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Profile: Sean O’Keefe
Sean O’Keefe was a participant or observer in the following events:
Sean O’Keefe. [Source: Bill Ingalls / NASA]Sean O’Keefe, the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, stops by Vice President Dick Cheney’s White House office for an unscheduled visit. According to journalist and author Stephen Hayes, Cheney’s colleagues have learned to keep any impromptu sessions with him short and succinct. Yet O’Keefe spends more than 20 minutes with the vice president. Cheney is scheduled to meet John McConnell, his chief speechwriter, at 8:30 a.m. Yet McConnell is left waiting outside the office while the vice president is deep in discussion with O’Keefe. According to Hayes, while the topic of O’Keefe and Cheney’s conversation seems urgent at present, “In time, neither man would be able to recall what it was that had been so important.” [Hayes, 2007, pp. 328-330] O’Keefe is a former Pentagon comptroller, and had been a close confidant of Dick Cheney’s when he was the secretary of defense, in the early 1990s. He was also secretary of the navy from 1992 to 1993. [New York Times, 7/7/1992; New York Times, 2/3/2003]
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]
Vice President Dick Cheney sees the second plane hitting the World Trade Center live on television while meeting with his speechwriter John McConnell. He later claims that several other officials then come and join him in his White House office: National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, political adviser Mary Matalin, and his chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who has come across from the Old Executive Office Building next door to the White House. [Meet the Press, 9/16/2001] According to journalist and author Stephen Hayes, “As word of the attacks spread throughout the West Wing, many White House officials migrated to Cheney’s office.” As well as Rice, Libby, and Matalin, these include Sean O’Keefe, the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget; Josh Bolten, the deputy White House chief of staff; and counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke. [Hayes, 2007, pp. 332] However, other accounts contradict this. Clarke claims that when he arrives at the White House shortly after 9:03, he sees the vice president and Rice, but the two are “alone in Cheney’s office” (see (9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (It is possible, though, that the other officials only arrive after Clarke ends his brief visit to the vice president’s office.) [Clarke, 2004, pp. 1-2] In numerous interviews where she discusses her actions this morning, Rice makes no mention of heading to Cheney’s office after the second tower is hit. [O, the Oprah Magazine, 2/1/2002; BBC Radio 4, 8/1/2002 ; Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/11/2002; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; New York Times, 9/11/2002] Also, according to some accounts, the Secret Service evacuates Cheney from his office shortly after the second attack occurs (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 9/13/2001; ABC News, 9/14/2002] Cheney claims that President Bush phones him around this time, while he is still in his office. [Meet the Press, 9/16/2001] But according to White House adviser Karl Rove, who is with the president in Florida, Bush is unable to reach the vice president because Cheney is being evacuated from his office (see (9:16 a.m.-9:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [MSNBC, 9/11/2002]
When climate scientist James Hansen gives NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe a presentation on the dangers of human-caused climate change, O’Keefe cuts him off. “The administrator interrupted me,” Hansen later says. “He told me that I should not talk about dangerous anthropogenic interference, because we do not know enough or have enough evidence for what would constitute dangerous anthropogenic interference.” (O’Keefe’s spokesperson will later deny this account of the meeting.) Hansen’s presentation to O’Keefe was a summary of another presentation, titled “Can we defuse the global warming time bomb,” that he already gave to the White House Council on Environmental Quality in June 2003. [Hansen, 10/26/2004 ; New York Times, 10/26/2004]
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