Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Suited Up for Standard Procedure

To this day, opinions differ as to whether or not scrambling fighter jets was considered standard procedure in air emergencies at the time of the attacks or whether, as Popular Mechanics argued in March 2005, this was something rare and extraordinary. In their cover story “Debunking 9-11 Lies,” they tried to explain NORAD’s delays and failures by pointing out lamely that "in the decade before 9/11, NORAD intercepted only one civilian plane over North America: golfer Payne Stewart's Learjet, in October 1999 […] it took an F-16 1 hour and 22 minutes to reach the stricken jet. […] Prior to 9/11, all other NORAD interceptions were limited to offshore Air Defense Identification Zones (ADIZ). The ADIZ areas seem to be a sort of moat 'round the castle, where incoming international flights are made to identify themselves or risk being taken out. They run along the East and West Coasts and along the Mexican and Canadian borders. "Until 9/11 there was no domestic ADIZ," FAA spokesman Bill Schumann told the magazine. [1]

They would probably have liked to say there were no intercepts at all over continental airspace, but had to cede the one instance after it was pointed out in the factual record by 9-11 revisionists, an errant plane that crossed no borders or ocean shores and yet triggered a fighter escort. On October 26, 1999, famous pro Golfer Payne Stewart was flying in his private Learjet when the cabin lost pressure and killed all on board. The plane continued on autopilot across several states, trailed by fighter jets until it finally crashed in North Dakota. The shoot-down option was publicly addressed at the time: The Washington Post reported “Pentagon officials said they never considered shooting down the Learjet” because, according to a senior defense official, ‘the (FAA) said this thing was headed to a sparsely populated part of the country, so let it go.’” [2] Now, if it had been a hijacked 757 headed for New York after one plane had already crashed into the World Trade Center…

But was this the only fighter intercept ever ordered over the continental U.S.? If intercepts simply weren't done over the mainland, why was an exception made in this one case and this one case alone? Or did they mean this was the only intercept over America that made the news? According to an article in the Calgary Herald-Tribune from a month after the attack, fighter interception for stray aircraft actually was a weekly occurrence even before 9-11: “Today […] fighter jets are scrambled to babysit suspect aircraft or "unknowns" three or four times a day. Before Sept. 11, that happened twice a week. Last year, there were 425 unknowns -- pilots who didn't file or diverted from flight plans or used the wrong frequency. Jets were scrambled 129 times.” [3] Was every one of these 129 intercepts in the year 2000 over the ocean in ADIZ areas, with none over the continental U.S.? And in the nine years before that too, with the exception of one famous golfer?

Common sense and some evidence indicate otherwise. One of the fighter pilots that was scrambled on 9-11 said in a BBC documentary on his first notification of trouble “they said the Tower [was] calling and something about a hijacking. It was flight American 11, a 767, out of Boston going to California. At the time we ran in and got suited up… It's just peacetime. We're not thinking anything real bad is going to happen out there.” The narrator of the documentary adds “neither pilot at this time has any reason to believe that this is other than a routine exercise.” [4]

This was at some point before American 11 ended – we were still in pre-9-11 peace time, if the last minutes of it, and he knew to get suited up (that is, ready for takeoff) in response to the hijacking of a trans-continental flight. This sounds like a routine, standard procedure scramble and intended intercept over continental airspace to me. Perhaps the Payne Stewart case is not so anomalous after all.

[1] Chertoff, Benjamin et al. “Debunking 9/11 Myths.” Popular Mechanics. March 2005.
[2] Walsh, Edward and William Claiborne. “Golfer Payne Stewart Dies in Jet Crash.” Washington Post. October 26, 1999. Page A1.
[3] Slobodian, Linda.
“NORAD on Heightened Alert.” The Calgary Herald. October 13, 2001.
[4] BBC Video. Clear the Skies. First Aired September 2002.

Friday, December 22, 2006



First revealed by the Toronto Star as early as December 9 2001, Northern Vigilance was set up in the arctic with Canadian assistance. As the exercise opened, NORAD explained on September 9 that it was a follow up to Operation Northern Denial, and like it was meant “to monitor a Russian air force exercise” happening just on the other side of the North Pole. [8] The Russians in fact cancelled this exercise as soon as they heard word of the attack in New York.[9]

The Northern Vigilance exercise thus drew fighters away from the East Coast that day, leaving them stationed near the Arctic Circle. One news story claimed “investigators at the September 11 Commission confirm they are investigating whether NORAD’s attention was drawn in one direction – toward the north pole – while the hijackings came in from an entirely different direction.” [10] I'm not sure how many fighter were there or how many of these may have been active in the defense otherwise, but there is a crucialirony here. The predecessor exercise Northern Denial indicates a desire to "deny" the Russians this attack route across the North Pole, but this curiously outdated drill, by drawing fighters and attention north, may have helped open another attack route for a different enemy on the East Coast at just the right time.

Northern Vigilance also reportedly involved radar “inserts,” blips that would look like attacking planes or other airborne objects on the attack but in reality would represent nothing. How many inserts were used, on whose screens, and inserted into which air traffic regions are all questions that remain unanswered. As it became clear an attack was underway, at 9:00 am, NORAD (officially) cancelled the exercise and erased the inserts. [11] But until that time at least, they couldn’t help but add to the confusion in the air.

Friday, December 15, 2006


Even without phase two or its predecessor report, Al Qaeda’s and others’ shift to suicide hijackings was not a theoretical – it actually happened and manifested itself in the real world. Numerous reminders of the tactic had popped up since 1995 in the form of foiled attempts, intercepted plots, and ominous warnings from various quarters. In November 1996, for example, Ethiopian terrorists hijacked an airliner and tried to crash it into a beach resort in the Comoros Islands for unclear reasons. Reports from the time explained that the pilots were able though to dive the plane into the sea, saving the resort by a bare 500 yards, but killing all but 52 of the 175 souls on board. [1]

Suicide hijacking was a fear at both the 1996 and 2000 Olympics (in Atlanta, GA and Sydney, Australia, respectively). In the 1996 case, Richard Clarke personally toured Atlanta looking for security breaches. He was horrified. Among his concerns was air security; ”mindful of Ramzi Yousef’s plot to blow up 747s and the images of Pan Am 103, I asked about aircraft. “What if somebody blows up a 747 over the Olympic Stadium. Or even flies one into the stadium?”” [2] Clarke could see in 1996 someone hijacking an airliner and crashing it into the stadium, and he was thinking Bojinka. In fact, this was not just a thought in Clarke’s head – security for the ’96 Olympics was actually beefed-up to meet the threat. The Chicago Tribune reported in November 2001:

”In an extraordinary aerial dragnet, launched quietly that summer and kept largely under wraps ever since, Black Hawk helicopters and U.S. Customs Service jets were deployed to intercept suspicious aircraft in the skies over the Olympic venues [...] Agents monitored crop duster flights within hundreds of miles […] Law-enforcement agents also fanned out to regional airports throughout northern Georgia "to make sure nobody hijacked a small aircraft and tried to attack one of the venues," said Woody Johnson, the FBI agent in charge of the Atlanta office at the time.”[3]

A handful of government-commissioned reports highlighted the threat of aircraft as weapons in the hands of terrorists, or at least tried to. One was a September 1999 report called “Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism: Who Becomes a Terrorist and Why?” It was prepared for the CIA-connected National Intelligence Council and shared with other federal agencies. CBS News cited it in May 2002: “Suicide bomber(s) belonging to al Qaeda's Martyrdom Battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the CIA, or the White House.” Author Rex Hudson explained at the time “Ramzi Yousef had planned to do this against the CIA headquarters.” [4] This is one of the very few pre-9-11 admissions of phase two that I’ve seen.

The Bojinka fears that should have been closest on president Bush’s mind on the morning of 9-11 had come less than two months earlier, in Late July. As reported in the Los Angeles Times, Italian authorities felt that there was a serious possibility of an attack against Bush and other world leaders attending the G8 Summit in Genoa by “crashing an airliner” into the venue. The threat was considered unsubstantiated by U.S. officials, but Italian authorities closed the airspace over Genoa and placed antiaircraft guns around the summit complex to enforce the order. For added security, the Secret Service had Bush sleep every night on an aircraft carrier just off the coast. [6] He had to have been told why he was drifting in the steel belly of that big boat instead of lying on fine linens in a posh Genoese resort.

[1] Thompson, Paul and the center for Cooperative Research. “The Terror Timeline.” 2004. Page 18.
[2] Clarke, Richard. “Against All Enemies.” Page 106.
[3] Fineman, Mark and Judy Pasternak. “'96 Games warned of air threat.” Chicago Tribune. November 18, 2001
[4] “'99 Report Warned Of Suicide Hijacking.” CBS News. May 17, 2002.
[5] “Italy Tells of Threat at Genoa Summit” LA Times. September 27, 2001.

Monday, December 11, 2006



According to the official pre-2004 timeline supplied by NORAD, Boston flight control had waited twenty minutes after it decided Flight 11 was hijacked to alert them, at 8:40 am. This has been widely contested, with FAA insisting it had alerted NORAD much earlier. But anyway, at 8:46 NORAD issued the scramble order to Otis Air National Guard base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts – the same minute flight 11 slammed into the North Tower. The first two F-15 pilots, Lt. Col. Timothy Duffy (code-named “Duff”) and Major Daniel Nash (“Nasty”), were off the ground to intercept American 11 six minutes later, at 8:52.

This yielded a 39-minute loss-of-contact to takeoff time for Otis. This delay, coming after months of foreign and domestic warnings of possible hijackings, is 50%, longer than reaction in the totally unexpected Payne Stewart case two years earlier. These fighters were sent to intercept American 11 six minutes after it was obliterated in its impact with the WTC. [1] They finally arrived and established a combat air patrol over Manhattan at 9:25, 33 minutes after takeoff. [2]

At about this time, more jets were scrambled from Langley AFB in Virginia, the other ready pair in the northeast. NEADS called Langley at about 9:15 and asked national guardsman “Honey” urgently “how many planes can you send?” “We have two ready,” Honey replied. “That’s not what I asked,” came the curt reply. “How many can you get airborne?” “With me, three.’” Honey said.” [3] It’s not clear why there was an insistence on sending a third jet when standard procedure was to send a pair – I looked for clues in the 9/11 Commission’s final report, but it does not seem to mention the number of fighters sent from Langley. Since only two fighters were ready, prepping this third plane would set their schedule back. “Honey,” his partner “Lou,” and the unnamed third pilot took off at 9:30, just minutes before flight 77 reappeared on radar screens closing in on Washington. The CCR lists the pilots as pilots were Major Brad Derrig, Captain Craig Borgstrom, and Major Dean Eckmann, all from the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 119th Fighter Wing, then stationed at Langley, but I cannot find who was Honey, who was Lou, and ho as the third. The commission concluded they were not being sent to intercept American 77 closing in on Washington, but rather to New York to back up the Otis pilots. [4]

This was the entire first wave of national defense – five fighters, scrambled late from two bases far from the scene of the crime. More fighters would join them by about 10 am, but during the actual attack, the first wave was all there was. The following sections detail their mission, doomed to failure from the beginning.

(also linked on the air defense masterlist)

- Heading and Speed

- Information shared with the defending fighter pilots: RIDICULOUSLY inadequate

- No shoot-down order received.

[1] North American Aerospace Defense Command News Release. “NORAD’s Response Times” September 18, 2001. Accessed May 7, 2003 at:
[2] National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. The 9/11 Commission Report. Authorized First Edition. New York. W.W. Norton. 2004. Page 24.
[3] "9;30 am: Langley Fighters Take Off."
[4] Longman, Jere. Among the Heroes: United Flight 93 and the Passengers and Crew who Fought Back. New York. Harper Collins. 2002. Page 65.

Friday, December 8, 2006


The Key to Eurasia / Dealing with the Devil

Even though it has generally been allowed to linger in chaos and poverty, U.S. strategists have long recognized Afghanistan as the key to Central Asia and thus to world power. Zbigniew Brzezinski noted this in his 1997 book The Grand Chessboard presented Afghanistan as the heart of the “Eurasian Balkans,” a zone of instability and power vacuums “astride the inevitably emerging transportation network meant to link […] Eurasia’s […] western and eastern extremities.” Compared to the European Balkans, “the Eurasian Balkans are infinitely more important as a potential economic prize:” [1]

Astride a prime export corridor for Caspian Sea oil and gas, pipeline deals continued through the 1990s with the support of Clinton’s State Department as public pronouncements and sanctions against the Taliban were underpinned with tacit approval; they provided the surest avenue to stability. But problems over their harboring of bin Laden led to a serious rift after the Embassy bombings of 1998; with US missile flying into Afghanistan, pipeline talks halted and the Taliban went into the deep freeze. They imposed a ban on Opium cultivation in 2000, a PR boost that eventually got them more US aid but which some feel was actually one of the triggers deciding on war there – after which, coincidentally, opium production resumed and skyrocketed.

Thus when Bush jr. placed his hand on that bible in January 2001, he inherited a complex policy history towards Afghanistan. Immediately, Bush’s military leadership expressed disinterest in following up on the Clinton-era plan to “roll-back” al Qaeda. This was originally driven as a response to the October 2000 USS Cole attack, but according to the 9-11 Commission, Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz called the three-month-old case “stale.” Rumsfeld agreed, saying too much time had elapsed to bother pursuing al Qaeda over the bombing. [2]

Instead the Bush administration decided, within days of coming to power, to re-open negotiations with the regime, ending the two-year silence. While the talks were secret, a few inside accounts have been smuggled out by, for one, a Pakistani diplomat involved named Niaz Naik. Naik, former Foreign Secretary of Pakistan, told the BBC about what went on behind the scenes during the seven months of negotiations. The talks were “track 2 diplomacy,” mostly former government officials of interested regional nations plus Russia and the U.S. [3] This was presumably to create an aura and potential binding power of government-level negotiations, while allowing the actual governments “plausible deniability” if the meetings should become an embarrassment.

The Bush administration’s proposal seems to have been a deal trading a more open (stable) coalition government, the handover of bin Laden, and permission for pipeline construction in exchange for diplomatic recognition, lifting of sanctions, possible economic aid, and transit fees from the Caspian Sea gas crossing their territory. The Taliban made moves to improve their image to U.S. leaders and public opinion. They still retained the services of a number of public relations people, including Laila Helms. According to Brisard and Dasquie’s Forbidden Truth, The half-Afghan niece of former CIA director Richard Helms had been advising the Taliban since 1995, even before their ascendancy. [4]

A Taliban delegation toured the U.S. in early 2001, asking for better relations and drawing attention to the drought and famine in their country. They asked President Bush for economic aid and for discussions on the bin Laden issue and other impediments to good relations. [5] Conciliatory moves were made. In May, Secretary of State Powell declared the U.S. would send $33 million to Afghanistan for drought relief, with an additional $10 million specifically in thanks for the Taliban's opium ban. [6] $43 million in aid may not sound like much, but Afghanistan’s economy was so depressed, according to investigative writer Ahmed Rashid, the entire budget for administration and development for 1997 had been about US $100,000. [7]

Already the rollback of al Qaeda had been rolled back, and now diplomatic recognition, economic aid, and the ending of sanctions were all on the table, part up front in the May aid package. The Taliban continued to talk, almost like a rational party with its own survival in mind. They even started the dialog on bin Laden themselves, offering in a March meeting in Washington to turn him over to a third nation of their choosing. Admittedly this was far from a perfect deal but could have been taken as a starting point at least. The Washington Post quoted a CIA official: “We never heard what they were trying to say. We had no common language. Ours was “give up bin Laden.’ They were saying ‘do something to help us give him up.’… I have no doubts they wanted to get rid of him. He was a pain in the neck.” [8] The offer was refused. Apparently the May aid package was an unconnected appeasement.

The talks were doomed from the beginning, although by bad faith on whose part remains an issue of contention. As disagreements over bin Laden, transit fees, and other issues continued, negotiations finally broke down completely in August, and were superceded by war plans as final preparations for the 9-11 attack got underway and America’s Defenses fell apart.

War: a Threat or a Promise?

As talks began to unravel in mid-July, U.S. representatives allegedly threatened the Taliban “either accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we’ll bury you under a carpet of bombs.” [9] Tom Simons, the former ambassador to Pakistan whose belligerence in the region is legendary, specified to Naik on the 21st “either the Taliban behave as they ought to, or Pakistan convinces them to do so, or we will use another option... a military option.” [10]

In reality, this seems to have been the plan all along. Central Command (CENTCOM) Commander General Tommy Franks had already toured the region, going to the Tajik capital Dushanbe on May 16, where he told the government that the U.S. considered Tajikistan “a strategically significant country.” [11] This was both provocation and preparation. Niaz Naik said that at a meeting in Berlin in July he was informed that 17,000 Russian troops were poised to strike, involvement was expected from Uzbekistan, and that U.S. bases were already functional in Tajikistan. [12] According to the Manchester Guardian, By May “U.S rangers were also training special troops in Kyrgyzstan,” and there were “unconfirmed reports that Tajik and Uzbek special troops were training in Alaska and Montana” in preparation for fighting in the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan. [13]

And the anti-Taliban coalition was apparently growing; Great Britain was also positioning itself for a conflict in the region, sending the “biggest naval task force since the Falklands war” to Oman, within operational distance of Afghanistan, just eight days before 9-11. According the Guardian, this was for a rapid-response training exercise called Swift Sword II, created by planners at the Northwood-based Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ), “from where every major British deployment of the last 30 years - from the Falklands to the Gulf war - has been master-minded.” The Guardian piece, dated September 3, 2001, further reported that 24 surface ships and two nuclear-powered submarines had been deployed that day. 24,000 British troops, nearly a quarter of the entire army, were expected to be in Oman by the end of September. “They will be supported by 400 armoured vehicles, squadrons of fighter-bombers, and a Commando brigade,” the paper added. [14]

This was clearly a very big deal in the works, and everything was getting into place. War seemed inevitable – the question was when. According to Naik, U.S. representative Karl Inderfurth told him the idea was, if the military action went ahead, it would happen before the first snows started falling on Kabul. The BBC’s reporter seemed confident in estimating this as “around the middle of October.” [15]

Bin Laden Springs the Trap

But how could this war have been justified? A pre-emptive, unprovoked strike, in part to secure an administration-linked pipeline route, would not look good in the age of Enron, which it turns out was deeply invested in the Caspian basin. The Bush administration had to be painfully aware that they were living in a pre-9-11 world, when good pretexts were still hard to come by – and they’d already tossed out the Cole attack.

But of course a radical change in perspective was in store. It turns out al Qaeda may have been listening closely to the proceedings of the negotiations, according to a 2002 article by the respected French counter-terror expert Jean-Charles Brisard. During his investigation of the Africa embassy bombings, Brisard explained, the legendary FBI terrorism expert and ironic 9-11 casualty John O’Neill discovered an intriguing seven-page memo from “Abu Hafs.” This was a pseudonym of Mohammed Atef, al Qaeda’s military chief at the time. The memo contained intercepted details of the Unocal pipeline negotiation, information bin Laden would probably be interested to know. [16] It’s not clear whether Atef and bin Laden were keeping tabs in 2001 as Bush representatives issued their threats.

With or without this direct eavesdropping, Bin Laden could well have had the threat passed on to him in any number of ways and acted to pre-empt the United States’ military option. While it’s true the 9-11 plot we’ve been presented with was years in the making, these provocations could have helped stiffen bin Laden’s determination to speed the process along and land the first blow in a war that seemed inevitable. A later report in the U.K. Guardian speculated that “bin Laden, far from launching (the 9-11 attack) out of the blue... was launching a pre-emptive strike in response to what he saw as U.S. threats.” [17] It seems clear that the Bush administration had to know these threats would get to bin Laden, whom they admitted exerted undue influence in that country. Thus they were consciously stirring the hornet’s nest by threatening, within bin Laden’s earshot, to carpet bomb his host nation. This pattern has occurred before in American history.

At the same time, the administration apparently turned a blind eye to possible mobilizations in response to these threats. Essentially, as “track two” U.S. diplomats were threatening Afghanistan and the militaries of multiple nations positioned themselves for this war, U.S. authorities kept this all from public view and acted as if there was no danger, no building state of war with attack and counterattack and whatnot. America was left unguarded, even inviting. The full catalog of warning signs and evidence of their aggressive dismissal is far beyond the scope of this chapter. But while we’re on the subject of Afghanistan, clearly an area of tension, clues that emanated from there are especially relevant and should have been closely watched for.

The War Takes a Turn

There was already a war in Afghanistan, of course – the Taliban held about 90% of the country in relative stability, but the remaining 10%, in a mountainous northeast corner near China, was still held by the Northern Alliance. The Northern Alliance was a mish-mash of former allies and enemies in the Civil War of 1989-1996, pushed aside by the Taliban. They were still holding on in 2001 with aid from Russia, India and others, but making do without U.S. assistance.

It’s been said that the only thing keeping the Taliban and the al Qaeda-assembled militia from owning all of Afghanistan was the Northern Alliance’s top commander, Ahmed Shah Massoud, the “lion of Panjshir.” But Massoud felt his struggle was losing, and he asked for help from the Europeans and the Americans, who were of course in negotiation with the Taliban at that time. Massoud argued it was a bargain for the west – a relatively small amount of aid could keep al Qaeda occupied fighting in Afghanistan instead of focusing on outward activities like terrorism. The investment apparently was not made.

On April 6, Massoud addressed the European Union parliament, saying publicly “if President Bush doesn’t help us, these terrorists will damage the U.S. and Europe very soon.” Defense Intelligence Agency documents released later confirmed that Massoud indeed had “limited knowledge” of al Qaeda’s impending attack. [19] But even as U.S. war plans evolved, he got no aid, and only a few cursory meetings from low-level U.S. officials.

According to the London Independent, the warnings had actually come from both sides in that war. Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil was told in July by sources in Uzbekistan close to bin Laden that al Qaeda was planning a major attack inside the United States. In late July, Muttawakil sent an aide to the Pakistani border town of Peshawar where he met with and warned U.S. consul general, David Katz. Feeling that the warning was ignored, the minister redispatched his aid to the UN office, which also apparently failed to pass the warning up to higher authorities. [20]

In late July, sources inside al Qaeda in Afghanistan told Egyptian intelligence that 20 terrorists had slipped into the United States and that four of those were in flight training. CBS News reported that Egypt passed the warning on, expecting requests for more information, which never came. [21] Sometime in the summer, the 9-11 Commission noted, bin Laden himself mentioned in a recorded speech at a training camp that 20 martyrs were set for an attack somewhere, asking for prayers of support for their success. [22] It’s not clear whether this was available to U.S. intelligence at the time.

On August 30 it was revealed by the UPI that, based on Russian and Pakistani reports, bin Laden had recently been declared Supreme Commander of the Afghan army. [23] Is this evidence that the Taliban knew 9-11 was coming, or simply a logical response to the threats they were receiving? Either way, this was publicly available and clearly known.

The official story is that bin Laden himself was on “radio silence” in the days before the attack. James Bamford explained in his 2002 revised edition of Body of Secrets that Osama had gotten a satellite phone in 1996, making hundreds of calls with it, including to plan attacks and to call his Stepmother in Syria. The super-secret National Security Agency, (which Body of Secrets is about) had zeroed in on this line of contact - NSA officials “would even play recordings of bin Laden chatting” with her to impress special guests. [24] But Bamford, who had to play ball with the NSA to write his book, explained that:

“Since 1998, bin Laden communicates only through messengers […] One such call, picked up by NSA early in September 2001, was from a bin Laden associate to bin Laden’s wife in Syria, advising her to return to Afghanistan. At the time, it was filed away when instead it should have been one more clue, one more reason […] to worry on the morning of September 11.” [25]

Yet other sources provide a different story - on September 9 2001, according to the New York Times, the suave terrorist mastermind bin Laden was using a satellite phone, and directly called his stepmother – the one so widely recorded. He allegedly told her “in two days you’re going to hear big news and you’re not going to hear from me for a while.” [26] The call probably was recorded, and was probably read shortly after the attack.

But one clue could not be ignored. That same day, September 9, the Northern Alliance was beheaded - Massoud was assassinated by two suicide bombers posing as al Jazeera journalists. They had come in from the Taliban-held capital Kabul, and waited three weeks for Massoud for weeks as he fought the newly merged al Qaeda-Taliban army. These were treacherous times, but strangely, the legendary military genius finally saw fit to pause in the fighting and sit down to be interviewed by these two anxious Arabs. They then allegedly detonated a bomb hidden in their camera, a bomb that Massoud’s security personnel obviously did not find with weeks to look. A bodyguard was killed instantly, but Massoud clung to life for a few days.

This strange warning sign was not ignored in the U.S. establishment but widely noted as a bad omen. Yet the nation was left unprepared for the catastrophic and catalyzing even that occurred two days later as Massoud lay dying. Nothing was done to prevent the attack, and when it was carried out, the nation’s defenses initially fell flat. But the offensive American military machine was already set to spring into action. MSNBC reported in May 2002 that a "game plan to remove al-Qaeda from the face of the Earth" was placed on Bush's desk for his signature on September 9. The plan, according to NBC News reporter Jim Miklaszewski, covered everything from special-ops arrests and freezing assets to demands for the hand over of bin Laden and full-on war in Afghanistan should that fail. As the article notes, this plan “outlines essentially the same war plan [...] put into action after the Sept. 11 attacks” and “the administration most likely was able to respond so quickly to the attacks because it simply had to pull the plans ‘off the shelf.’” [27]

The war plan was on the President’s desk on September 9, as Bush ended his vacation in Crawford and jetted over to Florida to visit his brother. He was expected to sign the plan some time after returning to Washington on the 11th. Troops and bases were already in place in the region. Karl Inderfurth had threatened that the war would begin by mid-October - the first bombs started falling on October 7th, less than four weeks after 9-11 and slightly ahead of schedule. Provoked but un-prevented, al Qaeda’s timely attack allowed the administration to commence its war on Afghanistan right on the timeline everyone was already on before that “unforeseen” attack. They didn’t even miss a beat.

New Pearl Harbor indeed.

[1] Brzezinski. The Grand Chessboard. Page 124.
[2] Thompson, Paul and the center for Cooperative Research. The Terror Timeline. 2004. Page 88.
[3] Ahmed, Nafeez. The War on Freedom: How and Why America was Attacked September 11, 2001." Joshua Tree, California. Tree of Life Publications. 2002. Page 57-60.
[4] “Bin Laden, The Hidden Truth, Chapter 1. By Guillaume Dasquié and Jean-Charles Brisard. Published November, 2001.” (Translated from the French version here to English using Babelfish.) Original URL: Accessed September 28, 2005 at:
[5] Robin Wright, “Taliban Asks US to Lift its Economic Sanctions,” Los Angeles Times. March 20, 2001. Accessed October 3, 2005 at:
[6] LaFranchi, Howard. “Lessons from drug war: It takes time, allies.” Christian Science Monitor. October 1, 2001.Accessed at:
[7] Rashid,Ahmed. "Taliban: Militant Islam, oil and fundamentalism in central Asia." 2001. Page 125.
[8] See [2]. Page 120.
[9] Brisard, Jean-Charles and Guillaume Dasquie. Forbidden Truth: U.S.-Taliban Secret Oil Diplomacy and the ailed hunt for bin Laden. 2002.
[11] See [3].
[12] 18 September, 2001. "US 'planned attack on Taleban'"
[13] see [2]. Page 336.
[14] Wilson, Jamie and Richard Norton-Taylor. “British forces flex military muscle for £93m ‘desert war’” The Guardian. September 3, 2001. Copied March 1, 2002 from:,4273,4249315,00.html
[16] Brisard, Jean Charles. “Al-Qaida monitored U.S. negotiations with Taliban over oil pipeline.” Salon. June 5, 2002. Copied September 28, 2004 from:
[17] See [3]. Page 60.
[18] See [2]. page 121
[19] See [2]. Page 152.
[20] Clarke, Kate. “Revealed: The Taliban Minister, the US Envoy and the Warning of September 11 That Was Ignored." The Independent. September 7, 2002.
[21] See [2]. Page 43.
[22] See [2]. Page 39.
[23] See [2]. Page 123.
[24] Bamford, James. "Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency." Second Edition. New York. Anchor Books. 2002.
[25] See [24]. Pages 616-617.
[26] See [2]. Page 52.
[27] MSNBC. "U.S. Planned for Attack on al-Qaida: White House given strategy two days before Sept. 11." May 16, 2002. Original URL: Accessed September 28, 2005 at:

Thursday, December 7, 2006


But there was more to Operation Bojinka: a second phase, barely mentioned if at all at the time. In all the evidence and arguments in the 6,000-page transcript of the 1996 trial, there is not a single mention of this second phase, even though one of the defendants was to be the perpetrator. [1] When Philippine interrogators pressed Abdul Murad about his pilot's license, they found out that his years training at multiple American flight schools had been in preparation for one final mission. A 2002 article from the Washington Post explained. “he was to buy, rent, or steal a small plane, fill it with explosives and crash it into CIA headquarters.” [2] Murad was ready to do this, knew how to fly, had plenty of bombs in the works, and only needed a plane.

But had hoped for more, and provided his interrogators with a broader phase two plan complete with a wish list of secondary targets for simultaneous suicide plane attacks. The possible targets mentioned included the U.S. Congress, the White House, the Pentagon, and “possibly some skyscrapers,” like, for example, the ones he and Yousef had failed to bring down the first time. The only problem with carrying out this more ambitious version, Murad complained, was that “they needed more trained pilots to carry out the plot,” and of course more planes – Cessnas, Learjets, crop-dusters, anything small. [3]

Bojinaka was a famous case at the time, and had a grand scale to it that captured imaginations and the attention of writers like Tom Clancy and “John Gilnitz.” If largely forgotten as a real-world threat by 9-11, it was quickly recalled and widely commented on afterwards. But the mainstream accounts of Bojinka are universally dominated by the nightmare image of eleven airliners blowing up, flaming wreckage and thousands of corpses plunging down into the middle of the ocean. People seemed to forget or ignore phase two, since it wasn’t about to happen at the time and was so much more… lame.

It was just an idea - but what an idea. A suicidal mindset and pilot training on the part of a hijacker can turn a 767 full of innocents from a bargaining chip to a guided missile. When Aida Fariscal, the first officer on the scene the night Murad was caught, saw the footage of 9-11 years later, she gasped “oh my God, it’s Bojinka.” The following day, General Avelino “Sonny” Razon flew to Manila to issue the public statement “we told the Americans about the plans to turn planes into flying bombs as far back as 1995. Why didn't they pay attention?” [4]

Their reaction to 9-11, connecting it with Bojinka, meant they had learned the lessons of Murad’s plot and understood its wider implications. All they needed was more trained pilots, as Murad said, and different thinking about the relation between planes and bombs. This was already evident to some in 1995. Gen. Renato De Villa, who served as Philippines Defense Minister at the time, said valuable clues were discovered during Murad’s “tactical interrogation.” An article summed these up:

“First, the extremists saw the 1993 World Trade Center bombing as a failure and still considered the twin towers a viable target. And more importantly, the cell seemed to be growing frustrated with explosives. They were too expensive, unstable and could give them away.”[5]

Even in Yousef’s new type of liquid bomb was an example of their shift to easier, less traceable methods. They’d already thought about cashing planes into buildings with bombs on board. Is there an easier way to get explosive things in the air and under your control? Explosions… car crashes… gasoline… jet fuel… Ah! The only thing needed to gain access to ready-made flying bombs, with no labs or chemical shipments to discover, was a few guys with box cutters and a guy who can fly - all willing to die. The government would now have us believe that they did not predict this fairly obvious evolution in thought.

[1] Terror Timeline. Page 18.
[2] Brzezinski, Matthew. “Bust and Boom: Six years before the September 11 attacks, Philippine police took down an al Qaeda cell that had been plotting, among other things, to fly explosives-laden planes into the Pentagon.” Washington Post. December 30 2001. Page W09
[3], [4], [5], See [2].

Sunday, December 3, 2006

The Hijacker Express Lane

June 2001: as secret US-Taliban diplomacy devolves into threats of war, an increasing number of foreign intelligence warnings from Germany, Egypt, Russia, Afghanistan, etc. pour in about impending al Qaeda attacks in the US. As the last of the to-be 9-11 “muscle” hijackers enter the United States from Saudi Arabia, the State Department office there starts a little-known one-way “exchange” program called “U.S. Visa Express.” [1] Part of the long-standing friendship between the U.S. and the Saudi kingdom, it was designed to cut down on long lines, allowing Saudi citizens to enter the country without having to be interviewed at a U.S. embassy. [2] At least three of the nineteen hijackers: Abdulaziz Alomari, Salem Alhazmi, and Khalid Almidhar all used the Visa Express program to enter the country. [3]

But this was only part of a wider pattern of (negligence?) regarding Saudi Arabia that allowed in even more of the suspects. Another twelve, all but one of the “muscle” hijackers and Hani Hanjour, the alleged pilot of flight 77, entered the U.S. through the Kingdom’s wide-open door. Sydney Freedburg at the St. Petersburg Times re-traced the 15’s legal journeys to the US and narrowed the troubles down to two State Dept. offices in the Kingdom. “Some of the hijackers got tourist visas to come here after reportedly honing their explosives skills at terrorist training camps in Afghanistan,” Freedburg noted, and at least two, and possibly as many as nine, used stolen passports. He further summarized:

“They exploited a litany of loopholes in the system: Several didn't need an interview for permission to come here. […] Two were later placed on a terrorist watch list, but no one could find them. […] All 19 managed to get U.S. Social Security cards. inadvertently, the U.S. government rolled out a welcome mat for all of them.” [4]

Here, the word “inadvertently” must be momentarily suspended – since intentions are never that clear, let’s just settle for “the U.S. government rolled out a welcome mat for all of them.” ABC News reported in October, 2002 “none of the 15 applications reviewed was filled out properly.” Brothers Wail and Waleed Alshehri applied in mid-2000, listing their occupations as "teater" and “student.” Headed to beautiful scenic "Wasantwn," their Visas were approved.” [5]

These applications were largely handled through the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah, which has a history of such openness, Freedburg noted. While serving as a consular officer in Jeddah from 1987 to 1989, Michael Springmann “said he issued more than 100 visas to unqualified applicants after pressure from his State Department bosses. ‘Keep the Saudis happy,’ Springmann said he was told, apparently because they are America's biggest supplier of crude oil.” [6]

Freedburg added the “apparently” part, but Springman himself has actually cited a different reason for “keeping the Saudis happy:” they were, at the time, our biggest supplier of terrorists. In another interview, Springmann told BBC Newsnight and CBC’s Radio One that during his tenure he witnessed the operation of a terrorist “pipeline,” sponsored by the CIA:

“(The) CIA was recruiting terrorists to fight against the then Soviets… I was repeatedly ordered by high-level State Department officials to issue visas to unqualified applicants. These were people who had no ties to either Saudi Arabia or to their own country… Afghanistan was the end user of their facilities. They were coming to the US for training as terrorists. The countries that had supplied them did not want them back.” [7]

Springmann’s testimony paints a picture of an office that served as a conduit, supplying the “end user,” the Afghan Jihad against the Soviet invaders, with a constant stream of undesirables from diverse nations. These same men were then armed and trained and formed connections with each other. After the Jihad, they turned their energies elsewhere and things got ugly. In fact, the Blind Sheikh Omar Adbel Rahman, allegedly behind the 1993 WTC attack, may have entered New York via this pipeline with CIA approval in 1990, even after the afghan Jihad was over – indicating continued CIA cooperation with the al Qaeda nexus after ties were officially cut.

But even before that Springmann didn’t like what he saw, and complained about it to his superiors. As he left the scene, and for years after, he believed his complaints had shut the “pipeline” down. But after 9-11, he has serious doubts that that was ever the case. Over ten years later, Springmann maintains that all fifteen of the 9-11 hijackers from Saudi Arabia were handed their visas through his old consulate office in Jeddah. As we’ve seen above, it seems some were through Jeddah, the rest elsewhere, but his point remains valid.

> CBC” “so what does this suggest, that this pipeline was never rolled up, that it’s still operating?”
> Springmann: “Exactly. I thought it had been, because I’d raised sufficient hell that I thought they’d done it…”
> CBC: “If what you’re saying may be true, many of the terrorists who allegedly flew those planes into those targets, got their U.S. visas through the CIA and your U.S. consulate in Jeddah. That suggests a relationship ongoing as recently as obviously September. […] If the CIA had a relationship with the people responsible for September 11th, are you suggesting therein that they are somehow complicit?”
> Springmann: “Yes, either through omission or through failure to act… by the attempts to cover me up and shut me down, this convinced me more and more that this was not a pipe dream, this was not my imagination…” [8]

Even if the pipeline had been shut down for years, it couldn’t be terribly hard to re-open it and prop open wider with Visa Express-style de-regulation just in time to get the hijackers/patsies/dupes placed for the attack. They traveled in the open under the names the government would later assign, but their identities are nearly all tangled with those of men still alive. At least five of them (including Atta) have even been reported, as in the special September 15 2001 Newsweek, as being men trained at secure US military facilities – or at least confused by name with five such men. [9] All of the hijackers (if we exclude Moussaoui) encountered a law enforcement blind spot. Atta himself got at least two speeding tickets, one of which he refused to pay and got a warrant put out for his arrest! [10] And he issued death threats against a USDA employee when she refused to give him a $600,000 loan to buy a crop duster, remove the seats, and replace them with chemical tanks. [11] None were detained and they almost seem to have been protected by a higher power. Allah, they may have thought… There have been allegations that the hijackers were in fact covert operatives, drug runners, or something of the sort. Given the evidence, it can’t be ruled out.

Whoever the hijackers of 9/11 really were, wherever they really came from, and whoever really supported them, it was the US government that was tasked with protecting the people of this country – yet that government apparently threw open the gates to the barbarians right as they were massing for an attack. It’s not so much a matter of who they are or where they came from, but a matter of how did they get here and how did they avoid arrest? With these insights on the “welcome mat” rolled out we may have our answer… Besides, this embarrassing “bungling” by the State Dept. helped ensure that Visa applications would henceforth be handled by the new Homeland Security Department who promised no such screw-ups. [12]

[1] Schmidt, Susan and Bill Miller. . “Homeland Security Department to Oversee Visa Program.” Washington Post. August 6, 2002. Page A13. Accessed November 30, 2004 at:¬Found=true
[2] Ahmed, Nafeez Ahmed. The War on Freedom. How and why America was Attacked September 11, 2001.” Joshua tree, Ca, USA. Tree of Life Publications. 2002. Page 106.
[3] Camarota, Steven A. “The Open Door: How Islamic Terrorists Entered and Remained in the United States, 1993-2001.” Center for Immigration Studies. Posted June 16, 2002. Accessed November 30, 2004 at:
[4] Freedburg, Sydney. “Loopholes leave U.S. borders vulnerable.” St. Petersburg Times. November 25, 2001. Accessed November 29, 2004 at:
[5] Raddatz, Martha. “Sneaking into America: Sloppy State Dept. Paper Work Let Sept. 11 Hijackers Into the U.S.” ABC News. Accessed November 30, 2004 at:
[6] See [4]
[7] See [4]
[8] See [4]
[9] “Alleged Hijackers May Have Trained at U.S. Bases: The Pentagon has turned over military records on five men to the FBI.”
By George Wehrfritz, Catharine Skipp and John Barry. Newsweek. September 15 2001.
[10] Perle and Frum. “An End to Evil.” New York. Random house. 2004. page 69.
[11] Ross, Brian. “Face to Face With a Terrorist: Government Worker Recalls Mohamed Atta Seeking Funds Before Sept. 11.” ABC News. June 6, 2002.
[12] See [1]

Saturday, December 2, 2006


This mysterious drill is substantiated by two explicitly-linked legs of admission by involved parties, and a possible third leg that has remianed unexplained but could bring the wholeconstruct of TriPOD - and the official 9/11 - crashing down. Though widely de-bunked, the third leg is worth considering together with the others here.

Leg One: OEM Release
On May 22, 2002, NYC’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM, an earlier creation of Mayor Rudy Giuliani) issued a press release regarding a drill carried out that day in Lower Manhattan. Called Trial Point of Dispensing (TriPOD), it was the first of this name, designed to streamline “distribution of medication in the event of a biological attack” by terrorists or those rogue dictators developing weapons of mass destruction. The six-hour drill was set up around a mock “griage” (greeting and triage) center, sorting volunteers play-acting as possibly contaminated citizens, to work out any kinks before it happened for real. This seemed a prudent move given the harsh and frightening post 9/11 world the authorities insist exists just beyond their protection, but it had been originally planned in the barely-pre-9/11 world. According to the OEM release, the drill had originally been scheduled for September 12, 2001. But the attacks on Manhattan obviously superceded its first enactment. [1] The attacks also superceded and destroyed the OEM's "bunker," which was housed on the 23rd floor of Tower 7. WTC 7, of course, was damaged in the massive collapse of the twin towers, engulfed in flames from its giant diesel fuel tanks sitting atop a power station, and collapsed later that evening.

Leg Two: Giuliani's 9/11 Commission appearance:
Former New York Mayor and OEM creator Rudy Giuliani later confirmed TriPOD in his May 19, 2004 testimony before the 9/11 Commission. They chose not to re-publish his written statement and subsequent questioning, but his full comments, along with a dramatic minute-long audience mutiny, were recorded in the C-Span video, still viewable at their archive. The video has “America’s Mayor” explaining his choice for a new command center after losing the OEM bunker. He selected Pier 92. “And the reason pier 92 was selected as the command center was because on the next day, on September 12, Pier 92 was going to have a drill. It had hundreds of people here from FEMA, from the federal government, from the state, from the state Emergency Management Office, and they were getting ready for a drill for a biochemical attack. So that was going to be the place they were going to have the drill.” [2] Giuliani really wants us to know there was a drill scheduled and it was a drill about divvying up medicine in the event of a biological attack, just like OEM said TriPOD was for, so clearly he’s talking about TriPOD. Note that the command center at the Pier already had FEMA people there at the time of the attack, in preparation for this drill - not later on, in response to the attack.

But the “very distinguished” Giuliani’s account conflicts with FEMA’s earlier insistence they had no people in place before the attack, a denial necessitated by a chance slip and a bit and an old mystery.

Leg Three: Tom Kenney
Skeptics initially marveled at a “slip” from FEMA worker Tom Kenney, part of the Urban Search and Rescue division on duty at Ground Zero the day after the attack. He was interviewed by CBS’ Dan Rather, who introduced him as "Tom Kennedy - Kenney, a rescue worker with Urban Search and Recsue, which is part of FEMA." In the brief interview on Wednesday, September 12, Kenney said “we’re currently one of the first teams that was deployed to support the city of New York for this disaster. We arrived on late Monday night and went into action on Tuesday morning. And not until today did we get a full opportunity to work the entire site.” Kenney’s was not an anomalous team either, but “one of the first,” meaning that multiple FEMA teams were deployed to New York City “late Monday night,” just hours before 9-11, indicating that someone knew.

Kenney must have misspoken, everyone said at the time. According to the Snopes website attempting to debunk this “urban legend,” the Boston Herald called Kenney's wife, who explained that her husband went there on September 11, not the day before. “She explained that he was under extreme stress and […] that it was typical of her husband to confuse dates.” The Snopes website then struggled to explain his reference the three separate days: “Kenney simply mixed up his days of the week, saying Monday when he meant Tuesday and Tuesday when he meant Wednesday.” [3] Mike Ruppert offered a believable reason for this: “He gets called up, drives many hours to New York and then works for fifty hours straight. For him 9/11 was the first day of his work week and he misspoke. That's it.” [4] So his statement on Wednesday September 12 should have been: “we arrived on late Tuesday night and went into action on Wednesday morning. And not until today did we get a full opportunity to work the entire site.” The problem is not the names of the days but what seems to be a clear reference to three distinct days. If the interview happened on the 12th, one of those days fell before 9-11. He was reportedly instructed not to speak with the media any more after this, which could explain why the Herald talked to his wife instead of to Kenney himself.

After TriPOD was first mentioned but before Giuliani verified FEMA's role in it, John Dougherty took the story on for World Net Daily in November 2002. He cited another researcher's FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request to verify the deployment status on 9-11 for a “Tom Kennedy.” The researcher got no records, then got the name right, re-submitted his request, and got written proof, from FEMA itself, that FEMA "had no personnel in place Sept. 10, 2001." Dougherty concluded “if there were any doubts that those allegations were false, they have now been put to rest as a result of this research.” [5]

Thus this has never fully been resolved – and with the the TriPOD revelations, it appears there was an effort being made to explain why FEMA people actually may have been sent on the evening of the 10th. Kenney may well have known his days of the week after all, and OEM’s admission and Giuliani’s forceful reiteration may be an attempt to turn a dangerous seam into the third leg to prop up the “TriPOD” story. The Scoop site from New Zealand ran a story on this later picked up by Prison Planet that linked Kenney and TriPOD, though the exact connection was left unclear. They wondered if Giuliani’s written statement not being published was because “Rudy said something wrong.” The piece continued: "major questions exist as to why FEMA would deny being in New York City prior to 9/11 without mentioning the 9/12 bioterror drill. These questions must now be addressed as the initial suspicions of those who learned of the Tom Kenney statement have been clearly validated." [6]

If the OEM and Giuliani can speak so freely about FEMA teams being in Manhattan before the attack, why the earlier secrecy and tortured logic over Kenney’s comment? Recall here that Kenney was introduced by Rather as part of the Urban Search and Rescue division, who would not have had much of a role in a drill regarding distribution of medicine. The USR division’s job, according to their website, is “the rescue of victims of structural collapse,” which has everything to do with 9/11.

The possibility that the 9/11 response was set up the night before – and that TriPOD was merely a cover – would unravel 9/11 like nothing. I have resisted the "temptation" to contact Kenney – I’m sure he either a) has been harassed enough and has nothing to say because he really did just mix up his days or b) has too much pressure on him to say anything contrary. I'm 90% sure what answer I'd get but not so sure I'd know what to make of it anyway and and besides, I already have enough red flags next to my name on the watch lists. In fact considering all this, my enthusiasm waned. Though I had enjoyed reviving a previously de-bunked seam, I was left less than sure of it and ready to let it go.

Though I'll never give up entertaining possibilities, the most compelling argument I’ve seen to drop the issue entirely is from Mike Ruppert, who tried in mid-2004, as Crossing the Rubicon was coming out, to put this rumor to rest himself. He stated that “the "FEMA-Kennedy arrived in NY on Sept. 10th" myth is pure poison and absolutely incorrect.” Though he made too big a deal over the name confusion, he made a strong case, actually getting off his ass and calling multiple people involved with Kenney's fire team (on loan to FEMA, we learn). They all confirmed that they left on Tuesday night and sent him photos and videos of the send-off that featured Kenney and profuse 9/11 response imagery that would have made no sense the previous night.“This erroneous story is dangerously useful for the cover-up," Ruppert summarized, "and it's time to give it the axe.” [7]

[1] New York City Office of Emergency Management. “TriPOD (Trial Point-of-Dispensing) Drill.” Accessed January 15, 2005 at:
[2] “Eleventh public hearing of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.” May 18-19, 2004. Testimony of Rudolph Guiliani. C-Span archive video location (accessed January, 2005):
[3] Mikkelson, Barbara and David Mikkelson. “Monday, Monday.” Urban Legends Reference Pages. Last Updated October 1, 2002. Accessed January 15, 2005 at:
[4] Ruppert, Michael C. “TRIPOD II AND FEMA”
[5] Dougherty, Jon. “9-11 Net Rumor Finally Put to Rest.” World Net Daily. November 27, 2002. Accessed February 19, 2005 at:
[6] "Long Debunked "Rumor" Validated by Giuliani: FEMA in NYC prior to 9-11 for Project TRIPOD terror drill, scheduled for 9-12." Scoop. June 29 2004.
[7] See [4].

Thursday, November 30, 2006



One question I’ve always had regarding the 9/11 hijackers is if you’re going to attack America, why train there? Why run the risk of getting caught? Why not train somewhere friendly, and then go to America and commit the attack quickly and quietly? What was so special about training in the U.S. that they had to sleep in the “lion’s den” for over a year in some cases?

A possible answer seems to have been provided just days after the attack. At least five men with names matching the five hijackers were reported to have been trained at various military bases in the U.S., notably the Naval Air Station in Pensacola Florida. This was according to Pentagon documents turned over to the FBI and reported on by mainstream news outlets, notably Newsweek and the Washington Post. Newsweek reported just four days after the attack

“U.S. military sources have given the FBI information that suggests five of the alleged hijackers of the planes that were used in Tuesday’s terror attacks received training at secure U.S. military installations in the 1990s.
Three of the alleged hijackers listed their address on drivers licenses and car registrations as the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla.—known as the “Cradle of U.S. Navy Aviation,” according to a high-ranking U.S. Navy source.
Another of the alleged hijackers may have been trained in strategy and tactics at the Air War College in Montgomery, Ala., said another high-ranking Pentagon official. The fifth man may have received language instruction at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Tex. Both were former Saudi Air Force pilots who had come to the United States, according to the Pentagon source.”

The Washington Post reported on September 16 seven cases of confused identity: “Two of 19 suspects […] have the same names as men listed at a housing facility for foreign military trainees at Pensacola. Two others […] have names similar to individuals listed in public records as using the same address inside the base.” Another matched a graduate of the Defense Language Institute in San Antonio. Finally, “men with the same names as two other hijackers [...] appear as graduates of the U.S. International Officers School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., and the Aerospace Medical School at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio, respectively.”

But the identities were not exact: Newsweek explained: “there are slight discrepancies between the military training records and the official FBI list of suspected hijackers—either in the spellings of their names or with their birthdates.” The Post noted: "Some of the FBI suspects had names similar to those used by foreign alumni of U.S. military courses," the Air Force acknowledged in a statement. "However, discrepancies in their biographical data, such as birth dates 20 years off, indicate we are probably not talking about the same people." One military source told Newsweek it was possible that the hijackers stole the identities of the foreign students, but hijacked identities are primarily based on names and birthdates, which have to be the same, neither off by decades nor even “slightly discrepant.”

So does this fact fall under the “stolen identities” heading, under the “military training of suicide hijackers under slight pseudonyms” category, or in the realm of true and odd coincidences? It’s certainly clear which way the official story evolved. The documents were eventually seen as verifying that nearly a quarter of the hijackers had probably stolen identities, all conveniently available to the Pentagon’s leadership, and eventually just taken as a further verification of the terrorists’ existence. Investigative reporter Daniel Hopsicker tried to clear this up by asking an Air Force Public Relations Officer about the two Mohammed Attas. She asserted that “biographically, they’re not the same [person],” but when Hopsicker asked if he could meet the Air-Force trained Mohammed Atta, she told him she didn’t think he was "going to get that information.”

What if news revealed that five men matching names of five hijackers had received training in Iraq in the 1990s? In that context, such a connection would be seen as a smoking gun, but in this case, it’s just smoke and mirrors I don’t know why the Pentagon would have been looking through lists of its own trainees immediately after the attack. Did they suspect it the work of their own? Perhaps it really was a glimpse of Shadow 9-11, the work of high-level whistleblowers, whose story was simply too big for most people to comprehend. Or maybe this is another government-sponsored seam, a red herring designed to encourage conspiracy theorists and confuse the rest of us. And of course, even more so than with the other oddities I've lookedat,coincidence remains a distinct possibility. The miliatry trains a lot of people and there are plenty of Arabs with only so many names between them.

So anyway, here is the list of hijackers with curiously similar identities to US-trained operatives: the four foreign nationals training in Pensacola were mostly related and shared names with the equally related Saeed Alghamdi (#17), Ahmed Alghamdi (#8), Hamza Alghamdi (#9) and Ahmad Alnami (#19). That would be quite a coincidence. An “Abdulaziz Alomari (#5),” with curious and little-noted identity entanglements with three different individuals, had attended aerospace Medical School at Brooks Air Force Base in Texas. A Saeed Alghamdi (#17) had been to the Defense Language School in Monterrey, California - possibly the same man who bunked with the others in Pensacola, or perhaps a different person again. A Mohammed Atta (#1 of course) had attended International Officers School at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery Alabama, the student of “strategy and tactics” at the base’s Air War College. If these identities were stolen the leader of the group picked the right pedigree, his strategically patsy-like actions while on his globetrotting terror mission belie the training.

[1] Alleged Hijackers May Have Trained at U.S. Bases
[1] George Wehrfritz, Catharine Skipp and John Barry. "The Pentagon has turned over military records on five men to the FBI." Newsweek. September 15 2001. Accessed at:
[2] Guy Gugliotta and David S. Fallis. "2nd Witness Arrested: 25 Held for Questioning." Washington Post. September 16, 2001; Page A29. Accessed at:
[3] Hopsicker, Daniel. "Did Terrorist Pilots Train at U.S. Military Schools?" Original Link: Accessed at:

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


As the official story goes, while Pope John Paul II was preparing to visit Manila in early 1995, with security ratcheting up everywhere, two early al Qaeda masterminds were mapping out his route. They were preparing to dress in ecclesiastical garb and blend in to the procession with bombs beneath their robes, and even collected pictures of the pontiff to ensure they would kill the right guy. The 9-11 Commission concluded they also plotted to assassinate President Clinton there in November, but missed their chance. [1] They were staying in a hotel (Dona Josefa Apartments, room 603) only 200 yards from the Vatican embassy, and almost as close to the local police station. They moved in on December 8, 1994. They had few visitors over the next month, but one, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), was reportedly financing their operation and was in and out of room 603.

Yousef and Murad also built a lot of bombs, one of which blew up prematurely on January 6. The two men fled their burning room, explaining they’d had a mishap with fireworks and would be back soon. Later on one of the culprits made good on his promise and was arrested by local authorities as he returned to the smoking scene. The suspect was quickly identified as Abdul Murad, an al Qaeda-linked Kuwaiti trained and licensed to fly commercial airliners in U.S. flight schools, and wanted in connection with the 1993 WTC attack. Ramzi Yousef, suspected mastermind of that attack, was the other guy in room 603, and returned with Murad. But when he saw the police, he fled, and evaded capture for a bit longer.

But Yousef did leave behind his lap-top computer and some disks, apparently too heavy to take with him as he fled. Of course they were full of top secret terrorist information. Investigators found an apparent mess of data on this computer – flight numbers, Arabic-sounding code-names, references to timers, all under the heading “Bojinka.” Yousef in fact had allegedly executed a test-run just weeks before, planting a small practice bomb beneath his seat. It worked, killing a Japanese businessman on the next leg of the plane’s flight and injuring others, forcing an emergency landing. [2]

A Graphic Used by CNN in their original reporting in 1995-96.
Bojinka was soon discovered to be the itinerary for eleven terrorists to plant eleven nitroglycerine bombs, much more powerful than the test bomb, on eleven U.S. jetliners, timed to explode simultaneously over the Pacific. And it was set up to go, possibly soon. White House Counter-terrorism “Czar” Richard Clarke mentioned Bojinka in his book Against All Enemies, by details if not by name. He wrote how he received a message from Manila regarding Ramzi Yousef and his devious plan, which featured undetectable liquid bombs to be assembled in eye drop bottles on board the planes. The bombers were then to mimic Yousef’s trial run and disembark, leaving the others to die. Clarke called the FAA and told them to stop all flights originating in the Pacific. When flights resumed, liquids were not allowed on board. [3] Officials later estimated 4,000 people would likely have died if the plot hadn’t been intercepted. Vincent Cannistraro, former CIA counter-terrorism director later said of this plan “we had never seen anything that complicated or ambitious before. It was unparalleled.” [4]

Within a few weeks of Bojinka’s discovery, Yousef was rounded up in Pakistan and joined Murad in prison. According to Peter Lance, that wacky KSM happened to be living in the same building, and when he saw reporters from Time show up, he told them all about the arrest with his own face but the clever pseudonym “Khalid Sheikh.” [5] The next day Yousef was flown to the U.S. and helicoptered to jail in Manhattan. An FBI agent reportedly shouted to him over the noise “you see the Trade Centers down there, they're still standing, aren't they?” Yousef allegedly responded “they wouldn't be if I had enough money and enough explosives.” [6]

Yousef and Murad were joined in the conspiracy charge by an Afghan named Wali Khan Amin Shah. CNN reported on the Bojinka trial in mid-1996, starting with jury selection on May 13. [7] Ramzi knew his rights, and chose to represent himself. His co-defendants Murad and Shah retained a defense team that called five witnesses, as CNN reported, “including a police officer from the Philippines who admitted that he had mixed up evidence he had examined.” Yousef maintained he’d been framed by Philippines police, but the three were finally convicted on all counts of attempted murder and related charges on September 5. The charges carried out a mandatory life sentence at least, with the sentencing scheduled for December 5. [8] Case closed… Long silence...

[1] 9-11 Commission Final Report. Page 147.
[2] “Oplan Bojinka.” Wikipedia. Accessed November 11, 2005 at:
[3] Clarke, Richard. “Against all Enemies.” 2004. Pages 93-94.
[4] Brzezinski, Matthew. “Bust and Boom: Six years before the September 11 attacks, Philippine police took down an al Qaeda cell that had been plotting, among other things, to fly explosives-laden planes into the Pentagon.”
Washington Post. December 30 2001. Page W09
[5] Lance Page 328, cited from Paul Thompson and the Center for Cooperative Research, the Terror Timeline, 2004, Page 14
[6] Paul Thompson and the Center for Cooperative Research, the Terror Timeline, 2004, Page 14
[7] CNN. “Terrorism trial begins in New York.” May 13, 1996. Accessed November 10, 2005 at:
[8] CNN. “Plane Terror Suspects Convicted on all Counts.” September 5, 1996. Acc. Nov. 9, 2005 at:

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


September 13, 2001: The nation is still staggering, in deep shock over the most devastating act of terrorism in American history. With the body count still not finalized but sitting near 6,000 (well-down from initial estimates of 20,000), General Richard B. Myers, Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), sits under oath in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee. This is his confirmation hearing, scheduled weeks before, to be promoted to the post of JCS Chairman, the highest U.S. military post. It was surely a bittersweet event for him. He had already started his tenure as acting JCS Chairman two days earlier - on the morning of September 11th. He had been standing in for his superior Henry Shelton, who had just that morning left on a trip to Europe on prearranged but unspecified business. [1] In the hearing, this curious coincidence was ignored, but Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) asked the candidate about the failed military response during the attack, with which Myers was closely involved.

Levin: “Was the defense department asked to take action against any specific aircraft? […] And did you take action against – for instance, there has been statements that the aircraft that crashed in Pennsylvania was shot down. Those stories continue to exist.”
Myers: “Mr. Chairman, the armed forces did not shoot down any aircraft. When it became clear what the threat was, we did scramble fighter aircraft, AWACS, radar aircraft and tanker aircraft to begin to establish orbits in case other aircraft showed up in the FAA system that were hijacked. But we never actually had to use force.”
Levin: “Was that order that you just described given before or after the Pentagon was struck? Do you know?”
Myers: “That order, to the best of my knowledge, was after the Pentagon was struck.”

With his first-hand knowledge of what happened only two days earlier, he maintained that his military did not scramble any fighters in response until after the Pentagon was hit by the third hijacked plane of the morning at 9:37. This was thirty-five minutes – at least - after a second hijacked airliner plowed into the World Trade Center at 9:03, clarifying to everyone we were at war – and quickly losing. How could the mightiest Air Force on Earth be so slow responding to such an urgent emergency?

This was not merely Myers’ confused recollection; the next day, Major Mike Snyder, a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), backed him up on this point. According to the Boston Globe: “[Snyder] said the fighters were not scrambled for more than an hour after the first hijacking was reported, by which time the three buildings were struck […] Never before had a hijacked airliner been steered into a skyscraper, Snyder noted, in trying to explain the lack of immediate response.” [3]

So on September 14, that was the official story, confirmed by both Myers and Snyder, by both the JCS and NORAD, and generally taken as fact. Even long after this official story had changed, then-Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani would confirm this original assessment. He told the 9/11 Commission in May 2004 that he was told he just minutes before the first World Trade Tower collapsed at 9:58 that fighters had just been scrambled to protect New York “twelve minutes ago.” [4] By this account, the jets were airborne at about 9:46, exactly an hour after the first attack in New York.

It became clear with a CBS News broadcast that very night that this was actually not the case, that two fighter pilots had been sent at 8:52 from Massachusetts, and soon we had confirmation of another pair sent from Langley AFB in Virginia at 9:30. So why the early confusion?

I don't know the reason for this incongruity, but I do know the effects. On September 11, NORAD knew as of 8:40 (by their own account) that American 11 was (possibly) hijacked and headed to New York. Three minutes later, they learned a second airliner, United 175, was also (possibly) hijacked. As of 8:46, when flight 11 hit the Word Trade Center, they knew what kind of (possible) hijackings these were – just as UA175 changed course and headed for New York itself. Fighter interception should have been a no-brainer at this point, and authorization to shoot to kill should have been sought swiftly to defend future targets. Yet fifty-one minutes later, the new JCS Chairman tells us under oath, NORAD hadn’t got a single fighter off the ground? Honestly, that doesn’t even make sense. It looks like a stand-down.

Rumors began to spread of just this possibility, and persisted well past the reports on 9/14 and after that fighters were scrambled. In September 2003 Michael Meacher, former British Environment Minister, wrote an article for the Manchester Guardian called “This War on Terrorism is Bogus.” He pointed out that no fighters were scrambled from the nation’s premier Andrews Air Force Base, only ten miles from the Pentagon, during the course of the attack. Meacher wondered “was this inaction simply the result of key people disregarding, or being ignorant of, the evidence? Or could US air security operations have been deliberately stood down on September 11? If so, why, and on whose authority?” [5]

It’s a good question; Andrews is the nation’s premiere Air Force base, home of Air Force One, and touchdown point for world leaders visiting the U.S. It is in many ways the central staging ground for the most elaborate airspace defense in the world – yet no fighters were sent from there until well after the attack was over with. Mark R. Elsis of put it “there is only one explanation. Our Air Force was ordered to stand down on 9/11.” [6]

I had always found a direct stand-down order a possibility, but too simple of one – did Meacher and Elsis mean an indirect, de facto stand-down or a direct, de jure one? A formal stand-down order is an order, official, total, and enforced as such. Are we really to believe that of the hundreds of pilots ready to take off and help in such a crisis, all told by their superiors to stay on the ground, none would be angry and courageous enough to speak up? Even I, in my profound cynicism, find this hard to swallow. A de jure stand-down seems unlikely to me, and a simplistic argument that looks for an easily identifiable smoking gun of complicity.

Mike Ruppert took this line as well in mid-2004: “There never was a stand down order issued. That would have been way too incriminating and risky a piece of evidence. And it also might have been ignored by eager fighter pilots who had trained their whole lives to respond to a hostile aircraft killing Americans. There are several statements that the "new" NORAD procedures transferring scramble authority to Rumsfeld on June 1, 2001 were ignored by several NORAD commanders on 9/11 including General Larry Arnold. That's exactly what I would have expected.” [7]

However, a close look at the facts reveals an air defense system not just broken but peculiarly broken on that “fateful” morning, with the same net result as a de facto stand-down order. That is, stand down or no, the defense was as ineffective as if there had been, and it hardly seems any less purposeful than Meacher or Elsis suggests.

[1] Balz, Dan and Bob Woodward. “America's Chaotic Road to War: Bush's Global Strategy Began to Take Shape in First Frantic Hours After Attack.” Washington Post. January 27, 2002. Page A01. Accessed November 6, 2004 at:
[2] General Richard B. Myers, Senate Confirmation Hearing. Senate Armed Services Committee. September 13, 2001. Accessed August 5, 2005 at:
[3] Johnson, Glen. "Facing Terror Attack's Aftermath: Otis Fighter Jets Scrambled Too Late to Halt The Attacks" The Boston Globe. September 15, 2001 Third Edition Page A1. Accessed at:
[4] Thompson, Paul and the Center for Cooperative Research. The Terror Timeline: Year by Year, Day by Day, Minute by Minute. New York. Regan books. 2004. Page 439
[5] Ruppert, Michael C. Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil. Gabriola Island, BC, Canada. New Society Publishers 2004 P. 309
[6] Chertoff, Benjamin et al. “Debunking 9/11 Myths.” Popular Mechanics, March 2005.
[7]Ruppert, Michael C.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Three Abdul Alomaris?

The cases of confused identity regarding the alleged hijackers are many and well-covered elsewhere. Here I'll cover on telling case I haven't seen anyone else take on. Not that I've really looked. I'd rather keep my illusion of a "hot exclusive story:" the tale of the three Abdul Alomaris.

This case of mistaken identity arose in the first days after the attack. The BBC reported on September 13th that the trail of evidence led investigators from a rental car left behind in Maine to two houses in Vero Beach, Florida. One house had been rented by two brothers from Saudi Arabia, Adnan and Ameer Bukhari, both certified pilots and clearly suspects at this early stage. According to the landlord, Adnan Bukhari and another man who lived in the house next door “had described themselves as Saudi pilots.” They gave as addresses Saudi Arabian Airlines PO boxes in the Kingdom. [1] A CBS News report from the following day explained that agents were questioning Adnan Bukhari, whom they described as a 41-year-old flight engineer. He was at the time a student at Flight Safety Academy, a Miami-area flight school, as had been “an apparent relative of Bukhari, Ameer Bukhari,” until he was killed in a mid-air collision exactly a year before Tuesday's attack.” [2] If by “exactly a year” they mean that Ameer, a man linked with the 9-11 hijackers through direct evidence, died in a mid-air collision on September 11, 2000, that seems more than a little spooky to me. And that it allegedly happened at a place called “Flight Safety” is less spooky than ironic.

The BBC piece states that Bukhari’s unnamed neighbor was also a Flight Safety student, also involved with Saudi aviation. Both men lived there “with their wives and children.” [3] CBS’ report from the 15th explained that this neighbor was one “Abdul Alomari.” [4] An article from the same day in the Florida paper, the St. Petersburg Times, referred to him as “Adbulrahman Al Omari.” [5] Direct evidence from the hijackers’ leavings had led investigators to this man “who lived with his wife and four children.” [6] They clarify that this was indeed one of the hijackers, seated next to Atta on Flight 11, and he apparently had not yet shown up to clarify his innocence. [7] But he was living with his family; this is something we’ve never heard of any the hijackers doing. What could be behind this bizarre identity mix-up? Did the hijacker steal the name of the happily married Abdulrahman Alomari, change it somewhat, and then commit his horrific act? Was the family rented, and the name an alias?

The U.K. paper the Telegraph reported that a man named Abdulaziz Alomari, an engineer from Riyadh, had taken flight training in the U.S. – in Denver during the early 1990s - at which time his passport was stolen. He said he went back home in 2000 and was working for the government, at the Saudi telecommunications authority in Riyadh, and was at his desk there when the 9-11 attack occurred. “They gave my name and my date of birth,” he said, “but I am not a suicide bomber. I am here. I am alive.” Along with a Saudi Airlines pilot named Saeed Al-Ghamdi, Alomari told the Telegraph he was, as they put it, “furious that the hijackers' "personal details" - including name, place, date of birth and occupation - matched their own.” [8] Same name. Same locations and DOB. Still alive. Presuming this was double-checked, and the Saudis are notoriously secretive, it would be a clear indication that the man pegged as the hijackers had stolen their identities, and somehow, a Saudi Government employee’s identity had been tacked onto one of the government-identified hijackers – by who exactly and for what purpose is unclear.

Left: The real Abdulaziz Alomari, a Government employee in Saudi Arabia: “I am here. I am alive.” Right: Official mugshot of the hijacker with the same name and birthdate.

Unlike this living man, the other two Abdul Alomaris wound up in Florda. The 9/11 Commission’s Final Report gave as facts about hijacker Alomari: he was a late-arriving “muscle” hijacker, and thus required no flight-training. All the muscle hijackers, including Alomari, were between 20 and 28 years old. Alomari “had graduated with honors from High School, had attained a (university) degree… was married, and had a daughter.” [1] The report does not mention if this daughter was his only child, or one of four, nor does it either confirm or deny that his wife and daughter lived with him in the U.S. or whether he was a trained pilot. [11] The “Abdulrahman Alomari” from Vero Beach that immediate evidence indicated was one of the hijackers does not seem to be the same person. The St. Petersburg Times found, by looking at Florida records, that their Alomari was 38 years old, not “20-28,” and a trained pilot, working for Saudi Airlines, and receiving further training in Florida. Although the 9/11 Commission paints him as a late arrival, the St. Petersburg Times found that he had first gotten a Florida driver’s license in 1994. [12]

So on reviewing this evidence, it appears there may be three Abdul Alomaris:
- Abdulaziz Alomari – Alive and well, employed by the Saudi Government, received flight training in the U.S. years ago (not Florida), marital status unknown.
- Abdulrahman Alomari – Long-time resident of Florida since 1994, a trained pilot, married with four children, living and training in Florida in 2001, apparently disappeared around 9-11.
- Abdulaziz Alomari – alleged hijacker, obviously dead, married with one child, first arrived in the U.S. in mid-2001, presumably did not live with his family, presumably not a trained pilot.
Of course this is all very top-secret, so most of us will likely never know who these men were – or if they even existed. What’s disturbing is when it sometimes seems like the authorities don’t know either, or don’t care.

[1], [5], [12] “Names of hijackers.” St. Petersburg Times (Florida). September 15, 2001. Accessed November 2. 2004 at:
[2], [7] “Focus On Florida.” CBS News. September 14, 2001. Copied November 2, 2004 from:
[3], [4], [6] “Evidence trails lead to Florida.” BBC News. September 13, 2001. Accessed October 30, 2004 at:
[8] Harrison, David. “Revealed: the men with stolen identities.” The Telegraph. September 23 2001. Copied Nov 3, 2004 from:
[9] “Hijack 'suspects' alive and well” BBC News. September 23, 2001. Accessed November 3, 2004 at:
[10] National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. The 9-11 Commission Final Report. Authorized Edition. New York. W.W. Norton. 2004. Page 232
[11] 9/11 Commssion Final Report. Page 231.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Wargame One: Vigilant Guardian

OPERATION VIGILANT GUARDIAN: The ironically dubbed “Vigilant Guardian” was the first to be widely acknowledged, notably in the BBC’s excellent 2002 documentary Clear the Skies. The exercise, as the official one-paragraph web page explains, was a regular, yearly exercise designed to simulate a “crisis to North American Air Defense outposts nationwide.” [1] As a result of Vigilant Guardian, according to NEADS Commander Colonel Robert Marr, “The fighters were cocked and loaded, and even had extra gas on board.” [2] Exact details remain classified, but it was a multi-day exercise, already going on for at least a day as the attacks began.

Three different accounts of first notification of a hijacking indicate that there were to be simulated hijackings in at least Vigilant Guardian: Major General Larry Arnold said “the first thing that went through my mind was, is this part of the exercise? Is this some kind of a screw-up?” [3] Sergeant Jeremy Powell at NEADS, where Vigilant Guardian was being carried out, was contacted by Boston Flight Control at 8:38 am. The Boston controller told him there was a hijacked plane headed to New York. Powell responded “is this real-world or exercise?” He received the answer “no this is not an exercise, not a test.” [4]

The most relevant account is that of Lt. Colonel Dawne Deskins. As NEADS regional overseer of Vigilant Guardian, she should have understood better than anyone what to expect from the drill. Newhouse News Service reported her response to the crisis: "At 8:40, Deskins noticed senior technician Jeremy Powell waving his hand. Boston Center was on the line, he said. It had a hijacked airplane. “It must be part of the exercise,” Deskins thought. At first, everybody did. [After clarifying with FAA] Deskins ran up a short flight of stairs to the Battle Cab and reported the hijacked plane real world, not a simulation.” [5]

Name Meaning: “Vigilant or Amalgam means it is a HQ NORAD sponsored exercise. Guardian means it is a multi-command CPX, or command post exercise (no live-fly). So on 9/11, NORAD was conducting a NORAD-wide, multi-command, command post exercise with no live-fly." - Major Don Arias, NORAD press spokesman who was on duty and involved in the response the morning of 9/11, to Mike Ruppert. As reprinted in Crossing the Rubicon, page 368.

(the original page had this quote, but by 2006 the page makes no mention of a crisis but explains it is now "conducted in conjunction with USCINCSTRAT-sponsored GLOBAL GUARDIAN and USCINCSPACE-sponsored APOLLO GUARDIAN exercises. The exercise involves all HQ NORAD levels of command and is designed to exercise most aspects of the NORAD mission.")
[2] Scott, William B. “Exercise Jump-Starts Response to Attacks.” Aviation week’s Aviation Now. June 3, 2002. Accessed April 27, 2003 at:
[3] ABC News. “Terror Hits the Towers: How Government Officials Reacted
to Sept. 11 Attacks.” September 14, 2002. Accessed at:
[4] 9/11 Commission Final Report. Page 20
[5] Hart, Seely. “Amid Crisis Simulation, 'We Were Suddenly No-Kidding Under Attack.'” Newhouse News Service. January 25, 2002. Accessed May 7, 2003 at:

A Yawning Gap

On the evening of September 14 the first story of the Air Force response to the three-day old attack was aired on CBS News.- The two F-15 pilots were scrambled from Otis AFB on Cape Cod, Massachusetts at 8:52, just after the first plane's impact but well before the second. Despite what officials had thus far said, it seemed fighters did get airborne during the attack. This made us feel a little better.

After this news was reported, the official stance changed. On the 18th, NORAD published their final initial timeline, including the Otis scramble time as 8:52, and an additional scramble of fighters from Langley Air Force Base at 9:30, ceding two scrambles before the Pentagon was hit. This timeline changed yet again in 2004 as the 9/11 Commission released its findings. Most of the facts that follow are from this newer version of events (the scrambles just mentioned are agreed on in both versions).

At the time of the attacks, only fourteen fighters were routinely kept on ready and alert status across the US mainland. These were deployed and scrambled in pairs, so these fighters represented only seven actual deployments. Nearly all reported pre-9/11 threats of terrorist attacks, some involving hijackings, focused on New York or Washington D.C. Yet on that morning, only two of these seven deployments were in the Northeast sector, thick with air traffic (about 50% of the national total) and with threats against it (nearly all threats targeted New York or Washington). The BBC quoted Colonel Robert Marr, Commander of the North East Air Defense Sector (NEADS), as saying “I had determined, of course, that with only four aircraft we cannot defend the whole north eastern United States.” Worse, these deployments were on the northern and southern fringes of the area of vulnerability, in each case about 150 miles away from the nearest targeted site. One newspaper wondered why NORAD had left “what seems to be a yawning gap in the midsection of its air defenses on the East Coast – a gap with New York City at the center.”

Fighter Deployments

(Graphic by the Author, based on post-9/11 research - exact basing at the time of the attack is not clear, but clearly seems inadequate for what unfolded that day, revealing, at best, poor planning of the air defenses in a time of heightened alert)
1) Hancock Field Air National Guard Base (ANGB), Syracuse, NY. 174th Fighter Wing. Very close to Rome, NY HQ of NEADS.
2) Barnes ANGB, MA. 104th Fighter Wing
3) Bradley ANG base, CT. 103rd Fighter Wing.
4) Otis AFB, Falmouth, MA. Postings and status unclear. Scrambled two F-16s at 8:52.
5) Willow Grove, PA. 11th Fighter Wing.
6) Atlantic City ANGB, NJ. 177th Fighter Wing. Atlantic City had two F-16s In the air on 9/11 for a bombing exercise near the city. Boston flight controllers tried to contact the base at 8:34, but the phone just rang. They weren’t on “ready” status as they had been in previous years. This fighter pair was finally sent to Washington after 10:00.
7) Andrews AFB - it's actually closer than it looks here, only 10 miles from the Pentagon - home of the 113th wing DC Air National Guard and the Air National Guard Readiness Center. They did not get fighter off the ground on 9/11 until 10:42, and these were sent up without missiles. The pair sent had been in the air on a training mission in South Carolina as the attack began.
8) Langley AFB, VA. 10th Intelligence Squadron, Air Force Doctrine Center, Air Combat Command, 1st Fighter Wing. Scrambled two F-15s and an unidentified third plane at 9:30.