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Context of '(After 10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Counterterrorism’ Tsar’ Clarke Updated on Fighter Situation, Told Flight 93 Still Headed toward Washington'

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Roger Cressey.Roger Cressey. [Source: Publicity photo]Roger Cressey, the deputy for counterterrorism on the National Security Council, suggests activating the Emergency Alert System (EAS) to address the nation, but no one with him knows what could be said to calm the public. (Graff 2017, pp. 341) Cressey is one of about a dozen people who remained in the White House Situation Room after most staffers evacuated from the White House (see (Shortly After 9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Clarke 2004, pp. 10; Gardham 9/10/2010) Apparently sometime shortly after Ralph Seigler, the Situation Room deputy director, reported that the Secret Service was saying a hostile aircraft was approaching Washington, DC (see (After 10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Cressey proposes to his colleagues that they activate the EAS to give a message to the American public. However, Richard Clarke, the White House counterterrorism chief, promptly rejects his suggestion. “And have them say what?” Clarke asks. (Clarke 2004, pp. 9)
Alert System Is Not Used in Response to Today's Attacks - The EAS, known as the Emergency Broadcast System until the 1990s, was created in 1951 as part of America’s response to the threat of nuclear attack. It serves as a tool for the president and others to warn the American public about emergency situations. However, it is not activated at any point today in response to the terrorist attacks. Richard Rudman, chairman of the EAS National Advisory Committee, will later justify this, explaining that the EAS is intended to alert the public to the danger before an incident occurs, not afterward. “Some events really do serve as their own alerts and warnings,” he will comment. Referring to today’s attacks, he will say, “With the immediate live media coverage, the need for an EAS warning was lessened.” One broadcast engineer will say that activating the EAS after the first hijacked plane crashed into the World Trade Center (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) might have caused more harm than good. “At that point, it could have stirred up even more panic,” the engineer will say. (Stine 9/26/2001; Moore 8/13/2004, pp. 1 pdf file)

At some point after Flight 93 crashes, NORAD diverts “unarmed Michigan Air National Guard fighter jets that happened to be flying a training mission in northern Michigan since the time of the first attack.” (Associated Press 8/30/2002) The 9/11 Commission concludes these fighters and fighters from Ohio are scrambled for Delta Flight 1989, a flight that was never hijacked or even out of contact. Meanwhile, reportedly, no fighters are scrambled after Flight 93 at all, which has already crashed. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004)

Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is told by White House Situation Room Deputy Director Ralph Seigler, “Secret Service reports a hostile aircraft ten minutes out.” Two minutes later, he is given an update: “Hostile aircraft eight minutes out.” In actual fact, when Flight 93 crashed at 10:06 a.m., it was still about 15 minutes away from Washington. Clarke is also told that there are 3,900 aircraft still in the air over the continental US (which is roughly accurate); four of those aircraft are believed to be piloted by terrorists (which is inaccurate by this time). Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Richard Myers then reports: “We have three F-16s from Langley over the Pentagon. Andrews is launching fighters from the DC Air National Guard. We have fighters aloft from the Michigan Air National Guard, moving east toward a potential hostile over Pennsylvania. Six fighters from Tyndall and Ellington are en route to rendezvous with Air Force One over Florida. They will escort it to Barksdale.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; Clarke 2004, pp. 8-9) However, fighters do not meet up with Air Force One until about an hour later (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Franklin Miller, a senior national security official who is working alongside Clarke on 9/11, and another official who is also in the Situation Room, will later fail to recall hearing any warning that a plane could be only minutes away. (Sanger 3/30/2004) The time of this incident is unstated, but the Michigan fighters are not diverted until after 10:06 a.m. (see (After 10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). If it takes place after 10:06 a.m., this would parallel similar warnings about Flight 93 after it has already crashed provided to Vice President Dick Cheney elsewhere in the White House (see (Between 10:10 a.m. and 10:18 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Dick Cheney in the PEOC, speaking to administration officials including (from left) Joshua Bolten, Karen Hughes, Mary Matalin (standing), Condoleezza Rice, and I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby.Dick Cheney in the PEOC, speaking to administration officials including (from left) Joshua Bolten, Karen Hughes, Mary Matalin (standing), Condoleezza Rice, and I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby. [Source: David Bohrer / White House]Navy Captain Anthony Barnes, deputy director of presidential contingency programs for the White House Military Office, asks Vice President Dick Cheney if the military is authorized to engage a suspicious aircraft that is approaching Washington, DC, and Cheney says it is. (Cheney 11/19/2001; Cheney 12/17/2001) Communicators in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House have received reports from the Secret Service about a suspicious aircraft that is presumably hijacked and is heading toward Washington (see 10:02 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 41) Meanwhile, Barnes, the senior military officer on duty in the PEOC this morning, was called by a general at the Pentagon who wanted permission for the military to shoot down this aircraft (see (Shortly Before 10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). In response to the request, Barnes goes into the PEOC conference room to ask the vice president to provide this authorization. (Summers and Swan 2011, pp. 141; Graff 2019, pp. 164-165)
Cheney Is Told that a Suspicious Aircraft Is 80 Miles Out - He tells Cheney there is an unidentified aircraft approaching Washington that is not squawking a transponder code and is believed to be hijacked. (9/11 Commission 4/16/2004; Cheney and Cheney 2011, pp. 3) He says the plane is 80 miles out and asks Cheney for authorization to engage it. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 41) “I posed this question to the vice president exactly the way it was posed to me,” Barnes will later recall. “I asked for confirmation on what I was being allowed to pass back to the general,” he will say. (Summers and Swan 2011, pp. 141-142)
Cheney Authorizes the Military to Shoot the Plane Down - Cheney responds immediately and decisively, telling Barnes that fighters can engage the inbound aircraft. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 41; Cheney and Cheney 2011, pp. 3) “Yes, take it out,” he will recall saying. (Cheney 9/30/2014) But according to Barnes, he says, “If you can confirm there’s another terrorist aircraft inbound, permission is granted to take it out.” (Summers and Swan 2011, pp. 142) Cheney will explain why he decided so quickly that the military could shoot down the aircraft, saying, “As the last hour and a half had made brutally clear, once a plane was hijacked it was a weapon in the hands of the enemy.” (Cheney and Cheney 2011, pp. 3) At 10:14 a.m., presumably as a result of hearing Cheney giving his authorization, a military officer in the PEOC tells participants on the air threat conference call convened by the National Military Command Center at the Pentagon that the vice president has confirmed that fighters are cleared to engage hijacked aircraft (see 10:14 a.m.-10:19 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 42)
Officer Again Asks for Authorization to Engage the Aircraft - A short time after receiving Cheney’s authorization for the military to engage the suspicious aircraft, Barnes returns to the conference room to repeat his request. He says the plane is now 60 miles out and, for a second time, asks Cheney to give his authorization for the military to engage it. (Libby 11/14/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 41; Gellman 2008, pp. 120) “For me, being a military member and an aviator—understanding the absolute depth of what that question was and what that answer was—I wanted to make sure that there was no mistake whatsoever about what was being asked,” he will explain. “I am confirming that you have given permission,” he says to Cheney. (Graff 2019, pp. 164-165) Again, Cheney agrees to the request. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 41; Cheney and Cheney 2011, pp. 3) “Yes, if it won’t divert, take it out,” he says. (Cheney 9/30/2014) According to Josh Bolten, the deputy White House chief of staff, Barnes then asks Cheney to give his authorization for a third time. “Just confirming, sir, authority to engage?” Bolten will recall him saying. But according to the Washington Post, Barnes asks, “Does the order still stand?” Cheney, sounding annoyed, replies, “I said yes,” according to Bolten. But according to the Washington Post, he snaps, “Of course it does.” (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002; CNN 9/11/2002; Hayes 2007, pp. 338) After receiving the shootdown authorization from Cheney, Barnes goes and passes it on to the general who called him to request it (see (10:18 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Summers and Swan 2011, pp. 142; Graff 2019, pp. 165)
Bush Has Already Given Shootdown Authorization, Cheney Will Claim - Cheney will claim that he talked to President Bush about “rules of engagement” for fighter pilots and Bush gave his authorization for them to shoot down hostile aircraft during a call made before the vice president talked to Barnes about the issue (see (Shortly After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Cheney 11/19/2001; Cheney 12/17/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 40) “I had a conversation with the president earlier about what the rules of engagement would be with our airplanes,” Cheney will say. (Cheney 9/30/2014) He will recall telling Bush, “We’ve got to give the pilots rules of engagement,” and recommending that “we authorize them to shoot,” and Bush replying, “Okay, I’ll sign up to that.” Therefore, Cheney will explain, when he authorized the military to engage the suspicious aircraft, he simply “passed on the decision the president had already made.” (Cheney 11/19/2001) However, the 9/11 Commission Report will state that “no documentary evidence for this call” was found and some 9/11 Commission staffers will be highly skeptical about Cheney’s claim (see June 15, 2004). (Klaidman 6/27/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 41; Shenon 2008, pp. 265) The first time Cheney talks to Bush to get his authorization for the military to shoot down hostile aircraft, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, will be in a phone call at 10:18 a.m., shortly after the vice president gives his permission for the military to engage the approaching aircraft (see 10:18 a.m.-10:20 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 41, 465; Gellman 2008, pp. 121-122)

President Bush (center, bending) and others look out  the windows of Air Force One as their fighter escort arrives.President Bush (center, bending) and others look out the windows of Air Force One as their fighter escort arrives. [Source: White House]President Bush, his entourage, and reporters accompanying them on board Air Force One notice fighter jets escorting their plane for the first time. Air Force One is currently flying westward over Mississippi, toward Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001; Sammon 2002, pp. 109; Kohn 9/11/2002) The White House requested a fighter escort for it (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001) and the Secret Service asked Major General Larry Arnold, the commanding general of NORAD’s Continental US Region, to provide that escort. (Code One Magazine 1/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 38; Spencer 2008, pp. 255)
Passengers Notice Fighters - Now, air traffic control radios Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, and notifies him, “[Y]ou’ve got two F-16s at about your—say, your 10 o’clock position.” (Kohn 9/11/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 255) Reporters on board notice a fighter flying alongside the plane’s right wing, and then spot another one alongside its left wing. (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001) According to a photographer on the plane, these jets are “so close that we could see the pilot’s head.” (BBC 9/1/2002) Bush also notices the fighters. (Sammon 2002, pp. 109) White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett will later recall: “The staff, and the president and us, were filed out along the outside hallway of his presidential cabin there and looking out the windows. And the president gives them a signal of salute, and the pilot kind of tips his wing, and fades off and backs into formation.” (Kohn 9/11/2002)
Fighters Maybe Arrived Earlier, but Remained out of Sight - According to most accounts, the jets alongside Air Force One belong to the 147th Fighter Wing of the Texas Air National Guard. (Kohn 9/11/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 87; Martin 7/4/2004; Rosenfeld and Gross 2007, pp. 40; Spencer 2008, pp. 255) But a few accounts will indicate they belong to a unit of the Florida Air National Guard in Jacksonville (see (10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (US Department of Defense 9/2001; Langley 12/16/2001) Four 147th Fighter Wing jets have been directed toward the president’s plane to accompany it (see (After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 87; Rosenfeld and Gross 2007, pp. 40) But according to Sarasota Magazine, Air Force One is “currently being escorted by six jet fighters.” (Plunket 11/2001) Fifteen minutes earlier, at 11:14 a.m., an official, whose identity is unstated but who is not a member of the White House staff, told the reporters on Air Force One that the plane already had plenty of military escort, but the fighters were not visible at that time, presumably meaning they were escorting the plane from a distance. (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001)
Jets Protecting '80-Mile Bubble' around Air Force One - The two jets seen by the passengers on Air Force One are reportedly being flown by pilots Shane Brotherton and Randy Roberts of the 147th Fighter Wing. Roberts will later recall, “We were trying to keep an 80-mile bubble… around Air Force One, and we’d investigate anything that was within 80 miles.” (Kohn 9/11/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 255) The 147th Fighter Wing jets will accompany Air Force One to Barksdale Air Force Base, then on to Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, and finally to Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington, DC. (Filson 2003, pp. 87-88; Cousins 7/9/2005)

Franklin Miller.Franklin Miller. [Source: The Cohen Group]A national security official who worked alongside counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke on September 11 openly disputes Clarke’s account of events in the White House Situation Room on 9/11. (Sanger 3/31/2004) Clarke has put forward his account in the dramatic first chapter of his just-published book Against All Enemies, which has already topped the bestsellers list. (Fine 3/26/2004; Reynolds and Miller 3/30/2004) His critic, Franklin Miller, is a senior aide to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who admits that he was often a bureaucratic rival of Clarke. Miller tells the New York Times that almost none of the conversations described in the first chapter of Clarke’s book match his own recollection of events. (Sanger 3/30/2004)
bullet In his book, Clarke recalls the Secret Service requesting fighter escorts to protect Air Force One after it took off from Sarasota, Florida, where the president had been visiting an elementary school. (Clarke 2004, pp. 6) However, Miller says a young aide in the Situation Room had in fact made this request to him. He had initially told the aide he had seen too many movies, but after reconsidering had asked Rice whether to call up fighter support and she told him to go ahead. (Sanger 3/30/2004)
bullet Clarke’s book claims that Miller had urged Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to take a helicopter out of the burning Pentagon and Rumsfeld responded, “I am too goddamn old to go to an alternate site.” (Clarke 2004, pp. 8-9) Miller says he never spoke to Rumsfeld on 9/11. (Sanger 3/30/2004)
bullet Clarke recounts how the Situation Room Deputy Director Ralph Seigler had called out, “Secret Service reports a hostile aircraft 10 minutes out,” left the room, and then returned soon after to report, “Hostile aircraft eight minutes out” (see (After 10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Clarke 2004, pp. 9-10) Yet Miller and Sean McCormack, the spokesman of the National Security Council who was also in the Situation Room that morning, do not recall this. They say that Seigler himself denies making such an announcement, though Seigler declines to be interviewed by the New York Times about it. (Sanger 3/30/2004)
bullet Clarke claims that at one point he had gathered his staff from the Situation Room around him and told them to leave for their own safety, but they declined (see (Shortly After 9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He had written that Miller then “grabbed a legal pad and said, ‘All right. If you’re staying, sign your name here,’” so a list could be e-mailed out of the building. (Clarke 2004, pp. 12) But Miller says, “That paragraph was a complete fiction,” adding that he made no such statement. According to Miller, Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley had instructed the staff members to keep the Situation Room running and there had never been any question about whether they could stay or go. (Sanger 3/30/2004)
Miller says Clarke “did a hell of a job that day. We all did.” But he says Clarke’s account is “a much better screenplay than reality was.” The New York Times is unable to contact Clarke to get his response to Miller’s allegations. (Sanger 3/30/2004)

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