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Profile: Debbie Heiden
Debbie Heiden was a participant or observer in the following events:
Vice President Dick Cheney later claims he learns of the first attack on the World Trade Center just before 9:00 a.m. He has just finished an impromptu discussion in his office at the White House with Sean O’Keefe, the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget (see (8:25 a.m.-8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). His chief speechwriter John McConnell has come in for a meeting, when his secretary, Debbie Heiden, calls in and tells him a plane hit the WTC. Cheney recalls, “So we turned on the television and watched for a few minutes.” However, journalist and author Stephen Hayes suggests Cheney learns of the attack earlier. He says that while McConnell is waiting for his meeting, O’Keefe comes out of the vice president’s office. McConnell gestures at a television showing the burning WTC, and “O’Keefe nodded; they had been watching the reports inside.” When McConnell enters Cheney’s office, “The small television on the other side of the desk was tuned to ABC News.” [Meet the Press, 9/16/2001; Hayes, 2007, pp. 328-330] According to his own recollection, Cheney is puzzled by the reports: “I was sitting there thinking about it. It was a clear day, there was no weather problem—how in hell could a plane hit the World Trade Center?” [Newsweek, 12/30/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 35] He claims it is only when he sees the second tower hit at 9:03 that he realizes this is a terrorist attack, saying, “as soon as that second plane showed up, that’s what triggered the thought: terrorism, that this was an attack.” [Meet the Press, 9/16/2001; CNN, 9/11/2002]
John McConnell. [Source: University of Tennessee]While he is waiting outside Vice President Dick Cheney’s office for a scheduled meeting, Cheney’s chief speechwriter John McConnell has been chatting with Cheney’s secretary Debbie Heiden and the Secret Service agent posted at the door. They all see the news about the first plane hitting the World Trade Center on the television above Heiden’s desk. McConnell will later recall: “There wasn’t any kind of alarm. It was just kind of, ‘Oh man, look at that.’” The Secret Service agent then receives an urgent call from the agency’s intelligence division. According to McConnell: “He put the phone down and told me: passenger jet. And that’s when you go, Geez. And then you start getting a sick feeling. Because a passenger aircraft is not going to crash into the World Trade Center.” [Hayes, 2007, pp. 329-330] But, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, it is not until they learn of the second crash at 9:03 that nearly everyone in the White House realizes this is not an accident (see (Between 8:46 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 35]
In the months following 9/11, Vice President Dick Cheney spends large portions of his time in what are referred to as “secure and undisclosed” locations. [CNN, 3/1/2002] He is accompanied to these locations by those considered his “essential staff.” This includes his chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, and Libby’s assistant, Jennifer Mayfield; Cheney’s personal secretary, Debbie Heiden; his personal aide, Brian McCormack; one of his military aides; and either his counsel, David Addington, or his staff secretary, Neil Patel.
Staff Ordered to Maintain Secrecy - Cheney’s personnel are ordered not to mention the vice president’s name or title on the phone; his schedule is to go out only over secure fax or classified e-mail; and all members of his staff must always keep a packed bag ready at the office. According to journalist and author Stephen Hayes, the “secure undisclosed location” the vice president goes to is usually Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, although there are other locations. [Hayes, 2007, pp. 349]
Maintaining the 'Continuity of Government' - Cheney explains to PBS the reasoning behind his going to these locations: “[W]ith the possibility that the White House or the Capitol or other facilities here [in Washington] could be targeted in a terrorist attack… it’s not a good practice for the president and I to spend a lot of time together.… [I]t’s important from the standpoint of our responsibility to maintain the continuity of government to always see to it that nobody—no adversary or enemy would have the capacity of, in effect, decapitating the federal government by taking out the president and the vice president and other senior management, senior leadership.” [PBS, 10/12/2001] Yet, despite the supposed danger, he still goes ahead with a pre-planned pheasant-hunting trip in early November (see (November 4-5, 2001)). Cheney’s time at the “secure and undisclosed” locations is part of “shadow government” procedures that are implemented following the 9/11 attacks (see (2:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 3/1/2002] In interviews, he never mentions that he had similarly gone away to undisclosed locations on a regular basis throughout the 1980s, during a series of Continuity of Government exercises (see 1981-1992). [Mann, 2004, pp. 138-139 and 296; Atlantic Monthly, 3/2004]
Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald rests the prosecution’s case against Lewis “Scooter” Libby (see January 16-23, 2007) after 11 days of trial and 10 witnesses. [CBS News, 1/25/2007; MSNBC, 2/21/2007] The prosecution’s case ends with the introduction of a previously stipulated deposition by Debbie Heiden, Vice President Dick Cheney’s executive assistant. Heiden said in the deposition that she was assigned to search for documents on October 3, 2003, relating to the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak investigation (see September 26, 2003), and found a document that is now filed as Government Exhibit 402. Cheney’s office turned over the document four days later. The document, an annotated copy of Joseph Wilson’s op-ed “What I Didn’t Find in Africa” (see July 6, 2003), contains Cheney’s handwritten notations (see May 14, 2006). The prosecution also submits a number of newspaper articles into evidence. [FireDogLake, 2/7/2007]
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