9/11, An Inside Job?
A Review Essay based on David Ray Griffin’s research
by Ronald Bleier
David Ray Griffin: The New Pearl Harbor Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 9/11 Massachusetts: Olive Branch Press (2004)
David Ray Griffin: The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions And Distortions
Massachusetts: Olive Branch Press (2005)
We must speak the truth about terror. Let us never tolerate outrageous conspiracy theories concerning the attacks of September the 11th, malicious lies that attempt to shift the blame away from the terrorists themselves, away from the guilty.
President G.W. Bush to the U.N. General Assembly, 11/10/01
Was 9/11 an inside job? David Ray Griffin addresses this question in two books that critically examine the official account of the events of 9/11. Griffin’s books are masterpieces of concise compilations of the available plausible evidence suggesting that the attacks must have resulted from complicity at the highest levels of the United States government. This review essay treats both books as a unit, summarizes some of his most important findings, and includes relevant material from other researchers.
Like most Americans, Griffin, a retired professor of Philosophy at the Claremont School of Theology (California), at first viewed critics of the Bush administration’s account as crackpots. It seemed to him that conspiracy theories on this subject were below the threshold of possibility. In the 18 months following 9/11, he had not looked at any of the evidence challenging the government’s theory –- that the attacks were the responsibility of 19 Arab hijackers led by Osama Bin Laden. It seemed to him, as he writes in his introduction, “beyond belief that the Bush administration – even the Bush administration -- would do such a heinous thing.” (The New Pearl Harbor, [NPH], xvii-xviii)
But in the spring of 2003 a colleague prodded him to look at researcher Paul Thompson’s 9/11 timeline that is strictly limited to mainstream sources. Griffin was “surprised, even amazed, to see how much evidence he had found that points to the conclusion that the Bush administration did indeed intentionally allow the attacks of 9/11 to happen.” Griffin began to look at the work of Nafeez Ahmed, an independent researcher in England, whose book “directly challenges the accepted wisdom about 9/11 which is that it resulted from a breakdown within and among our intelligence agencies. Ahmed, like Thompson, suggests that the attacks must have resulted from complicity in high places, not merely from incompetence in lower places.” Taken together, Griffin concludes, Ahmed and Thompson “provided a strong prima facie case for this contention.” Because the work of Ahmed and Thompson were not likely to reach many American readers, and because of the U.S. media’s failure to provide an in depth investigation, Griffin decided to write a magazine article which grew into his first book, The New Pearl Harbor. (NPH, xviii-xix)
Griffin explains that the title of his first book, The New Pearl Harbor (NPH), alludes, in part, simply to the pointed references to Pearl Harbor that were made in the immediate wake of the 9/11 attacks. For example, President Bush wrote in his diary that evening: “The Pearl Harbor of the 21st century took place today.” Henry Kissinger in an online post on 9/11 wrote that he hoped that the U.S. government’s response “will end the way that the attack on Pearl Harbor ended – with the destruction of the system that is responsible for it.” (NPH, xi)
The title also has a deeper meaning. Griffin cites a commentary by John Pilger suggesting that the events of 9/11 presented an opportunity that was predicted in 2000 by soon-to-be top Bush administration officials. The neoconservative Project for the New American Century September 2000 document, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” written or subscribed to by such figures as Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz, reasoned that the changes they had in mind for the direction of U.S. policy would be difficult to achieve “absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event — like a new Pearl Harbor.” (NPH, xi) Griffin’s title is a reference to the Bush administration’s opportunistic use of the 9/11 terror events to embark on a plan of “aggressive imperialism” that has led to two wars, to sharp increases in military spending, a dramatic shift towards a national security state and a sustained attack on civil liberties. (NPH, xii)
As his title indicates, Professor Griffin’s second book on 9/11, The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions And Distortions (O&D), is intended as a response to the 9/11 Commission Report (July 2004), which gained immediate mainstream popularity and credibility. The New Pearl Harbor can be read as an investigation into an extraordinary crime perpetrated by the U.S. government on its own people, and Omissions and Distortions as an expose of the cover up of the crime (although each book contains elements of both). Readers open to the message of The New Pearl Harbor may divide as to the implications over the level of the Bush administration’s complicity in the terror events. Some may take the view that the success of the attacks was due merely to administration incompetence, combined with understandable mistakes, some foreknowledge and a willingness to let it happen, roughly the LIHOP school (Let It Happen On Purpose). Although Griffin presents considerable evidence supporting the stronger conclusions of the MIHOP school (Made It Happen On Purpose), many readers may assume that that evidence could be explained away.
However, readers of Griffin’s second book (especially after having read the first) are more likely to find that it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the White House must have been deeply involved in planning and executing the 9/11 attacks. The difference is that readers can see that although the 9/11 Commission had the opportunity to rebut the allegations summarized in the first book, they simply ignored most of them.
The strength and effectiveness of Griffin’s work comes in part from his mastery of the subject, the depth of his research, his brilliant organizational ability and the clarity with which he presents extremely detailed and complicated information. Those who agree with the author’s fundamental assumption, that there is a strong prima facie case for critically examining the official story, are likely to experience a sense of relief that an independent and competent authority is finally pulling back the immense curtain of fog behind which the terror attacks are still hidden. Griffin’s work empowers and helps to unify his readers who were confused and isolated by the shock of the attacks and their aftermath.
A hallmark of Griffin’s writing is his measured language. He is as precise as possible, cautiously never going beyond known facts and reasonable common sense deductions. In The New Pearl Harbor, while he presents information that could plausibly suggest the highest possible level of official complicity, Griffin pretty much limits himself to calling for an independent investigation of the many troubling and substantial issues raised by the 9/11 events.
In his second book, published after it became clear to Griffin and many other skeptics that there was to be no credible independent inquiry into the 9/11 events, the tone is often stronger and Griffin goes as far as speaking of the 9/11 Report’s “audacious lies,” in addition to detailing its often breathtaking “omissions and distortions.”
Nevertheless, for the most part, even in his second book, he conservatively limits himself to the conclusions that can fairly be drawn from the available evidence. Again Griffin shrinks from coming right out and accusing the Bush administration of planning and executing the 9/11 attacks. Rather he concludes his inquiry with a question: Why would the people in charge of writing the 9/11 Commission Report engage in such extraordinary deception if they were not trying to cover up very high crimes? (O&D, 291)
Griffin begins The New Pearl Harbor by examining some of the commonly accepted notions of the events of 9/11/2001. Critics claim that not one of the planes that hit the Twin Towers and the Pentagon should have reached its target, let alone all three of them. In the normal course of events, military jets would have intercepted and if necessary shot down the errant airliners before they reached their targets. There are troubling aspects with Flight 93, the plane that reportedly went down in Shankesville, Pennsylvania. Skeptics cite testimony and other reasons to think that the U.S. Air Force shot it down. Moreover, the official story about the collapse of the Twin Towers and Building 7 of the World Trade Center is not credible. The commonly accepted view is that the Twin Towers collapsed due to the impact of the planes and the resulting fires and Building 7 from fire alone, but skeptics believe that they collapsed because of preplanned controlled demolitions. Finally, there are disturbing questions about the behavior of President Bush and the Secret Service that day that could point to guilty foreknowledge of a U.S. government conspiracy. (NPH, 3)
Remarkably little attention has been paid in the mainstream press to the simple question of why the most expensive and technologically advanced air defense system in the world was unable to protect the U.S. homeland for almost two hours after the first indications of trouble in the skies. How did it happen that 19 Arab alleged hijackers with minimal flying skills were able to take over four planes and successfully pilot them through heavily trafficked air corridors on illegal flight plans without routine military interception? Is it conceivable that the U.S. did not have the timely information required to prevent the attacks?
As early as 8:13 or 8:14 AM the FAA registered the loss of radio contact with American Airlines Flight 11 and the loss of transponder signal at 8:15. (O&D, 155) Under normal conditions, the military would have been notified within minutes and under standard operating procedures the wayward passenger plane would have been intercepted by 8:24 or 8:30 at the latest. Such interceptions are routine. The FAA reported that in a 10-month period before 9/11, between September 2000 and June 2001 there were 67 military interceptions of passenger planes. (O&D, 140)
The issue is complicated by Bush administration attempts to confuse the issue. On the Sunday following 9/11, Vice President Cheney, on Meet the Press (9/16/01) implied that a presidential order was required for interceptions as well as shoot-downs. (NPH, p.6) Interceptions are routine procedures whereby military jets are scrambled or diverted from training or patrol flights to communicate visually if necessary with wayward planes and bring them to a correct course or escort them to an appropriate airport. These interceptions occur more than once a week on average. Shoot downs are more extreme procedures generally requiring top-level authorization. General Richard Meyers, then Acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee on September 13, also helped to confuse the issue when he implied incorrectly that fighters sent up to intercept aircraft could only do so if ordered by commanders at the highest level. (NPH, p.6)
In addition, such interceptions normally occur quickly. General Ralph Eberhart, the head of NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command), explained in 2002, “it takes about a minute” for the FAA to contact NORAD, “after which NORAD can scramble jets “within a matter of minutes to anywhere in the United States.” According to the U.S. Air Force website, “an F-15 routinely “goes from ‘scramble order to 29,000 ft in only 2.5 minutes, after which it can fly 1850 miles per hour.” (O&D, 140)
United Airlines Flight 175 left Boston at 8:14. By 8:42, its radio and transponder went off, and it veered off course. By then controllers knew that the earlier flight had been hijacked and they would surely have been ready to contact the military. In fact, in the second version of the official story, they notified NORAD, a minute later, at 8:43. NORAD should have had fighters intercepting this plane by 8:53, and by this time, seven minutes after the first plane hit the South Tower, should have been ready to shoot down the second hijacked plane if necessary. (NPH, 7)
Another disturbing feature connected with Flight 175 is that at 8:55 AM a public announcement broadcast inside the South Tower indicated that the building was secure so that people could return to their offices. These announcements continued until a few minutes before the South Tower was struck, “and may have contributed to the deaths of hundreds of people.” (NPH, 7) Researcher Paul Thompson asks: why weren’t people warned? Griffin suggests that the implication is that someone other than the hijackers wanted to insure that there would be a sufficient number of casualties to deliver the shock and awe the conspirators required. (NPH, 7)
Since the second plane hit the WTC 17 minutes after the first, none of the possible explanations for the failure to intercept the first plane -- inattentive air traffic controllers, pilots at military bases not at full alert, or the assumption that the plane’s aberrant behavior did not mean that it had been hijacked – could apply. (NPH, 7-8).
Helpful background information on the significance of transponder signals is provided in journalist and 9/11 critic Michael Rupert’s Crossing the Rubicon. Ruppert explains that all commercial airliners are equipped with transponders -–devices that identify the altitude and position of planes by means of radio signals to air traffic controllers (ATCs). When transponders go off, the plane can still be tracked in two dimensions, but the ATC can no longer pinpoint its altitude. At that point, the system is in emergency status and the offending plane appears on the consoles of all the local ATCs. Ruppert goes on to quote from the statement of a pilot, one Michael Guillaume, who explains that such a plane
is now a hazard to air navigation, and the controller’s primary function of separating planes is now in jeopardy…If in addition to losing communication and transponder the flight starts to deviate from its last clearance, the whole system is in emergency condition. Alarms all over the country would be going off. …
So we know that the traffic control system would be in panic mode within two or three minutes of the initial events. … The odds are that many flights would be on patrol just offshore. It would be most improbable that even one commercial flight could go [astray] more than ten minutes without being intercepted….
Even more pointed information about the consequences of interruption of transponder signal comes from French 9/11 researcher Thierry Meyssan. He writes, “ turning off the transponder, under the conditions that prevailed that day, would have been the best way of raising an alert.”
The procedures are very strict in the case of a problem with a transponder, both on civilian and military aircraft. The FAA regulations describe exactly how to proceed when a transponder is not functioning properly: the control tower should enter into radio contact at once with the pilot and, if it fails, immediately warn the military who would then send fighters to establish visual contact with the crew. [see FAA regulations: http://faa.gov/ATpubs]
The interruption of a transponder also directly sets off an alert with the military body responsible for air defenses of the United States and Canada, NORAD.
The transponder is the plane's identity card. An aircraft that disposes of this identity card is IMMEDIATELY monitored, AUTOMATICALLY. "If an object has not been identified in less than two minutes or appears suspect, it is considered … an eventual threat. Unidentified planes, planes in distress and planes we suspect are being used for illegal activities can then be intercepted by a fighter from NORAD. [NORAD spokesman: http://www.airforce,dnd.ca/athomedocs/athome1e_f.htm])
With this information in mind, we come back to the question of why the planes that struck the Twin Towers weren’t intercepted. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the Bush administration apparently wasn’t prepared with a convincing answer to this fundamental question and in the end, three versions of the official response were required. The first version was enunciated two days later when General Richard Myers, at his previously scheduled confirmation hearing, testified to the Senate that the order to scramble aircraft “to the best of my knowledge, was [given] after the Pentagon was struck.” (NPH, 8).
The problem with this first version, later confirmed by NORAD spokesman, Major Mike Snyder, and indirectly by no less than Vice President Cheney, is that it seemed to imply that a government ordered stand-down order had been arranged. Researchers Israel and Bykov, correctly label Myers’s testimony as “disastrous” for precisely that reason and the official story was quickly modified. The next day CBS evening news floated the new cover story. “In the new script, fighter jets from Otis and Langley Air Force Bases did try, but failed, to intercept the hijacked planes.” This became the second version of the official story that took more formal shape when NORAD published its timeline of 9/11 events on September 18th 2001.
Thus was born the second version of the official story. The clear purpose of NORAD’s September 18th document was to exculpate the military from responsibility by suggesting that human error and understandable mistakes prevented military jets from arriving on time. But Griffin speaks for the critical consensus when he writes that there is good reason to assume the truth that no fighters were dispatched until after the Pentagon was hit at 9:38. Griffin argues that Myers and Snyder were in a position to know what happened on 9/11 and “it is hard to suppose that they would have fabricated this account, since it certainly did not make the U.S. military look good.” (O&D, 143)
In his June 2004 testimony to the 9/11 Commission, General Richard Myers testified that our air defenses failed in part, because we were situated to defend against an external rather than an internal threat. “We did not have the situational awareness inward because we did not have the radar coverage.” (O&D, 260)
The issue of radar coverage plays a key role in the Commission’s explanation for the inability of the military to prevent the first plane from striking the North Tower. The 9/11 Commission presents a tortuous account whereby the military was not informed that there was a problem with Flight 11 until 8:38. As noted above, had standard operating procedures been followed, the military would have been appraised at 8:15 or at the latest at 8:20, in plenty of time to intercept Flight 11 before it struck the North Tower at 8:46. Yet, according to the Commission account, even at 8:38, Battle Commander Colonel Robert Marr at NEADS merely ordered fighter pilots at Otis AFB to battle stations. Then, according to the Commission, he placed an 8-minute telephone call to Major General Larry Arnold, at NORAD’s U.S. Continental Region in Florida, to seek authorization to scramble airplanes. By these means the Commission generated the scramble order time of 8:46, just 40 seconds before Flight 11 struck the North Tower. (O&D, 165)
But Griffin suspects that the Commission may have felt that the story of an eight-minute phone call merely to seek authorization to scramble planes might not seem plausible. Griffin teases out of the Commission Report an “implicit” reason for the delay: namely that the military didn’t have at its disposal radar capable of spotting the wayward Boeing 767 on its way to Manhattan. Griffin quotes the Commission Report, which claims that after Flight 11’s transponder was turned off, “NEADS personnel spent the next ten minutes [from 8:38 to 8:48] searching their radar scopes for the primary radar return… Shortly after 8:50 while NEADS personnel were still trying to locate the flight, word reached them that a plane had hit the WTC.” (O&D, 166-167)
However, as Griffin points out, “This account suggests that a loss of transponder makes it virtually impossible for the U.S. military to track airplanes.” If that were true, “Soviet airplanes during the Cold War could have avoided detection by simply turning off their transponders.” Griffin found no sign in the 9/11 Commission Report that this obvious objection was raised. Instead, he writes, “the Commission apparently accepted and wrote down with a straight face, the assertion that NEADS personnel spent several minutes trying to find Flight 11 on their radar screens… But this statement grossly misrepresents the capabilities of the U.S. military’s radar systems. For one thing the military radar system, unlike civilian radar, does not need the transponder to tell the plane’s altitude.” (O&D, 167)
Griffin cites French critic Thierry Meyssan, who points to the Pentagon’s own websites, which imply that it possesses “several very sophisticated radar monitoring systems, incomparable with the civilian systems.” The website for one of these systems, called PAVE PAWS, says that it is “capable of detecting and monitoring a great number of targets that would be consistent with a massive SLBM [Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile] attack.” Griffin surmises that the “PAVE PAWS system is surely not premised on the assumption that … SLBMs would have transponders.” (O&D, 166-167)
Thierry Meyssan details some of the capabilities of PAVE PAWS. It is used, he writes,
to detect and track objects difficult to pick up such as missiles flying at very low altitudes. PAVE PAWS misses NOTHING occurring in North American airspace. “The radar system is capable of detecting and monitoring a great number of targets that would be consistent with a massive SLBM attack. The system is capable of rapidly discriminating between vehicle types, calculating their launch and impact points.,,,” [http://www/pavepaws.org/ and http://www.fas.org/spp/military/program/track/pave paws.htm]
By accepting General Richard Myers’s testimony as fact, and by not including an adequate description of U.S. radar monitoring capabilities consistent with information on U.S. government websites, Griffin concludes that the 9/11 Commission, which he calls the Kean-Zelikow Commission, is guilty of a major distortion. (O&D, 167)
Skeptics of the official story of 9/11 have raised disturbing questions about the president’s behavior during the course of the attacks. His actions and reactions were not what would be expected if he and his aides were taken by surprise. The official version of his movements and of what he knew and when is in some places contradictory, contrary to known facts, and otherwise incomprehensible unless one assumes foreknowledge on the part of his administration.
At 8:35 AM, on the morning of 9/11/01, President Bush’s motorcade left his hotel and headed for a for a photo opportunity at Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida. According to spokesman Ari Fleischer at a White House press conference that same evening, it wasn’t until President Bush arrived at the school just before 9 AM that he was told that a plane had flown into the WTC. (NPH, p. 57) It’s difficult to believe that the president didn’t know about the first plane strike before he arrived at the school since millions became aware of the first plane crashing into the WTC by 8:48. Most people would assume that the president would be among the first to be informed. (NPH, 57)
Paul Thompson cites a Washington Times account that Bush was told that a plane had crashed in NYC while he was on his way to the school [between 8:46-8:55 AM]. Photographer Eric Draper, riding in another car in the motorcade with Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, overheard Fleischer say on a cell phone, “Oh my God, I don’t believe it. A plane just hit the World Trade Center.” [Between 8:46-8:55 AM].
In yet another account, the president didn’t learn of the attack until he arrived at the school at 8:55 when Karl Rove rushed up to him, took him aside in a corridor and told him. According to photographer Eric Draper, Bush replied, “What a horrible accident!” [Between 8:55-9:00 a.m.]
A report about CIA Director George Tenet raises more questions relevant to the president’s knowledge and actions that morning. A few minutes after 8:46 a.m., Tenet was told of the crash while at breakfast with former Senator David Boren in Washington D.C. Boren noted that Tenet was told that an airplane attacked the WTC. Tenet said to Boren, “You know, this has bin Laden’s fingerprints all over it.” Thompson asks: “Why is Bush supposedly under the impression the crash was an accident well after Tenet has been told it was an attack?” Thompson wonders if Tenet has tried to communicate with Bush at this time. [8:50 a.m.]
By the time the first pictures of the burning North Tower were broadcast, the FAA, NORAD, the NMCC, the Pentagon, the White House, the Secret Service and Canada’s Strategic Command all knew that three commercial planes had been hijacked. (NPH, 59) The overriding question hanging over Bush’s actions at the school is: why did he decide to maintain his schedule in the face of a national emergency?
Skeptics suggest that the session at the Booker School may have been staged in order to provide the president with an alibi to justify his inaction during the attacks and to indirectly explain the lack of an effective U.S. military air defense. If the president was unaware of a national emergency, that would explain why he couldn’t coordinate the military response to the attacks. It would also explain why Vice President Cheney had to take over many of his emergency duties. Evidence that the president downplayed knowledge that a terror attack was underway is provided by the testimony of Gwen Tose Rigell, Principal of the Booker School, who said:
"'I actually heard the first plane had hit from the president, and he said that a plane had hit the World Trade Center and that it was a commercial plane,' says Rigell. 'He said but we're going to go on, and in my mind I had created this picture of a plane knocking off some bricks on the corner of the World Trade Center.'"
President Bush addressed the question of his actions that morning when he responded to questions at two town hall meetings in December 2001 and January 2002. In his December 2001 Town Hall meeting in Orlando, Florida, President Bush responded to a third grader named Jordan, who had asked him: “How did you feel when you heard about the terrorist attack?” President Bush responded:
Well, Jordan, you're not going to believe what state I was in when I heard about the terrorist attack. I was in Florida. And my Chief of Staff, Andy Card -- actually, I was in a classroom talking about a reading program that works. I was sitting outside the classroom waiting to go in, and I saw an airplane hit the tower -- the TV was obviously on. And I used to fly myself, and I said, well, there's one terrible pilot. I said, it must have been a horrible accident.
But I was whisked off there; I didn't have much time to think about it. And I was sitting in the classroom, and Andy Card, my Chief of Staff, who is sitting over here, walked in and said, "A second plane has hit the tower, America is under attack."
Bush’s version is problematical on at least two counts. For one thing, he could not have seen the first plane hit the WTC on live TV because the only known video of the first strike was not broadcast until the next day. Secondly 9/11 skeptics believe that not only did he learn of the strike before he arrived at the school but that he and his party, in all likelihood, knew very well, unlike most Americans, that the strike was not a “horrible accident,” but was rather a deliberate act of terror.
In addition, Griffin and others suggest that Bush’s statement that he saw the first plane hit the tower could suggest foreknowledge of the attacks. (NPH, 62).
I was sitting outside the classroom waiting to go in, and I saw an airplane hit the tower -- the TV was obviously on.
Before he entered the classroom for the reading lesson, Bush went into a “hold,” a room at the school prepared especially for the president and his staff complete with TV and communications equipment. Perhaps it was then that Bush saw the first strike when he said he did if a secret government video of the crash was available. It’s notable that Bush felt he had to add the phrase, “the TV was obviously on,” as if he realized that he was divulging privileged information.
There are a number of indirect indications that the president and key aides must have been aware that America was under attack when the first plane hit the WTC at 8:46 (if not twenty minutes earlier). We have already noted that by the time the first pictures of the burning North Tower were broadcast at 8:48, the FAA, NORAD, the NMCC, the Pentagon, the White House, the Secret Service and Canada’s Strategic Command all knew that three commercial planes had been hijacked. Presumably, that is how Bush knew that the plane that struck the first Tower was a commercial aircraft when he spoke to Principal Rigell before 9 a.m. and thus he must have been aware the U.S. was under attack.
Another indirect indication of real time knowledge of critical information by the White House is Vice President Cheney’s perhaps inadvertent comment on Meet the Press on Sept 16, 2001, when he said, ”The Secret Service has an arrangement with the FAA. They had open lines after the WTC was…” (at which point he stopped himself.) (NPH, 57) Cheney’s apparent admission of the connection raises enormous difficulties for the official story not only because it challenges the White House version of the president’s behavior. If the Secret Service was in the loop as early as 8:46, it’s necessarily the case that the military was informed of developing threats to the South Tower (9:03 a.m.) and the Pentagon (9:38 a.m.) as well as issues with flight 93, apparently downed in Pennsylvania shortly after 10 AM.
More information about the deployment of Secret Service personnel comes from Mike Ruppert who points to a footnote in the 9/11 Commission Report which cites a Secret Service agent speaking to his “counterpart” at the FAA HQ in Washington D.C. “shortly after the second attack in New York.” With his background as a Los Angeles police officer, Ruppert guesses that the “counterpart” in question might have been a Secret Service agent stationed at FAA HQ. In that case, it would indicate that the Secret Service, and thus the president’s party, knew in real time everything that the FAA knew about the developing national security emergency on the morning of 9/11 beginning perhaps as early as 8:13 a.m.
Indirect evidence that the president and his top aides were aware that the military was called into action as early as 8:37 a.m. comes from the 9/11 Commission itself. The Report gives 8:37 a.m. as the time Boston flight controllers notified the military that AA Flight 11 was hijacked, that the plane was seriously off course and headed toward NYC. Shortly afterward, according to the Commission, jets were scrambled. In that case, it would be imperative to contact the president if only to inform him that it might be necessary to order a shoot down.
Even 8:37 a.m. would have been remarkably late for the military to be informed about problems that morning with a commercial airliner off course. Paul Thompson emphasizes that 8:37 is 24 minutes after radio contact was lost at 8:13 A.M, 17 minutes after the transponder signal was lost and the flight went far off course, and approximately 13 minutes after the hijackers in the cockpit clearly stated that the plane had been hijacked at 8:24 A. M. (8:37 a.m.)
More indirect evidence about Secret Service capabilities comes from President Bush’s Counterterrorism advisor, Richard Clarke who wrote that the “Secret Service had a system that allowed them to see what the FAA’s radar was seeing.” This means that the Secret Service was in a position to know that the FAA was in crisis mode as early as 8:13 or 8:20 a.m. in which case many would assume that the president in Florida would have been informed. (O&D, 48)
There is also information from Laura Brown, the Deputy in charge of Public Affairs at FAA headquarters that the National Military Command Center’s (NMCC) threat teleconference may have been set up as early as 8:20 or 8:25. But this early time is in dispute. The 9/11 Commission Report informs us that this Pentagon initiated teleconference did not begin until 9:29. But the sole support for this belated start is some anonymous person at the Pentagon. Laura Brown at first gave 8:20 or 8:25 as the starting time to journalist and 9/11 critic Tom Flocco. Such a time would be reasonable since it was determined that AA Flight 11 was hijacked at 8:13, 8:20, or 8:24. But after conferring with her superiors, Brown changed her story, revising her initial time to around 8:45, about the time that the North Tower was struck. Even this later time would indicate that the lead Secret Service agent as well as other top White House officials traveling with the president knew of an emergency situation while the motorcade was still on its way to the elementary school. (O&D, 186-187)
Most “astounding,” writes Griffin, about the presidential party’s movements that morning is that the secret service seemed to ignore a possible threat to the president since it would have been logical to assume that he would have been one of the intended targets. Indeed, after viewing TV coverage of the second plane striking the WTC, one Secret Service agent reportedly said, “We’re out of here,” and yet the president remained at the school for another half hour. By contrast, Griffin notes, at the same time in Washington D.C., Rice and Cheney were moved to secure bunkers. (NPH, 59) In the end, Bush didn’t leave the school until 9:34, shortly after he delivered a talk to the nation exactly as previously scheduled at 9:29 am. (Terror Timeline, 418).
Griffin goes on for almost two pages describing Bush’s leisurely behavior at the school, even after the president was notified at 9:05 a.m. of the second attack. Griffin quotes intelligence expert and author James Bamford who writes that Bush “appeared uninterested in further details. He never asked if there had been any additional threats, where the attacks were coming from, how to best protect the country from further attacks…” (NPH, 59). Viewers of the Michael Moore film, Fahrenheit 911, saw the president remain seated in the classroom for minutes after he was notified of the second strike on the WTC.
Instead, as Griffin (once again quoting Bamford) notes, while the situation at the WTC was becoming increasingly desperate with people jumping to their deaths, the president was listening to the children reading a story called “The Pet Goat.”
“A-girl-got-a- pet-goat. But-the-goat-did –some-things-that-made-the-girl’s-dad-mad.” After the lesson, according to Bill Sammon, an author generally sympathetic to the president, Bush “openly stretched out the moment,” giving a pep talk to the students, answering questions about education, chatting with the children, posing for pictures with the classroom teacher and in general appearing as the “dawdler in chief.” (NPH, 60-61)
Griffin finds it “amazing” that “perhaps stung by the criticisms of the president’s behavior, the White House put out a different account a year later” which had the president leaving the classroom within seconds of being told about the second attack at 9:05. Griffin notes that skeptics believe that the “White House was so confident that none of its lies about 9/11 would be challenged by the media that it felt safe telling this one even though it is flatly contradicted by Sammon’s pro-Bush book and by the video tape produced that day…” (NPH, 61)
After Bush’s televised address to the nation at 9:29, the presidential party proceeded on their scheduled motorcade to the airport (NPH, 62), where they were presumably informed that the Pentagon had been struck at 9:38 and that Air Force One might come under terrorist attack.
Skeptics wonder why no military escort had been ordered by 9:55 a.m. when Air Force One took off. At that time as many as eleven aircraft were under suspicion of being hijacked. The implied question is once again, did the president and his aides “know that he was not a target?” (NPH, 62)
In his book on the 9/11 Commission report, Griffin asserts that the Commission’s treatment of the issues raised by the president’s behavior is completely unsatisfactory. For example, he finds that the Commission defends the president’s dawdling at the school by arguing that the president’s instinct was to project calm. Griffin notes that the Commission doesn’t seem to have an opinion on whether such a response is satisfactory, or whether an appearance of calm was more important than getting himself and the students and school personnel out of harm’s way, or even if, under the circumstances, a lack of calm would have been appropriate. (O&D, 41) The Commission at one point suggests that the Secret Service didn’t think it imperative for Mr. Bush “to run out the door.” Griffin wonders why the Commissioners didn’t think to suggest that there would have been an option somewhere between “’run[ing] out the door’ and remaining at the school for another half hour.” (O& D, 43)
On the issue of why air cover was not ordered, Griffin notes that not seeing to the protection of the president under such circumstances would seem to involve gross incompetence unless it was based on foreknowledge that the president would not be a target. The Secret Service never did arrange for protection of the presidential motorcade and when Air Force One took off at 9:54, it did so without military jet escort. Griffin notes that the Commission showed that it was aware of the issue, but didn’t see fit to ask the Secret Service why they didn’t call for air cover. (O&D, 44)
Griffin writes that the Commission tried to answer the most publicized charge, namely that the president stayed away from Washington for so long that day because he was afraid. The Commission argues that this charge is unfair. However, Griffin emphasizes that this is the wrong question to ask about the president’s behavior. The real issue is that neither the president nor any of his top aides seemed to have any fear “when they should have been very afraid.” (O&D, 47)
Griffin concludes his examination of the president’s behavior with a section discussing the Commission’s strong claim that “No one in the traveling party had any information during this time that other aircraft were hijacked or missing.” Griffin argues that this “claim is essential. Without it, the decision to remain and continue reading the children’s story could not have been rationalized.” (O&D, 47) Griffin cites the Cheney and Clarke statements above to suggest that the Commission’s “claim that the presidential party had no knowledge about other hijackings is, therefore almost certainly false. They couldn’t say, ‘We knew that the president was not in danger.’ Griffin concludes: “The failure of the Kean-Zelikow Commission to point out this dilemma provides one of the many clues that it was dedicated to something other than revealing the truth about 9/11.” (O&D, 48)
Here and in every single crucial aspect of the official story about 9/11, the case for Bush administration foreknowledge and the likelihood that the Bush administration was deeply involved in planning and execution the 9/11 attacks is immeasurably strengthened by the wholly unsatisfactory defense provided by the 9/11 Commission Report. The manifest unwillingness of the authors of the Report to convincingly address the most pressing and obvious questions about the official version is in itself a tacit and powerful admission of guilt. It’s reasonable to assume that had there been an innocent explanation for the president and his party’s extraordinary actions and responses that morning, the Commission would have been eager to lay it out. Instead, as Griffin and other researchers have concluded, no such explanation has been forthcoming with the result that the public is forced to makes its own deductions.
(Future installments of this essay will focus on such issues as AA Flight 77 and the attack on the Pentagon, the collapse of the Twin Towers and WTC Building 7, 9/11 related criminal insider trading, AA Flight 93, etc.)
9/11 skeptics present plausible arguments suggesting that no commercial
passenger jets struck the Twin
Towers or the Pentagon. It’s not clear how this avenue of research would
affect Griffin’s and others’ investigations of the air defense stand-down. It
would seem that much of the information would remain relevant if only to show
the inadequacy of the official story. For more information, see Gerard
Holmgren, “Manufactured Terrorism: The Truth About Sept 11.” http://911closeup.com/ Guillaume
wonders what happened to the tape recordings of controller and pilot
conversations that many would assume to be a matter of public record. (p. 313) 8:12-8:15 radio and
transponder contact with AA Flight 11 lost 8:14 UA
Flight 175 leaves Boston 8:20
Bush says farewell to management at Colony Beach and Tennis resort
Fl 11 veers widely off course 8:24 FAA hears
hijackers in cockpit of Fl 11 indicate that a hijacking was in progress 8:35 Bush’s motorcade leaves hotel 8:37 9/11 Commission reports that FAA notified the
military regarding problems with AA Flight 11. Jets scrambled from Otis AFB
soon afterwards. 8:38 (Second version
of official story) Military informed of problems with AA Fl 11. 8:42 UA 175 radio
and transponder went off and it veered off course. NORAD
notified at 8:43 (2nd version of the official story) 8:46 First terror
strike hits WTC North Tower 8:55 All clear
announcement at WTC South Tower
Bush arrives at Booker elementary right around this time 9:03 Terror
strike on WTC South Tower 9:38
Pentagon strike NORAD= North
American Aerospace Defense Command; HQ: Colorado Springs; divided into various
sectors, only one of which was involved on 9/11; NEADS, The Northeast Air
Defense Sector NMCC =National
Military Command Center located in the Joint Staff area of the Pentagon,
Washington, D.C. According to French critic, Thierry Meyssan, the NMCC
“centralizes all information concerning plane hijackings and directs military
operations.” Pentagate, op.cit. p. 117. There is a
slight discrepancy between Ari Fleischer’s account and the one Bush gave at his
December and January 2002 Town Hall meetings. Fleischer said Bush learned of
the first strike when he first arrived at the school and was informed by
members of his staff whereas Bush said that he saw what happened in real time
on TV when he was already in the school. Nevertheless, both versions have in
common that no one in the presidential party knew until Bush was already in the
classroom at 9:03 that the U.S. had suffered a terror attack. Both versions
present an alibi for going forward with the photo op. In his January
Town Hall meeting in California, Bush made similar comments about when he
learned of the first plane strike and that at first he thought it was an accident.
“President Holds Town Hall Forum on Economy in California, Remarks by the
President in Town Hall Meeting with Citizens of Ontario, Ontario Convention
Center, Ontario, California,” California Town Meeting. January 5, 2002. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/01/20020105-3.html
Some 9/11 skeptics present plausible arguments suggesting that no commercial passenger jets struck the Twin Towers or the Pentagon. It’s not clear how this avenue of research would affect Griffin’s and others’ investigations of the air defense stand-down. It would seem that much of the information would remain relevant if only to show the inadequacy of the official story. For more information, see Gerard Holmgren, “Manufactured Terrorism: The Truth About Sept 11.” http://911closeup.com/
Guillaume wonders what happened to the tape recordings of controller and pilot conversations that many would assume to be a matter of public record. (p. 313)
8:12-8:15 radio and transponder contact with AA Flight 11 lost
8:14 UA Flight 175 leaves Boston
8:20 Bush says farewell to management at Colony Beach and Tennis resort
Fl 11 veers widely off course
8:24 FAA hears hijackers in cockpit of Fl 11 indicate that a hijacking was in progress
8:35 Bush’s motorcade leaves hotel
8:37 9/11 Commission reports that FAA notified the military regarding problems with AA Flight 11. Jets scrambled from Otis AFB soon afterwards.
8:38 (Second version of official story) Military informed of problems with AA Fl 11.
8:42 UA 175 radio and transponder went off and it veered off course.
NORAD notified at 8:43 (2nd version of the official story)
8:46 First terror strike hits WTC North Tower
8:55 All clear announcement at WTC South Tower
Bush arrives at Booker elementary right around this time
9:03 Terror strike on WTC South Tower
9:38 Pentagon strike
NORAD= North American Aerospace Defense Command; HQ: Colorado Springs; divided into various sectors, only one of which was involved on 9/11; NEADS, The Northeast Air Defense Sector
NMCC =National Military Command Center located in the Joint Staff area of the Pentagon, Washington, D.C. According to French critic, Thierry Meyssan, the NMCC “centralizes all information concerning plane hijackings and directs military operations.” Pentagate, op.cit. p. 117.
There is a slight discrepancy between Ari Fleischer’s account and the one Bush gave at his December and January 2002 Town Hall meetings. Fleischer said Bush learned of the first strike when he first arrived at the school and was informed by members of his staff whereas Bush said that he saw what happened in real time on TV when he was already in the school. Nevertheless, both versions have in common that no one in the presidential party knew until Bush was already in the classroom at 9:03 that the U.S. had suffered a terror attack. Both versions present an alibi for going forward with the photo op.
In his January Town Hall meeting in California, Bush made similar comments about when he learned of the first plane strike and that at first he thought it was an accident. “President Holds Town Hall Forum on Economy in California, Remarks by the President in Town Hall Meeting with Citizens of Ontario, Ontario Convention Center, Ontario, California,” California Town Meeting. January 5, 2002. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/01/20020105-3.html