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Context of '(Between 9:04 a.m. and 9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld Ignores His Aides’ Attempts to Get Him to Respond to the Attacks'

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Thomas White.Thomas White. [Source: US Department of Defense]Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld hosts a breakfast meeting in his private dining room at the Pentagon. [Associated Press, 9/12/2001; US Department of Defense, 12/5/2001; 9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004] The meeting, which is attended by several members of Congress, is intended to discuss the Department of Defense’s Quadrennial Defense Review. As well as the secretary of defense, others in attendance include Rumsfeld’s senior military assistant, Navy Vice Admiral Edmund Giambastiani Jr.; Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz; Pete Geren, a special assistant to Rumsfeld; and Representatives John Mica (R-FL), Mark Steven Kirk (R-IL), Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Robin Hayes (R-NC), Doug Bereuter (R-NE), John Hostettler (R-IN), Kay Granger (R-TX), John Shimkus (R-IL), Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA), and Christopher Cox (R-CA). [Powell Moore, 9/10/2001 pdf file; Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 9/14/2001; Federal Computer Week, 3/31/2003; Vanity Fair, 5/9/2003; Powell Moore, 9/19/2003 pdf file; US Department of Defense, 9/10/2004; American Forces Press Service, 9/8/2006] Secretary of the Army Thomas White, who is at the meeting, appears to say it is also attended by numerous key military figures, later telling PBS: “Don Rumsfeld had a breakfast, and virtually every one of the senior officials of the Department of Defense—service chiefs, secretary, deputy, everybody, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And as that breakfast was breaking up, the first plane had hit the World Trade tower.” [PBS Frontline, 10/26/2004; PBS, 10/26/2004] By “chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” White presumably means Richard Myers, who is the acting chairman on this day, in place of Henry Shelton who is out of the country (see 7:15 a.m. September 11, 2001). [American Forces Press Service, 9/8/2006] During the course of the meeting Rumsfeld predicts that some kind of “shocking” world event will occur in the near future (see (Before 8:46 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Most accounts suggest the meeting is adjourned soon after the time the first World Trade Center tower is hit, presumably around 8:50 a.m., though one report says it ends at about 9:00 a.m. Just prior to the meeting ending, Rumsfeld is handed a note informing him of the crash (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). Giambastiani also sees this note. Whether the other people in attendance are notified of the crash at this time is unknown. [US Department of Defense, 12/5/2001; US Department of Defense, 8/12/2002; PBS, 10/26/2004; American Forces Press Service, 9/8/2006] White will later recall, “We all went on with the day’s business,” after leaving the meeting. White heads off to give a speech at the nearby Army Navy Country Club. [PBS Frontline, 10/26/2004] Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Giambastiani return to their offices. [Vanity Fair, 5/9/2003; American Forces Press Service, 9/8/2006] The members of Congress leave the building. [Washington Post, 1/9/2002] If Myers is at the meeting, as White appears to say, he must head promptly to Capitol Hill, as he enters another meeting in the offices of Senator Max Cleland (D-GA) before the time when the second WTC tower is hit (see Shortly Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Armed Forces Radio And Television Service, 10/17/2001; American Forces Press Service, 10/23/2001]

Entity Tags: Richard B. Myers, Christopher Cox, Doug Bereuter, Kay Granger, Donald Rumsfeld, John Hostettler, Edmund Giambastiani, Mac Thornberry, Pete Geren, Paul Wolfowitz, Thomas E. White, Roger Wicker, Mark Steven Kirk, Robin Hayes, Randall (“Duke”) Cunningham, John Shimkus, John Mica

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

John Mica.John Mica. [Source: Publicity photo]Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Representatives Christopher Cox (R-CA) and John Mica (R-FL), and numerous others are meeting in Rumsfeld’s private Pentagon dining room, discussing missile defense (see (8:00 a.m.-8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Rumsfeld later recalls, “I had said at an eight o’clock breakfast that sometime in the next two, four, six, eight, ten, twelve months there would be an event that would occur in the world that would be sufficiently shocking that it would remind people again how important it is to have a strong healthy Defense Department that contributes to—that underpins peace and stability in our world.” [US Department of Defense, 12/5/2001] Wolfowitz recalls, “And we commented to them that based on what Rumsfeld and I had both seen and worked on the Ballistic Missile Threat Commission, that we were probably in for some nasty surprises over the next ten years.” [Vanity Fair, 5/9/2003] According to Mica, “the subject of the conversation Donald Rumsfeld was interested in was, the military had been downsized during the ‘90s since the fall of the Berlin Wall. And what we were going to do about [the] situation if we had another—the word [Rumsfeld] used was ‘incident.‘… And he was trying to make certain that we were prepared for something that we might not expect.” [US Congress. House. Oversight and Government Reform Committee, 8/1/2007] There are confused accounts that Rumsfeld says, “I’ve been around the block a few times. There will be another event,” just before the Pentagon is hit by Flight 77 (see (Before 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but such comments may have been made around this time instead. Shortly afterwards, someone walks in with a note informing Rumsfeld that a plane has just hit the WTC (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [US Department of Defense, 12/5/2001; 9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004] Mica later comments, “[L]ittle did we know that within a few minutes of the end of our conversation and actually at the end of our breakfast, that our world would change and that incident that we talked about would be happening.” [US Department of Defense, 9/10/2004]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, John Mica, US Department of Defense, Christopher Cox, Paul Wolfowitz

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Larry Di Rita.Larry Di Rita. [Source: US Department of Defense]Larry Di Rita, a special assistant to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, has sent a note to Rumsfeld to inform him of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. Although some initial reports suggest the WTC may have been hit by just a small plane, according to Victoria Clarke, the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, “Even in the accidental crash scenario, the military might be involved in some way. Rumsfeld needed to know.” Rumsfeld, who is currently hosting a breakfast meeting with several members of Congress (see (8:00 a.m.-8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001), later acknowledges having received this note. Yet apparently he does nothing in response. He recalls, “Everyone assumed it was an accident, the way it was described.” He says only that “we adjourned the meeting, and I went in to get my CIA briefing.” [US Department of Defense, 12/5/2001; 9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004; Clarke, 2006, pp. 217-218; Vogel, 2007, pp. 428]

Entity Tags: Larry Di Rita, Victoria (“Torie”) Clarke, Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Paul Wolfowitz.Paul Wolfowitz. [Source: R. D. Ward / US Department of Defense]Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz sees the second hijacked plane crashing into the World Trade Center on television, but does nothing in response to it and instead continues with a routine meeting in his office at the Pentagon. [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 4/19/2002 pdf file; Vanity Fair, 5/9/2003] Wolfowitz was in a meeting at the Pentagon with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and several members of Congress at the time the first hijacked plane crashed into the WTC (see (8:00 a.m.-8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Rumsfeld was given a note informing him of the crash soon after it occurred (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). Whether Wolfowitz was alerted to what had happened at that time is unclear. [PBS Frontline, 4/22/2002; Vogel, 2007, pp. 428] The meeting ended at around 9:00 a.m. [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 7/18/2002 pdf file] Wolfowitz then returned to his office for another meeting. Once there, he saw the television coverage of the crash in New York. “Someone said a plane had hit the World Trade Center,” he will later recall. The television in the office was then turned on. [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 4/19/2002 pdf file; Vanity Fair, 5/9/2003] “We started seeing the scenes of what was taking place up in New York,” Wolfowitz will say. [PBS Frontline, 4/22/2002] Wolfowitz and those with him see Flight 175 crashing into the South Tower live on television, at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). “We started seeing the shots of the second plane hitting,” Wolfowitz will describe. However, even though it is now clear that America is under attack, Wolfowitz feels it is unnecessary for him to do anything in response to the crisis. “I sat here thinking that something terrible was going on in New York, but it was up there, not here,” he will comment. The deputy secretary of defense and those with him therefore continue their meeting as if nothing unusual has happened. “There didn’t seem to be much to do about it immediately and we went on with whatever the meeting was,” Wolfowitz will say. Wolfowitz will still be in his office at 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon is attacked (see After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 4/19/2002 pdf file; Vanity Fair, 5/9/2003]

Entity Tags: Paul Wolfowitz

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Victoria Clarke, the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, and Larry Di Rita, a special assistant to the secretary of defense, try to persuade Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to cancel his schedule so he can respond to the terrorist attacks, but Rumsfeld refuses to do so and continues with a routine intelligence briefing. [Clarke, 2006, pp. 218-219; Priess, 2016, pp. 244] Rumsfeld is in his office at the Pentagon with Denny Watson, a CIA analyst, who is giving him his daily intelligence briefing. He is aware of the two crashes at the World Trade Center (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 37; Rumsfeld, 2011, pp. 334-335]
Aides Go to Talk with Rumsfeld about His Response to the Crisis - Clarke and Di Rita, meanwhile, learned of the attacks on the WTC from seeing the coverage of them on television. After the second crash, Clarke headed to Di Rita’s office, which is down the hallway from Rumsfeld’s office. There, she and Di Rita discussed “what had to be done right away in terms of the secretary [of defense],” Clarke will later recall. The two aides then headed together to see Rumsfeld, to talk with him about “the kinds of things he needed to do in response to this [crisis].”
Aides Tell Rumsfeld What They Know about the Attacks - After they enter Rumsfeld’s office, Clarke and Di Rita tell the secretary of defense what is happening and what they know about the attacks. They say the Executive Support Center (ESC) “is going to start getting spun up.” [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 6/27/2002 pdf file; Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 7/2/2002 pdf file; Clarke, 2006, pp. 216-219] The ESC is a secure communications hub with a video teleconference facility, located on the third floor of the Pentagon. [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 6/27/2002 pdf file; Vogel, 2007, pp. 440] It is “the place where the building’s top leadership goes to coordinate military operations during national emergencies,” according to Clarke.
Rumsfeld Refuses to Change His Schedule - Clarke and Di Rita also advise Rumsfeld to cancel his appointments for the rest of the day. “Sir, I think your entire schedule is going to be different today,” Di Rita says. But Rumsfeld refuses to do so. “No! If I cancel my day, the terrorists have won,” he says. Undeterred, the two aides pull out a copy of Rumsfeld’s agenda for the day and go through it point by point, explaining to the secretary of defense why each item could be canceled. However, Rumsfeld’s response is to look at the television on the desk and watch the coverage of the attacks on the WTC. [Clarke, 2006, pp. 219; Priess, 2016, pp. 244] Rumsfeld “wanted to make a few phone calls” at this time, Clarke will tell one interviewer. [WBZ Radio 1030 (Boston), 9/15/2001]
Aides Go to the Support Center to Respond to the Attacks - Rumsfeld tells the two aides to go to the ESC and wait for him there. Clarke and Di Rita therefore leave the office and head to the ESC (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). They will be in the ESC at 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon is attacked (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 7/2/2002 pdf file; Clarke, 2006, pp. 219-220] Rumsfeld, meanwhile, continues skimming through the copy of the President’s Daily Brief that Watson brought him. [Priess, 2016, pp. 244] He will still be in his office receiving his intelligence briefing when the Pentagon is attacked (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 130; Vogel, 2007, pp. 438-439]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, Larry Di Rita, Denny Watson, Victoria (“Torie”) Clarke

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Those inside the Pentagon’s Executive Support Center (ESC) feel and hear the impact when the building is hit, yet supposedly do not realize what has happened. Victoria Clarke, the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, who is in the ESC at this time, calls the center “the Pentagon’s war room, with instant access to satellite images and intelligence sources peering into every corner of the globe.” She describes it as “the place where the building’s top leadership goes to coordinate military operations during national emergencies.” In it with her are Stephen Cambone, Donald Rumsfeld’s closest aide, and Larry Di Rita, Rumsfeld’s personal chief of staff. They’d been discussing how to go about getting every plane currently in the air back on the ground when, according to Clarke, “we felt a jarring thump and heard a loud but still muffled explosion. The building seemed to have shifted.” Yet, despite all the ESC’s resources, they supposedly do not initially realize exactly what has happened. Clarke says to the others, “It must have been a car bomb.” Di Rita replies, “A bomb of some kind.” But one unnamed staffer who frequently uses the ESC for meetings points to the ceiling and says, “No, it’s just the heating and cooling system. It makes that noise all the time.” Clarke later claims, “The notion of a jetliner attacking the Pentagon was exactly that unfathomable back then. Our eyes were glued to television screens showing two hijacked planes destroying the World Trade Center and it still didn’t occur to any of us, certainly not me, that one might have just hit our own building.” Clarke guesses aloud that the noise was something other than the heating and cooling system. In the ensuing minutes, she and the others with her will scramble “for information about what exactly had happened, how many were hurt or killed, and [analyze] what we could do to prevent further attacks.” Yet, she will later claim, it is only when Donald Rumsfeld comes into the ESC at 10:15 a.m., after having gone to the crash scene, that they receive their first confirmation that a plane has hit the Pentagon (see (10:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Clarke, 2006, pp. 219-221] Those inside the National Military Command Center (NMCC), located next door to the ESC, supposedly do not feel the impact when the Pentagon is hit, and one officer there claims he only learns of the attack from television reports (see Shortly After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/4/2002; American Forces Press Service, 9/7/2006; Cockburn, 2007, pp. 5] But Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, who is in his office about 200 feet away from the ESC, feels the building shake due to the explosion. After seeing nothing out of his window, he immediately dashes outside to determine what has happened (see 9:38 a.m. September 11, 2001). [WBZ Radio 1030 (Boston), 9/15/2001; Parade Magazine, 10/12/2001; Washington Post, 1/9/2002; 9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004]

Entity Tags: Stephen A. Cambone, Larry Di Rita, Victoria (“Torie”) Clarke

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Pentagon’s National Military Command Center (NMCC) is located on the other side of the building to where it is hit. Therefore, when the attack on the Pentagon occurs, those inside it supposedly do not feel the impact. [CNN, 9/4/2002] According to Newsweek, the NMCC has been called “the primary nerve system” of the Pentagon, from where “commanders can monitor and communicate with American forces around the world.” [Newsweek, 9/28/2001] A military instruction for dealing with hijacked aircraft describes it as “the focal point within Department of Defense for providing assistance” in response to hijackings. [US Department of Defense, 6/1/2001 pdf file] But supposedly NMCC personnel do not initially realize the Pentagon has been attacked. Steve Hahn, an operations officer at the center, later says, “I didn’t know [the Pentagon had been hit] until I heard the news report on television.” [American Forces Press Service, 9/7/2006] Yet an article in the New York Times later claims, “During the hour or so that American Airlines Flight 77 was under the control of hijackers, up to the moment it struck the west side of the Pentagon, military officials in [the NMCC] were urgently talking to law enforcement and air traffic control officials about what to do” (see (Shortly After 8:51 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 9/15/2001] Furthermore, at about 8:50 a.m. according to the FAA, or 9:20 a.m. according to the 9/11 Commission, the FAA had established several phone bridges linking key players, including the NMCC (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001) (see (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The FAA states that it shares “real-time information on the phone bridges,” which includes “actions being taken by all the flights of interest, including Flight 77.” [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 36] Why NMCC personnel do not therefore know immediately that the Pentagon has been hit is unclear. Also around this time, Officer Aubrey Davis of the Pentagon police is outside Donald Rumsfeld’s office. He hears what he later describes as “an incredibly loud ‘boom,’” when the Pentagon is struck (see 9:38 a.m. September 11, 2001). Yet no mention is made of anyone in the NMCC hearing this “boom,” even though the center is located only around 200 feet from where Davis is standing. [WBZ Radio 1030 (Boston), 9/15/2001; Cockburn, 2007, pp. 1] Dan Mangino, an operations officer in the NMCC, went out earlier to withdraw some money from a cash machine (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), and rushes back to the center after the Pentagon is hit. He finds the people in it are very calm. He says, “There was no panic, no raised voices. We train for emergencies all the time, and that training took over.” [American Forces Press Service, 9/7/2006]

Entity Tags: Steve Hahn, National Military Command Center, Dan Mangino

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld returns from the Pentagon crash site “by shortly before or after 10:00 a.m.” Then he has “one or more calls in my office, one of which was with the president,” according to his testimony before the 9/11 Commission. [9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004] The commission later concludes that Rumsfeld’s call with President Bush has little impact: “No one can recall any content beyond a general request to alert forces.” The possibility of shooting down hijacked planes is not mentioned. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Rumsfeld then goes to the Executive Support Center (ESC) located near his office, arriving there at around 10:15 a.m. In the ESC already are Stephen Cambone, Rumsfeld’s closest aide, Larry Di Rita, Rumsfeld’s personal chief of staff, and Victoria Clarke, the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. Rumsfeld had instructed Di Rita and Clarke to go to the ESC and wait for him there when they’d come to his office soon after the second WTC tower was hit at 9:03 A.M. (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Presently, Rumsfeld gives them their first confirmation that a plane hit the Pentagon, saying, “I’m quite sure it was a plane and I’m pretty sure it’s a large plane.” According to Clarke, he pulls out a yellow legal pad and writes down three categories, “by which his thinking would be organized the rest of the day: what we needed to do immediately, what would have to be underway quickly, and what the military response would be.” [Clarke, 2006, pp. 221-222; Cockburn, 2007, pp. 5-6] The Executive Support Center has secure video facilities, and while there, Rumsfeld participates in the White House video teleconference. This is the video conference that counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke claims Rumsfeld is a part of much of the morning (see (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Then at around 10:30 a.m., he moves on to the National Military Command Center NMCC, located next door to the ESC (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Times, 2/23/2004; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 43-44] Those in the NMCC are apparently unaware of Rumsfeld’s whereabouts during the half-hour from 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.: Brigadier General Montague Winfield later recalls, “For 30 minutes we couldn’t find him. And just as we began to worry, he walked into the door of the [NMCC].” [ABC News, 9/11/2002]

Entity Tags: National Military Command Center, Stephen A. Cambone, Victoria (“Torie”) Clarke, Richard A. Clarke, George W. Bush, Larry Di Rita, Donald Rumsfeld, Executive Support Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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