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Context of '(Between 9:15 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Flight 77 Passenger Gives an Operator Details of the Hijacking of Her Plane'

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Flight 77 departs Dulles International Airport near Washington, ten minutes after its 8:10 scheduled departure time. (Washington Post 9/12/2001; CNN 9/17/2001; Ellison 10/17/2001; Associated Press 8/21/2002; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004)

Charles Burlingame.Charles Burlingame. [Source: Family photo / Associated Press]The 9/11 Commission says the hijacking of Flight 77 takes place between 8:51 a.m., when the plane transmits its last routine radio communication (see 8:51 a.m. September 11, 2001), and 8:54 a.m., when it deviates from its assigned course (see (8:54 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Based on phone calls made from the plane by flight attendant Renee May (see (9:12 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and passenger Barbara Olson (see (Between 9:15 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001), the commission concludes that the hijackers “initiated and sustained their command of the aircraft using knives and box cutters… and moved all of the passengers (and possibly crew) to the rear of the aircraft.” It adds, “Neither of the firsthand accounts to come from Flight 77… mentioned any actual use of violence (e.g., stabbings) or the threat or use of either a bomb or Mace.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 8-9; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 29) People who knew Charles Burlingame, the pilot of Flight 77, will later contend that it would have required a difficult struggle for the hijackers to gain control of the plane from him. (Washington Post 9/11/2002) Burlingame was a military man who’d flown Navy jets for eight years, served several tours at the Navy’s elite Top Gun school, and been in the Naval Reserve for 17 years. (Associated Press 12/6/2001) His sister, Debra Burlingame, says, “This was a guy that’s been through SERE [Survival Evasion Resistance Escape] school in the Navy and had very tough psychological and physical preparation.” (Cohen 12/30/2003) Admiral Timothy Keating, who was a classmate of Burlingame’s from the Navy and a flight school friend, says, “I was in a plebe summer boxing match with Chick, and he pounded me.… Chick was really tough, and the terrorists had to perform some inhumane act to get him out of that cockpit, I guarantee you.” (CNN 5/16/2006) Yet the five alleged hijackers do not appear to have been the kinds of people that would be a particularly dangerous opponent. Pilot Hani Hanjour was skinny and barely over 5 feet tall. (Goldstein, Sun, and Lardner 10/15/2001) And according to the 9/11 Commission, the “so-called muscle hijackers actually were not physically imposing,” with the majority of them being between 5 feet 5 and 5 feet 7 in height, “and slender in build.” (9/11 Commission 6/16/2004) Senator John Warner (R-VA) later says “the examination of his remains… indicated Captain Burlingame was in a struggle and died before the crash, doing his best to save lives on the aircraft and on the ground.” (White 12/8/2001)

Barbara Olson, a passenger on Flight 77, possibly calls the law firm her husband, Solicitor General Ted Olson, used to work for and leaves messages on his voicemail there. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/13/2001) Barbara Olson calls Ted Olson at his office at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC, two times this morning and, in the calls, says her plane has been hijacked and gives details of the hijacking (see (Between 9:15 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Between 9:20 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (CNN 9/14/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 9) It is possible that she also tries leaving information about the hijacking for her husband by calling his number at the firm he worked for before becoming solicitor general. An FBI document will later state that on September 13, two days after he was interviewed by the FBI about his wife’s calls from Flight 77, Ted Olson talked over the phone with the FBI and “advised he had new messages on his voicemail at his old law firm.” During the conversation, the document will state, he said that “his old secretary would provide access to these calls to the FBI.” The document will make no mention of the contents of the voicemail messages or state the times at which they were recorded. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/13/2001) Olson’s old law firm is Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. Before taking over as solicitor general in June this year, Olson worked in the firm’s Washington office. (US Department of Justice 6/24/2004) There will be no mention of any calls to Ted Olson’s old law firm in a list supposedly showing all of the calls made from Flight 77 today that the Department of Justice will provide to the 9/11 Commission. The list will include four “connected calls to unknown numbers,” which, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, include the two calls Barbara Olson made to Ted Olson at his office at the Department of Justice. The FBI and the Department of Justice will in fact determine that all four calls were communications between Barbara Olson and her husband’s office. The 9/11 Commission will note, though, that there is no “direct evidence” showing this. (9/11 Commission 5/20/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 455)

Lori Keyton, a secretary in the office of Solicitor General Ted Olson at the Department of Justice, receives a number of unsuccessful calls, which presumably are made by Barbara Olson, the wife of the solicitor general, who is a passenger on Flight 77. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 94) Flight 77 was hijacked between around 8:51 a.m. and 8:54 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission Report (see 8:51 a.m.-8:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 8) At about 9:00 a.m., Keyton receives a series of around six to eight collect calls. Her phone has no caller identification feature, so the caller is unknown. All of the calls are automated and, in them, a recorded voice advises of the collect call and requests that Keyton hold for an operator. A short time later, another recording states that all operators are busy and so the person should please hang up and try their call later. After the last of these automated calls occurs, Keyton will answer a call from a live operator, connecting Barbara Olson to her husband’s office (see (Between 9:15 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). She will answer a second call from Barbara Olson that is made directly to the office a few minutes later (see (Between 9:20 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Keyton will immediately put Barbara Olson through to her husband after answering both of these calls. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 94) A list compiled by the Department of Justice supposedly showing all of the calls made today from Flight 77 will apparently make no mention of the failed calls that Keyton answers. It will mention four calls from an unknown number, which are believed to include the two successful calls made by Barbara Olson. It will also include one call—not six to eight—that is described as being made by Barbara Olson to Ted Olson’s office, which failed to connect, but this is made just before 9:19 a.m. rather than around 9:00 a.m., when the failed calls received by Keyton reportedly occur (see 9:15 a.m.-9:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 5/20/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 455)

Mercy Lorenzo, an operator for telecommunications company AT&T, answers a call from Barbara Olson, a passenger on Flight 77, who provides details of the hijacking of her plane before Lorenzo connects her to her husband, Ted Olson, the solicitor general of the United States. Barbara Olson makes the call using an Airfone on the back of one of the plane’s seats. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001) She reaches Lorenzo by dialing “0.” It is unclear why she calls this number. An FBI report will later surmise that “zero may have been dialed in an attempt to contact a live AT&T operator.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/20/2001)
Barbara Olson Wants to Reach Her Husband - Barbara Olson asks to be connected to her husband and provides his telephone number. It is unclear whether she tells Lorenzo her name; Lorenzo will refer to her as a “female passenger” when she is later interviewed by the FBI. It is also unclear whether she tells Lorenzo the name of her husband or mentions his important position in the US government; in her FBI interview, Lorenzo will state that she refers to him as “a sergeant who resides in Washington, DC.”
Operator Is Told about the Hijacking of Flight 77 - Barbara Olson gives Lorenzo some details of the crisis on her plane. She says the flight is “currently being hijacked,” and the hijackers are armed with “guns and knives,” Lorenzo will recall. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001) However, when she subsequently talks to her husband, Barbara Olson will say the hijackers have knives and box cutters, but make no mention of them having guns. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 9) Barbara Olson also says that the hijackers are “ordering the passengers to move to the back of the plane,” according to Lorenzo. She adds that the passengers want to know “how to let the pilots know what [is] happening,” since it does “not appear as if they [are] aware of the situation.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001)
Call Is Connected to Ted Olson's Office - Lorenzo connects the call to Ted Olson’s office at the Department of Justice. She tells the secretary who answers it that there is “an emergency collect call.” After the secretary accepts it, the call is passed on to Ted Olson (see (Between 9:15 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001) A list supposedly showing all of the calls made today from Flight 77, compiled by the Department of Justice, will include four “connected calls to unknown numbers” (see 9:15 a.m.-9:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). The 9/11 Commission Report will determine that these include the two calls Barbara Olson makes to her husband. According to the information in the list, the call that Lorenzo deals with must occur at 9:15 a.m., 9:20 a.m., or 9:25 a.m. (9/11 Commission 5/20/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 455)

Ted Olson.
Ted Olson. [Source: US Department of Justice]Ted Olson, the solicitor general of the United States, calls the Department of Justice command center to pass on information he has received in a call from his wife, who is a passenger on Flight 77, and ask for someone there to come to his office. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 32, 95) His wife, Barbara Olson, has just called him, and was able to say her plane had been hijacked and give him details of the hijacking before the call got cut off (see (Between 9:15 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Olson Is Unable to Reach Attorney General Ashcroft - After the call from his wife has ended, Ted Olson tries to call Attorney General John Ashcroft on a direct line he has to Ashcroft, but receives no answer. He then calls the Department of Justice command center to pass on the details of his wife’s call. He contacts the command center, he will later say, because he wants to give Barbara Olson’s information “to someone who could possibly do something.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001; Isikoff 9/28/2001) “I mainly wanted them know there was another hijacked plane out there,” he will comment. (Fox News 9/14/2001)
Olson Is Told Command Center Personnel Are Unaware of the Hijacking - He tells the person who answers the call that his wife’s plane has been hijacked and gives them the number of the flight. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 32) “I want you to know there’s another plane that’s been hijacked; my wife is on it,” he says. (Isikoff 9/28/2001) He adds that his wife is able to communicate from the plane, even though her call to him got cut off. (CNN 9/14/2001) “They just absorbed the information,” he will recall, adding, “I expected them to pass the information on to the appropriate people.” (Fox News 9/14/2001) He is told that officials in the command center know nothing about the hijacking of Flight 77. (Fisher and Phillips 9/12/2001)
Olson Wants a Security Officer to Come to His Office - Ted Olson also requests that a security officer from the command center come to his office. According to Helen Voss, his special assistant, he does this because he thinks the security officer will be able to talk to Barbara Olson if she calls him again. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 32) But Ted Olson will comment that at this time, “I didn’t know that I was going to get another call [from Barbara Olson].” He is told someone will be sent to his office right away. (Fox News 9/14/2001) Shortly after he contacts the command center, Barbara Olson will call him a second time and provide more details about the hijacking of Flight 77 (see (Between 9:20 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 9; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 32)
Security Officer Goes to Olson's Office - Meanwhile, Allen Ferber, a security officer in the command center, is told to go to Ted Olson’s office. He is told by the watch officer that the solicitor general’s wife is on a plane that has been hijacked, the hijackers were armed with knives, and the passengers have been moved to the back of the plane. He will arrive at Ted Olson’s office after Barbara Olson’s second call from Flight 77 has ended. He will stay there, watching the television coverage of the crashes at the World Trade Center with Ted Olson, for about 10 minutes. He will leave the office before the attack on the Pentagon is reported on television (see 9:39 a.m.-9:44 a.m. September 11, 2001) but return to it after the attack starts being reported (see (Shortly After 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001)

The telephone Ted Olson used when he spoke to his wife, who called him from Flight 77.The telephone Ted Olson used when he spoke to his wife, who called him from Flight 77. [Source: US Department of Justice]Barbara Olson, a passenger on Flight 77, talks over the phone with her husband, Ted Olson, the solicitor general of the United States, for a second time and is able to give him additional details of the hijacking of her plane before the call gets cut off. She has just called him at his office at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC, and was able to say her plane had been hijacked and give him details of the hijacking before the call got disconnected (see (Between 9:15 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (CNN 9/14/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 9) Since then, Ted Olson has called the Department of Justice command center and passed on the information she provided (see (Between 9:17 a.m. and 9:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 32)
Secretary Answers the Call - Shortly after making her first call to him, Barbara Olson calls Ted Olson again. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 9) The call is initially answered by Lori Keyton, a secretary in Ted Olson’s office. When Keyton picks up the phone, Barbara Olson says, “It’s Barbara.” Keyton says she will put her through to her husband. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001) Ted Olson is told his wife is on the phone again and the call is put through to him.
Barbara Olson Says Her Plane Has Been Circling Around - Barbara Olson then gives her husband additional information about the hijacking of Flight 77. She says the pilot announced that the plane had been hijacked. Ted Olson asks if she has any idea of her plane’s location. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001; CNN 9/14/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 9; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 32) She says the plane was hijacked shortly after takeoff and has been circling around for a while. (CNN 9/14/2001; Fox News 9/14/2001) (However, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, Flight 77 was hijacked between around 8:51 a.m. and 8:54 a.m. (see 8:51 a.m.-8:54 a.m. September 11, 2001), more than 30 minutes after it took off (see (8:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 8) ) She says it is currently flying over some houses. After consulting another person on the plane, she says she thinks they are heading northeast.
Barbara Olson Asks What She Should Tell the Pilot - Ted Olson says two aircraft, besides Flight 77, were hijacked this morning and these planes subsequently crashed into the World Trade Center. Barbara Olson “absorbed the information,” the solicitor general will later recall. The couple then try to reassure each other. Ted Olson says, “It’s going to come out okay” and Barbara Olson tells him the same thing. She then says, “I love you.” Before the call ends, the couple “segued back and forth between expressions of feeling for one another and this effort to exchange information,” Ted Olson will recall. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001; CNN 9/14/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 9; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 32) “We exchanged the feelings that a husband and wife who are extraordinarily close—as we are—those kind of sentiments,” he will say. (Fox News 9/14/2001) The last thing Barbara Olson says is: “What shall I tell the pilot? What can I tell the pilot to do?” This implies that either the plane’s pilot or the co-pilot is at the back of the plane, where the hijackers moved the passengers, Ted Olson will note. (Fisher and Phillips 9/12/2001; CNN 9/14/2001)
Call Is Abruptly Cut Off - The call then ends abruptly, with the line suddenly going dead. It has lasted “two or three or four minutes,” Ted Olson will estimate. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001; CNN 9/14/2001; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 32) Ted Olson will then return to watching the coverage of the attacks at the WTC on television. When he sees the reports about an attack at the Pentagon, he will immediately think his wife’s plane crashed there (see (Shortly After 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001; Fox News 9/14/2001)
Call Is Made Sometime between 9:20 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. - The exact time of Barbara Olson’s second call to her husband is unclear. A list compiled by the Department of Justice supposedly showing all of the calls made today from Flight 77 will include four “connected calls to unknown numbers” (see 9:15 a.m.-9:30 a.m. September 11, 2001) and the 9/11 Commission Report will determine that these include the two calls made by Barbara Olson. According to the information in the list, her second call must occur at 9:20 a.m., 9:25 a.m., or 9:30 a.m. and last for 4 minutes 34 seconds, 2 minutes 39 seconds, or 4 minutes 20 seconds. (9/11 Commission 5/20/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 455; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 94)
Call Is Made Directly to Ted Olson's Office - It is also unclear whether Barbara Olson makes this call using a cell phone or an Airfone. Keyton’s phone has no caller identification feature and so she is unable to determine what kind of phone Barbara Olson uses. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001) But the Department of Justice will determine that all of the calls from Flight 77 were made using Airfones. (9/11 Commission 5/20/2004) Barbara Olson makes the call by dialing “0,” apparently in an attempt to reach an operator, according to an FBI report. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/20/2001) But Keyton will say that, unlike the first call, Barbara Olson’s second call to her husband is made directly to his office, rather than reaching it via an operator. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001) And Mercy Lorenzo, the operator who connected Barbara Olson’s first call to Ted Olson’s office (see (Between 9:15 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001), will apparently mention dealing with only one call, not two, from Barbara Olson when she is interviewed by the FBI. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001)

Ted Olson, the solicitor general of the United States, immediately thinks Flight 77, which his wife was a passenger on, has crashed when he sees reports on television about an explosion at the Pentagon. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001; Fox News 9/14/2001; Harnden 3/5/2002) Ted Olson was called by his wife, Barbara Olson, at his office at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC, sometime after the second hijacked plane crashed into the World Trade Center. She told him her plane had been hijacked and gave him details of the hijacking before the call got disconnected (see (Between 9:15 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). She called again a short time later and gave him additional details of the hijacking, but that call also got cut off (see (Between 9:20 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He then returned to watching the coverage of the crashes at the WTC on television and, after a short time, sees the reports indicating some kind of explosion has occurred at the Pentagon (see 9:39 a.m.-9:44 a.m. September 11, 2001). Ted Olson will later recall that, even though it is some time before reports suggest that the incident involved a plane crashing at the Pentagon (see 9:43 a.m.-9:53 a.m. September 11, 2001), he immediately knows Flight 77, his wife’s plane, has crashed. (CNN 9/14/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 9) “I knew it was her,” he will comment. (Harnden 3/5/2002) “I did and I didn’t want to, but I knew.” (CNN 9/14/2001) “I knew in my heart that was that aircraft and I also knew in my heart that [Barbara Olson] could not possibly have survived that kind of an explosion with a full load of fuel on a recently taken-off airplane,” he will say. (Fox News 9/14/2001) Ted Olson shares his thoughts with some of his colleagues. Helen Voss, his special assistant, watched television with him after the second call from his wife ended. She will recall that when the incident at the Pentagon starts being reported, he says, “That’s Barbara’s plane.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001) And Allen Ferber, a security officer from the Department of Justice command center, sat and watched television with the solicitor general for about 10 minutes after he received the second call from his wife (see (Between 9:17 a.m. and 9:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Ferber then left Ted Olson’s office but he returns to it after the incident at the Pentagon is reported. He will recall that, apparently referring to Flight 77, Ted Olson says to him, “The plane is down.” Ferber says he is very sorry and then leaves the office again. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001) Ted Olson will stay in his office for the next few hours, phoning friends and family members to let them know his wife is dead. (CNN 9/14/2001; Harnden 3/5/2002)


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