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Context of '(10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Vice President Cheney Warns President Bush about Threat to Air Force One'

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White House chief of staff Andrew Card, according to his own later recollections, learns that a threat has been made against Air Force One while he is traveling with President Bush to the airport in Sarasota, Florida, although other accounts will indicate that Bush and his entourage are first alerted to the threat at around 10:30 a.m. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 106-107; White House, 8/12/2002; White House, 8/16/2002; White House, 8/16/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554] Card is traveling with Bush in the presidential limousine to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, where Air Force One is waiting, after leaving the Emma E. Booker Elementary School (see (9:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/2002; St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] Card will later recall that he and Bush are “both on the phones,” calling Washington, DC, to try and learn more about the terrorist attacks. He will say that as well as learning about the attack on the Pentagon (see (Between 9:38 a.m. and 9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001), “we also heard that there had been a threat” to Air Force One. “The Secret Service had indicated to us that someone had used the code name for Air Force One and had indicated that it might be a target,” Card will recall. He will say his goal, therefore, is “to get [Bush] to Air Force One as quickly as possible and get Air Force One in the air.” [White House, 8/16/2002; White House, 8/16/2002] Apparently contradicting Card’s claim, most accounts will indicate that Bush and his entourage are first informed that a threat has been made against Air Force One at around 10:30 a.m. (see (10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 106-107; Woodward, 2002, pp. 18; CBS News, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 141-142] But Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Herman, a senior presidential communications officer who is in Sarasota with Bush, will support Card’s account. He will say that around the time the president’s motorcade is leaving the school, “There was some question… that Air Force One and the president were a target.” [Marist Magazine, 10/2002]

Entity Tags: Andrew Card, Thomas Herman, George W. Bush, US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Eric Edelman.Eric Edelman. [Source: US Department of Defense]An anonymous phone call is received at the White House in which the caller says Air Force One, the president’s plane, will be the next terrorist target and uses code words indicating they have inside information about government procedures. [Cheney, 9/11/2001; New York Times, 9/13/2001; Woodward, 2002, pp. 18] Air Force One is currently flying toward Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, with President Bush on board (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325] The White House receives a call from an anonymous individual, warning that the next target of the terrorist attacks will be Air Force One. The caller refers to the plane as “Angel.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 106-107; Woodward, 2002, pp. 18; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554; Darling, 2010, pp. 60-61] “Angel” is the Secret Service’s code name for Air Force One. [Williams, 2004, pp. 81; CBS News, 11/25/2009] An unnamed “high White House official” will later say the use of “American code words” shows the caller has “knowledge of procedures that made the threat credible.” [New York Times, 9/13/2001]
Government Officials Told about Threat - News of the threatening call is promptly passed on to government officials in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC)—a bunker below the White House—and reported on the Pentagon’s air threat conference call. [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file; Newsweek, 12/30/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554; Darling, 2010, pp. 60-61] Vice President Dick Cheney, who is in the PEOC, will comment that the news “reinforced the notion here… that the government has been targeted and that we need to be extra careful about making certain we protected the continuity of government, secured the president, secured the presidency.” [White House, 11/19/2001] According to Major Robert Darling of the White House Military Office, who is also in the PEOC, “The talk among the principals in the room quickly determined that the use of a code word implied that the threat to Air Force One and the president could well be from someone with access to [the president’s] inner circle—possibly someone who was near the president at that very moment.” [Darling, 2010, pp. 61]
Accounts Conflict over Who Receives Call - It is unclear who at the White House answers the call in which the threat against Air Force One is made. The call is received by the White House switchboard, according to some accounts. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 106; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 141-142] Other accounts will indicate it is received by the White House Situation Room. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554; Darling, 2010, pp. 60-61] Eric Edelman, a member of Cheney’s staff who is in the PEOC, will say the call is received by the Secret Service. [White House, 10/25/2001] But two Secret Service agents who are on duty today will deny “that their agency played any role in receiving or passing on a threat to the presidential jet,” according to the Wall Street Journal. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004] However, a Secret Service pager message will be sent at 10:32 a.m., which states that the “JOC”—the Secret Service Joint Operations Center at the White House—has received an “anonymous call” reporting that “Angel is [a] target.” [CBS News, 11/25/2009]
Military Officer Passes on Details of Threat - Officials in the PEOC reportedly learn about the threat to Air Force One from a military officer working in the center. Although Cheney will say the threat “came through the Secret Service,” he will say later this year that he is unsure who passed the details of it to those in the PEOC. [Meet the Press, 9/16/2001; White House, 11/19/2001] An official in Cheney’s office will say in 2004 that Cheney was informed of the threat by “a uniformed military person” manning the PEOC, although Cheney and his staff are unaware who that individual was. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004] National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice will say that those in the PEOC are told about the threat by a “communicator,” meaning one of the military officers who works in the PEOC, and is responsible for “establishing phone lines and video lines, and staying in touch with the National Military Command Center” at the Pentagon. [White House, 11/1/2001] The military officer Rice is referring to may be Darling. Darling will recall that he answers a call from the White House Situation Room about the threat to Air Force One and then passes on the information he receives to Rice, telling her, “Ma’am, the [Situation Room] reports that they have a credible source in the Sarasota, Florida, area that claims Angel is the next target.” Rice immediately passes on the news to Cheney, according to Darling. [Darling, 2010, pp. 60-61] Cheney will subsequently call Bush and tell him about the threat (see (10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 106-107; CBS News, 9/11/2002]
Reason for 'Bogus' Threat Unclear - The threat will be determined to be “almost surely bogus,” according to Newsweek. [Newsweek, 12/30/2001] The Secret Service’s intelligence division tracked down the origin of this threat,” the 9/11 Commission Report will state, “and, during the day, determined that it had originated in a misunderstanding by a watch officer in the White House Situation Room.” Although the 9/11 Commission will say it found the intelligence division’s “witnesses on this point to be credible,” Deborah Loewer, the director of the White House Situation Room, will dispute this account. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554] By the end of 2001, White House officials will say they still do not know where the threat came from. [Newsweek, 12/30/2001] Darling will write in 2010, “To this day, it has never been determined why either the ‘credible source’ or Situation Room personnel used that code word [i.e. ‘Angel’] in their report to the PEOC.” [Darling, 2010, pp. 62] “The best we can tell,” Rice will say, is that “there was a call that talked about events—something happening to the president on the ground in Florida. And that somehow got interpreted as Air Force One.” She will say that the fact the caller knew the code name for Air Force One is “why we still continue to suspect it wasn’t a crank call.” [White House, 11/1/2001] However, former Secret Service officials will say the code name wasn’t an official secret, but instead “a radio shorthand designation that had been made public well before 2001.” [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Eric Edelman, Condoleezza Rice, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Deborah Loewer, US Secret Service, Robert J. Darling, White House

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Vice President Dick Cheney phones President Bush and tells him the White House has received a credible threat against Air Force One. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 106-107; Woodward, 2002, pp. 18; CBS News, 9/11/2002] The White House has just received an anonymous phone call in which the caller said the president’s plane would be the next terrorist target (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Woodward, 2002, pp. 18; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554] The caller referred to the plane as “Angel,” which is the Secret Service’s code name for Air Force One. [Fleischer, 2005, pp. 141-142] Details of the call were passed on to government officials, including Cheney, in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House. [White House, 11/19/2001; Newsweek, 12/30/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554]
Cheney Tells Bush about 'Credible' Threat - Cheney now tells Bush: “We’re getting reports of a threat against you. It appears credible,” Major Robert Darling of the White House Military Office, who is with Cheney in the PEOC, will later recall. Cheney says, “We’re scrambling fighter escorts and the Secret Service is taking internal precautions on board Air Force One.” [Darling, 2010, pp. 61] Bush turns to Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gould, his military aide, and passes on the news, saying, “A call came into the White House switchboard saying, ‘Angel is next.’” Bush then continues talking with Cheney and says, “We’re at war, Dick, and we’re going to find out who did this and we’re going to kick their ass.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 107; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 141-142]
Pilot Told of Threat and Asks for Guard at Cockpit Door - Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, is told about the threat. [CBS News, 9/11/2002] Noting that “Angel” is “a classified call sign of Air Force One,” Tillman will comment that “the only people that knew that call sign was us, [the] Secret Service, and the staff.” Therefore, he will say, “for somebody [to] call into the White House and say that Angel was next, that was just incredible.” [US Air Force, 2/29/2012 pdf file] “It was serious before that, but now… no longer is it a time to get the president home,” Tillman will comment. “We actually have to consider everything we say. Everything we do could be intercepted and we have to make sure that no one knows what our position is.” Tillman asks to have an armed guard at his cockpit door. Secret Service agents double-check the identity of everyone on the plane, while the crew reviews the emergency evacuation plan. [CBS News, 9/11/2002]
Threat Influences Decision to Fly to Nebraska - White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who is on Air Force One with Bush, will say the threat against the president’s plane is what leads to the decision to take Bush to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001) and is also one of the reasons why Bush does not head back to Washington, DC, right away. [White House, 9/12/2001] However, during the afternoon, the Secret Service will determine that the reported threat was unfounded. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554] Shortly after Bush learns about the threat, Tillman will be informed that an aircraft that may have been hijacked is heading toward Air Force One (see (10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CBS News, 9/11/2002; CBS News, 1/17/2009] White House chief of staff Andrew Card will say he in fact learned a threat had been made against Air Force One almost an hour earlier, while he was being driven with Bush to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (see (Between 9:35 a.m. and 9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [White House, 8/12/2002; White House, 8/16/2002; White House, 8/16/2002]

Entity Tags: Mark Tillman, Ari Fleischer, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George W. Bush, Robert J. Darling, US Secret Service, Thomas Gould

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Mark Rosenker.Mark Rosenker. [Source: National Transportation Safety Board]The FAA’s Jacksonville Center informs the pilot of Air Force One that an unidentified aircraft is heading toward his plane, and this aircraft is out of radio contact, has its transponder off, and might be another hijacking. Air Force One is currently flying toward Gainesville in northern Florida. [CBS News, 9/11/2002; CBS News, 1/17/2009; Peter Schnall, 1/25/2009] Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, has just been informed that President Bush, who is on the plane, has been called by Vice President Dick Cheney, and Cheney told the president that an anonymous threat has been phoned into the White House, stating that Air Force One is the next target (see (10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 106-107; CBS News, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554]
Suspicious Plane Descending toward Air Force One - Tillman is now notified of the suspicious aircraft by the Jacksonville Center. He will later recall that the Jacksonville Center air traffic controller says there is “an aircraft coming at us, descending… and… its transponder was not on, and they had no idea who it was. It could have been another hijacked airliner. They weren’t sure.” The controller tells Tillman the aircraft is “behind you 10 miles, descending at least, flight level 3-5-0, looks to be holding there.” He adds: “Apparently we’ve lost radio contact with them. Are you aware of them?” Tillman replies, “Affirmative.” [Peter Schnall, 1/25/2009] The FAA reports this suspicious aircraft over the Pentagon’s air threat conference call at 10:39 a.m., saying the Jacksonville Center “is not working the aircraft. He’s not under [air traffic control] control.” [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file] Major Robert Darling of the White House Military Office, who is in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, will later recall that around this time, those in the PEOC receive word “of an unaccounted-for airliner last seen in the Atlanta, Georgia, area headed southeast toward Florida.” It is unclear if this is the aircraft that Tillman is warned about. [Darling, 2010, pp. 61]
Pilot Tells Others on Air Force One of Suspect Plane - Tillman informs others onboard Air Force One of the suspicious plane. Mark Rosenker, the director of the White House Military Office, will recall that Tillman “indicated to us that something was coming at us, it was not squawking [i.e. its transponder was off], it was not turning, and we had a feeling that we were going to be able to get away from it. But for a moment you ask the question, ‘What could it be?’” A CBS interviewer will point out to Rosenker that since this “unidentified aircraft… had its transponder off and wasn’t communicating,” it is apparently following “the MO [modus operandi] of all the other aircraft that attacked that day,” and suggest, “That must have made everybody a little nervous.” Rosenker will reply, “Well, it did.” However, he will add, “[W]e are clearly on probably the finest airplane in the world, so we were comforted by knowing that we had the ability to out-run and out-climb anything that was going to get near us.” [White House, 8/29/2002]
Air Force One Heads toward Gulf of Mexico for Safety - Tillman turns Air Force One and heads out to the Gulf of Mexico. He will recall: “We weren’t sure who was hijacked and who wasn’t, so I went out into the Gulf of Mexico. There’s basically fighters all over the Gulf that have the capability to make sure that no one comes into the Gulf, penetrates the United States. So I knew I’d be safe out into the Gulf of Mexico.” He will say he heads to the Gulf “to regroup and figure out where we could bring the president to keep him safe.”
Suspicious Plane a False Alarm - The concern about the suspicious aircraft turns out to be a false alarm. According to Tillman, “In reality, just his transponder was off [and] he hadn’t checked in with the controller right afterwards.” [CBS News, 1/17/2009; Peter Schnall, 1/25/2009]

Entity Tags: Mark Rosenker, Mark Tillman, Robert J. Darling, Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Pilot Mark Tillman in the cockpit of Air Force One.Pilot Mark Tillman in the cockpit of Air Force One. [Source: CBS News]Reporters accompanying President Bush on Air Force One notice their plane significantly increasing its altitude. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Salon, 9/12/2001; Gilbert et al., 2002, pp. 148] According to Ann Compton of ABC Radio, who is on Air Force One, there is “a noticeable increase in the plane’s altitude” at this time. [Sylvester and Huffman, 2002, pp. 136] At 11:14 a.m., the reporters on the plane will be informed that they are flying at around 40,000 feet. [USA Today, 9/11/2001] Compton will later recall that around the time it increases its altitude, Air Force One is heading west, instead of flying toward Washington, DC. A Secret Service agent shakes his head and whispers to her, “We aren’t going home.” [Gilbert et al., 2002, pp. 148; Sylvester and Huffman, 2002, pp. 136] It is unclear if there is a specific reason for Air Force One’s increase in altitude. Around 20 minutes earlier, Colonel Mark Tillman, the plane’s pilot, was notified of a threat received by the White House indicating that Air Force One is a target (see (10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and shortly afterwards, air traffic control alerted him to a suspicious aircraft that was flying toward his plane (see (10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 106-107; CBS News, 9/11/2002; CBS News, 1/17/2009]

Entity Tags: US Secret Service, Ann Compton

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Two congressmen, Dan Miller (R-FL) and Adam Putnam (R-FL), are on Air Force One. They have been receiving periodic updates on the crisis from President Bush’s chief political adviser, Karl Rove. At this time, they are summoned forward to meet with the president. Bush points out the fighter escort, F-16s from a base in Texas, has now arrived. He says that a threat had been received from someone who knew the plane’s code name. However, there are doubts that any such threat ever occurred (see (10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004]

Entity Tags: Adam Putnam, George W. Bush, Karl C. Rove, Dan Miller

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Logan Walters.Logan Walters. [Source: SCF Partners]While he is at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, President Bush receives an intelligence report from the US Strategic Command (Stratcom), informing him that a high-speed object is heading for his ranch in Crawford, Texas. It is already more than 45 minutes since US airspace had been cleared of all aircraft except military and emergency flights (see 12:16 p.m. September 11, 2001). Bush orders an underling to notify everyone at the ranch about this. [New Yorker, 9/25/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 117; CBS News, 9/11/2002] In the White House Situation Room, they are also informed of the rogue aircraft. Logan Walters, who is Bush’s personal aide, calls the ranch’s caretaker and tells him, “Get as far away from there as you can.” Senior national security official Franklin Miller then receives a phone call informing him that a combat air patrol (CAP) has been established over the ranch. [Draper, 2007, pp. 142] (A CAP is an aircraft patrol with the purpose of intercepting and destroying hostile aircraft before they reach their targets. [US Department of Defense, 4/12/2001] ) Miller heads to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House to ask Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley about the CAP. Both men agree that it seems unnecessarily excessive. When Miller returns to the Situation Room, he sets about calling off the CAP, but finds that it wasn’t even established to begin with, and that, furthermore, the report of a rogue aircraft was a false alarm. [Draper, 2007, pp. 143] A threat to Air Force One had allegedly been received earlier on (see (10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but this too is later deemed to have been a false alarm. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554]

Entity Tags: Stephen J. Hadley, Logan Walters, US Strategic Command, Franklin Miller, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The entrance to the Offutt Air Force Base’s bunker, very far underground. Bush officials are seen here entering it on 9/11.The entrance to the Offutt Air Force Base’s bunker, very far underground. Bush officials are seen here entering it on 9/11. [Source: CBC]Having left Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana at around 1:30 p.m. (see 1:37 p.m. September 11, 2001), Air Force One lands at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Nebraska. President Bush stays on the plane for about ten minutes before entering the United States Strategic Command bunker at 3:06 p.m. [Salon, 9/12/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001] Offutt Air Force Base appears to be the headquarters of the US Strategic Command (Stratcom) exercise Global Guardian that was “in full swing” at the time the attacks began (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). While there, the president spends time in the underground Command Center from where Global Guardian was earlier being directed, being brought up to date on the attacks and their aftermath. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002; Washington Times, 10/8/2002]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Offutt Air Force Base

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

President Bush speaking with Karl Rove and Ari Fleischer on Air Force One on September 11.President Bush speaking with Karl Rove and Ari Fleischer on Air Force One on September 11. [Source: George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum]Bush administration officials give differing accounts about whether a threat was made against Air Force One, the president’s plane, on September 11. [Washington Post, 9/27/2001; Slate, 9/28/2001; Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004] The White House reportedly received an anonymous phone call at around 10:30 a.m. on September 11 in which the caller said Air Force One would be the next terrorist target and used code words indicating they had inside information about government procedures (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Vice President Dick Cheney promptly phoned President Bush on Air Force One and told him about the threat (see (10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 9/13/2001; Woodward, 2002, pp. 18; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554]
Press Secretary Reveals Threat during News Briefing - White House press secretary Ari Fleischer reveals the existence of the threat on September 12, after conferring with Cheney and White House counselor Karen Hughes about whether the administration should respond to criticisms of Bush’s failure to return to Washington, DC, immediately after the previous day’s attacks. Hughes advises Fleischer to mention the threat during his press briefing on this day. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 157] Fleischer therefore says in the briefing, “[W]e have specific and credible information that the White House and Air Force One were also intended targets of these attacks.” He says the threat against the president’s plane led to the decision to take Bush to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001) and was one of the reasons why Bush did not head back to Washington right away in response to the attacks. [White House, 9/12/2001]
Cheney Recalls 'Credible Threat' - On September 16, Cheney similarly tells NBC’s Meet the Press, “We received a threat to Air Force One,” and adds, “I think it was a credible threat, enough for the Secret Service to bring it to me.” [Meet the Press, 9/16/2001] And later in the month, White House adviser Karl Rove, who was with Bush on Air Force One on September 11, recalls that those on the president’s plane were informed of “a specific threat made to Air Force One,” which was a “declaration that Air Force One was a target.” [New Yorker, 9/25/2001]
Unnamed Officials Doubt whether Threat Was Made - Other officials, however, contradict these accounts. Near the end of September, CBS News reports that the phone call in which the threat was reportedly made “simply never happened.” It says that, according to unnamed sources, “White House staffers apparently misunderstood comments made by their security detail.” [Slate, 9/28/2001] And some unnamed Bush administration officials tell the Associated Press that “they now doubt whether there was actually a call made threatening Air Force One.” The officials say they “have been unsuccessful in trying to track down whether there was such a call, though officials still maintain they were told of a telephone threat [on] September 11 and kept Bush away from Washington for hours because of it.” [Associated Press, 9/26/2001] Fleischer will later recall that he learns, weeks after publicly revealing the existence of the supposed threat against Air Force One, “that the threat was unfounded.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554] “I learned it was a mistake from the press,” he will say, “who had been tipped by someone who knew.” [Fleischer, 2005, pp. 158]
Threat Was 'Almost Surely Bogus' - At the start of November, when asked about the alleged call in which Air Force One was threatened, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice says: “I don’t know if it was a crank call or a real threat. I don’t think we’re going to ever know.” [White House, 11/1/2001] And at the end of 2001, Newsweek reports that the reported threat to Air Force One has been determined to be “almost surely bogus,” although it adds, “White House officials say they do not know where it came from.” [Newsweek, 12/30/2001] White House spokesman Dan Bartlett says in 2004 that “there hadn’t been any actual threat” against Air Force One on September 11. Word of a threat, he says, “resulted from confusion in the White House bunker, as multiple conversations went on simultaneously.” Around the same time, however, Cheney’s office says it still cannot rule out that a threat to Air Force One was made. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Dan Bartlett, Karen Hughes, Karl C. Rove, Condoleezza Rice

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The video sleeve for ‘DC 9/11.’The video sleeve for ‘DC 9/11.’ [Source: Internet Movie Database (.com)]Showtime broadcasts a “docudrama” about the 9/11 attacks and the White House’s response, entitled DC 9/11: Time of Crisis. According to New York Times author and media critic Frank Rich, the film drastically rewrites history to portray President Bush as “an unironic action-movie superhero.” In the movie, Bush—portrayed by actor Timothy Bottoms, who played Bush in Comedy Central’s satiric That’s My Bush!—is shown overruling his Secret Service detail and ordering Air Force One to return to Washington immediately, an event which never happened (see (10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (4:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). “If some tinhorn terrorist wants me, tell him to come and get me!” the movie Bush shouts. “I’ll be at home, waiting for the b_stard!” The movie Bush has other lines that establish his desire to get back to Washington, including, “The American people want to know where their damn president is!” and “People can’t have an AWOL president!” In one scene, a Secret Service agent questions Bush’s demand to return to Washington by saying, “But Mr. President—” only to be cut off by Bush, who snaps, “Try ‘Commander in Chief.’ Whose present command is: Take the president home!” In reality, most of the orders on 9/11 were given by Vice President Dick Cheney and counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, but in the movie, Bush is the man in charge. “Hike military alert status to Delta,” he orders Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. “That’s the military, the CIA, foreign, domestic, everything,” he explains. “And if you haven’t gone to Defcon 3, you oughtta.” To Cheney, he barks: “Vice? We are at war.” The White House team are, in Rich’s words, “portrayed as the very model of efficiency and derring-do.” [Washington Post, 6/19/2003; New York Times, 9/5/2003; Rich, 2006, pp. 25-26] New York Times reviewer Alessandra Stanley notes that Bush is the unquestioned hero of the film, with British Prime Minister Tony Blair portrayed as “not very eloquent” and Cheney depicted as “a kowtowing yes-man.” [New York Times, 9/5/2003]
Conservative Pundits Influenced Script - The movie is produced by Lionel Chetwynd, whom Rich calls “the go-to conservative in B-list Hollywood.” For the movie script, Chetwynd was given unprecedently broad access to top White House officials, including Bush. He also received the assistance of conservative Washington pundits Charles Krauthammer, Morton Kondracke, and Fred Barnes, who cover the Bush White House for such media outlets as Fox News, the Weekly Standard, and the Washington Post. Rich later writes that much of the film seems based on Bob Woodward’s “hagiographic [book] Bush at War (see November 25, 2002).” [Washington Post, 6/19/2003; Rich, 2006, pp. 25-26]
Propaganda Effort? - Before the movie airs, Toronto Sun columnist Linda McQuaig called the film an attempt to mythologize Bush in a fashion similar to Hollywood’s re-creation of the Wild West’s Wyatt Earp, and wrote that the film “is sure to help the White House further its two-pronged reelection strategy: Keep Americans terrified of terrorism and make Bush look like the guy best able to defend them.” Texas radio commentator Jim Hightower added that the movie would present Bush as “a combination of Harrison Ford and Arnold Schwarzenegger.… Instead of the doe-eyed, uncertain, worried figure that he was that day, Bush-on-film is transformed into an infallible, John Wayne-ish, Patton-type leader, barking orders to the Secret Service and demanding that the pilots return him immediately to the White House.” Chetwynd himself has acknowledged that he is a “great admirer” of Bush, and has close ties to the White House. In late 2001, Bush appointed him to the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. “This isn’t propaganda,” Chetwynd insisted during the shooting of the movie, adding: “Everything in the movie is [based on] two or three sources. I’m not reinventing the wheel here.… I don’t think it’s possible to do a revision of this particular bit of history. Every scholar who has looked at this has come to the same place that this film does. There’s nothing here that Bob Woodward would disagree with.… It’s a straightforward docudrama. I would hope what’s presented is a fully colored and nuanced picture of a human being in a difficult situation.” [Washington Post, 6/19/2003] Rich will later write that the film is “unmistakably a propaganda effort on behalf of a sitting administration.” [Rich, 2006, pp. 25-26]
Blaming the Clinton Administration - Perhaps most questionably, Stanley writes, the film “rarely misses a chance to suggest that the Clinton administration’s weakness was to blame for the disaster.” Bush, she notes, is portrayed as a more decisive leader than his predecessor: in the film, he tells Blair over the telephone: “I want to inflict pain [on the attackers]. Bring enough damage so they understand there is a new team here, a fundamental change in our policy.” [New York Times, 9/5/2003]
9/11 Widow Unhappy with Film - Kristen Breitweiser, who lost her husband in the attack on the World Trade Center, calls the film “a mind-numbingly boring, revisionist, two-hour-long wish list of how 9/11 might have gone if we had real leaders in the current administration.” She adds: “It is understandable that so little time is actually devoted to the president’s true actions on the morning of 9/11. Because to show the entire 23 minutes from 9:03 to 9:25 a.m., when President Bush, in reality, remained seated and listening to ‘second grade story-hour’ while people like my husband were burning alive inside the World Trade Center towers, would run counter to Karl Rove’s art direction and grand vision.” Breitweiser questions numerous aspects of the film: “Miscellaneous things that surprised me included the fact that the film perpetuates the big fat lie that Air Force One was a target. Forgive me, but I thought the White House admitted at the end of September 2001 that Air Force One was never a target, that no code words were spoken and that it was all a lie (see (10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and September 12, 2001-March 2004). So what gives?… Not surprisingly, there is no mention of accountability. Not once does anyone say, ‘How the hell did this happen? Heads will roll!’ I was hoping that, at least behind closed doors, there were words like, ‘Look, we really screwed up! Let’s make sure we find out what went wrong and that it never happens again!’ Nope, no such luck.” [Salon, 9/8/2003]

Entity Tags: Charles Krauthammer, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Richard A. Clarke, Showtime, Alessandra Stanley, Tony Blair, Bob Woodward, Morton Kondracke, Lionel Chetwynd, Timothy Bottoms, Kristen Breitweiser, Donald Rumsfeld, Clinton administration, Fred Barnes, Frank Rich, Karl C. Rove, George W. Bush, Linda McQuaig, Jim Hightower

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Domestic Propaganda, 2004 Elections

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