Thursday, March 15, 2007


Adam Larson
Caustic Logic/They Let It Happen
January 1 2007
Last Update: 3/19

9/11 was just such a weird day, who could think it relevant that among the other oddities of that morning The FAA was being run by a first-day rookie? Benedict Sliney was just getting his feet wet as the National Operations Manager when four civilian airliners were hijacked amid confused reports of about a dozen possible hijacks. While Sliney had superiors like FAA administrator Jane Garvey, he was called on to make major decisions that morning. He told the 9/11 Commission: “NORAD […] asked ME if I were requesting military intervention. And I indicated to NORAD that I’m advising you of the facts of this particular incident – I’m not requesting anything. I wasn’t sure I even had the authority to request such a thing.” [1] Perhaps he hadn’t watched the training video closely enough the day before.

But was the Chain of Command he and the others at FAA informing any better organized? The National Military Command Center (NMCC), beneath the Pentagon, is the command and control “nerve center” for the military leadership if America comes under attack. While this usually does not happen, the NMCC sits ready, watched over and coordinated by the Deputy Director of Operations (DDO) and is used for other activities requiring centralized coordination – like passing on requests for fighter assistance in case of a hijacking and, I’d guess, coordinating air-based War games, of which there were at least five on 9/11.

Then Captain Charles J. Leidig - acting NMCC Director for almost precisely the 90 minutes of the 9/11 attacks
Army Brigadier General Montague Winfield was originally slated to be in charge of the NMCC that morning, but the previous day he had decided to take some time off, asking a recently qualified but inexperienced rookie, Navy Captain Charles Leidig, to stand in as DDO in the morning. This is confirmed by Leidig’s own testimony to the 9/11 Commission. His written statement was the shortest they received at just over one page, large font, double spaced. It stated blandly “on 10 September 2001, Brigadier General Winfield, US Army, asked that I stand a portion of his duty […] on the following day. I agreed and relieved Brigadier General Winfield at 0830 on 11 September 2001.” [2] At that very minute, the first plane was right between its hijacking (about 8:15) and its impact with the WTC (8:46).

The remarkable request was presumably for some other, lesser, reason. But Leidig’s rookie status (only qualified to be DDO a few weeks earlier) and the emerging crisis did not interrupt the transfer and Winfield left. I can’t say whether this had any operational role in 9/11 or the lack of defense against it, or was related to the air-based war games that have been acknowledged, but both seem probable. And while certainly the timing of this admitted September 10 request is beyond coincidence, none of the involved parties have offered any explanation - it has remained both curiously open and unexplained.

But war games or no, Leidig’s job there wound up more than a drill. As the 9-11 Commission’s final report explained “the job of the NMCC in such an emergency is to gather the relevant parties and establish the chain of command between the national command authority […] and those who need to carry out their orders.” [3] This includes, among others, the Defense Secretary and JCS Chairman. Acting Joint Chiefs Chairman, Air Force General Richard Myers – like Leidig, filling in as of the morning of 9/11 – claims total ignorance of the attack until about 9:40, and the 9/11 Commission confirmed that he arrived at the NMCC and joined the conference in session just before 10:00, over an hour after the attack began and just as it was ending.

By the time Myers arrived at 10:00, regular DDO Montague Winfield had taken the center over again from Leidig, but Rumsfeld, the middle link in the “national command authority” chain Leidig was tasked with “gathering,” was still MIA. Winfield would later state “for 30 minutes we couldn't find him. And just as we began to worry, he walked into the door” at 10:30 – nearly a half hour after the attack was over. [4] While he’d been at the building all morning, officially he’d been too busy loading injured into ambulances for the TV cameras to take his part in the defense, though accounts of his whereabouts vary greatly.

So here is the graphic representation of Leidig’s unorthodox stand-in shift and the results of his work to “gather the relevant parties” during the 111 minutes that hijacked attack craft were attacking the heart of America’s financial and military might. By whatever confluence of factors, the room was kept vacant of upper leadership until Leidig relenquished control and the attack ended. We should be left wondering why the parties weren’t gathered, what was so special about Leidig that he had to be there to fail to gather them, and who knew the day before just how badly he would fail when inserted in the morning?

Leidig did try to do things on his own as Myers and Rumsfeld kept their distance, initiating a phone bridge and significant event conference at 9:29, a line that the 9/11 Commission clarified did not have FAA on it. One minute later, Leidig announced that he was just told American 11 was still airborne. [5] It was also precisely at 9:30 that the Langley fighter pilots finally took off, and so Leidig gave them this new ghost target, which wound up distracting them from the very real Flight 77 as it closed in on his own location and entered radar screens again. The fighter pilots were never informed of the attack plane until after they saw smoke rising from the Pentagon after 9:37. The Commission admitted the FAA was not on the line with Leidig, but blames them anyway: “we have not been able to identify the source of this mistaken FAA information,” and left it at that [emphasis mine]. [6]

Since that day, Leidig has been promoted – first to Commandant of Midshipmen in September 2003, then to U.S. Defense Representative to the Pacific micro-states. Later he assumed command of U.S. Naval Forces Marianas and Navy Region Marianas and advanced to Rear Admiral status. Leidig is recipient of numerous service medals over his distinguished career, none specifically for his service on 9/11, of which his official Navy bio makes no mention whatsoever. [7]

[After I posted this, it occured to me to state I'm not accusing Adm Leidig of anything in particular, nor Sliney, Myers, or even Rumsfeld individually. I only present this in the public interest to help clarify the record - nothing personal.]

[1] National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. Panel one, Day two of 12th public hearing. Staff statements on the military and civilian aviation authorities. Washington D.C. June 17, 2004.
[2] Flocco, Tom. "NMCC ops director asked substitute on 9-10 to stand his watch on 9-11.” Prison Planet. June 18 2004.
[3] 9/11 Commission Final Report. Page 37.
[4] Thompson, Paul and the Center for Cooperative Research. “The Terror Timeline.” New York. Regan Books. 2004. Page 456.
[5] 9/11 Commission Final Report. Page 37.
[6] 9/11 Commission Final Report. Page 26
[7] Commander Naval Forces Marianas: Rear Admiral Charles J. Leidig. US Navy bio.

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