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Post Headline on 9/11 Inquiry May Prove Prophetic

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Washington Post Headline on 9/11 Inquiry May Prove Prophetic Says Watchdog Group


Witnesses not under oath raises doubts about Commission process

Breaking News Press Release
For Immediate Release
May 26, 2003
9/11 CitizensWatch

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An original Washington Post headline " Lawmakers Urge More Aggressive Sept. 11 Probe", posted online on May 22 ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A26435-2003May22.html) was changed to "New Panel, Independent of 9/11 Commission, Is Sought" (WP 5/23/03), when the print version was released the following day. The print headline prompted Lee Hamilton, Vice-Chair of the National Commission on Terrorist Acts Upon the United States, to object at the opening of the second day of hearings that the actual proceedings and the content of the article didn't match the headline.

The story opens, "Several prominent lawmakers, including two Democratic presidential contenders, yesterday urged an independent commission to forcefully investigate government shortcomings prior to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, including an aviation security system experts described as riddled with holes."

A D.C. based watchdog group monitoring the recent 9/11 hearings says that the misstated headline is ironically and poignantly apropos, given prior calls by concerned citizens and some 9/11 victims' family members for a truly independent citizens' commission on 9/11.

Following two days of confusing, conflicting, and sometimes damning testimony by a range of current and former government officials, civil servants, experts and whistleblowers, 9/11 CitizensWatch co-founder, Kyle F. Hence noted that, "We may need just such an independent panel if we are ever to learn the whole story and set the record straight. A citizens' commission would not be plagued by the apparent conflicts of interest and personal recusals of the official Commissioners, and may be able to hold the government officials' feet to the fire."

Despite a forced delay of over a year in starting the probe, military and government officials in positions of responsibility at the time of the attacks have failed in their testimony to put forward a cohesive timeline. Official timelines from NORAD, the FAA, and other published accounts conflict with each other on significant details about the events in question. NORAD was already on alert conducting exercises as part of Operation Vigilant Guardian that day, raising questions about response times and capabilities.

Former top FAA adminstrator Jane Garvey's testimony failed to provide an accurate accounting of exactly when NORAD was informed of the first hijacking leading an FAA Public Affairs officer to promise to deliver a formal statement before press deadlines.

According to the official FAA timeline, the initiation of an inter-agency phone bridge (including the entire FAA network , Department of Defense, the Secret Service, and "other government agencies") occured "within minutes after the first aircraft hit the World Trade Center" shortly after 8:46 a.m. EST. These phone bridges allowed NORAD to have real-time information "about loss of communication with aircraft, loss of transponder signals, unauthorized changes in course, and other actions being taken by all the flights of interest, including Flight 77."

However, the official NORAD timeline released shortly after the attacks reveals that the FAA was in contact with NORAD reporting real-time events regarding the hijackings prior to the crash of the first plane. The Northeast Air Defense System (NEADS) put Otis Air National Guard Base on alert at 8:40 a.m. EST and were scrambling planes in response to the hijackings even before the American Airlines flight crashed into the World Trade Center.

Despite the fact that NORAD had their aircraft and command in battle-ready posture, General Arnold testified that when it came time to repond to the attacks of the four hijacked planes his command had to depend entirely upon FAA radar and communications systems to scramble, monitor, and direct any air defense jets at their disposal. "On its face this juxtaposition of testimony stretches credulity" commented John Judge of CitizensWatch.

There was also some confusion in testimony about exactly what protocol was in place in the event of hijackings prior to, and on 9/11. This point emerged in Commissioner Jamie Gorelick's questioning of NORAD General McKinley and retired General Arnold, who maintained that response to hijackings is technically a matter for "law enforcement". This jurisdictional issue seemed to cloud the issue unnecessarily, because standard operating procedures require that in all air emergencies, including hijackings, the FAA must immediately notify the Pentagon and NORAD to scramble interceptors.

The confusion over NORAD response, or lack of it, on 9/11 was further compounded by the details surrounding a 'shoot-down' order. Transportation Secretary Minetta testified that he overheard conversations at the White House between Vice-president Cheney and a staff member indicating that a shoot-down order was in place prior to the attack on the Pentagon. General Arnold, who was in a plane with his staff in the skies over Washington, D.C. testified that he was not informed of the shoot-down order until after flight AA77 hit the Pentagon. Arnold did not specify by whom or exactly when the order was issued, or why so much time elapsed before getting intercept jets airborne to protect the Capitol.

In addition, Arnold made no mention of what type of craft he was flying with his staff over the Capitol or what radar or communications capabilities it had; Commissioners did not inquire for further details during the questions and answer period.

"This manifest failure is all the more perplexing given the clear warnings contained in briefings given the president by the CIA in the weeks before 9/11 which referred to a clear threat from Osama bin Laden inside the United States, and a July intelligence report given to "top Administration officials" that an Al-Qeada attack was ëimminent,' would inflict ëmass casualties' and that could involve 'hijackings,'" Kyle Hence noted. Portions of the 800-page joint intelligence committee report, containing these details, are now being withheld from the Commission and the American people by the Bush Administration and the Department of Justice. "We have to start 'connecting the dots' and seeing the pattern here. We have to ask ourselves who is covering for whom in the on-going resistance to accountability and accurate fact-finding," said Hence.

After the close of the hearings outside the chamber, a reporter from the Newark Star-Ledger asked Commission chair Tom Kean why witness testimony offered the Commission was not being taken under oath. "That's something we gotta talk about as a Commission. There's some discussion as to whether we need people under oath or whether sometimes people come not under oath and without lawyers and so on are sometimes freer with their testimony and that's a judgement call we make as a commission." Kean replied. "This question alone gives rise to a sense that the Commission is not moving aggressively or forthrightly enough to fulfill their mandate to provide a full and accurate accounting," Hence said in comment.

Taken together, these observations and the record of the hearings thus far raise serious doubts about the veracity of official accounts and explanations and whether the National Commission's current approach will lead to the truth about what happened on September 11th. 9/11 CitizensWatch advocates feel these problems make the case for the addition of an independent advisory group to the Commission or a separate oversight panel, as suggested by the Washington Post headline.

In light of what's transpired in these hearings, it turns out that the Post's misfit headline may actually be prophetic. A truly independent non-partisan oversight panel, without conflicts of interest, or hints of them, and willing to take sworn statements, may be exactly what is needed to insure that the Commission drive toward clear answers, accountability, and action so that "no stone will remain unturned," as Senator Shelby and Governor Kean have insisted and promised.

Thus far the Commission has not called for public testimony of those pilots, unit commanders, communicators and controllers directly involved in the defense responses on September 11. 9/11 CitizensWatch urges the Commission to do so in order to pierce the fog of confusion around the timeline and other issues. Certainly, if the Commission does not follow its mandate to learn the truth at this point, it will give additional momentum to a call by citizens to launch a parallel independent inquiry. "While the Commissioners continue to insist this is not a ëblame game' or ëwitch hunt', victim family members and members of 9/11 CitizensWatch continue to insist that there must be accountability for failure. Let us also be sure the National Commission themselves will be held fully accountable to fulfill their mandate to determine exactly what happened on 9/11. Their failure to do so will require an independent alternative," noted Hence, co-founder of 9/11 Citizen'sWatch.

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- 9/11 CitizensWatch ( http://www.911citizenswatch.org) was formed to monitor and serve as a watchdog over the work of the National Commission on Terrorist Acts to engage constructively with Commissioners and staff; to be sure the fruits of months of independent investigative work be placed on the table to support the search for the truth, and that questions posed by family members and others be answered forthrightly and honestly.

Contacts:
John Judge 202-583-5347
Kyle F. Hence 401-935-7715

###

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Transcript of Mr. Hamilton's comments about the headline in the Washington Post:

Hamilton: I just want to be recognized for a moment to comment on a headline really that has appeared in the Washington Post this morning. The headline states, that a, and I'm quoting it now, quote "New Panel, Indpendent of 9/11 Commission, is Sought" end of quote. I want to observe that I don't see how it's possible to get this headline out of the article. The article really doesn't say anything at all about a separate panel. When I first saw this headline it occurred to me that maybe I had attended a different meeting yesterday than the Washington Post reporters and headline writers had attended. But I hope that the Washington Post will see fit to prominently correct that headline.

Based on recording made May 23, 2003

1) Transcript from Q&A with Gov. Kean, Chairman of the National Commission and members.

2) Transcript of Q&A with Major Don Arias, USAF, Chief Public Affairs, First Air Force, CONR.

3) Questioning of General Arnold (retired) following testimony of Maj. Gen. McKinley.

NOTE: Not a single camera from a single network was there to tape Kean's impromptu press conference following the conclusion of the second day of hearings.

1) Here follows a portion of Kean's Q&A with the press:

Braun (Star-Ledger): A number of witnesses said "oh, we don't have that information or it's back at my office." Did that strike you as unusual that these folks came without log books, without documents? and I want to ask a follow-up: when, if ever, are you going to put people under oath?

Kean: I don't know when we'll put...that's something we gotta talk about as a Commission. There's some discussion as to whether we need people under oath or whether sometimes people come not under oath and without lawyers and so on are sometimes freer with their testimony and that's a judgement call we make as a commission.

At this point everybody who did not come with the information we needed said they would supply that to the commission. Some of it came in last night. We asked for it right away. Some of it will come in the next couple of days. But I don't think there was any material gap in testimony that we were not promised that would be supplied to the commission for the record before we close, before we close the window >>within...24 hours and so on<<(barely audible) I think at that point when we look at the record I believe it will be complete.

Aircraft Security Report: Could you name or point to the specific pieces of evidence the commission is really investigating? The commission seems to be very interested with the potential of guns and weapons on some of the aircraft and some timespans in FAA and NORAD communications, is there any thing else you are concentrating on?

Kean: I think you could tell from the questioning that it was aimed at our mandate. I mean our mandate is two different things really. One is we are very very interested in answering the questions that are still unresolved around the details of that day itself ...and these timelines are one of the things that's been a lot of questions about so we were trying to get in, and bore in on what happened when, and what about the conflicts within timelines. And so that's what we were trying to do there. On the other hand, one of our other mandates is to make reccomendations to make people safer and so a whole other series of questions from the commission was going out a while and saying what can we do to improve things from this pont and what lessons we learned are being learned, are those lessons really being digested and what is being done.

Larry Arnold (AP): A lot of time was spent on...and it was very interesting sort of minute by minute accounts of the actual morning of...can you share some of your impressions as to some of the conflicts were, were people not able to reach people, communication not already set-up .... this thing we heard about NORAD's cold war focus. Can you tell us what were your initial impressions about what you heard this morning about that?

Kean: (pause) Well, umm...some of that...some of that... I've got to re-read that testimony...the time it takes to scramble planes...the distance that some of those places where the planes were from the actual attacks where they were occurring...um...(pause) those kind...and, and some conflicts and some questions about the timelines are something we've just got to pursue further...these are concerning. And, but we've got the means within this commission to nail down what we believe to be the truth and that's our job, our job will be to write hopefully the, the definitive report of that timeline. And that's a very very important part...it is so important to do our job to get that timeline right and to get those questions answered.

Ron Marsico (Star-Ledger): With the information that Garvey provided to the Committee last night, do you have a better sense as to whether the FAA provided information to NORAD earlier than was considered yesterday?

Kean: (sigh) That's a question. I mean that's something, that's something we got to determine, I mean that's one of the follow-ups we gotta do in this area.

Marsico: So it's not clear from what Garvey gave you last night?

Kean: No, I don't think it's totally clear, no.

Al Felzenberg, Director of Communication, concludes the questioning to get Gov. Kean to the train.

*********

2) Exchange between John Judge, Kyle F. Hence and Major Don Arias, current Chief, Public Affairs, First Air Force/CONR

Questions not heard...

Major Don Arias:....Only the Guard Units that are apportioned to NORAD; other Guard units have different missions. Units are assigned by mission. Oh yes.

[Contact details for Arias, Chief, Public Affairs, First Air Force/CONR: 850-283-8657 Fax: 850-283-3376 DSN: 523-8657 email: donald.arias@@tyndall.af.mil]

Judge: Do you about Anacostia Naval Air Station? Guard units there.

Major: No

Judge: They have some guard units there. They do some guard duty in the skies of D.C.

Major: We can task almost any unit. General McKinley as the joint forces air component commander can reach out, even if they aren't a specified unit, if they are in the right location at the right time now, from any service.

Judge: Then, there was a statement saying that there were 14 ready units or something on that day.

Major: September 10 there were 7 alert sites around the United States. That's no secret. Two aircraft each sitting alert. So there are 14 aircraft.

Judge: That's nationwide.

Major: That's around the periphery of the Continental U.S.

Judge: How many within NEADS?

Major: Within the Northeast Air Defense Sector at that time? Let me think. ahhh, One, two...you know rather than take a guess I'd rather not say.

Judge: And when the people were talking about...there were a couple of references to planes coming from Langley and then a couple of others talking about Norfolk. Is that the same thing?

Major:I think they are talking about the same thing. We had, we had no alert forces at Norfolk.

Hence: I had a question about the timeline that was included in McKinley's statement.

Major: I think the testimony really, you know, has to stand on its own. I really can't comment on it.

Hence: I just want to ask a specific question because I did a little math. It was maintained that at 9:02 at the time of the second plane hitting the tower. The intercept planes were 71 miles away and it said in parentheses that's 8 minutes flying time. But if you do the math that would be around or less than 600 mph so...

Major: I don't know the answer to that. And you gotta take into account varying speeds so, well you know, uhh

Hence: varying speeds of?

Major: How fast is eight minutes? You are assuming a constant rate of speed.

Hence: The second tower had just been hit so why wouldn't they be going their top speed of 1500mph or 1800mph?

Major: I can't answer that. The testimony has to stand on its own for now.

Hence: I see. Thank you.

[General Eberhart's testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in the immediate aftermath was that there were 20 craft on alert status on 9/11. This discrepency raises the suspician that NORAD in their official statements now reduced the total alert number to 14 to cover for the failure of the missing 6 to respond to the attacks. I would suggest that two of those six are at Andrews and that another two may have been at Anacostia]

*********

3) General Arnold was asked by the Commission about whether or not the planes scrambled from Langley could have been able to intercept flight 77

General Arnold: It is certainly physically possible that they could have gotten into the area. The speculation is whether we could have actually intercepted the aircraft by that time because everything we were doing remember was being relayed from the FAA; we have no visibility on those aircraft couldn't see, no radars, couldn't talk with our pilots. FAA did a marvelous job during that period of time and doing radio relays and assisting us in being able to...

Commissioner: Now If 93 had not crashed would it have been possible for the F-16s to intercept 93 and do you think they would have.

Arnold: It was our intent to intercept flight 93. In fact, my own staff, we were orbiting now over Washington, D.C. by this time, by this time. [was this the C-130 sighted over flight 77] and I was personally anxious to see what flight 93 was going to do and our intent was to intercept it but we elected to stay over Washington, D.C. because there was not that urgency and because if there were other airplane coming from another quadrant, another vector, we would have been pulled off station and we would have not been able to; there might have been an aircraft that popped up from the system closer and been a larger threat to the area so we elected to remain over D.C. until that aircraft was definitely coming toward us. And as you know the brave men and women who took over that aircraft prevented us from making the aweful decision which the young men who were flying the aircraft would have lived with for the rest of their lives.

Commissioner: In a short answer, why with the previous attempt of the light plane to hit the White House, wasn't Andrews AFB with F-16s and Marine F-18s available part of the alert? Also, I understand and I'd like you to have you comment on what the role the Secret Service was in scrambling those F-16s.

Arnold: The Andrews airplanes. My understanding. The Secret Service. Obviously they work with the 113th because the President, Air Force One works out of Andrews AFB so they had personal knowledge of the people out there and the telephone number. And or, I cannot speculate about whether they knew about what we were were doing or not but in the urgency to get something done they made a phone call to the 113th, I learned later, I did not know that at the time. And asked them to get anything they could airborne and I think the quote was: 'to protect the house.'

Unknown: And the 113th is the 113th fighter wing, at Andrews, District of Columbia, Air National Guard, F-16 wing.

Arnold: Not part of NORAD

Commissioner: uhhum. Now you said that the clear delineation was you were looking outward and to do anything inward you had to get authorization from the law enforcement agency. And that is covered as I understand it by JCS instruction by 3610 on aircraft piracy. In that instruction as I read it, which I believe is still in effect, you don't have any delegated authority to interdict, in fact there's no mention of interdiction in the, it's purely an escort function. This is still in effect and presumably you are not following it to the letter and I'd like you to speak to what the chain of authority is now. who has authority to interdict, to shoot down, and are their published rules of engagement?

Maj Gen. McKinley then explains what systems are in place now with Operation Noble Eagle.

[MORE TO FOLLOW]

Contact: John Judge 202-583-5347 Kyle F. Hence 401-935-7715


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