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12:00 p.m. September 11, 2001: Defense Intelligence Agency Director Says Al-Qaeda Responsible for Attacks[]

Tom Wilson, The director of the Defense Intelligence Agency informs military leaders in the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon that al-Qaeda is responsible for the morning’s attacks. General Richard Myers, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Wikipedia.png, will later describe:

“At noon, Vice Admiral Tom Wilson, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, confirmed what everybody at the conference table had already surmised: The attacks had undoubtedly come from al-Qaeda.”[see 1]

Later in the day, Wilson will recall a relevant piece of intelligence “chatter” that was picked up a few months previously. When General Hugh Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrives in the NMCC at 5:40 p.m. after returning from his aborted flight to Europe, he will ask Wilson, “Have we had any intel ‘squeaks’ on an attack like this—anything at all?” Wilson will reply: “The only possible hint of this coming was several months ago when we got a single intercept requesting jumbo jet training. Since then, there’s been nothing.” According to Myers, Wilson is “referring to the vast electronic signals data-mining operations of our intelligence community that targeted known terrorist networks, such as al-Qaeda and their allies.” [1]

(12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001: Engineer at WTC Site Predicts Collapse of Building 7[]

An engineer at the World Trade Center site correctly predicts that WTC Building 7 Wikipedia.png is going to collapse. Deputy Chief Peter Hayden of the New York Fire Department Wikipedia.png will later recall:

“We had our special operations people set up surveying instruments to monitor, and see if there was any movement of, [WTC 7]. We were concerned of the possibility of collapse of the building. And we had a discussion with one particular engineer there, and we asked him, if we allowed it to burn could we anticipate a collapse, and if so, how soon?”


The engineer apparently predicts correctly that WTC 7 will collapse and also the time it will take before it comes down. As Hayden will continue: “And it turned out that he was pretty much right on the money, that he said, ‘In its current state, you have about five hours.’” Hayden will not reveal the name of this engineer.[2] WTC 7 will collapse at about 5:20 p.m. [see 2], indicating that the engineer makes his prediction around midday or shortly after. [3]

(12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001: NORAD Launches Fighters to Follow Suspicious Korean Airlines Plane[]

NORAD launches fighter jets in response to a Korean Airlines passenger jet that is mistakenly suspected of being hijacked. [4] Korean Airlines Flight 85 is a Boeing 747 Wikipedia.png bound from Seoul, South Korea, to New York, and currently heading for a refueling stop in Anchorage, Alaska. For reasons that are unclear, its pilots entered the code signaling a hijacking into a text message they sent to their airline at 11:08 a.m. The FAA was alerted to this, and it in turn alerted NORAD (see (Shortly Before 12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [USA TODAY, 8/12/2002]

Lieutenant General Norton Schwartz, the commander of the Alaskan NORAD Region, will later recall: “Given what had happened on the East Coast, it was entirely plausible to me this was an analog on the West Coast. So naturally, we took this seriously.” Schwartz orders Elmendorf Air Force Base, near Anchorage, to launch two F-15 fighter jets armed with missiles to intercept and shadow Flight 85. [ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS, 9/8/2002; SPENCER, 2008, PP. 257] The jets belong to the 3rd Wing. [COMMEMORATIVE AIR FORCE, INC., 4/2/2008 ] Schwartz’s instructions for the fighter pilots are: “Tail the aircraft.… Follow Flight 85 at a position out of sight of passengers. Follow so the four-man flight crew—and anyone in the cockpit with them—couldn’t see them either.” [ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS, 9/8/2002] The two jets will fly about a mile behind Flight 85, shadowing it so its crew and passengers do not realize there are fighters in close proximity. [ALASKA LEGISLATURE. JOINT SENATE AND HOUSE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE, 2/5/2002]

Two Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 fighter jets are also launched in response to Flight 85, although whether they take off before or after the 3rd Wing F-15s is unstated. [ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS, 9/29/2001] After Flight 85’s pilots refuse to confirm that their plane is not hijacked, Schwartz will threaten to have the plane shot down (see (Shortly After 1:24 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [SPENCER, 2008, PP. 278] The NORAD jets will escort Flight 85 until it lands at Whitehorse Airport in Canada at 2:54 p.m. (see 2:54 p.m. September 11, 2001). [CANADIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION, 9/12/2001; USA TODAY, 8/12/2002]

(12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001: Attorney General Ashcroft’s Plane Lands in Washington[]

The plane carrying Attorney General John Ashcroft finally arrives in Washington, DC, landing at Reagan National Airport. [WASHINGTON POST, 9/28/2001; FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION, 3/21/2002 ] Ashcroft has wanted his plane, a small government Cessna jet, to return to Washington since he learned of the attacks in New York while flying out to Milwaukee (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001 and After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [NEWSWEEK, 3/10/2003; ASHCROFT, 2006, PP. 115-118] Despite his plane being instructed to land on more than one occasion (see 10:40 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 11:11 a.m. September 11, 2001), Ashcroft has insisted on returning to the capital. [USA TODAY, 8/13/2002; SPENCER, 2008, PP. 258, 272]

Plane Lands, Passengers Met by Agents with Machine Guns - Ashcroft’s plane has finally been cleared to land in Washington, and an F-16 fighter jet escorts it in to Reagan Airport. [WASHINGTON POST, 9/28/2001; 9/11 COMMISSION, 12/1/2003] After touching down, the plane taxies to the tarmac near Signature Aviation, the private executive aircraft terminal. When Ashcroft and the other individuals with him get off, they are met by numerous agents, some with machine guns at the ready. Apparently concerned about possible snipers, the agents quickly cover Ashcroft with a bulletproof trench coat and pass out bulletproof vests to the others with him. All of them are hustled into a hangar, where several vans are waiting. Ashcroft and his deputy chief of staff, David Israelite, get into a heavily reinforced SUV, while their colleagues disperse to other vehicles.

Ashcroft Advised to Go to Classified Site - Ashcroft calls the White House Situation Room to ask where he should go to set up operations. He is connected to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who suggests that he head to the remote, classified site, where other Justice Department personnel have gone, until it is known if any more attacks are forthcoming. Ashcroft’s vehicle heads toward the site, but due to the roads being clogged with traffic, it turns around and goes instead to the FBI’s Strategic Information and Operations Center in Washington, where Ashcroft will spend much of the rest of the day. [9/11 COMMISSION, 12/17/2003 ; ASHCROFT, 2006, PP. 118-120, 129]

Conflicting Accounts of Landing Time - The time when Ashcroft’s plane lands at Reagan Airport is unclear. According to a 2002 FAA report, it lands “just before noon.” [FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION, 3/21/2002 ] According to USA Today, it does not arrive in Washington “until afternoon.” [USA TODAY, 8/13/2002] And a federally funded report on the emergency response to the Pentagon attack will claim that an unidentified aircraft—later determined to be Ashcroft’s plane—is approaching Washington and leads to an evacuation of the Pentagon site at around 2:00 p.m. (see (2:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [US DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, 7/2002, PP. A30; VOGEL, 2007, PP. 453] Ashcroft’s plane is one of the last aircraft to land in the United States on this day, according to the Washington Post. [WASHINGTON POST, 9/28/2001]

(12:00 Noon) September 11, 2001: President Bush Provided Tight Security in Louisiana[]

Bush escorted into Barksdale Air Force Base. [Source: White House] President Bush arrives at the Barksdale Air Force Base headquarters in a Humvee escorted by armed outriders. Reporters and others are not allowed to say where they are. Bush remains in this location for approximately one hour, recording a brief message and talking on the phone. [DAILY TELEGRAPH, 12/16/2001] Entity Tags: Barksdale Air Force Base, George W. Bush Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, George Bush

(12:00 Noon) September 11, 2001: Senator Hatch Repeats Intelligence Community’s Conclusion that Osama Bin Laden Is Responsible Senator Orrin Hatch (R), a member of both the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, says he has just been “briefed by the highest levels of the FBI and of the intelligence community.” He says, “they’ve come to the conclusion that this looks like the signature of Osama bin Laden, and that he may be the one behind this.” [SALON, 9/11/2001] Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Osama bin Laden, Orrin Hatch Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, George Bush

(12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001 and After: FBI Searches Pentagon Surroundings for Plane Debris[]

Personnel from several agencies searching for evidence at the Pentagon. [Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation] Beginning shortly before midday on September 11, 2001, and continuing until September 12, the FBI conducts a careful search across the grounds of the Pentagon, looking for remnants of the aircraft that hit the building. [PBS, 9/12/2001; WASHINGTON POST, 9/12/2001; GOLDBERG ET AL., 2007, PP. 159] FBI Special Agent Tom O’Connor is in charge of the initial evidence recovery operation at the Pentagon. His first priority is to locate and gather all the airplane parts and other pieces of evidence from the lawn on the west side of the building. He sends out all available agents to conduct a grid search. The lawn is divided into quadrants, and then agents walk back and forth, sticking a small flag near any evidence they find, getting the evidence photographed in its place, and then scooping it into a bag. [CREED AND NEWMAN, 2008, PP. 180] Arlington police officers, military personnel, and others also participate in the search. [GOLDBERG ET AL., 2007, PP. 159] They also look for evidence across grass and roadways several hundred yards from the Pentagon. [PBS, 9/12/2001] Some pieces of the aircraft that hit the Pentagon are found nearly 1,000 feet away from the building, on the other side of Washington Boulevard. Thousands of tiny pieces of aluminum have also carried forward over the Pentagon, into its center courtyard. Other pieces of debris landed on its roof, along with body parts from at least one victim. [CREED AND NEWMAN, 2008, PP. 29] According to the Defense Department’s book about the Pentagon attack, the searchers find “many scraps and a few personal items widely scattered on the grass and heliport. Plane remnants varied from half-dollar size to a few feet long.” [GOLDBERG ET AL., 2007, PP. 159] Authors Patrick Creed and Rick Newman will describe: “Agents found what looked like a big Plexiglas windowpane on the lawn, which might have been part of an airplane window, except it was too big.… Somebody suggested it could be one of the blast-proof windows from the Pentagon, somehow blown 500 feet from the building.” [CREED AND NEWMAN, 2008, PP. 180] Entity Tags: Tom O’Connor, Arlington County Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Pentagon, FBI 9/11 Investigation


12:05 p.m. September 11, 2001: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld Finds Evidence of Al-Qaeda Role Not Good Enough[]

CIA Director Tenet tells Defense Secretary Rumsfeld about an intercepted phone call from earlier in the day at 9:53 a.m. An al-Qaeda operative talked of a fourth target just before Flight 93 crashed. Rumsfeld’s assistant Stephen Cambone dictates Rumsfeld’s thoughts the time, and the notes taken will later be leaked to CBS News. According to CBS, “Rumsfeld felt it was ‘vague,’ that it ‘might not mean something,’ and that there was ‘no good basis for hanging hat.’ In other words, the evidence was not clear-cut enough to justify military action against bin Laden.” [CBS NEWS, 9/4/2002] A couple of hours later, Rumsfeld will use this information to begin arguing that Iraq should be attacked, despite the lack of verified ties between al-Qaeda and Iraq (see (2:40 p.m.) September 11, 2001). Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, Stephen A. Cambone, Al-Qaeda, George J. Tenet Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Donald Rumsfeld

(Shortly Before 12:10 p.m.) September 11, 2001: City Housing Authority Worker Finds WTC 7 Lobby in Ruins, Possibly Steps over Dead Bodies Barry Jennings, a City Housing Authority worker who had become trapped in World Trade Center Building 7, finds the building’s lobby in ruins as he is being rescued from it, and steps over what feels to him like dead bodies. [DYLAN AVERY, 2007] After the first plane hit the WTC, Jennings had gone up to the emergency command center on the 23rd floor of WTC 7 along with Michael Hess, New York’s corporation counsel (see (Shortly Before 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [ASSOCIATED PRESS, 9/11/2001; DYLAN AVERY, 2007] After heading down the stairs, the two men became trapped on the building’s eighth floor (see (Between 9:15 a.m. and 12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). Some time later, firefighters come into WTC 7 to help the two men out of the building. [UPN 9, 9/11/2001; NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY, 9/2005, PP. 109-110 ] Lobby Is 'Total Ruins' - According to Jennings, when he gets down to the lobby, he is astonished to find it totally ruined. In a 2007 interview he will recall: “[W]hen I came in there, the lobby had nice escalators. It was a huge lobby.” But reaching it again, he asks the firefighter who is escorting him, “Where are we?” and the firefighter answers, “This was the lobby.” Jennings finds this “unbelievable,” and says, “You gotta be kidding me.” He will describe the lobby as being “total ruins.” 'Stepping over People' - Furthermore, Jennings steps over what may be dead bodies in the lobby. He will say: “[T]he firefighter that took us down kept saying, ‘Do not look down,’ and I kept saying, ‘Why is that?’ [He said,] ‘Do not look down.’ And, stepping over people. And you know you could feel when you’re stepping over people.” [DYLAN AVERY, 2007] Yet most people were evacuated from WTC 7 around 9:03 a.m., if not earlier (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY, 9/2005, PP. 109 ] The very latest that people left the building, according to official accounts, was 9:30 a.m. (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 305] In a later interview, Jennings will clarify: “I never saw dead bodies.… [I]t felt like I was stepping over them but I never saw them.” The BBC will say, “There is no evidence that anyone died in Tower 7 on 9/11.” [BBC, 7/4/2008; BBC, 7/6/2008] According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), firefighters lead Jennings and Hess out of WTC 7 at around 12:10 p.m. to 12:15 p.m. (see 12:10 p.m.-12:15 p.m. September 11, 2001). [NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY, 6/2004, PP. L-18 ] Entity Tags: Michael Hess, Barry Jennings Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, World Trade Center

12:10 p.m.-12:15 p.m. September 11, 2001: Firefighters Rescue Three People Trapped in WTC 7

Michael Hess. [Source: Harvard Law Bulletin] While most of Building 7 of the World Trade Center was evacuated around the time the South Tower was hit, if not earlier (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001), firefighters now find three individuals who have become trapped inside it, and lead them out of the building. [NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY, 6/2004, PP. L-18 ; NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY, 9/2005, PP. 109-110 ] Among these individuals are Barry Jennings, a City Housing Authority worker, and Michael Hess, New York’s chief lawyer who is also a longtime friend of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. The two had gone up to the 23rd floor emergency command center of the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management after the first attack occurred, but found it empty (see (Shortly Before 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [NEW YORK TIMES, 11/21/1997; ASSOCIATED PRESS, 9/11/2001; GIULIANI, 2002, PP. 20-21 AND 244; DYLAN AVERY, 2007] They then headed downstairs but became trapped around the eighth floor by smoke and debris that filled the staircase. After breaking a window and calling for help, they were spotted by firefighters outside. When the firefighters go in, they also find a security officer for one of the businesses based in the building, who is trapped on the seventh floor by the smoke in the stairway. This officer headed up the building after the South Tower collapsed at 9:59, to check that all his personnel had left there (see (Shortly After 9:59 a.m.-12:10 p.m.) September 11, 2001). All three men are escorted out of the building. [PENN STATE PUBLIC BROADCASTING, 3/1/2002; NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY, 6/2004, PP. L-18 ; NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY, 9/2005, PP. 110 ; NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY, 11/2008, PP. 298-299 ] Entity Tags: Barry Jennings, Michael Hess Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, World Trade Center

12:15 p.m. September 11, 2001: Border Crossings Security Tightened[]

It is announced that US borders with Canada and Mexico are on the highest state of alert, but no decision has been made about closing borders. [CNN, 9/12/2001] Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events

(12:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001: FBI Limits What Evidence Needs to Be Photographed at Pentagon

Garrett McKenzie. [Source: Rudi Williams] Photographers who are taking pictures at the Pentagon, to document the scene of the attack there in as close as possible to its original state, are told to limit what evidence they photograph. FBI Special Agent Tom O’Connor—who is in charge of the initial evidence recovery operation at the Pentagon—and his superiors have put out the word that it is unnecessary to document every piece of the airplane. This is because, reportedly, “the smaller fragments didn’t prove anything, except that there was an airplane there, which was obvious enough from other evidence.” FBI Special Agent Garrett McKenzie, who is coordinating the effort to photograph evidence at the Pentagon, pulls together a dozen photographers for a briefing. He instructs them: “We don’t need to photograph all the plane parts, only unique airplane parts or something specific. Like the pilot’s yoke, or anything with part of a serial number on it. If we have to prove what kind of plane this was, the serial numbers will be what we need.” [CREED AND NEWMAN, 2008, PP. 181-183] Entity Tags: Tom O’Connor, Garrett McKenzie Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Pentagon, FBI 9/11 Investigation

(12:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001: FBI Still Lacks Full Investigative Capability at Pentagon Due to the chaos and gridlock resulting from the morning’s attacks, the FBI is hampered in mobilizing its investigative operation at the Pentagon. Because the Pentagon is a crime scene, it is the FBI’s job to gather and document every piece of evidence there. [CREED AND NEWMAN, 2008, PP. 177] Special Agent Chris Combs, the FBI’s representative at the crash site, has been setting up the FBI operation since arriving at 9:49 a.m. [US DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, 7/2002, PP. A20 AND 1-1; CREED AND NEWMAN, 2008, PP. 178] Since before 10:00 a.m., the bureau’s evidence recovery team has been arriving. But although every available agent has been paged, many are stuck in traffic, and it will take several hours before the entire FBI contingent makes it to the Pentagon. The FBI also has a fleet of sophisticated command vehicles and helicopters, plus other specialized equipment. But even though the crash site is within the “FBI’s backyard,” according to authors Patrick Creed and Rick Newman, by around 12:15 p.m. none of this has arrived yet. The bureau’s rapid-deployment gear, which includes everything needed to gather and document evidence, is stored in a warehouse in Washington, DC. But with traffic in the region at a standstill, it is almost impossible to get this through the streets to the Pentagon. Chris Combs asks his boss at the FBI’s Washington field office if any helicopters are available to get equipment to the Pentagon quickly. But several choppers at the FBI facility in Quantico, just 30 miles south of the Pentagon, are reserved for specific duties during government emergencies and are currently locked down. And according to Creed and Newman, other government helicopters the bureau relies upon for backup are tied up, though what they are being used for is unstated. [US DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, 7/2002, PP. A22; CREED AND NEWMAN, 2008, PP. 177-179] Furthermore, NBC News has reported that the FBI’s top teams have been away from Washington for the last two days for a major training exercise in California (see 10:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). This means about 50 personnel, plus helicopters and equipment, are currently out of place and unavailable. [NBC 4, 9/11/2001] Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Chris Combs Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Pentagon, FBI 9/11 Investigation

(12:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001: FBI Establishes Command Post near Pentagon

The Navy Annex, located next to the Virginia State Police Barracks. [Source: Arlington County After-Action Report] The FBI establishes a command post for its response to the Pentagon attack at the Virginia State Police Barracks, overlooking the Pentagon. [FIRE ENGINEERING, 11/2002] Around midday, Assistant Special Agent in Charge Robert Blecksmith arrived at the Pentagon and took over from Special Agent Chris Combs as the FBI’s on scene commander. He had quickly decided that the area around the Arlington County Fire Department’s incident command post by the Pentagon was too crowded and lacked support facilities. He therefore decides it will be safer for the FBI to carry out its operations at the Virginia State Police Barracks, located next to the Navy Annex, a few hundred yards from the Pentagon. Along with Combs, Blecksmith establishes the FBI’s command post there, and starts moving the FBI up to it. The two men will spend most of the afternoon at the barracks, where they work on establishing a Joint Operations Center (JOC) at nearby Fort Myer. [US DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, 7/2002, PP. A23 AND C50; CREED AND NEWMAN, 2008, PP. 178] The JOC will open early the following morning (see September 12, 2001). [GOLDBERG ET AL., 2007, PP. 161] Entity Tags: Chris Combs, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert Blecksmith Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Pentagon, FBI 9/11 Investigation

12:16 p.m. September 11, 2001: US Airspace Cleared of All Civilian Aircraft US airspace is clear of all civilian air traffic, with the exception of a small number of law enforcement and emergency operations aircraft. Otherwise, only military aircraft are airborne. [FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION, 9/18/2001; FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION, 4/15/2002; USA TODAY, 8/12/2002] The FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, announces that the airspace has been successfully shut down. [SPENCER, 2008, PP. 269] At 9:26 a.m., the Command Center ordered a national ground stop that prevented any aircraft from taking off (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and at 9:45 a.m. it ordered FAA facilities to instruct all aircraft to land at the nearest airport (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Since then, about 4,500 commercial and general aviation aircraft have landed without incident. This is the first time ever that all civilian aircraft in the United States have been grounded. [US CONGRESS. HOUSE. COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE, 9/21/2001; FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION, 3/21/2002 ; 9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 29] Author Pamela Freni will later comment that this clearing of the skies was “a tremendous feat accomplished by a huge team that had never even practiced this part of the game before.” Frank Hatfield, the air traffic division manager for the FAA’s eastern region, will comment: “What we did on September 11 was done amazingly well. It was almost like World War II, the way the airplanes were handled.” [FRENI, 2003, PP. 69] At 12:30 p.m., the FAA will report that there are 50 flights in US airspace, but none of them are reporting any problems. [CNN, 9/12/2001] Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, Frank Hatfield Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: Key Day of 9/11 Events, All Day of 9/11 Events

(Shortly Before 12:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001: Richard Clarke Heads to White House Bunker; Told that Vice President Cheney Keeps Hanging up Clarke Telephone, and Cheney’s Wife is Interfering Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, who is in the White House Situation Room, is informed that Vice President Dick Cheney wants him to come down to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), located below the East Wing of the White House. Clarke heads down and, after being admitted by Cheney’s security detail, enters the PEOC. In addition to the vice president and his wife Lynne Cheney, the PEOC contains National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, political adviser Mary Matalin, Cheney’s chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, deputy White House chief of staff Josh Bolten, and White House counselor Karen Hughes. Clarke can see the White House Situation on a screen. But Army Major Mike Fenzel, who is also in the PEOC, complains to him, “I can’t hear the crisis conference [that Clarke has been leading] because Mrs. Cheney keeps turning down the volume on you so she can hear CNN… and the vice president keeps hanging up the open line to you.” Clarke later describes that Lynne Cheney is, like her husband, “a right-wing ideologue,” and is offering her advice and opinions while in the PEOC. When Clarke asks the vice president if he needs anything, Cheney replies, “The [communications] in this place are terrible.” His calls to President Bush keep getting broken off. By the time Clarke heads back upstairs to the Situation Room, it is 12:30 p.m. [CLARKE, 2004, PP. 17-19] Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Richard A. Clarke, Mike Fenzel, Lynne Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Joshua Bolten, Mary Matalin, Karen Hughes, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Dick Cheney, Richard Clarke

(12:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001: FBI Questions Deena Burnett about Husband’s Calls from Flight 93 Deena Burnett is visited at her home in San Ramon, California, by three FBI agents, and questioned about the calls she received from her husband, Tom Burnett, who was a passenger on Flight 93. Deena has now learned of the plane crashing in Pennsylvania, and a police officer staying with her informed her that this was her husband’s plane. The FBI agents spend over an hour with Deena, asking her about her husband and what he’d said in his four calls from Flight 93. [BURNETT AND GIOMBETTI, 2006, PP. 71-72 AND 74-75] She describes to them how Tom called her using his cell phone and told her his flight had been hijacked. In his final call he’d described how a group of the passengers was going to “do something.” She says her husband was a former college football player and very intelligent, so if he’d concluded he was going to die, he would have taken action. [FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, 9/11/2001 ] Deena remembers that she’d taken notes, writing down the details of her husband’s calls. But she does not want the agents to have these, saying, “You wouldn’t be able to read it anyway.” They do not take the notes with them when they leave. They will return later in the day and tell Deena specifically not to say anything to anyone—especially the media—about her cell phone conversations with her husband, because it is part of their investigation. [BURNETT AND GIOMBETTI, 2006, PP. 75 AND 81]

(12:00 Noon) September 11, 2001: President Bush Provided Tight Security in Louisiana

Bush escorted into Barksdale Air Force Base. [Source: White House] President Bush arrives at the Barksdale Air Force Base headquarters in a Humvee escorted by armed outriders. Reporters and others are not allowed to say where they are. Bush remains in this location for approximately one hour, recording a brief message and talking on the phone. [DAILY TELEGRAPH, 12/16/2001] Entity Tags: Barksdale Air Force Base, George W. Bush Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, George Bush

(12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001 and After: FBI Searches Pentagon Surroundings for Plane Debris

Personnel from several agencies searching for evidence at the Pentagon. [Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation] Beginning shortly before midday on September 11, 2001, and continuing until September 12, the FBI conducts a careful search across the grounds of the Pentagon, looking for remnants of the aircraft that hit the building. [PBS, 9/12/2001; WASHINGTON POST, 9/12/2001; GOLDBERG ET AL., 2007, PP. 159] FBI Special Agent Tom O’Connor is in charge of the initial evidence recovery operation at the Pentagon. His first priority is to locate and gather all the airplane parts and other pieces of evidence from the lawn on the west side of the building. He sends out all available agents to conduct a grid search. The lawn is divided into quadrants, and then agents walk back and forth, sticking a small flag near any evidence they find, getting the evidence photographed in its place, and then scooping it into a bag. [CREED AND NEWMAN, 2008, PP. 180] Arlington police officers, military personnel, and others also participate in the search. [GOLDBERG ET AL., 2007, PP. 159] They also look for evidence across grass and roadways several hundred yards from the Pentagon. [PBS, 9/12/2001] Some pieces of the aircraft that hit the Pentagon are found nearly 1,000 feet away from the building, on the other side of Washington Boulevard. Thousands of tiny pieces of aluminum have also carried forward over the Pentagon, into its center courtyard. Other pieces of debris landed on its roof, along with body parts from at least one victim. [CREED AND NEWMAN, 2008, PP. 29] According to the Defense Department’s book about the Pentagon attack, the searchers find “many scraps and a few personal items widely scattered on the grass and heliport. Plane remnants varied from half-dollar size to a few feet long.” [GOLDBERG ET AL., 2007, PP. 159] Authors Patrick Creed and Rick Newman will describe: “Agents found what looked like a big Plexiglas windowpane on the lawn, which might have been part of an airplane window, except it was too big.… Somebody suggested it could be one of the blast-proof windows from the Pentagon, somehow blown 500 feet from the building.” [CREED AND NEWMAN, 2008, PP. 180] Entity Tags: Tom O’Connor, Arlington County Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Pentagon, FBI 9/11 Investigation

(12:00 Noon) September 11, 2001: Senator Hatch Repeats Intelligence Community’s Conclusion that Osama Bin Laden Is Responsible Senator Orrin Hatch (R), a member of both the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, says he has just been “briefed by the highest levels of the FBI and of the intelligence community.” He says, “they’ve come to the conclusion that this looks like the signature of Osama bin Laden, and that he may be the one behind this.” [SALON, 9/11/2001] Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Osama bin Laden, Orrin Hatch Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, George Bush

12:00 p.m. September 11, 2001: Defense Intelligence Agency Director Says Al-Qaeda Responsible for Attacks The director of the Defense Intelligence Agency informs military leaders in the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon that al-Qaeda is responsible for the morning’s attacks. General Richard Myers, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will later describe: “At noon, Vice Admiral Tom Wilson, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, confirmed what everybody at the conference table had already surmised: The attacks had undoubtedly come from al-Qaeda.” [MYERS, 2009, PP. 156] Later in the day, Wilson will recall a relevant piece of intelligence “chatter” that was picked up a few months previously. When General Hugh Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrives in the NMCC at 5:40 p.m. after returning from his aborted flight to Europe, he will ask Wilson, “Have we had any intel ‘squeaks’ on an attack like this—anything at all?” Wilson will reply: “The only possible hint of this coming was several months ago when we got a single intercept requesting jumbo jet training. Since then, there’s been nothing.” According to Myers, Wilson is “referring to the vast electronic signals data-mining operations of our intelligence community that targeted known terrorist networks, such as al-Qaeda and their allies.” [MYERS, 2009, PP. 159] Entity Tags: Richard B. Myers, Hugh Shelton, Thomas Wilson, Al-Qaeda Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events

12:00 p.m. September 11, 2001: Defense Intelligence Agency Director Says Al-Qaeda Responsible for Attacks[]

Tom Wilson, The director of the Defense Intelligence Agency informs military leaders in the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon that al-Qaeda is responsible for the morning’s attacks. General Richard Myers, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will later describe:

“At noon, Vice Admiral Tom Wilson, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, confirmed what everybody at the conference table had already surmised: The attacks had undoubtedly come from al-Qaeda.”[see 3]

Later in the day, Wilson will recall a relevant piece of intelligence “chatter” that was picked up a few months previously. When General Hugh Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrives in the NMCC at 5:40 p.m. after returning from his aborted flight to Europe, he will ask Wilson, “Have we had any intel ‘squeaks’ on an attack like this—anything at all?” Wilson will reply: “The only possible hint of this coming was several months ago when we got a single intercept requesting jumbo jet training. Since then, there’s been nothing.” According to Myers, Wilson is “referring to the vast electronic signals data-mining operations of our intelligence community that targeted known terrorist networks, such as al-Qaeda and their allies.” [5][6]

(12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001: Engineer at WTC Site Predicts Collapse of Building 7[]

An engineer at the World Trade Center site correctly predicts that WTC Building 7 is going to collapse. Deputy Chief Peter Hayden of the New York Fire Department will later recall: “We had our special operations people set up surveying instruments to monitor, and see if there was any movement of, [WTC 7]. We were concerned of the possibility of collapse of the building. And we had a discussion with one particular engineer there, and we asked him, if we allowed it to burn could we anticipate a collapse, and if so, how soon?” The engineer apparently predicts correctly that WTC 7 will collapse and also the time it will take before it comes down. As Hayden will continue: “And it turned out that he was pretty much right on the money, that he said, ‘In its current state, you have about five hours.’” Hayden will not reveal the name of this engineer. [BBC, 7/6/2008] WTC 7 will collapse at about 5:20 p.m. (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001), indicating that the engineer makes his prediction around midday or shortly after. [CNN, 9/12/2001]

(12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001: NORAD Launches Fighters to Follow Suspicious Korean Airlines Plane[]

Norton Schwartz. [Source: US Department of Defense] The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) launches fighter jets in response to a Korean Airlines passenger jet that is mistakenly suspected of being hijacked. [CNN, 8/14/2002; AIR FORCE MAGAZINE, 7/2009] Korean Airlines Flight 85 is a Boeing 747 bound from Seoul, South Korea, to New York, and currently heading for a refueling stop in Anchorage, Alaska. For reasons that are unclear, its pilots entered the code signaling a hijacking into a text message they sent to their airline at 11:08 a.m. The FAA was alerted to this, and it in turn alerted NORAD (see (Shortly Before 12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [USA TODAY, 8/12/2002] Fighters Launched from Alaska Base - Lieutenant General Norton Schwartz, the commander of the Alaskan NORAD Region, will later recall: “Given what had happened on the East Coast, it was entirely plausible to me this was an analog on the West Coast. So naturally, we took this seriously.” Schwartz orders Elmendorf Air Force Base, near Anchorage, to launch two F-15 fighter jets armed with missiles to intercept and shadow Flight 85. [ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS, 9/8/2002; SPENCER, 2008, PP. 257] The jets belong to the 3rd Wing. [COMMEMORATIVE AIR FORCE, INC., 4/2/2008 ] Schwartz’s instructions for the fighter pilots are: “Tail the aircraft.… Follow Flight 85 at a position out of sight of passengers. Follow so the four-man flight crew—and anyone in the cockpit with them—couldn’t see them either.” [ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS, 9/8/2002] The two jets will fly about a mile behind Flight 85, shadowing it so its crew and passengers do not realize there are fighters in close proximity. [ALASKA LEGISLATURE. JOINT SENATE AND HOUSE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE, 2/5/2002] Canadian Fighters Launched - Two Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 fighter jets are also launched in response to Flight 85, although whether they take off before or after the 3rd Wing F-15s is unstated. [ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS, 9/29/2001] After Flight 85’s pilots refuse to confirm that their plane is not hijacked, Schwartz will threaten to have the plane shot down (see (Shortly After 1:24 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [SPENCER, 2008, PP. 278] The NORAD jets will escort Flight 85 until it lands at Whitehorse Airport in Canada at 2:54 p.m. (see 2:54 p.m. September 11, 2001). [CANADIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION, 9/12/2001; USA TODAY, 8/12/2002]

(12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001: Attorney General Ashcroft’s Plane Lands in Washington[]

David Israelite. [Source: Publicity photo] The plane carrying Attorney General John Ashcroft finally arrives in Washington, DC, landing at Reagan National Airport. [WASHINGTON POST, 9/28/2001; FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION, 3/21/2002 ] Ashcroft has wanted his plane, a small government Cessna jet, to return to Washington since he learned of the attacks in New York while flying out to Milwaukee (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001 and After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [NEWSWEEK, 3/10/2003; ASHCROFT, 2006, PP. 115-118] Despite his plane being instructed to land on more than one occasion (see 10:40 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 11:11 a.m. September 11, 2001), Ashcroft has insisted on returning to the capital. [USA TODAY, 8/13/2002; SPENCER, 2008, PP. 258, 272] Plane Lands, Passengers Met by Agents with Machine Guns - Ashcroft’s plane has finally been cleared to land in Washington, and an F-16 fighter jet escorts it in to Reagan Airport. [WASHINGTON POST, 9/28/2001; 9/11 COMMISSION, 12/1/2003] After touching down, the plane taxies to the tarmac near Signature Aviation, the private executive aircraft terminal. When Ashcroft and the other individuals with him get off, they are met by numerous agents, some with machine guns at the ready. Apparently concerned about possible snipers, the agents quickly cover Ashcroft with a bulletproof trench coat and pass out bulletproof vests to the others with him. All of them are hustled into a hangar, where several vans are waiting. Ashcroft and his deputy chief of staff, David Israelite, get into a heavily reinforced SUV, while their colleagues disperse to other vehicles. Ashcroft Advised to Go to Classified Site - Ashcroft calls the White House Situation Room to ask where he should go to set up operations. He is connected to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who suggests that he head to the remote, classified site, where other Justice Department personnel have gone, until it is known if any more attacks are forthcoming. Ashcroft’s vehicle heads toward the site, but due to the roads being clogged with traffic, it turns around and goes instead to the FBI’s Strategic Information and Operations Center in Washington, where Ashcroft will spend much of the rest of the day. [9/11 COMMISSION, 12/17/2003 ; ASHCROFT, 2006, PP. 118-120, 129] Conflicting Accounts of Landing Time - The time when Ashcroft’s plane lands at Reagan Airport is unclear. According to a 2002 FAA report, it lands “just before noon.” [FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION, 3/21/2002 ] According to USA Today, it does not arrive in Washington “until afternoon.” [USA TODAY, 8/13/2002] And a federally funded report on the emergency response to the Pentagon attack will claim that an unidentified aircraft—later determined to be Ashcroft’s plane—is approaching Washington and leads to an evacuation of the Pentagon site at around 2:00 p.m. (see (2:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [US DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, 7/2002, PP. A30; VOGEL, 2007, PP. 453] Ashcroft’s plane is one of the last aircraft to land in the United States on this day, according to the Washington Post. [WASHINGTON POST, 9/28/2001] Entity Tags: John Ashcroft, David Israelite, Condoleezza Rice Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events

(12:00 Noon) September 11, 2001: President Bush Provided Tight Security in Louisiana

Bush escorted into Barksdale Air Force Base. [Source: White House] President Bush arrives at the Barksdale Air Force Base headquarters in a Humvee escorted by armed outriders. Reporters and others are not allowed to say where they are. Bush remains in this location for approximately one hour, recording a brief message and talking on the phone. [DAILY TELEGRAPH, 12/16/2001] Entity Tags: Barksdale Air Force Base, George W. Bush Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, George Bush

(12:00 Noon) September 11, 2001: Senator Hatch Repeats Intelligence Community’s Conclusion that Osama Bin Laden Is Responsible Senator Orrin Hatch (R), a member of both the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, says he has just been “briefed by the highest levels of the FBI and of the intelligence community.” He says, “they’ve come to the conclusion that this looks like the signature of Osama bin Laden, and that he may be the one behind this.” [SALON, 9/11/2001] Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Osama bin Laden, Orrin Hatch Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, George Bush

(12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001 and After: FBI Searches Pentagon Surroundings for Plane Debris[]

Personnel from several agencies searching for evidence at the Pentagon. [Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation] Beginning shortly before midday on September 11, 2001, and continuing until September 12, the FBI conducts a careful search across the grounds of the Pentagon, looking for remnants of the aircraft that hit the building. [PBS, 9/12/2001; WASHINGTON POST, 9/12/2001; GOLDBERG ET AL., 2007, PP. 159] FBI Special Agent Tom O’Connor is in charge of the initial evidence recovery operation at the Pentagon. His first priority is to locate and gather all the airplane parts and other pieces of evidence from the lawn on the west side of the building. He sends out all available agents to conduct a grid search. The lawn is divided into quadrants, and then agents walk back and forth, sticking a small flag near any evidence they find, getting the evidence photographed in its place, and then scooping it into a bag. [CREED AND NEWMAN, 2008, PP. 180] Arlington police officers, military personnel, and others also participate in the search. [GOLDBERG ET AL., 2007, PP. 159] They also look for evidence across grass and roadways several hundred yards from the Pentagon. [PBS, 9/12/2001] Some pieces of the aircraft that hit the Pentagon are found nearly 1,000 feet away from the building, on the other side of Washington Boulevard. Thousands of tiny pieces of aluminum have also carried forward over the Pentagon, into its center courtyard. Other pieces of debris landed on its roof, along with body parts from at least one victim. [CREED AND NEWMAN, 2008, PP. 29] According to the Defense Department’s book about the Pentagon attack, the searchers find “many scraps and a few personal items widely scattered on the grass and heliport. Plane remnants varied from half-dollar size to a few feet long.” [GOLDBERG ET AL., 2007, PP. 159] Authors Patrick Creed and Rick Newman will describe: “Agents found what looked like a big Plexiglas windowpane on the lawn, which might have been part of an airplane window, except it was too big.… Somebody suggested it could be one of the blast-proof windows from the Pentagon, somehow blown 500 feet from the building.” [CREED AND NEWMAN, 2008, PP. 180] Entity Tags: Tom O’Connor, Arlington County Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Pentagon, FBI 9/11 Investigation


12:05 p.m. September 11, 2001: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld Finds Evidence of Al-Qaeda Role Not Good Enough[]

CIA Director Tenet tells Defense Secretary Rumsfeld about an intercepted phone call from earlier in the day at 9:53 a.m. An al-Qaeda operative talked of a fourth target just before Flight 93 crashed. Rumsfeld’s assistant Stephen Cambone dictates Rumsfeld’s thoughts the time, and the notes taken will later be leaked to CBS News. According to CBS, “Rumsfeld felt it was ‘vague,’ that it ‘might not mean something,’ and that there was ‘no good basis for hanging hat.’ In other words, the evidence was not clear-cut enough to justify military action against bin Laden.” [CBS NEWS, 9/4/2002] A couple of hours later, Rumsfeld will use this information to begin arguing that Iraq should be attacked, despite the lack of verified ties between al-Qaeda and Iraq (see (2:40 p.m.) September 11, 2001). Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, Stephen A. Cambone, Al-Qaeda, George J. Tenet Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Donald Rumsfeld

(Shortly Before 12:10 p.m.) September 11, 2001: City Housing Authority Worker Finds WTC 7 Lobby in Ruins, Possibly Steps over Dead Bodies Barry Jennings, a City Housing Authority worker who had become trapped in World Trade Center Building 7, finds the building’s lobby in ruins as he is being rescued from it, and steps over what feels to him like dead bodies. [DYLAN AVERY, 2007] After the first plane hit the WTC, Jennings had gone up to the emergency command center on the 23rd floor of WTC 7 along with Michael Hess, New York’s corporation counsel (see (Shortly Before 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [ASSOCIATED PRESS, 9/11/2001; DYLAN AVERY, 2007] After heading down the stairs, the two men became trapped on the building’s eighth floor (see (Between 9:15 a.m. and 12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). Some time later, firefighters come into WTC 7 to help the two men out of the building. [UPN 9, 9/11/2001; NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY, 9/2005, PP. 109-110 ] Lobby Is 'Total Ruins' - According to Jennings, when he gets down to the lobby, he is astonished to find it totally ruined. In a 2007 interview he will recall: “[W]hen I came in there, the lobby had nice escalators. It was a huge lobby.” But reaching it again, he asks the firefighter who is escorting him, “Where are we?” and the firefighter answers, “This was the lobby.” Jennings finds this “unbelievable,” and says, “You gotta be kidding me.” He will describe the lobby as being “total ruins.” 'Stepping over People' - Furthermore, Jennings steps over what may be dead bodies in the lobby. He will say: “[T]he firefighter that took us down kept saying, ‘Do not look down,’ and I kept saying, ‘Why is that?’ [He said,] ‘Do not look down.’ And, stepping over people. And you know you could feel when you’re stepping over people.” [DYLAN AVERY, 2007] Yet most people were evacuated from WTC 7 around 9:03 a.m., if not earlier (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY, 9/2005, PP. 109 ] The very latest that people left the building, according to official accounts, was 9:30 a.m. (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 305] In a later interview, Jennings will clarify: “I never saw dead bodies.… [I]t felt like I was stepping over them but I never saw them.” The BBC will say, “There is no evidence that anyone died in Tower 7 on 9/11.” [BBC, 7/4/2008; BBC, 7/6/2008] According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), firefighters lead Jennings and Hess out of WTC 7 at around 12:10 p.m. to 12:15 p.m. (see 12:10 p.m.-12:15 p.m. September 11, 2001). [NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY, 6/2004, PP. L-18 ] Entity Tags: Michael Hess, Barry Jennings Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, World Trade Center

12:10 p.m.-12:15 p.m. September 11, 2001: Firefighters Rescue Three People Trapped in WTC 7

Michael Hess. [Source: Harvard Law Bulletin] While most of Building 7 of the World Trade Center was evacuated around the time the South Tower was hit, if not earlier (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001), firefighters now find three individuals who have become trapped inside it, and lead them out of the building. [NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY, 6/2004, PP. L-18 ; NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY, 9/2005, PP. 109-110 ] Among these individuals are Barry Jennings, a City Housing Authority worker, and Michael Hess, New York’s chief lawyer who is also a longtime friend of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. The two had gone up to the 23rd floor emergency command center of the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management after the first attack occurred, but found it empty (see (Shortly Before 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [NEW YORK TIMES, 11/21/1997; ASSOCIATED PRESS, 9/11/2001; GIULIANI, 2002, PP. 20-21 AND 244; DYLAN AVERY, 2007] They then headed downstairs but became trapped around the eighth floor by smoke and debris that filled the staircase. After breaking a window and calling for help, they were spotted by firefighters outside. When the firefighters go in, they also find a security officer for one of the businesses based in the building, who is trapped on the seventh floor by the smoke in the stairway. This officer headed up the building after the South Tower collapsed at 9:59, to check that all his personnel had left there (see (Shortly After 9:59 a.m.-12:10 p.m.) September 11, 2001). All three men are escorted out of the building. [PENN STATE PUBLIC BROADCASTING, 3/1/2002; NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY, 6/2004, PP. L-18 ; NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY, 9/2005, PP. 110 ; NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY, 11/2008, PP. 298-299 ] Entity Tags: Barry Jennings, Michael Hess Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, World Trade Center

12:15 p.m. September 11, 2001: Border Crossings Security Tightened[]

It is announced that US borders with Canada and Mexico are on the highest state of alert, but no decision has been made about closing borders. [CNN, 9/12/2001] Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events

(12:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001: FBI Limits What Evidence Needs to Be Photographed at Pentagon

Garrett McKenzie. [Source: Rudi Williams] Photographers who are taking pictures at the Pentagon, to document the scene of the attack there in as close as possible to its original state, are told to limit what evidence they photograph. FBI Special Agent Tom O’Connor—who is in charge of the initial evidence recovery operation at the Pentagon—and his superiors have put out the word that it is unnecessary to document every piece of the airplane. This is because, reportedly, “the smaller fragments didn’t prove anything, except that there was an airplane there, which was obvious enough from other evidence.” FBI Special Agent Garrett McKenzie, who is coordinating the effort to photograph evidence at the Pentagon, pulls together a dozen photographers for a briefing. He instructs them: “We don’t need to photograph all the plane parts, only unique airplane parts or something specific. Like the pilot’s yoke, or anything with part of a serial number on it. If we have to prove what kind of plane this was, the serial numbers will be what we need.” [CREED AND NEWMAN, 2008, PP. 181-183] Entity Tags: Tom O’Connor, Garrett McKenzie Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Pentagon, FBI 9/11 Investigation

(12:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001: FBI Still Lacks Full Investigative Capability at Pentagon Due to the chaos and gridlock resulting from the morning’s attacks, the FBI is hampered in mobilizing its investigative operation at the Pentagon. Because the Pentagon is a crime scene, it is the FBI’s job to gather and document every piece of evidence there. [CREED AND NEWMAN, 2008, PP. 177] Special Agent Chris Combs, the FBI’s representative at the crash site, has been setting up the FBI operation since arriving at 9:49 a.m. [US DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, 7/2002, PP. A20 AND 1-1; CREED AND NEWMAN, 2008, PP. 178] Since before 10:00 a.m., the bureau’s evidence recovery team has been arriving. But although every available agent has been paged, many are stuck in traffic, and it will take several hours before the entire FBI contingent makes it to the Pentagon. The FBI also has a fleet of sophisticated command vehicles and helicopters, plus other specialized equipment. But even though the crash site is within the “FBI’s backyard,” according to authors Patrick Creed and Rick Newman, by around 12:15 p.m. none of this has arrived yet. The bureau’s rapid-deployment gear, which includes everything needed to gather and document evidence, is stored in a warehouse in Washington, DC. But with traffic in the region at a standstill, it is almost impossible to get this through the streets to the Pentagon. Chris Combs asks his boss at the FBI’s Washington field office if any helicopters are available to get equipment to the Pentagon quickly. But several choppers at the FBI facility in Quantico, just 30 miles south of the Pentagon, are reserved for specific duties during government emergencies and are currently locked down. And according to Creed and Newman, other government helicopters the bureau relies upon for backup are tied up, though what they are being used for is unstated. [US DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, 7/2002, PP. A22; CREED AND NEWMAN, 2008, PP. 177-179] Furthermore, NBC News has reported that the FBI’s top teams have been away from Washington for the last two days for a major training exercise in California (see 10:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). This means about 50 personnel, plus helicopters and equipment, are currently out of place and unavailable. [NBC 4, 9/11/2001] Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Chris Combs Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Pentagon, FBI 9/11 Investigation

(12:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001: FBI Establishes Command Post near Pentagon

The Navy Annex, located next to the Virginia State Police Barracks. [Source: Arlington County After-Action Report] The FBI establishes a command post for its response to the Pentagon attack at the Virginia State Police Barracks, overlooking the Pentagon. [FIRE ENGINEERING, 11/2002] Around midday, Assistant Special Agent in Charge Robert Blecksmith arrived at the Pentagon and took over from Special Agent Chris Combs as the FBI’s on scene commander. He had quickly decided that the area around the Arlington County Fire Department’s incident command post by the Pentagon was too crowded and lacked support facilities. He therefore decides it will be safer for the FBI to carry out its operations at the Virginia State Police Barracks, located next to the Navy Annex, a few hundred yards from the Pentagon. Along with Combs, Blecksmith establishes the FBI’s command post there, and starts moving the FBI up to it. The two men will spend most of the afternoon at the barracks, where they work on establishing a Joint Operations Center (JOC) at nearby Fort Myer. [US DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, 7/2002, PP. A23 AND C50; CREED AND NEWMAN, 2008, PP. 178] The JOC will open early the following morning (see September 12, 2001). [GOLDBERG ET AL., 2007, PP. 161] Entity Tags: Chris Combs, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert Blecksmith Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Pentagon, FBI 9/11 Investigation

12:16 p.m. September 11, 2001: US Airspace Cleared of All Civilian Aircraft US airspace is clear of all civilian air traffic, with the exception of a small number of law enforcement and emergency operations aircraft. Otherwise, only military aircraft are airborne. [FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION, 9/18/2001; FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION, 4/15/2002; USA TODAY, 8/12/2002] The FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, announces that the airspace has been successfully shut down. [SPENCER, 2008, PP. 269] At 9:26 a.m., the Command Center ordered a national ground stop that prevented any aircraft from taking off (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and at 9:45 a.m. it ordered FAA facilities to instruct all aircraft to land at the nearest airport (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Since then, about 4,500 commercial and general aviation aircraft have landed without incident. This is the first time ever that all civilian aircraft in the United States have been grounded. [US CONGRESS. HOUSE. COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE, 9/21/2001; FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION, 3/21/2002 ; 9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 29] Author Pamela Freni will later comment that this clearing of the skies was “a tremendous feat accomplished by a huge team that had never even practiced this part of the game before.” Frank Hatfield, the air traffic division manager for the FAA’s eastern region, will comment: “What we did on September 11 was done amazingly well. It was almost like World War II, the way the airplanes were handled.” [FRENI, 2003, PP. 69] At 12:30 p.m., the FAA will report that there are 50 flights in US airspace, but none of them are reporting any problems. [CNN, 9/12/2001] Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, Frank Hatfield Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: Key Day of 9/11 Events, All Day of 9/11 Events

(Shortly Before 12:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001: Richard Clarke Heads to White House Bunker; Told that Vice President Cheney Keeps Hanging up Clarke Telephone, and Cheney’s Wife is Interfering Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, who is in the White House Situation Room, is informed that Vice President Dick Cheney wants him to come down to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), located below the East Wing of the White House. Clarke heads down and, after being admitted by Cheney’s security detail, enters the PEOC. In addition to the vice president and his wife Lynne Cheney, the PEOC contains National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, political adviser Mary Matalin, Cheney’s chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, deputy White House chief of staff Josh Bolten, and White House counselor Karen Hughes. Clarke can see the White House Situation on a screen. But Army Major Mike Fenzel, who is also in the PEOC, complains to him, “I can’t hear the crisis conference [that Clarke has been leading] because Mrs. Cheney keeps turning down the volume on you so she can hear CNN… and the vice president keeps hanging up the open line to you.” Clarke later describes that Lynne Cheney is, like her husband, “a right-wing ideologue,” and is offering her advice and opinions while in the PEOC. When Clarke asks the vice president if he needs anything, Cheney replies, “The [communications] in this place are terrible.” His calls to President Bush keep getting broken off. By the time Clarke heads back upstairs to the Situation Room, it is 12:30 p.m. [CLARKE, 2004, PP. 17-19] Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Richard A. Clarke, Mike Fenzel, Lynne Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Joshua Bolten, Mary Matalin, Karen Hughes, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Dick Cheney, Richard Clarke

(12:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001: FBI Questions Deena Burnett about Husband’s Calls from Flight 93 Deena Burnett is visited at her home in San Ramon, California, by three FBI agents, and questioned about the calls she received from her husband, Tom Burnett, who was a passenger on Flight 93. Deena has now learned of the plane crashing in Pennsylvania, and a police officer staying with her informed her that this was her husband’s plane. The FBI agents spend over an hour with Deena, asking her about her husband and what he’d said in his four calls from Flight 93. [BURNETT AND GIOMBETTI, 2006, PP. 71-72 AND 74-75] She describes to them how Tom called her using his cell phone and told her his flight had been hijacked. In his final call he’d described how a group of the passengers was going to “do something.” She says her husband was a former college football player and very intelligent, so if he’d concluded he was going to die, he would have taken action. [FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, 9/11/2001 ] Deena remembers that she’d taken notes, writing down the details of her husband’s calls. But she does not want the agents to have these, saying, “You wouldn’t be able to read it anyway.” They do not take the notes with them when they leave. They will return later in the day and tell Deena specifically not to say anything to anyone—especially the media—about her cell phone conversations with her husband, because it is part of their investigation. [BURNETT AND GIOMBETTI, 2006, PP. 75 AND 81]


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  1. . [MYERS, 2009, PP. 159]
  2. [BBC, 7/6/2008]
  3. [CNN, 9/12/2001]
  4. [CNN, 8/14/2002; AIR FORCE MAGAZINE, 7/2009]
  5. . 
  6. [MYERS, 2009, PP. 159]
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