Hudson River, preparations are underway for a training exercise due to take place there the following day. The exercise, called Tripod, which had been scheduled months earlier, is intended to test how well New York’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) can administer treatment in response to a biological-terrorism attack (see September 12, 2001). (Griscom 10/15/2001; Giuliani 2002, pp. 355) Pier 92, located just over four miles north-northwest of the World Trade Center, has been set up as a model distribution station where the simulated victims will be treated. (Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow 9/2003, pp. 15 and 20 pdf file) Ken Longert, the owner of a theatrical lighting business, arrives at the pier at 7:00 a.m. to help get the place ready for the exercise. He will later recall, “Two or three hundred cadets [presumably with the New York police and fire departments] were there, learning the proper procedures in case some kind of disaster hit New York.” Longert will recall that, seconds after the second WTC tower is hit at 9:03, “all the people from OEM disappeared” from the pier. (DiMarco 2007, pp. 457-458) After OEM’s original command center is destroyed when WTC 7—where it is located—collapses (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001), Pier 92 will be selected as the location for the substitute command center. (9/11 Commission 5/19/2004) Members of OEM staff have also arrived early this morning at the OEM offices in WTC 7 to prepare for the exercise (see (Shortly After 8:46 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow 9/2003, pp. 15 pdf file)

At Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, one of the pilots that will take off to defend Washington in response to the terrorist attacks (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) asks to be removed from “alert” status later this morning, so he and another pilot can participate in a training mission. (Sullivan 8/19/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 116) Being on “alert” means that a pilot’s fighter jet is kept on the runway, armed, fueled up, and ready to take off within minutes if called upon. (Hebert 2/2002; Kelly 12/5/2003)
Pilot Requests 'Download' - The pilot, Major Dean Eckmann, calls NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) and requests that he be removed from alert status at 11:00 a.m. He wants to be able to join in with a scheduled training mission being conducted from Langley Air Force Base, along with another pilot from his unit, Captain Craig Borgstrom. (Borgstrom is not one of the unit’s alert pilots, but will take off along with Eckmann in response to the terrorist attacks.) According to author Lynn Spencer, such requests for removal from alert status—known as “download”—are customary, “since the detachment typically flies two training missions each week, and as long as the other NORAD alert sites on the East Coast—at Otis [Air National Guard Base] on Cape Cod and Homestead [Air Reserve Base] in Florida—are up on alert, the requests are generally approved.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 116 and 141-144)
Alert Duty Usually Uneventful - The alert unit at Langley Air Force Base is in fact part of the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 119th Fighter Wing, which has a small detachment at Langley, located away from the base’s central facilities. The unit is housed in two cramped buildings, and has just four aircraft and 18 full-time members of staff. (Spencer 2008, pp. 114) According to journalist and author Jere Longman, being on alert duty is usually fairly uneventful for the pilots involved: “Protecting American airspace from attack was not a demanding job before September 11.… A week at Langley was a time to relax, watch television, work out, spend time on the computer, catch up on business. Like firemen, the pilots sat and waited for something to happen. When it did, they were usually scrambled to escort Navy jets with transponder problems to their home bases. Or to find doctors lost over the ocean in their Beechcraft Bonanzas. Or, occasionally, to sniff out drug runners. It was a sleepy job. Dozing for dollars, they called it.” (Longman 2002, pp. 64)

A Sikorsky S-76A helicopter flying over New York.
A Sikorsky S-76A helicopter flying over New York. [Source: Sikorsky]A helicopter is tracked on radar apparently crashing into the World Trade Center, according to a report later given by a New York air traffic controller over an FAA teleconference.
Helicopter Is 'the Only Target that We Saw ... to Fly into the Trade Center' - At around 10:15 a.m., Tom White, an operations manager at the FAA’s New York Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON), will tell those on the FAA teleconference that his facility tracked a Sikorsky helicopter that had taken off from the airport in Poughkeepsie, New York, and this helicopter appeared to fly into the WTC at 8:27 a.m. (see (10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). White will add that, after replaying radar information, it is concluded that the helicopter is “the only target that we saw in the vicinity of the Trade Center at 12:27 [Zulu time, or 8:27 a.m. Eastern time] to fly into the Trade Center.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 5/21/2004) (However, the first crash at the WTC will not occur until 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 7) ) The “Poughkeepsie airport” the helicopter took off from is presumably Dutchess County Airport. Sikorsky reportedly bases a fleet of its S-76 helicopters at Dutchess County Airport, “dispatching them to the New York metro areas as needed.” (Venable 5/2000; Wagstaff 8/1/2003) Poughkeepsie is about 70 miles north of New York City. (Sherman 2/3/2008)
Helicopter 'Consistent with the Speed' of What Hits WTC - White will say the helicopter’s tail number is N7601S, that it departed the Poughkeepsie airport at 8:03 a.m., and that it then headed south at a speed of around 160 knots, or 184 miles per hour. He will add: “The tower [presumably the air traffic control tower at the Poughkeepsie airport] says the only thing they had southbound at that time was a Sikorsky helicopter, which is consistent with the speed that we followed it down.… They’re saying they replayed the radar and it’s consistent with the speed of what went into the [WTC] tower.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001) (However, an analysis by the US government will later estimate that Flight 11 hits the WTC at 494 miles per hour, or 429 knots, which is significantly faster than the helicopter was flying. (Lipton and Glanz 2/23/2002) )
Mistaken Information Later Corrected - It will apparently take until early afternoon for the suspicions about the Sikorsky helicopter hitting the WTC to be dismissed. An FAA chronology of this day’s events will state that at 1:00 p.m., the “Sikorsky helicopter” is “now believed not to have hit the WTC.” (Federal Aviation Administration 1/2/2002) Another FAA chronology will state that at 1:04 p.m., it is reported that the Sikorsky helicopter “landed 20 minutes early, normal GE run at 12:28Z [i.e. 8:28 a.m. Eastern time] to WTC.” (It is unclear what is meant by “normal GE run.”) (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001)

The FAA Command Center, the center of daily management of the US air traffic system. On 9/11 it is managed by Ben Sliney (not pictured here).The FAA Command Center, the center of daily management of the US air traffic system. On 9/11 it is managed by Ben Sliney (not pictured here). [Source: CNN]The FAA’s Boston Center calls the FAA Command Center and says it believes Flight 11 has been hijacked and is heading toward the New York Center’s airspace. The Command Center immediately establishes a teleconference between the Boston, New York, and Cleveland air traffic control centers, so Boston can help the other centers understand what is happening, in case Flight 11 should enter their airspace. Minutes later, in line with the standard hijacking protocol, the Command Center will pass on word of the suspected hijacking to the FAA’s Washington headquarters (see 8:32 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 19; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 11; Spencer 2008, pp. 21)
National Operations Manager Learns of Hijacking - A supervisor at the Command Center promptly passes on the news of the possible hijacking to Ben Sliney, who is on his first day as the national operations manager there. The supervisor says the plane in question is “American Flight 11—a 767 out of Boston for Los Angeles.” According to author Lynn Spencer, “Sliney flashes back to the routine for dealing with hijackings from the days when they were more common.” The procedure is to “[k]eep other aircraft away from the errant plane. Give the pilots what they need. The plane will land somewhere, passengers will be traded for fuel, and difficult negotiations with authorities will begin. The incident should resolve itself peacefully, although the ones in the Middle East, he recalls, often had a more violent outcome.” Apparently not expecting anything worse to happen, Sliney continues to the conference room for the daily 8:30 staff meeting there (see 8:30 a.m.-8:40 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Command Center a 'Communications Powerhouse' - The FAA Command Center is located in Herndon, Virginia, 25 miles from Washington, DC. According to Spencer, it “is a communications powerhouse, modeled after NASA’s Mission Control. The operations floor is 50 feet wide and 120 feet long, packed with tiered rows of computer stations, and at the front, seven enormous display screens show flight trajectories and weather patterns.” The center has nearly 50 specialists working around the clock, planning and monitoring the flow of air traffic over the United States. These specialists work with airlines and air traffic control facilities to fix congestion problems and deal with weather systems. (Spencer 2008, pp. 1 and 19-20)

Steve Bongardt.Steve Bongardt. [Source: Government Matters]Steve Bongardt, an agent at an FBI office in Manhattan, reads a report on his computer about Osama bin Laden reopening his underground facility in Afghanistan and he will subsequently determine that this incident is related to the attacks on the World Trade Center. (Wright 2006, pp. 356-357; Graff 2011, pp. 309-310) Bongardt is a member of the FBI’s I-49 squad. (Wright 2006, pp. 377) The squad is focused on bin Laden and al-Qaeda’s central command. It is based in an office on the eighth floor at 290 Broadway, across the street from the FBI’s New York field office at 26 Federal Plaza. (Graff 2011, pp. 205-206) Bongardt is one of the first people to arrive at the office this morning, coming into work sometime before 8:30 a.m. He turns on his computer and reads some of the day’s intelligence. He is puzzled by one particular piece of information he sees. “A report had Osama bin Laden reopening his large underground facility at Tora Bora in Afghanistan and sprucing it up,” journalist and author Garrett Graff will write. According to author Lawrence Wright, the report states that “the al-Qaeda camps in Tora Bora [are] being revitalized.” (Wright 2006, pp. 356-357; Graff 2011, pp. 309) The Tora Bora encampment is a “natural and manmade fortress of caves and bunkers,” according to the Chicago Tribune. It comprises a “series of rooms and tunnels,” and can “comfortably house 1,000 people,” according to an Afghan who visited the complex a few months ago. (Diamond and Lev 11/28/2001) “That can’t be good,” Bongardt thinks upon reading the report. “What the hell is [bin Laden] doing?” he wonders. Bongardt will feel the room shake when Flight 11 crashes into the WTC, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), and promptly head out of the building. He will realize what has happened when he sees that both of the Twin Towers are on fire and notices a massive jetliner engine lying on the street. He will then connect what is occurring to the report he read on his computer. He will understand that “this was the work of bin Laden,” according to Wright. “This is al-Qaeda. This is why they’re polishing up Tora Bora,” he will think. (Wright 2006, pp. 357-359; Graff 2011, pp. 309-310)

Captain Charles Leidig. 
Captain Charles Leidig. [Source: US Navy]Brigadier General Montague Winfield, the deputy director for operations (DDO) in the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon, leaves his post to attend a pre-scheduled meeting, allowing a colleague, who only recently qualified to take over his position, to stand in for him, and not returning to his post until after the terrorist attacks have ended. (9/11 Commission 7/21/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004)
Winfield Attends Air Force-Convened Meeting - Winfield leaves his post to attend what a 9/11 Commission memorandum will call “an unrelated, closed-door personnel meeting convened by the Air Force to discuss the rating of Air Force officers.” (9/11 Commission 7/21/2003 pdf file) Another Commission memorandum will state that this meeting is a “session for general officers who rated Air Force officers.” It is unclear whether the meeting takes place somewhere in the NMCC or outside the center. The Commission memorandum will only say that it takes place “elsewhere in [Joint Chiefs of Staff] spaces.” At least one of the NMCC’s other qualified DDOs, Brigadier General Norman Seip, is also attending it.
Winfield Asked Colleague to Replace Him on Previous Day - Winfield is temporarily replaced as DDO by Captain Charles Leidig. Leidig only joined the operations directorate of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in July 2001, when he assumed duties as the deputy for Command Center operations. In that, his usual role, he is responsible for the maintenance, operation, and training of watch teams for the NMCC. He qualified to stand in as the DDO in the NMCC about a month ago, in August 2001. The previous afternoon, Winfield asked Leidig to relieve him for a portion of his duty this morning, and Leidig agreed to do so.
Leidig Takes Over as DDO - As arranged, Leidig takes over from Winfield as DDO at 8:30 a.m., allowing Winfield to attend his meeting. Upon arrival at the NMCC, Leidig receives the intelligence and other turn over briefings. After seeing the reports of the plane crashes in New York on television, he will be responsible for convening a significant event conference (see 9:29 a.m.-9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001), which he soon upgrades to an air threat conference (see 9:37 a.m.-9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004 pdf file)
Winfield Does Not Resume Duties until Attacks Are Over - Even though it becomes obvious that a coordinated attack is under way when television shows the second plane hitting the World Trade Center at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), Winfield apparently remains in his meeting instead of resuming his duties as DDO (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He will only take over from Leidig as DDO after Flight 93 crashes in Pennsylvania, apparently at around 10:30 a.m. (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) In later interviews for television, Winfield will give the impression that he remained in charge of the NMCC throughout the 9/11 attacks, and make no mention of having allowed a stand-in to take his place during this most critical period of time. (CNN 9/4/2002; ABC News 9/11/2002)

Three F-16 fighter jets take off from Andrews Air Force Base, which is 10 miles from Washington, DC, and fly to North Carolina for a routine training mission, meaning they will be about 200 miles away from base when the attacks in New York take place. (Scott 9/9/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/28/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 2/17/2004; 9/11 Commission 2/27/2004) The jets belong to the 121st Fighter Squadron, part of the 113th Wing of the District of Columbia Air National Guard, which is based at Andrews. (District of Columbia Air National Guard 7/24/2001; Scott 9/9/2002; GlobalSecurity (.org) 8/21/2005) They are piloted by Major Billy Hutchison, Eric Haagenson, and Lou Campbell. Haagenson and Campbell are less experienced, junior pilots. Hutchison is flying with them because most of the pilots with his unit are on leave, having just returned from the “Red Flag” training exercise in Nevada (see Late August-September 8, 2001).
Jets Heading to Range to 'Drop Some Bombs' - The three F-16s are going to train for a surface attack. (9/11 Commission 2/27/2004; 9/11 Commission 3/11/2004 pdf file) Hutchison will later recall: “We had gone up to [the gunnery range in] Dare County, North Carolina, to drop some bombs and hit a refueling tanker and come on back. It was going to be an uneventful day.” (Filson 2003, pp. 79) The range is located 207 miles from Andrews Air Force Base. (Scott 9/9/2002) The jets are scheduled to arrive back at Andrews at 10:45 a.m. (District of Columbia Air National Guard 9/11/2001)
September 11 a 'Light Flying Day' - Because members of the 113th Wing have just returned from the Red Flag exercise, September 11 is a “light flying day.” According to Major David McNulty, the senior intelligence officer of the 113th Wing, the unit would normally have launched eight jets—“an eight-ship”—for this training mission. But as only seven pilots and a few planes are available, a “three-ship” has been launched instead. (9/11 Commission 3/11/2004 pdf file) The three F-16s heading out for the training mission will not arrive back at Andrews until between 10:14 a.m. and 10:36 a.m., by which time the terrorist attacks will already be over (see 10:14 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2/17/2004)

Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Powell.Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Powell. [Source: Scott A. Gwilt/ Rome Sentinel]The FAA’s Boston Center calls NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, NY, to alert it to the suspected hijacking of Flight 11. According to the 9/11 Commission, this is “the first notification received by the military—at any level—that American 11 had been hijacked.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 13) The call is made by Joseph Cooper, an air traffic controller at the Boston Center, and answered by Jeremy Powell, a technical sergeant on the NEADS operations floor. (Bronner 8/1/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 25) Beginning the call, Cooper says: “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 out.” Powell replies, “Is this real-world or exercise?” Cooper answers, “No, this is not an exercise, not a test.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20) Shortly into the call, Powell passes the phone on to Lieutenant Colonel Dawne Deskins (see (8:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Deskins identifies herself to Cooper, and he tells her, “We have a hijacked aircraft and I need you to get some sort of fighters out here to help us out.” (Seely 1/25/2002; ABC News 9/11/2002; Bamford 2004, pp. 8; Spencer 2008, pp. 26)
Military Claims Call Goes against Procedure - The 1st Air Force’s official history of the response to the 9/11 attacks will later suggest that Boston Center is not following normal procedures when it makes this call to NEADS. It states: “If normal procedures had taken place… Powell probably wouldn’t have taken that phone call. Normally, the FAA would have contacted officials at the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center who would have contacted the North American Aerospace Defense Command. The secretary of defense would have had to approve the use of military assets to assist in a hijacking, always considered a law enforcement issue.” The only explanation it gives for this departure from protocol is that “nothing was normal on Sept. 11, 2001, and many say the traditional chain of command went by the wayside to get the job done.” (Filson 2003, pp. 51)
Accounts Conflict over Time of Call - There will be some conflict between different accounts, as to when this vital call from Boston Center to NEADS occurs. An ABC News documentary will indicate it is made as early as 8:31 a.m. (ABC News 9/11/2002) Another ABC News report will state, “Shortly after 8:30 a.m., behind the scenes, word of a possible hijacking [reaches] various stations of NORAD.” (ABC News 9/14/2002) NEADS logs indicate the call occurs at 8:40 a.m., and NORAD will report this as the time of the call in a press release on September 18, 2001. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001) The 8:40 time will be widely reported in the media prior to the 9/11 Commission’s 2004 report. (Associated Press 8/21/2002; BBC 9/1/2002; Adcock 9/10/2002; CNN 9/11/2002) But tape recordings of the NEADS operations floor that are referred to in the 9/11 Commission Report place the call at 8:37 and 52 seconds. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20; Bronner 8/1/2006) If the 8:37 a.m. time is correct, this would mean that air traffic controllers have failed to successfully notify the military until approximately 12 minutes after they became certain that Flight 11 had been hijacked (see (8:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001), 16 minutes after Flight 11’s transponder signal was lost (see (Between 8:13 a.m. and 8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and 24 minutes after the plane’s pilots made their last radio contact (see 8:13 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) At 8:34, the Boston Center tried contacting the military through the FAA’s Cape Cod facility, which is located on Otis Air National Guard Base, but was told that it needed to call NEADS (see 8:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20; Spencer 2008, pp. 22)

NORAD fails to notify the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon that aircraft have been hijacked before the NMCC initiates a significant event conference in response to the terrorist attacks. (9/11 Commission 6/9/2004) NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) was alerted to the first hijacking, of Flight 11, at 8:37 a.m. (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and it is alerted to the second hijacking, of Flight 175, at 9:03 a.m. (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20, 23) And yet, according to an after-action report produced by the NMCC, NORAD does not contact the NMCC to alert it to these incidents before the significant event conference commences, at 9:29 a.m. (see 9:29 a.m.-9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 6/9/2004)
NORAD Does Not Provide Information to Deputy Director - Captain Charles Leidig, the acting deputy director for operations in the NMCC, will later say that he “does not remember getting a lot of information from NORAD” before the significant event conference begins. (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file) NMCC personnel apparently learn that an aircraft has been hijacked when an officer in the center calls the FAA at 9:00 a.m. (see 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 5/5/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 35)
NORAD First Mentions a Hijacking at 9:33 a.m. - NORAD will apparently talk to the NMCC about a hijacking for the first time at around 9:33 a.m., when its representative on the significant event conference states that they “concur that [a] hijacked aircraft is still airborne [and] heading towards Washington, DC.” (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001; US Department of Defense 9/11/2001 pdf file) (They will presumably be referring to the incorrect information that Flight 11 is still in the air after it has crashed into the World Trade Center (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 26) )
NORAD Does Not Request a Conference - Additionally, according to the NMCC’s after-action report, NORAD “does not request any conference at [National Command Authority] level” prior to the commencement of the significant event conference. (9/11 Commission 6/9/2004) The significant event conference is actually initiated by Leidig. The NMCC has an important role to play in an emergency like the current crisis. Its job under these circumstances “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,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report. (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 37) It is also “the focal point within [the] Department of Defense for providing assistance” when there is a hijacking in US airspace, according to a recent military instruction (see June 1, 2001). (US Department of Defense 6/1/2001 pdf file)

Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, calls the FAA’s New York Center but is quickly cut off when the air traffic controller who answers says the center is busy dealing with a hijacking. According to author Lynn Spencer, Scoggins “calls New York Center to notify them that American 11 appears to be descending toward New York, most likely to land at JFK” International Airport. But the controller who takes the call snaps at him: “We’re too busy to talk. We’re working a hijack,” and then hangs up. According to Spencer, the New York Center controller is referring to Flight 175, but “Scoggins just figures that he’s talking about American 11. He has no idea that a second airliner is in crisis.” However, the timing of this call is unclear. If it is made while Flight 11 is descending toward New York, this would mean it occurs in the minutes before 8:46, when Flight 11 crashes (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). But in Spencer’s account, the call is made just after New York Center controller Dave Bottiglia notices that Flight 175’s transponder code has changed and he calls out to another controller, “I can’t get a hold of UAL 175 at all right now and I don’t know where he went to” (see 8:51 a.m.-8:53 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 48-49) The transcript of radio communications between the New York Center and Flight 175 shows that this would mean Scoggins’s call occurs around 8:53 a.m.-8:54 a.m., about seven minutes after Flight 11 crashes. (New York Times 10/16/2001)

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