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The White House Situation Room is a 5,000-square-foot conference room and intelligence management center in the basement of the West Wing of the White House. It is run by the National Security Council staff for the use of the President of the United States and his advisors (including the National Security Advisor, the Deputy for Homeland Security and the White House Chief of Staff) to monitor and deal with crises at home and abroad and to conduct secure communications with outside (often overseas) persons. The Situation Room is equipped with secure, advanced communications equipment for the President to maintain command and control of U.S. forces around the world.
Origin and staffEdit
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The Situation Room was created in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion was attributed to a lack of real-time information. The room has secure communications systems built into it and the walls contain wood panels that hide different audio, video and other systems.
The Situation Room is staffed by a number of senior officers from various agencies in the intelligence community and from the military (approximately 30 personnel). These individuals stand watch on a 24-hour basis, constantly monitoring world events and keeping senior White House staff apprised of significant events.
The mission of the Situation Room is to provide current intelligence and crisis support to the NSC staff, the National Security Adviser, and the President. The Situation Room staff is organized around five Watch Teams that provide 7-day, 24-hour monitoring of international events. A Watch Team includes three Duty Officers, a communications assistant, and an intelligence analyst. The number and composition of personnel varies, depending on shift requirements and workload.
The day begins with the Watch Team's preparation of the Morning Book. Prepared for the President, Vice President, and most senior White House staff, the Morning Book contains a copy of the National Intelligence Daily, the State Department's Morning Summary, and diplomatic cables and intelligence reports. The Morning Book is usually in the car when the National Security Adviser is picked up for work. The morning routine also includes the President's Daily Brief, which is prepared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, hand-delivered, and briefed by an intelligence community officer to the President and other NSC principals.
In addition, the Watch Teams produce morning and evening summaries of highly selective material. These summaries, targeted on current interagency issues, are transmitted electronically to the NSC staff.
The Situation Room staff also provides alerts on breaking events to NSC and White House personnel. Responsibility for informing the President belongs to the National Security Adviser. Later, a written "Sit Room Note" will be prepared, summarizing the event with up-to-the-minute reports from other centers, perhaps including a photo, diagram, or map. The task of the Situation Room staff is to ensure that the President and National Security Adviser are informed not only of the current situation but also how the situation is being portrayed by the media.
Another typical Situation Room activity is arranging the President's phone calls and other sensitive communications with foreign heads of state. This includes coordinating the timing of such calls at each end, providing interpreters where necessary, and ensuring appropriate security and recordkeeping. In this function, the Situation Room coordinates closely with the White House Communications Agency, which supplies communications technicians to the Watch Teams.
The only comprehensive renovation of the Situation Room took place from 2006 to 2007. Prior to the renovation, the room used cathode ray tubes for monitors and fax for communication and had computers and telephones with 1985-era technology. The room also had a small kitchen with no sink. Encrypted audio/visual equipment was also unreliable, and such equipment would sometimes go black, "prompting a presidential outburst." Henry Kissinger once described the Situation Room as "uncomfortable, unaesthetic and essentially oppressive," while the New York Times termed the pre-renovation complex "something of a low-tech dungeon."
Renovations began in August 2006, when the Situation Room complex was gutted down to bricks and bare floor and rebuilt from the ground up. The complex was renovated over about four and a half months and was disruptive, particularly to White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten, whose office was directly above the Situation Room. The New York Times reported that "Staff members described sitting in his room and hearing ear-piercing noise or watching water ripple in glasses on his desk as the floor shook." The renovation yielded several pieces from decades before, including coaxial cables, columns and a frame window from a Franklin D. Roosevelt-era sunken courtyard that was later built over.
The renovations also included an expansion of the Situation Room's use from only the National Security Council to include the Homeland Security Council and office of the White House Chief of Staff. Some of the mahogany was removed to reduce noise, and three secure video rooms were added in addition to the two already in place. A secure direct feed to Air Force One was added. Additionally, the room was revamped to make future technological upgrades easier—"so you don't have to carve a hole in an antique mahogany wall to improve it," according to Deputy White House Chief of Staff Joe Hagin.
Sensors were installed in the ceilings to detect cellular signals to prevent unauthorized communications and bugging by mobile phones, personal digital assistants, and other devices. Before the renovation, the Secret Service confiscated phones but had no other means of preventing smuggled communication devices. The new complex includes a lead-lined cabinet near the reception area for the deposit of personal communications upon entry. Close by are glass-encased booths (which the Associated Press described as "retro-looking") for secure and private telephone calls.
The seating of the room was also changed to add "two tiers of curved computer terminals that can be fed both classified and unclassified data from around the country and the world" for watch officers (who before the renovation were "seated so they stared at walls rather than each other").
The renovation was formally completed by mid-May 2007. On May 17, 2007, President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair participated in a video conference with members of their Iraq teams from the newly renovated Situation Room. The following day, President Bush officially opened the newly refurbished Situation Room in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
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6:00 a.m. September 11, 2001: Condoleezza Rice at White House Instead of in Florida with President Bush National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice arrives at her office at the White House. [BUMILLER, 2007, PP. XI] Rice will later recall that today is intended to be “a normal day, foreign visitors, several meetings.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] Usually she or her deputy, Stephen Hadley, goes along on presidential trips to handle any national security questions that might come up, so one of them would have gone with President Bush the previous day for his two-day trip to Florida (see September 10, 2001). [DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/9/2001; BUMILLER, 2007, PP. XI] But, as Rice will later recall, Bush’s trip is “such a short trip that we decided not to do that.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] In their place, they have sent Navy Captain Deborah Loewer, the director of the White House Situation Room. [BUMILLER, 2007, PP. XI] Entity Tags: Condoleezza Rice Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(8:48 a.m.-9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Special NSA Warning Center First Learns from Television that US Is Under Attack Within the headquarters of the National Security Agency (NSA) in Fort Meade, Maryland is a little-known unit called the Defense Special Missile and Astronautics Center (DEFSMAC). According to author James Bamford, who is an expert on the NSA, the center’s purpose is “to serve as the nation’s chief warning bell for a planned attack on America. It serves as the focal point for ‘all-source’ intelligence—listening posts, early-warning satellites, human agents, and seismic detectors.” According to one former NSA official, DEFSMAC “has all the inputs from all the assets, and is a warning activity. They probably have a better feel for any worldwide threat to this country from missiles, aircraft, or overt military activities, better and more timely, at instant fingertip availability, than any group in the United States.” If they received indications that an attack was imminent, DEFSMAC officials could “immediately send out near-real-time and in-depth, all-source intelligence alerts to almost two hundred ‘customers,’ including the White House Situation Room, the National Military Command Center at the Pentagon, the [Defense Intelligence Agency] Alert Center, and listening posts around the world.” Its analysts could be “closely monitoring all intercepts flooding in; examining the latest overhead photography; and analyzing data from early-warning satellites 22,300 miles above the equator. DEFSMAC would then flash the intelligence to the US Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, NORAD at Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado, and other emergency command centers.” But on this morning, as Bamford concludes, “DEFSMAC learned of the massive airborne attacks after the fact—not from America’s multibillion-dollar spy satellites or its worldwide network of advanced listening posts, or its army of human spies, but from a dusty, off-the-shelf TV set.” [BAMFORD, 2004, PP. 33-35] The NSA had in fact intercepted numerous calls between some of the hijackers in the US and an al-Qaeda communications hub in Yemen, beginning in early 2000 and ending just weeks before 9/11 (see Early 2000-Summer 2001). [MSNBC, 7/21/2004] It also intercepted two messages in Arabic on September 10, stating, “The match is about to begin,” and “Tomorrow is zero hour,” but these are supposedly not translated until September 12 (see September 10, 2001). [WASHINGTON POST, 6/20/2002] The NSA even intercepted a series of communications between 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) and lead 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta beginning in the summer of 2001 (see Summer 2001), continuing to a message where KSM gives Atta the final go-ahead for the attacks on September 10, 2001 (see September 10, 2001). Michael Hayden, the director of the NSA, will later claim that the “NSA had no [indications] that al-Qaeda was specifically targeting New York and Washington… or even that it was planning an attack on US soil” (see October 17, 2002). [NATIONAL JOURNAL, 6/19/2006] Entity Tags: National Security Agency Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001: CIA Director Tenet Told of Attack, Immediately Suspects Bin Laden
David Boren. [Source: University of Oklahoma] CIA Director George Tenet is told of the first WTC crash while he is eating breakfast with his mentor, former Senator David Boren (D), at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, DC. They are interrupted when CIA bodyguards converge on the table to hand Tenet a cell phone. Tenet is told that the WTC has been attacked by an airplane. Boren later says, “I was struck by the fact that [the messenger] used the word ‘attacked.’” Tenet then hands the cell phone back to an aide and says to Boren, “You know, this has bin Laden’s fingerprints all over it.” “‘He was very collected,’ Boren recalls. ‘He said he would be at the CIA in 15 minutes, what people he needed in the room and what he needed to talk about.’” [USA TODAY, 9/24/2001; ABC NEWS, 9/14/2002] According to other accounts, Tenet responds to the caller, “They steered the plane directly into the building?” Tenet then says to Boren, “That looks like bin Laden.” Tenet muses aloud, “I wonder if this has something to do with the guy [Zacarias Moussaoui] who trained for a pilot’s license.” (Moussaoui had been arrested several weeks earlier.) [ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 5/29/2002; STERN, 8/13/2003] According to another account, Tenet pauses while on the phone to tell Boren, “The World Trade Center has been hit. We’re pretty sure it wasn’t an accident. It looks like a terrorist act,” then returns to the phone to identify who should be summoned to the CIA situation room. [TIME, 9/14/2001] Tenet later tells author Ronald Kessler, “There was no doubt that al-Qaeda was going to come here eventually, and that something spectacular was planned. I knew immediately who it was [behind the attack].” [KESSLER, 2003, PP. 196] In his own 2007 book, Tenet will largely confirm the above accounts. He will add, “Most people, I understand, assumed that the first crash was a tragic accident. It took the second plane hitting the second tower to show them that something far worse was going on. That wasn’t the case for me. We had been living too intimately with the possibility of a terrorist attack on the United States. I instantly thought that this had to be al-Qaeda.” He also mentions thinking aloud about Moussaoui. [TENET, 2007, PP. 161] Tenet will subsequently hurry back to CIA headquarters in his car (see (8:55 a.m.-9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Entity Tags: George J. Tenet, World Trade Center, Zacarias Moussaoui, David Boren, Osama bin Laden, Central Intelligence Agency Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Situation Room Director Informs President Bush of WTC Crash
Captain Deborah Loewer. [Source: Military Sealift Command] Captain Deborah Loewer, director of the White House Situation Room, is traveling in President Bush’s motorcade toward Booker Elementary School, when she learns of the first WTC crash from her deputy in the Situation Room at the White House. According to some reports, as soon as the motorcade reaches the school, Loewer runs from her car to Bush’s car, and informs Bush. [ASSOCIATED PRESS, 11/26/2001; CATHOLIC TELEGRAPH, 12/7/2001] Note that Bush maintains that he learns of the crash at a later time. Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Deborah Loewer Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(9:04 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Condoleezza Rice Learns of Second Attack, Realizes It Is Terrorism National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice is informed of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center and immediately realizes it is a terrorist attack. Rice learned of the first crash shortly before 9:00 a.m. while in her office at the White House, but, she will later say, had thought it was a “strange accident” (see (Between 8:46 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). She had gone down to the conference area of the White House Situation Room for her daily meeting with her top aides. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; BUMILLER, 2007, PP. XI-XII] A few minutes into this meeting, her executive assistant hands her a note saying a second plane has hit the WTC. Rice will later recall: “I thought, ‘My God, this is a terrorist attack.‘… I knew right away, right away, because that—that couldn’t be coincidence that two planes had hit the World Trade Center that morning.” [PBS FRONTLINE, 7/12/2002; MSNBC, 9/11/2002] After telling her staff, “I have to go,” she abruptly gets up and heads out. [NEWSWEEK, 12/31/2001] Vice President Dick Cheney and counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will indicate that Rice initially goes from her staff meeting to Cheney’s office (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [NBC, 9/16/2001; CLARKE, 2004, PP. 1-2] But in her own recollections, Rice will make no mention of this, saying that she goes straight from the conference area to the Situation Room’s operations center, intending to assemble a crisis meeting of the national security team (see (9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [O, THE OPRAH MAGAZINE, 2/1/2002; PBS FRONTLINE, 7/12/2002; BBC RADIO 4, 8/1/2002 ; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; BUMILLER, 2007, PP. XII] Entity Tags: Condoleezza Rice Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Condoleezza Rice Tries to Assemble National Security Team, but Cannot Reach Key Officials National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice tries to gather together the principals of the National Security Council (NSC), but is unable to get in touch with key officials. Rice realized the US was under terrorist attack during a staff meeting, when her assistant informed her of the second plane striking the World Trade Center (see (9:04 a.m.) September 11, 2001). She had then headed to the White House Situation Room’s operations center. [NEWSWEEK, 12/31/2001; BUMILLER, 2007, PP. XII] Here she intends to assemble the principals of the NSC for a crisis meeting. [O, THE OPRAH MAGAZINE, 2/1/2002] Along with the national security adviser, the principal members of the NSC are the president, the vice president, the secretary of state, the secretary of the treasury, and the secretary of defense; additionally, the CIA director and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are statutory advisers to the NSC. [US PRESIDENT, 2/13/2001; FELIX, 2002, PP. 226] However, Rice remembers that Secretary of State Colin Powell is currently away in Peru (see (8:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill is away in Japan. [US DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY, 11/29/2001; US DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY, 1/23/2002] And Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Henry Shelton is on his way to Europe for a NATO meeting there. [CNN, 10/1/2001] Rice tries calling Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who is in his office at the Pentagon (see (After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but cannot reach him. [PBS FRONTLINE, 7/12/2002; CLARKE, 2006, PP. 218-219; COCKBURN, 2007, PP. 1] She is also unable to get a call through to CIA Director George Tenet. [BUMILLER, 2007, PP. XII] (Tenet will later claim that, around this time, he is having trouble using his secure phone while being driven out to CIA headquarters (see (8:55 a.m.-9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [TENET, 2007, PP. 161-162] ) Also around this time, in the Secure Video Conferencing Center just off the main floor of the Situation Room, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is trying to convene a video teleconference with other top officials (see (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [BUMILLER, 2007, PP. XII] Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Henry Hugh Shelton, Colin Powell, Paul O’Neill, National Security Council, George J. Tenet Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Richard Clarke Directs Crisis Response through Video Conference with Top Officials Around this time, according to his own account, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke reaches the Secure Video Conferencing Center just off the main floor of the Situation Room in the West Wing of the White House. From there, he directs the response to the 9/11 attacks and stays in contact with other top officials through video links. Clarke claims that on video he can see Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, CIA Director George Tenet, FBI Director Robert Mueller, FAA Administrator Jane Garvey, Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson (filling in for the traveling Attorney General John Ashcroft), Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage (filling in for the traveling Secretary of State Colin Powell), and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers (filling in for the traveling Chairman Henry Shelton). National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice is with Clarke, but she lets him run the crisis response, deferring to his longer experience on terrorism matters. Clarke is also told by an aide, “We’re on the line with NORAD, on an air threat conference call.” [CLARKE, 2004, PP. 2-4; AUSTRALIAN, 3/27/2004] According to the 9/11 Commission, logs indicate that Clarke’s video teleconference only begins at 9:25 a.m. (see 9:25 a.m. September 11, 2001), which is later than Clarke suggests, and CIA and FAA representatives only join it at 9:40 a.m. [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 36 AND 462] Other accounts claim that, rather than being involved in Clarke’s teleconference at this time, Donald Rumsfeld is still in his office waiting for his intelligence briefing (see (After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and Richard Myers is in a meeting on Capitol Hill (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [ARMED FORCES RADIO AND TELEVISION SERVICE, 10/17/2001; CLARKE, 2006, PP. 218-219] The 9/11 Commission claims that, “While important,” Clarke’s conference has “no immediate effect on the emergency defense efforts.” [9/11 COMMISSION, 6/17/2004] Yet, as the Washington Post puts it, “everyone seems to agree” Clarke is the chief crisis manager on 9/11. [WASHINGTON POST, 3/28/2004] Even Clarke’s later opponent, National Security Adviser Rice, calls him 9/11’s “crisis management guy.” [UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL, 4/9/2004] The conference is where the government’s emergency defense efforts are concentrated. Entity Tags: Richard Armitage, John Ashcroft, Larry D. Thompson, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Richard A. Clarke, Henry Hugh Shelton, Robert S. Mueller III, Richard B. Myers, George J. Tenet, Jane Garvey, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, 9/11 Commission, Donald Rumsfeld Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Richard Clarke Takes Charge of Video Conference; Condoleezza Rice Says She Is Heading to PEOC
Mike Fenzel. [Source: Wall Street Journal] According to counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, around this time, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice says she is going down to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House to be with Vice President Dick Cheney. Clarke is currently convening a video teleconference with top officials from the Secure Video Conferencing Center, just off the main floor of the Situation Room (see (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Rice has just walked in with her deputy, Stephen Hadley. Clarke asks her, “Do you want to chair this as a principals meeting?” [CLARKE, 2004, PP. 2-4] (A “principals meeting” includes the principals of the National Security Council, but not the president. [BUMILLER, 2007, PP. 141] ) Rice declines, allowing Clarke to run the conference. Clarke will recall that Rice says to him: “You’re going to need some decisions quickly. I’m going to the PEOC to be with the vice president. Tell us what you need.” Clarke replies, “What I need is an open line to Cheney and you.” Clarke then turns to his White House Fellow, Army Major Mike Fenzel, and instructs him to “go with Condi to the PEOC and open a secure line to me. I’ll relay the decisions we need to you.” [CLARKE, 2004, PP. 3-4] However, according to her own later recollections, Rice does not head down from the Situation Room to the PEOC until later, at some time shortly after the Pentagon is hit (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [PBS FRONTLINE, 7/12/2002; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; NEW YORK TIMES, 9/11/2002; BUMILLER, 2007, PP. XIII] Entity Tags: Condoleezza Rice, Richard A. Clarke, Stephen J. Hadley, Mike Fenzel Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(Between 9:16 a.m. and 9:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Secret Service Still Does Not Evacuate Bush From School, Allegedly at the President’s Insistence
Frank Brogan. [Source: Publicity photo] The Secret Service later tells the 9/11 Commission that while he is in the holding room at the Booker Elementary School (see (9:16 a.m.-9:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001), they are “anxious to move the president to a safer location, but did not think it imperative for him to run out the door.” [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 39] Yet according to Philip Melanson, who is an expert on the Secret Service, “With an unfolding terrorist attack, the procedure should have been to get the president to the closest secure location as quickly as possible, which clearly is not a school.” [ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 7/4/2004] Bush himself later recalls that at this time, “[T]he Secret Service and the Mil Aide [military aide] was in the process of getting information about where the president ought to go. One thing for certain, I needed to get out of where I was.” [SAMMON, 2002, PP. 93] Yet he does not immediately leave the school, and will remain there to give a brief statement in its library (see 9:29 a.m. September 11, 2001). According to Frank Brogan, the lieutenant governor of Florida, who is also in the holding room at this time, the Secret Service tries to get the president to return to Air Force One immediately. But Bush refuses, saying he is “committed to staying on the ground long enough to write a statement about what was happening, read it to the nation and lead a moment of silence for the victims.” [UP ONLINE, 9/18/2003] Bush himself later says that while he is in the holding room, “I didn’t spend that much time about my own safety because I knew others were worried about that. What I was interested in is making sure that the response mechanism that was under my control was sharp and ready to go. And that meant defense, for starters.” [SAMMON, 2002, PP. 93] Yet he reportedly will not make any decisions about the response to the attacks until after 9:55 a.m. (see (Between 10:00 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The 9/11 Commission later claims that, while Bush is in the holding room, “No one in the traveling party had any information… that other aircraft were hijacked or missing. Staff was in contact with the White House Situation Room, but as far as we could determine, no one with the president was in contact with the Pentagon.” [WASHINGTON POST, 1/27/2002; 9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 39-41] In contrast to the Secret Service’s inaction in removing Bush from the school, Vice President Dick Cheney is reportedly “seized by the arms, legs and his belt and physically carried” out of his office by Secret Service agents around this time, in order to get him to the bunker below the White House. Cheney himself says the agents “hoisted me up and moved me very rapidly down the hallway, down some stairs” (see (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [NBC, 9/16/2001; DAILY TELEGRAPH, 12/16/2001] Entity Tags: Secret Service, Frank Brogan, George W. Bush Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
9:25 a.m. September 11, 2001: 9/11 Commission’s Conflicting Account of Clarke-Led Video Conference Begins at This Time According to his own account, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, started a video teleconference from the White House’s Secure Video Conferencing Center, next to the Situation Room, at around 9:10 a.m.(see (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, the 9/11 Commission says that logs indicate this conference beginning 15 minutes later than this. Included in the conference are the FBI, the CIA, the FAA, the departments of State, Justice, and Defense, and the White House shelter. The FAA and CIA join at 9:40 a.m. The 9/11 Commission says, “It is not clear to us that the video teleconference was fully under way before 9:37, when the Pentagon was struck.” Furthermore, it states: “We do not know who from Defense participated, but we know that in the first hour none of the personnel involved in managing the crisis did. And none of the information conveyed in the White House video teleconference, at least in the first hour, was being passed to the NMCC [in the Pentagon].” Clarke’s video teleconference is not connected into the area of the NMCC from where the crisis is being managed. Consequently, “the director of the operations team-who was on the phone with NORAD-did not have the benefit of information being shared on the video teleconference.” And, “when the Secretary [of Defense Rumsfeld] and Vice Chairman [of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Myers] later participated in the White House video teleconference, they were necessarily absent from the NMCC and unable to provide guidance to the operations team.” Clarke, however, gives a specific recollection of Myers speaking over video at 9:28, which is seemingly at odds with the 9/11 Commission’s account (see 9:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). One witness later recalls: “[It] was almost like there were parallel decision-making processes going on; one was a voice conference orchestrated by the NMCC… and then there was the [White House video teleconference].… [I]n my mind they were competing venues for command and control and decision-making.” [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004] Entity Tags: North American Aerospace Defense Command, Central Intelligence Agency, US Department of Justice, US Department of State, US Department of Defense, Federal Aviation Administration, Richard A. Clarke Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(9:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Clarke Orders US Embassies Closed and Military Bases to Raise Alert Level Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, who is in the White House Situation Room, instructs that US embassies overseas be closed and that US military bases raise their alert level. According to his own recollection, just after he has spoken to the acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers (see 9:28 a.m. September 11, 2001), Clarke is thinking about the simultaneous attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). As he describes, “There was the possibility now of multiple simultaneous attacks in several countries.” He therefore issues instructions to the State Department and the Department of Defense: “We have to assume there will be simultaneous attacks on us overseas. We need to close the embassies. Move [Department of Defense] bases to combat Threatcon.” [CLARKE, 2004, PP. 5-6] (“Threatcon” is short for “terrorist threat condition.” [SLATE, 9/12/2001] ) According to CNN, all US military forces will be ordered to the highest alert level at 10:10 a.m. (see (10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/4/2002] But the 9/11 Commission Report will state that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld only orders the US armed forces to Defcon 3, an increased state of readiness, at 10:43 a.m. (see (10:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 326 AND 554] The State Department will tell US embassies to make the decision whether to close based on their own local security requirements. Around 50 US embassies or consulates around the world will therefore close, though at what time they do so is unstated. [US DEPARTMENT OF STATE, 9/12/2001] Entity Tags: Richard A. Clarke Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(Between 9:30 a.m. and 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Richard Clarke Asks White House Bunker for Air Force One Fighter Escort and Shootdown Authorization Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, who is in the White House Situation Room, requests a fighter escort for Air Force One and authorization for the Air Force to shoot down threatening aircraft. According to Clarke’s own account, when they see President Bush starting his short speech from the Booker Elementary School library on television (at about 9:30), he and others in the Situation Room briefly discuss getting the president away from the school to somewhere safer. Clarke then telephones the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, which contains Vice President Dick Cheney and others. He speaks with Army Major Mike Fenzel and instructs him: “Mike, somebody has to tell the president he can’t come right back here [to Washington]. Cheney, Condi, somebody. Secret Service concurs. We do not want them saying where they are going when they take off. Second, when they take off, they should have fighter escort. Three, we need to authorize the Air Force to shoot down any aircraft—including a hijacked passenger flight—that looks like it is threatening to attack and cause large-scale death on the ground. Got it?” Fenzel replies, “Roger that, Dick, get right back to you.” This conversation appears to take place shortly before the Pentagon attack occurs, so roughly around 9:35 or 9:36, as soon afterwards Secret Service Director Brian Stafford slips Clarke a note stating that radar shows an aircraft heading their way (see (9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and then Ralph Seigler, the Situation Room deputy director, reports an explosion having occurred at the Pentagon. [CLARKE, 2004, PP. 6-7] However, it is unclear how long it takes for Clarke’s requests to be implemented. According to some accounts, fighters do not arrive to accompany Air Force One until an hour or more after it takes off (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Reports are also contradictory as to when shootdown authorization is given for the Air Force. According to Clarke’s own recollections, it is given between around 9:38 and 9:56 (see (9:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Other accounts, including that of the 9/11 Commission, state that it is not given until after 9:56, possibly as late as 10:20 (see (Shortly After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 10:18 a.m.-10:20 a.m. September 11, 2001). Entity Tags: Richard A. Clarke, Mike Fenzel Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
After 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001: Military Liaisons at FAA Command Center Said to Be Informed of Flight 93 Hijacking Military officers at the FAA’s Command Center are informed of the hijacking of Flight 93, according to the FAA’s National Operations Manager Ben Sliney. If such notification is given, it is presumably shortly after the Command Center learns of the hijacking (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). Sliney will later tell the 9/11 Commission: “Available to us at the Command Center of course is the military cell, which was our liaison with the military services. They were present at all of the events that occurred on 9/11.” He will add, “The normal protocols for the events that were transpiring then—that is to say hijacked aircraft, which requires a notification to NORAD—those, at least I was given to understand, were made promptly—the notifications on each hijack.” The FAA’s acting Deputy Administrator Monte Belger will add: “[T]here were military people on duty at the FAA Command Center, as Mr. Sliney said. They were participating in what was going on. There were military people in the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization in a situation room. They were participating in what was going on.” [9/11 COMMISSION, 6/17/2004] If the cell is notified, it is unclear what, if anything, the military liaison officers—Colonel John Czabaranek, Lieutenant Colonel Michael-Anne Cherry, and Major Kevin Bridges (see (Between 9:04 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001)—at the Command Center do with the information about Flight 93’s hijacking. The 9/11 Commission will say that the first notification to the military about Flight 93 comes at 10:07 a.m. (see 10:05 a.m.-10:08 a.m. September 11, 2001). Entity Tags: Monte Belger, Kevin Bridges, John Czabaranek, Ben Sliney, Michael-Anne Cherry Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
(9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Richard Clarke Learns of Aircraft Approaching White House
Barbara Riggs. [Source: Miles B. Norman / Elmira Star-Gazette] Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke learns of an aircraft heading toward the White House. Clarke, who is in the White House Situation Room, is passed a note by Secret Service Director Brian Stafford, which says, “Radar shows aircraft headed this way.” [CLARKE, 2004, PP. 7] Around this time, the FAA’s Boston Center is reporting a low-flying aircraft six miles southeast of the White House (see 9:36 a.m. September 11, 2001), so this is presumably the same airliner to which Stafford’s note refers. [VANITY FAIR, 8/1/2006] Clarke later comments that the Secret Service is aware of the approaching plane because it has “a system that allowed them to see what FAA’s radar was seeing.” [CLARKE, 2004, PP. 7] Secret Service agent Barbara Riggs, who is in the agency’s Washington headquarters, will later corroborate this, recalling: “Through monitoring radar and activating an open line with the FAA, the Secret Service was able to receive real time information about… hijacked aircraft. We were tracking two hijacked aircraft as they approached Washington, DC, and our assumption was that the White House was a target.” [PCCW NEWSLETTER, 3/2006] Stafford informs Clarke that he is going to evacuate the White House complex. (This evacuation appears to take place at around 9:45 (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001).) Those in the Situation Room are then informed that there has been an explosion at the Pentagon, and soon after that a plane has hit it. [CLARKE, 2004, PP. 7] Entity Tags: Brian L. Stafford, Richard A. Clarke, Barbara Riggs, Secret Service Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(Shortly After 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Air Force Liaison Joins FAA Teleconference, Later than FAA Claims
Sabra Kaulia. [Source: Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association] The US Air Force liaison to the FAA joins a teleconference that has been established by the FAA shortly after the time of the Pentagon attack, according to her own later recollections, although an FAA statement will claim she joined it significantly earlier. [9/11 COMMISSION, 5/23/2003; 9/11 COMMISSION, 3/26/2004; US DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, 8/31/2006 ] Watches Television, Does Not Join Teleconference - The Air Force liaison, Colonel Sheryl Atkins, will recall that she arrived at FAA headquarters in Washington, DC, around five to 10 minutes after the first attack in New York (see (Between 8:51 a.m. and 8:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and went to her fourth-floor office there. She will describe: “Everybody was there around the TV. We watched the events unfold. At first, we were kind of hanging back and saying, you know, ‘there’s something awful going on with the air traffic system.‘… But at a certain point, not too long after that, it became obvious that, you know, something really strange is going on.” Heads to Situation Room - Shortly after 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon is hit, Atkins hears CNN reporting a bomb may have gone off at the Pentagon. She will recall that she then heads up to the 10th floor of the headquarters building along with Sabra Kaulia, the program director for air traffic airspace management, and goes to the air traffic situation room, where David Canoles, the FAA’s manager of air traffic evaluations and investigations, is participating in a teleconference. [9/11 COMMISSION, 3/26/2004; US DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, 8/31/2006 ] According to a 2003 statement provided by the FAA, the FAA established this teleconference with several other agencies “[w]ithin minutes” of the first attack in New York (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 COMMISSION, 5/23/2003] Atkins will say she is then “in and out” of the air traffic situation room throughout the morning. She does not speak with any of the military representatives at the White House, but does work directly with Steve Nolte, the airspace manager at NORAD, and also communicates with Lieutenant Colonel Michael-Anne Cherry, who is at the FAA’s Herndon Command Center, to exchange information. [9/11 COMMISSION, 3/26/2004] FAA Claims Atkins Joined Teleconference Earlier - In a 2003 statement it provides to the 9/11 Commission the FAA will say Atkins joined the teleconference significantly earlier than she claims. According to the statement, the “US Air Force liaison to the FAA [i.e. Atkins] immediately joined the FAA headquarters phone bridge” that was set up minutes after the first attack in New York, “and established contact with NORAD on a separate line.” [9/11 COMMISSION, 5/23/2003] Other Liaisons Arrive Later On - As well as Atkins, who represents the Air Force, liaisons representing the other three military services within the Department of Defense (the Army, the Navy, and the Marine Corps) work at FAA headquarters. However, Atkins is the only military liaison currently there. The Navy and Marine Corps liaisons will arrive at FAA headquarters at around 10:30 a.m. and join Atkins on the building’s 10th floor, from where they help establish and maintain critical communications channels between the Defense Department and the FAA. The Army liaison will not arrive at FAA headquarters until the following day. [FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION, 3/21/2002 ; 9/11 COMMISSION, 3/26/2004] Entity Tags: Sheryl Atkins, David Canoles, Sabra Kaulia Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001: On Orders of Secret Service, Condleezza Rice Heads to White House Bunker National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice heads down to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), the bunker below the White House. [FELIX, 2002, PP. 227] According to her own later recollections, Rice was in the White House Situation Room when the Pentagon was hit at 9:37 a.m., and had subsequently looked up and seen the television footage of the burning building. [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 464; BUMILLER, 2007, PP. XIII] She will recall: “[T]he picture had just come up on television of the plane lodged in the side of the Pentagon. And no one had told me. I literally turned and looked at the picture and saw it.” She describes: “And then there were incoming reports that there had been a car bomb at the State Department, that there was a large fire on the Mall near the Washington Monument, and [I was] just trying to sort through the information when a Secret Service agent came and said: ‘You have to go to the bunker. The vice president is already there. There may be planes heading for the White House.’” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] Rice phones President Bush and warns him not to return to Washington, either before she leaves the Situation Room or while on her way to the PEOC (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:58 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [FELIX, 2002, PP. 227; PBS FRONTLINE, 7/12/2002] However, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will contradict Rice’s account, indicating that she headed to the PEOC significantly earlier, roughly around 9:15 a.m. (see (9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CLARKE, 2004, PP. 3-4] Entity Tags: Condoleezza Rice, Secret Service Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(Between 9:49 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Langley Fighters Finally Reach Washington; Accounts of Timing Are Contradictory
A fighter and helicopter both fly directly above the Pentagon on 9/11 on the morning of 9/11. Exact time is unknown. [Source: Agence France-Presse] The three F-16s scrambled from Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, at 9:30 a.m. finally reach Washington and the burning Pentagon. The 129 mile distance could theoretically have been covered by the fighters in six minutes, but they’ve taken a wide detour over the ocean (see 9:30 a.m.-9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). The exact time they arrive is unclear. An early timeline laid out to CNN by senior Defense Department officials will claim they arrive as early as 9:49 a.m., but the 9/11 Commission later claims they only establish “a combat air patrol (CAP) over Washington” at “approximately 10:00 a.m.” [CBS NEWS, 9/14/2001; CNN, 9/17/2001; NORTH AMERICAN AEROSPACE DEFENSE COMMAND, 9/18/2001; 9/11 COMMISSION, 8/26/2004, PP. 34 ] Conflicting Press Accounts - Press accounts of when the first fighters reach Washington are highly contradictory. Early news accounts describe fighters arriving from Andrews Air Force Base, not Langley, “within minutes,” “a few moments,” or “just moments” after the Pentagon crash. [DENVER POST, 9/11/2001; DAILY TELEGRAPH, 9/16/2001; ABC NEWS, 9/11/2002] Other newspaper accounts inaccurately deny that fighters from Andrews are deployed [USA TODAY, 9/16/2001] , and some deny Andrews even has fighters available. [USA TODAY, 9/16/2001] Defense officials will initially claim, “There were no military planes in the skies over Washington until 15 to 20 minutes after the Pentagon was hit”—in other words, 9:53 a.m. to 9:58 a.m. [SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER, 9/14/2001] But an ABC News report will suggest that by around 10:00 a.m., “Dozens of fighters are buzzing in the sky” over Washington. [ABC NEWS, 9/11/2002] Fighter Jets Don't Arrive until Later? - In contrast, the New York Times reports: “In the White House Situation Room and at the Pentagon, the response seemed agonizingly slow. One military official recalls hearing words to the effect of, ‘Where are the planes?’” The Pentagon will insist it had air cover over its own building by 10 a.m. However, numerous witnesses on the ground, including a reporter for the New York Times who is headed toward the building, will say they did not see any fighters until around 10:40 a.m., or “closer to 11” (see (10:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [NEW YORK TIMES, 9/16/2001; CREED AND NEWMAN, 2008, PP. 130-131] According to some accounts, the plane that flies over the Pentagon at that time is Major Billy Hutchison’s F-16, launched from Andrews Air Force Base. [FILSON, 2003, PP. 81-82; SPENCER, 2008, PP. 235-236] NORAD will initially claim the Langley fighters were about 105 miles from the Pentagon when it was hit at 9:37, and the 9/11 Commission will later claim they were 150 miles away (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [NORTH AMERICAN AEROSPACE DEFENSE COMMAND, 9/18/2001; 9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 27] Entity Tags: Pentagon, North American Aerospace Defense Command, US Department of Defense, 9/11 Commission Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(Between 9:50 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Myers Wants Clarification of Rules of Engagement for Fighter Pilots; Clarke Wants This Issued Promptly Acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers wants clear rules of engagement for military fighter pilots, according to counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke. In his book Against All Enemies, Clarke will describe hearing that the president has authorized the military to shoot down hostile aircraft some time between about 9:45 and 9:56 (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). From the White House Situation Room, where he is located, he then gets the attention of those on the video conference screen for the Pentagon, and informs them of this decision. Myers asks, “Okay, shoot down aircraft, but what are the ROE [rules of engagement]?” As Clarke will comment, “It was one thing to say it’s okay to shoot down a hijacked aircraft threatening to kill people on the ground, but we needed to give pilots more specific guidelines than that.” Clarke asks his colleague Franklin Miller and Marine Colonel Tom Greenwood—a member of Miller’s staff—to ensure that the Defense Department has “an answer to that question quickly.” He tells them, “I don’t want them delaying while they lawyer that to death.” Clarke recalls that he is then informed: “CNN says car bomb at the State Department. Fire on the Mall near the Capitol.” [CLARKE, 2004, PP. 8-9] It is therefore unclear exactly what time he is describing, as CNN first makes the incorrect report of the State Department car bomb at 10:33, but it reports the fire on the Mall at 9:45. [CNN, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/11/2001; BROADCASTING AND CABLE, 8/26/2002] Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will tell the 9/11 Commission that he works on fashioning the rules of engagement for fighter pilots, in collaboration with Myers, after he enters the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center (NMCC) at around 10:30 (see (10:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 COMMISSION, 3/23/2004] Yet he does not complete and issue these rules until 1:00 p.m. [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 465; COCKBURN, 2007, PP. 7; MYERS, 2009, PP. 157-158] Entity Tags: Richard A. Clarke, Richard B. Myers, Franklin Miller, Tom Greenwood Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
9:53 a.m. September 11, 2001: FAA Headquarters Still Only Talking About Telling NORAD of Flight 93 Hijack According to the 9/11 Commission, FAA headquarters informs the FAA Command Center that the deputy director for air traffic services is talking to Deputy Administrator Monte Belger about scrambling aircraft after Flight 93. Yet in interviews with the commission, neither Belger nor the deputy director recall this discussion, and Belger subsequently e-mails the commission saying he does not believe the conversation took place. However, tape recordings reveal a staff person from headquarters at this time telling the Command Center, “Peter’s talking to Monte now about scrambling.” FAA headquarters is also informed that the flight is 20 miles northwest of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. [9/11 COMMISSION, 6/17/2004; 9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 461] When questioned about this, Belger will point out that there are military people on duty at the FAA Command Center and in a situation room at the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization, and that they are participating in what is going on. In addition, Belger will later tell the commission that he thought the NMCC was on the hijack net and would therefore have received notification on this channel at the same time as all other agencies. [9/11 COMMISSION, 6/17/2004] Incredibly, FAA headquarters has known since 9:34 A.M. about hijackers talking about a bomb on board the flight, and more evidence has since been passed on confirming a hijacking in progress. Still, reportedly, no one tells NORAD anything about the plane. Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, Monte Belger Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(Shortly Before 9:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Condoleezza Rice Enters White House Bunker and Calls Relatives; Exact Time Unclear National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice arrives in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), the bunker below the White House, and takes a seat next to Vice President Dick Cheney. [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 40; BUMILLER, 2007, PP. XIII] The Secret Service ordered Rice to go down to the PEOC at around 9:45, when she was in the White House Situation Room (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [FELIX, 2002, PP. 227; BBC RADIO 4, 8/1/2002 ] According to some accounts, the first thing she does after arriving there is call her aunt and uncle in Birmingham, Alabama, to tell them to inform her family that she is okay. [O, THE OPRAH MAGAZINE, 2/1/2002; NEW YORK TIMES, 9/11/2002] But other accounts say she called them just before she headed out from the Situation Room. [ASSOCIATED PRESS, 8/19/2002; BUMILLER, 2007, PP. XIII] When exactly Rice arrives in the PEOC is unclear. According to the 9/11 Commission, she enters the room “shortly after the vice president,” who, it will conclude, arrives there “shortly before 10:00, perhaps at 9:58.” [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 40] However, there are conflicting reports, with some accounts indicating Cheney arrived at the PEOC significantly earlier (see (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Between 9:20 a.m. and 9:27 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 7/4/2004] And Rice must arrive before 9:59 a.m., since she is in the PEOC at the time the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapses, as is confirmed by a photo taken at that time (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001). [NEWSWEEK, 12/31/2001; BUMILLER, 2007, PP. XIII; WASHINGTON POST, 6/24/2007] Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will later indicate that Rice in fact went to the PEOC significantly earlier than other accounts suggest, at roughly around 9:15 (see (9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CLARKE, 2004, PP. 3-4] Entity Tags: Condoleezza Rice Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001: White House Finally Requests Continuity of Government Plans, Air Force One Escort, and Fighters for Washington According to the 9/11 Commission: “An Air Force lieutenant colonel working in the White House Military Office [joins] the [NMCC’s air threat] conference and state[s] that he had just talked to Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. The White House request[s]: (1) the implementation of Continuity of Government measures, (2) fighter escorts for Air Force One, and (3) the establishment of a fighter combat air patrol over Washington, DC.” [9/11 COMMISSION, 6/17/2004] Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke gave the order to implement the Continuity of Government plan a few minutes earlier, from inside the White House Situation Room (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Before that, he had requested a fighter escort for Air Force One (see (Between 9:30 a.m. and 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and combat air patrols over all major US cities (not just Washington), according to his own recollection (see (Between 9:38 a.m. and 9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CLARKE, 2004, PP. 7-8] Entity Tags: Stephen J. Hadley, Richard A. Clarke, National Military Command Center Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline, Civil Liberties
(After 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Vice President Cheney Assembles Legal Team for Expanding Presidential Power
David Addington. [Source: David Bohrer / White House] According to an in-depth examination by the Washington Post, within hours of the 9/11 attacks, Vice President Dick Cheney begins working to secure additional powers for the White House. Cheney had plans in place to begin acquiring these powers for the executive branch before the attacks, but had not begun to execute them. Gathering the Team - David Addington, Cheney’s general counsel and legal adviser, had been walking home after having to leave the now-evacuated Eisenhower Executive Office Building. He receives a message from the White House telling him to turn around, because the vice president needs him. After Addington joins Cheney in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the East Wing of the White House, the pair reportedly begin “contemplating the founding question of the legal revolution to come: What extraordinary powers will the president need for his response?” Later in the day, Addington connects by secure video with Timothy Flanigan, the deputy White House counsel, who is in the White House Situation Room. John Yoo, the deputy chief of the Office of Legal Counsel, is also patched in from the Justice Department’s command center. White House counsel Alberto Gonzales joins them later. This forms the core legal team that Cheney will oversee after the terrorist attacks. Associate White House counsel Bradford Berenson will later recall: “Addington, Flanigan and Gonzales were really a triumvirate. [Yoo] was a supporting player.” Addington dominates the group. Gonzales is there primarily because of his relationship with President Bush. He is not, Yoo will later recall, “a law-of-war expert and [doesn’t] have very developed views.” Along with these allies, Cheney will provide what the Washington Post calls “the rationale and political muscle to drive far-reaching legal changes through the White House, the Justice Department, and the Pentagon,” which will free the president to fight the war on terror, “as he saw fit.” Drafting the AUMF - The team begins drafting the document that will become the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF—see October 10, 2002) passed by Congress for the assault on Afghanistan. In the words of the group, the president is authorized “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States.” Extraordinarily Broad Language - The language is extraordinarily broad; Yoo will later explain that they chose such sweeping language because “this war was so different, you can’t predict what might come up.” The AUMF draft is the first of numerous attempts to secure broad powers for the presidency, most justified by the 9/11 attacks. The Washington Post will later report, “In fact, the triumvirate knew very well what would come next: the interception—without a warrant—of communications to and from the United States” (see September 25, 2001). [CNN, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; UNGER, 2007, PP. 220-221; WASHINGTON POST, 6/24/2007] Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, John C. Yoo, Timothy E. Flanigan, Craig Unger, Bradford Berenson, David S. Addington, Alberto R. Gonzales Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline, Civil Liberties
(After 10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Richard Clarke Updated on Fighter Situation, Told Flight 93 Still Headed toward Washington Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is told by White House Situation Room Deputy Director Ralph Seigler, “Secret Service reports a hostile aircraft ten minutes out.” Two minutes later, he is given an update: “Hostile aircraft eight minutes out.” In actual fact, when Flight 93 crashed at 10:06 a.m., it was still about 15 minutes away from Washington. Clarke is also told that there are 3,900 aircraft still in the air over the continental US (which is roughly accurate); four of those aircraft are believed to be piloted by terrorists (which is inaccurate by this time). Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Richard Myers then reports: “We have three F-16s from Langley over the Pentagon. Andrews is launching fighters from the DC Air National Guard. We have fighters aloft from the Michigan Air National Guard, moving east toward a potential hostile over Pennsylvania. Six fighters from Tyndall and Ellington are en route to rendezvous with Air Force One over Florida. They will escort it to Barksdale.” [NORTH AMERICAN AEROSPACE DEFENSE COMMAND, 9/18/2001; CLARKE, 2004, PP. 8-9] However, fighters do not meet up with Air Force One until about an hour later (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Franklin Miller, a senior national security official who is working alongside Clarke on 9/11, and another official who is also in the Situation Room, will later fail to recall hearing any warning that a plane could be only minutes away. [NEW YORK TIMES, 3/30/2004] The time of this incident is unstated, but the Michigan fighters are not diverted until after 10:06 a.m. (see (After 10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). If it takes place after 10:06 a.m., this would parallel similar warnings about Flight 93 after it has already crashed provided to Vice President Dick Cheney elsewhere in the White House (see (Between 10:10 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Entity Tags: Secret Service, Richard B. Myers, Franklin Miller, Ralph Seigler, Richard A. Clarke Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(Between Late Morning and Early Afternoon) September 11, 2001: Congressional Leaders Evacuated to Secure Location outside Washington
Mount Weather. [Source: Department of Homeland Security] Congressional leaders are evacuated from Washington and flown to Mount Weather, a secret and secure bunker in Virginia, where they remain until late in the afternoon. [LOS ANGELES TIMES, 9/12/2001; WASHINGTON POST, 1/27/2002; ABC NEWS, 9/15/2002] The Capitol building was evacuated shortly after the Pentagon was hit (see 9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). Most of the leadership teams of both parties subsequently assemble at the Capitol Police building. [DASCHLE AND D'ORSO, 2003, PP. 112] Around late morning or early afternoon, orders are given to take them to a secure location outside Washington. The Congressional leaders return to outside the Capitol building, and from there are flown by military helicopter to Mount Weather. [WASHINGTON POST, 1/27/2002] Each is allowed to bring one staff member with them. [DASCHLE AND D'ORSO, 2003, PP. 114] The Mount Weather Emergency Operations Facility in Bluemont, Virginia, is located 48 miles—about 20 minutes journey by air—from Washington. [BULLETIN OF THE ATOMIC SCIENTISTS, 11/2001; ABC NEWS, 9/15/2002] It was originally built to serve as the new seat of government if there was a nuclear war. [ABC NEWS, 9/11/2001] The underground complex contains about 600,000 square feet of floor space, and can accommodate several thousand people. [BULLETIN OF THE ATOMIC SCIENTISTS, 11/2001] It has extensive communication systems linking it to the nationwide network of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) bunkers, relocation sites, and the White House Situation Room. [CENTER FOR LAND USE INTERPRETATION NEWSLETTER, 3/2002] Members of Congress taken to the facility include House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R), House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R), House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D), House Minority Whip David Bonior (D), Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D), Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R), Assistant Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D), and Senate Minority Whip Don Nickles (R). [HASTERT, 2004, PP. 10] Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was taken there earlier on (see (9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [BAMFORD, 2004, PP. 80-81] The Congressional leaders will remain at Mount Weather until later in the afternoon, and then return to the Capitol around 6:00 p.m. (see (Between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [ABC NEWS, 9/15/2002; DASCHLE AND D'ORSO, 2003, PP. 116; HASTERT, 2004, PP. 10] The decision to send them outside Washington on this day has its roots in a top secret program dating back to the cold war, which serves to ensure the “Continuity of Government” (COG) in the event of an attack on the US (see 1981-1992). [UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/11/2002; MANN, 2004, PP. 138-139] Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke activated the COG plan shortly before 10:00 a.m. this morning (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CLARKE, 2004, PP. 8] Entity Tags: Harry Reid, David Bonior, Don Nickles, Trent Lott, Dick Armey, Tom Daschle, Mount Weather, Tom DeLay, Richard Gephardt Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline, Civil Liberties
(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 Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(Early Afternoon) September 11, 2001: FAA Sends White House Incorrect Details of Hijacked Planes The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) sends a fax to the White House Situation Room, giving positive identification of the four hijacked aircraft involved in the morning’s attacks. However, two of the four flight numbers it provides are wrong. [DRAPER, 2007, PP. 143] Yet, by late morning, American Airlines and United Airlines had already issued press releases confirming that the four planes that crashed were flights 11, 175, 77, and 93 (see 11:17 a.m. September 11, 2001, (11:18 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and 11:53 a.m. September 11, 2001). [ASSOCIATED PRESS, 9/11/2001; UNITED AIRLINES, 9/11/2001; UNITED AIRLINES, 9/11/2001] Journalist and author Robert Draper will later comment that, while there is much heroism on September 11, the FAA’s erroneous fax is an example of how the day is also “marred by appalling haplessness.” [DRAPER, 2007, PP. 143] Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, White House Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(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: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
1:05 p.m. September 11, 2001: Report of Airplane Approaching President Bush’s Ranch Turns out to Be False Alarm
Logan Walters. [Source: SCF Partners] While he is at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, President Bush receives an intelligence report from the US Strategic Command (Stratcom), informing him that a high-speed object is heading for his ranch in Crawford, Texas. It is already more than 45 minutes since US airspace had been cleared of all aircraft except military and emergency flights (see 12:16 p.m. September 11, 2001). Bush orders an underling to notify everyone at the ranch about this. [NEW YORKER, 9/25/2001; SAMMON, 2002, PP. 117; CBS NEWS, 9/11/2002] In the White House Situation Room, they are also informed of the rogue aircraft. Logan Walters, who is Bush’s personal aide, calls the ranch’s caretaker and tells him, “Get as far away from there as you can.” Senior national security official Franklin Miller then receives a phone call informing him that a combat air patrol (CAP) has been established over the ranch. [DRAPER, 2007, PP. 142] (A CAP is an aircraft patrol with the purpose of intercepting and destroying hostile aircraft before they reach their targets. [US DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, 4/12/2001] ) Miller heads to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House to ask Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley about the CAP. Both men agree that it seems unnecessarily excessive. When Miller returns to the Situation Room, he sets about calling off the CAP, but finds that it was o’t even established to begin with, and that, furthermore, the report of a rogue aircraft was a false alarm. [DRAPER, 2007, PP. 143] A threat to Air Force One had allegedly been received earlier on (see 10:32 a.m. September 11, 2001), but this too is later deemed to have been a false alarm. [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 554] Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Franklin Miller, US Strategic Command, Logan Walters, Stephen J. Hadley Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
September 12, 2001: Bush to Clarke: ‘Look into Iraq’ US President George Bush speaks privately with White House counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke in the White House Situation Room. According to Clarke, Bush tells him to investigate the possibility that Iraq was involved in the attacks. “I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything,” Bush says. “See if Saddam did this.” When Clarke responds, “But Mr. President, al-Qaeda did this,” Bush replies, “I know, I know, but… see if Saddam was involved. Just look. I want to know any shred.” Clarke insists that the CIA, FBI, and White House already concluded that there were no such links. As he exits the room, Bush “testily” says again, “Look into Iraq, Saddam.” [WASHINGTON POST, 3/22/2004 SOURCES: RICHARD A. CLARKE] During a “60 Minutes” interview, Clarke will say that Bush’s instructions were made in a way that was “very intimidating,” and which hinted that Clarke “should come back with that answer.” “Now he never said, ‘Make it up.’ But the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq did this.” [CBS NEWS, 3/21/2004; NEW YORK TIMES, 3/23/2004] Clarke’s account is later confirmed by several eyewitnesses. [CBS NEWS, 3/21/2004; BBC, 3/23/2004; GUARDIAN, 3/26/2004] After his meeting with Bush, Clarke works with CIA and FBI experts to produce the report requested by Bush (see September 18, 2001). Entity Tags: Stephen J. Hadley, George W. Bush, Richard A. Clarke, Condoleezza Rice, Scott McClellan Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion
September 13, 2001: CIA Presents President with Plan to Confront Global Terrorism; Claims Victory Can Be Achieved in Weeks CIA Director George Tenet and Cofer Black, the director of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, meet at 9:30 a.m. in the White House Situation Room with President Bush and the National Security Council. Tenet presents a plan for tracking down Osama bin Laden, toppling the Taliban in Afghanistan, and confronting terrorism worldwide. According to journalist Bob Woodward, the plan involves “bringing together expanded intelligence-gathering resources, sophisticated technology, agency paramilitary teams and opposition forces in Afghanistan in a classic covert action. They would then be combined with US military power and Special Forces into an elaborate and lethal package designed to destroy the shadowy terrorist networks.” A key concept is to utilize the Northern Alliance, which is the main opposition force in Afghanistan. Despite being “a strained coalition of sometimes common interests,” Tenet says that along with the CIA teams “and tons of money, the Alliance could be brought together into a cohesive fighting force.” Black gives a presentation describing the effectiveness of covert action. He says they will need to go after the Taliban as well as al-Qaeda, as the two are joined at the hip. He wants the mission to begin as soon as possible, and adds, “When we’re through with them, they will have flies walking across their eyeballs.” Black claims that once they are on the ground, victory could be achieved in weeks. According to Bob Woodward, “No one else in the room, including Tenet, believed that was possible.” Black also warns the president, “Americans are going to die.… How many, I don’t know. Could be a lot.” Bush responds, “That’s war. That’s what we’re here to win.” This is the second presentation laying out an increasingly detailed set of CIA proposals for expanding its fight against terrorism. (George Tenet had given the first when he met with the president the day before (see September 12, 2001).) Tenet will give a more detailed presentation of the CIA’s covert action plan two days later, at Camp David (see September 15, 2001). [WOODWARD, 2002, PP. 50-53; WASHINGTON POST, 1/29/2002; KESSLER, 2003, PP. 233-234] Entity Tags: George J. Tenet, Central Intelligence Agency, Al-Qaeda, Cofer Black, George W. Bush, National Security Council, Osama bin Laden, Northern Alliance, Taliban Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline, War in Afghanistan
October 18, 2001: Vice President Cheney Allegedly Thinks He Has Received Lethal Dose of Anthrax On October 18, 2001, an alarm in the White House situation room allegedly goes off, indicating that sensors have detected dangerous levels of WMD agents. Vice President Cheney and others in the situation room at the time are said to believe that they have been exposed. Due to the recent anthrax attacks, Cheney allegedly is convinced that he has been subjected to a lethal dose of anthrax. This is according to the 2008 book The Dark Side by journalist Jane Mayer. An anonymous former administration officer will tell Mayer, “They thought Cheney was already lethally infected.” However, it is soon discovered that the sensors had malfunctioned and there was no danger. But Mayer will claim that the incident contributed to Cheney’s paranoia and his desire to use hard-line tactics such as torture in combating terrorism. Mayer will say that, after the incident, “a sense of constant danger followed Cheney everywhere.” When he is not in one of his several “undisclosed locations” (usually underground bunkers), he travels with a doctor and a bag containing a gas mask and biochemical survival suit. [ABC NEWS, 7/14/2008] Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney Timeline Tags: 2001 Anthrax Attacks
March 1, 2002: State Department Intelligence Memo Argues It Is ‘Unlikely’ That Iraq Attempted to Purchase Uranium from Niger While former ambassador Joseph Wilson is still in Africa learning about the supposed Iraq-Niger uranium deal (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002), Douglas Rohn, an analyst for the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), writes an intelligence assessment, titled “Niger: Sale of Uranium to Iraq Is Unlikely,” that disputes recent Italian intelligence reports (see October 15, 2001 and February 5, 2002) suggesting that Iraq attempted to purchase uranium from Niger. The assessment reiterates INR’s view that France controls the uranium industry and “would take action to block a sale of the kind alleged in a CIA report of questionable credibility from a foreign government service.” It adds that though “some officials may have conspired for individual gain to arrange a uranium sale,” Nigerien President Mamadou Tandja’s government would have been unlikely to risk relations with the US and other key aid donors. And it cites the logistical difficulties of a secret transaction requiring “25 hard-to-conceal 10-ton trailers” that would have had to travel 1,000 miles and cross one international border before reaching the sea. “A whole lot of things told us that the report was bogus,” Greg Thielmann, a high-ranking INR official, will later explain to Time magazine. “This wasn’t highly contested. There weren’t strong advocates on the other side. It was done, shot down.” The assessment, drafted in response to interest from the vice president’s office (see (February 13, 2002)), is sent to the White House Situation Room and Secretary of State Colin Powell. [TIME, 7/21/2003; US CONGRESS, 7/7/2004, PP. 59; ISIKOFF AND CORN, 2006, PP. 96-97; UNGER, 2007, PP. 241] Entity Tags: Mamadou Tandja, US Department of State, Joseph C. Wilson, Douglas Rohn, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Greg Thielmann, Colin Powell Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
August 2002: Top Bush Officials Form Group to Sell Iraq War to Public, Congress, and Allies White House chief of staff Andrew Card forms the White House Iraq Group, or WHIG, which aims to “educate the public” about the alleged threat from Iraq. WHIG is formed concurrently with the Office of Special Plans (see September 2002). A senior official involved with the group will later describe it as “an internal working group, like many formed for priority issues, to make sure each part of the White House was fulfilling its responsibilities.” [WASHINGTON POST, 8/10/2003] According to White House deputy press secretary Scott McClellan, the WHIG is “set up in the summer of 2002 to coordinate the marketing of the [Iraq] war,” and will continue “as a strategic communications group after the invasion had toppled Saddam [Hussein]‘s regime.” McClellan, who will become a full-fledged member of the WHIG after rising to the position of senior press secretary, will write: “Some critics have suggested that sinister plans were discussed at the WHIG meetings to deliberately mislead the public. Not so. There were plenty of discussions about how to set the agenda and influence the narrative, but there was no conspiracy to intentionally deceive. Instead, there were straightforward discussions of communications strategies and messaging grounded in the familiar tactics of the permanent campaign.” [MCCLELLAN, 2008, PP. 142] Author Craig Unger will sum up the WHIG’s purpose up more bluntly: “to sell the war.” Members of the group include White House political advisers Karl Rove, Karen Hughes, Mary Matalin, James R. Wilkinson, and Nicholas E. Calio, and policy advisers led by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, her deputy Stephen Hadley, and Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby. They meet weekly in the White House Situation Room. A “strategic communications” task force under the WHIG is charged with planning speeches and writing position papers. [WASHINGTON POST, 8/10/2003; UNGER, 2007, PP. 241] Marketing Fear, Idea of Invasion as Reasonable - After Labor Day 2002—and after suitable test marketing—the group launches a full-fledged media marketing campaign. The images and storyline are simple and visceral: imminent biological or chemical attack, threats of nuclear holocaust, Saddam Hussein as a psychopathic dictator who can only be stopped by American military force. A key element of the narrative is forged documents “proving” Iraq sought uranium from Niger (see Between Late 2000 and September 11, 2001, October 15, 2001, October 18, 2001, November 20, 2001, February 5, 2002, March 1, 2002, Late April or Early May 2002-June 2002, and Late June 2002). One of the main objectives is to swing the dialogue ever farther to the right, creating the assumption in the public mind that war with Iraq is a thoughtful, moderate, well-reasoned position, and delegitimizing any opposition. To that end, Cheney stakes out the “moderate” position, with statements like “many of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon” (see August 26, 2002), and neoconservatives such as Michael Ledeen pushing the extremes ever rightward with calls to invade not only Iraq, but Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia (see September 20, 2001, August 6, 2002, and September 4, 2002). The real push is delayed until the second week of September. As Card reminds the group, “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August” (see September 6, 2002). The first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is a perfect opportunity to launch the new campaign (see September 8, 2002). [UNGER, 2007, PP. 250-251] Wilkinson, the group’s communications director, is tasked with preparing one of the group’s first public releases, a white paper that will describe the “grave and gathering danger” of Iraq’s “reconstituted” nuclear weapons program. Wilkinson will claim that Iraq “sought uranium oxide, an essential ingredient in the enrichment process, from Africa.” [COUNTERPUNCH, 11/9/2005] 'Push[ing] the Envelope' - According to an intelligence source interviewed by the New York Daily News in October 2005, the group, on “a number of occasions,” will attempt “to push the envelope on things.… The [CIA] would say, ‘We just don’t have the intelligence to substantiate that.’” [NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, 10/19/2005] In 2003, three unnamed officials will tell a Washington Post reporter that the group “wanted gripping images and stories not available in the hedged and austere language of intelligence,” what author and reporter Charlie Savage will call “a stark display of the political benefits that come with the power to control information.” [SAVAGE, 2007, PP. 357] In 2008, McClellan will write of “the heightened rhetoric on Iraq, including unequivocal statements that made things sound more certain than was known.” [MCCLELLAN, 2008, PP. 137] Using Friendly Media Outlets - An important part of the WHIG strategy is to feed their messages to friendly journalists, such as New York Times reporter Judith Miller. James Bamford, in his book A Pretext for War, will write: “First OSP [Office of Special Plans] supplies false or exaggerated intelligence; then members of the WHIG leak it to friendly reporters, complete with prepackaged vivid imagery; finally, when the story breaks, senior officials point to it as proof and parrot the unnamed quotes they or their colleagues previously supplied.” [BAMFORD, 2004, PP. 325] Entity Tags: Stephen J. Hadley, Scott McClellan, Saddam Hussein, Nicholas E. Calio, White House Iraq Group, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Condoleezza Rice, Mary Matalin, Andrew Card, Craig Unger, James Bamford, Charlie Savage, Karen Hughes, James R. Wilkinson, Karl Rove Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
Fall 2002: White House Creates New Interagency Task Force to Coordinate Iraq War Planning The Bush White House establishes a “high-level, interagency task force” charged with the task of “coordinating all Iraq war planning efforts and postwar initiatives.” The task force is headed by the Deputies Committee, which is made up of the “No. 2 officials at the Pentagon, Joint Chiefs of Staff, State Department, CIA, National Security Council, and vice president’s office.” The committee’s job is to review the work of other groups who have been involved in the planning of post-war Iraq, and provide recommendations to President Bush’s top advisers. The committee draws on the work of the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans (OSP) (see 2002-2003 and September 2002), Elliott Abrams’s group (see November 2002-December 2002 and December 2002) and the State Department’s “Future of Iraq” project (see April 2002-March 2003). Later accounts make clear that Abrams’s and the OSP’s recommendations have much more influence. The Deputies Committee usually meets in the White House situation room. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice keeps Bush updated on the progress of the task force’s work. In November, US News and World Report reports that a consensus is forming “at the highest levels of the Bush administration over how to run the country after Saddam and his regime are history.” [FINANCIAL TIMES, 11/4/2002; US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT, 11/25/2003; REUTERS, 11/25/2003] Some Conclusions of the Deputies Committee - No US-Created Government - The US should not create a provisional government or a government in exile. “We are not going to be in the business of choosing” who should lead Iraq, a senior official tells US News and World Report. [US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT, 11/25/2003] Lengthy Occupation - The invasion of Iraq will likely be followed by a lengthy occupation. This conclusion is passed on to Bush. “I have been with the president when he has been briefed about the need to have US forces there for an extended period of time,” a senior administration official will later tell US News and World Report. [US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT, 11/25/2003] Military Occupation Rule before Turning over Rule to Iraqis - During the first phase of the occupation, Iraq will be ruled by the military, probably a US general. The primary objective during this phase will be maintaining security and preventing the emergence of hostilities between the Shi’ites and Sunnis. Pentagon officials involved in planning this stage are reported to have reviewed the archived plans for the occupation of Germany and Japan. The second phase of the occupation will involve some sort of international civilian administration, with a diminished US military presence, and Iraqis will be given a larger role in the government. In the last phase, a constitution will be drafted, transferring power to a representative, multiethnic Iraqi government that commits to being free of weapons of mass destruction. [US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT, 11/25/2003] War Paid for by Iraqi Oil - Revenue generated from the sale of Iraq’s oil will be used for the cost of reconstruction and for conducting humanitarian operations. Hardliners however want the funds to pay for the military costs of the invasion as well. [US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT, 11/25/2003] Dissension over Roles of Iraqi Exiles - No firm decisions are made about the what role, if any, Iraqi exiles affiliated with the Iraqi National Congress (INC) will play in post-Saddam Iraq. Pentagon hardliners and some top officials in the White House favor giving them a prominent role, while the CIA and State Department adamantly oppose their inclusion, arguing that the exiles cannot be trusted. [US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT, 11/25/2003] US Will Not Be Seen as 'Liberators' - Iraqis will not necessarily treat the invading American soldiers as “liberators.” Many Iraqis harbor a deep resentment against the US for the decades-long sanction policy. [US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT, 11/25/2003] Entity Tags: Office of Special Plans, National Security Council, Office of the Vice President, US Department of State, Joint Chiefs of Staff, US Department of Defense, George W. Bush, Iraqi National Congress, Bush administration, Central Intelligence Agency, Ahmed Chalabi, Condoleezza Rice, Elliott Abrams Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion
September 21, 2002: Feith Pushes Iraq-Al-Qaeda Collaboration Theory at White House Meeting Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley convenes a meeting in the White House Situation Room to discuss Iraq with Colin Powell, George Tenet, and Donald Rumsfeld. The White House wants to be sure they are all on the same page when they testify before Congress next week. When a CIA officer notes that the alleged ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda are not supported by current intelligence, Douglas Feith cuts in insisting that Mohamed Atta had met an Iraqi agent in Prague, and that the director of Iraqi intelligence had met with Osama bin Laden in 1996. Both theories have been dismissed by the intelligence community. After a few minutes, Hadley cuts him off and tells him to sit down. [ISIKOFF AND CORN, 2006, PP. 113-114] Entity Tags: Stephen J. Hadley, Iraq, Al-Qaeda, Colin Powell, Mohamed Atta, Donald Rumsfeld, George J. Tenet Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion
Before October 7, 2002: White House Communications Aide Shocked by Administration’s Lack of Hard Evidence Against Iraq National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice invites White House communications aide Adam Levine into the White House Situation Room to look over hundreds of highly classified intelligence photos that supposedly constitute evidence that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. Levine is supposed to select a few choice photos to release with Bush’s speech in Cincinnati (see October 7, 2002) to strengthen the administration’s case. One of the pictures that catches Levine’s eye is a photo of a UAV. But when he looks closely, he sees that there is a Czech flag on it. One of Rice’s aides explains that the UAV was on display at a German air show. The administration believes it is like the ones Saddam has. Levine also sees a series of before-and-after shots of weapons sites visited by UN inspectors. But the photographs are from 1998. As Levine continues his search for the perfect photo, he realizes that none of them really constitute evidence of anything. “I remember having this sinking feeling,” he later recalls. “Oh my God, I hope this isn’t all we have. We’ve got to have better stuff than this.” [ISIKOFF AND CORN, 2006, PP. 145] Entity Tags: Adam Levine, Condoleezza Rice Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion
(7:40 a.m.) March 19, 2003: Bush Gives ‘Order to Execute Operation Iraqi Freedom’ President Bush calls British Prime Minister Tony Blair, his central ally in the US’s “coalition of the willing.” After speaking to Blair, Bush goes to the White House Situation Room, where a videoconference with his field commanders in the Persian Gulf is set up. Bush asks if they are ready to commence hostilities against Iraq; each one answers in the affirmative. Bush then says: “For the peace of the world and the benefit and freedom of the Iraqi people, I hereby give the order to execute Operation Iraqi Freedom. May God bless our troops” (see March 19, 2003). He later goes for a walk outside his office. He will recall: “I prayed as I walked around the circle. I prayed that our troops be safe, be protected by the Almighty, that there be minimal loss of life.… I was praying for strength to do God’s will.… I’m surely not going to justify war based upon God. Understand that. Nevertheless, in my case I pray that I be as good a messenger of His will as possible.” [UNGER, 2007, PP. 294-295] Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Tony Blair Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion
February 7, 2004: 9/11 Commission Has Private Meeting with National Security Adviser Rice; She Is Not Put under Oath, No Transcript Is Made The 9/11 Commission has a private meeting with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. The meeting is held in the White House’s Situation Room, the location apparently chosen by Rice in an attempt to impress the commissioners. Questioning Is 'Polite but Pointed' - The White House has insisted that the encounter be described as a “meeting” rather than an “interview,” because that would sound too formal and prosecutorial. In addition, there is to be no recording of the interview and Rice is not placed under oath. The time limit on the interview is two hours, but it actually lasts four. Rice’s close associate Philip Zelikow, the 9/11 Commission’s executive director, attends, but is not allowed to say anything because he has been recused from this part of the investigation. The questioning is led by Daniel Marcus, the Commission’s lawyer, and will be described as “polite but pointed” by author Philip Shenon. Commissioners Privately Critical of Rice - The commissioners are aware of allegations that Rice performed poorly in the run-up to 9/11 (see Before December 18, 2003), but are unwilling to aggressively attack an accomplished black woman. However, they think the allegations are well-founded. Commission Chairman Tom Kean will say, “obviously Rice bears a tremendous amount of responsibility for not understanding how serious this threat [of terrorist attacks] was.” Commissioner John Lehman will say that he has “no doubt” former National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger would have paid more attention to the warnings of a forthcoming attack. Fellow commissioner Slade Gorton will say that the administration’s failure to act on the urgent warnings was “spectacularly wrong.” Commissioner Jamie Gorelick will comment that Rice “assumed away the hardest part of her job,” and that she should have focused on keeping the president up to date on events, rather than trying to put his intentions into action. Commissioner Bob Kerrey will agree with this and will later recall one of Rice’s comments at this meeting, “I took the president’s thoughts and I helped the president describe what he was thinking.” According to Kerrey, this shows how Rice performed her job incorrectly. She should have been advising the president on what to do, not packaging his thoughts. [SHENON, 2008, PP. 230-239] Entity Tags: Richard Ben-Veniste, Thomas Kean, Slade Gorton, Philip Zelikow, Daniel Marcus, Jamie Gorelick, 9/11 Commission, Bob Kerrey, Condoleezza Rice, John Lehman Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
March 30, 2004: Senior Official Disputes Richard Clarke’s Account of 9/11
Franklin Miller. [Source: The Cohen Group] A national security official that worked alongside counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke on September 11 openly disputes Clarke’s account of events in the White House Situation Room on 9/11. [SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 3/31/2004] Clarke has put forward his account in the dramatic first chapter of his just-published book Against All Enemies, which has already topped the Amazon.com bestsellers list. [REUTERS, 3/26/2004; LOS ANGELES TIMES, 3/30/2004] His critic, Franklin Miller, is a senior aide to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who admits that he was often a bureaucratic rival of Clarke. Miller tells the New York Times that almost none of the conversations described in the first chapter of Clarke’s book match his own recollection of events. [NEW YORK TIMES, 3/30/2004]
In his book, Clarke recalls the Secret Service requesting fighter escorts to protect Air Force One after it took off from Sarasota, Florida, where the president had been visiting an elementary school. [CLARKE, 2004, PP. 6] However, Miller says a young aide in the Situation Room had in fact made this request to him. He had initially told the aide he had seen too many movies, but after reconsidering had asked Condoleezza Rice whether to call up fighter support, and she had told him to go ahead. [NEW YORK TIMES, 3/30/2004] Clarke’s book claims that Miller had urged Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to take a helicopter out of the burning Pentagon, and Rumsfeld responded, “I am too goddamn old to go to an alternate site.” [CLARKE, 2004, PP. 8-9] Miller says he never spoke to Rumsfeld on 9/11. [NEW YORK TIMES, 3/30/2004] Clarke recounts how the Situation Room Deputy Director Ralph Seigler had called out, “Secret Service reports a hostile aircraft ten minutes out,” left the room, and then returned soon after to report, “Hostile aircraft eight minutes out” (see (After 10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CLARKE, 2004, PP. 9-10] Yet Miller and Sean McCormack, the spokesman of the National Security Council who was also in the Situation Room that morning, do not recall this. They say that Seigler himself denies making such an announcement, though Seigler declines to be interviewed by the New York Times about it. [NEW YORK TIMES, 3/30/2004] Clarke claims that at one point he had gathered his staff from the Situation Room around him and told them to leave for their own safety, but they had declined. He had written that Miller then “grabbed a legal pad and said, ‘All right. If you’re staying, sign your name here,’” so a list could be e-mailed out of the building. [CLARKE, 2004, PP. 12] But Miller says, “That paragraph was a complete fiction,” adding that he made no such statement. According to Miller, Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley had instructed the staff members to keep the Situation Room running, and there had never been any question about whether they could stay or go. [NEW YORK TIMES, 3/30/2004]
Miller says Clarke “did a hell of a job that day. We all did.” But he says Clarke’s account is “a much better screenplay than reality was.” The New York Times is unable to contact Clarke to get his response to Miller’s allegations. [NEW YORK TIMES, 3/30/2004] Entity Tags: Sean McCormack, Richard A. Clarke, Ralph Seigler, Franklin Miller Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(Mid 2004): 9/11 Commission Staff Doubts Cheney’s Account of Shootdown Order on 9/11
John Farmer. [Source: Publicity photo] The team of investigators on the 9/11 Commission that is investigating the events of the morning of September 11 comes to believe that a key part of Vice President Dick Cheney’s account is false. The team, led by John Farmer, is convinced that the decision to authorize the military to shoot down threatening aircraft on 9/11 was made by Cheney alone, not by President Bush. According to journalist and author Philip Shenon: “If Farmer’s team was right, the shootdown order was almost certainly unconstitutional, a violation of the military chain of command, which has no role for the vice president. In the absence of the president, military orders should have been issued by Defense Secretary [Donald] Rumsfeld, bypassing the vice president entirely.” No Evidence - Other than Cheney’s own account of his actions that morning, and a subsequent attempt Bush made to confirm this account, the team has found no evidence that the president was involved in making the shootdown decision before Cheney issued the order, and much evidence that he was unaware of this decision. Shenon will describe: “Even in moments of crisis, the White House keeps extraordinary records of communications involving Bush and his senior staff; every phone call is logged, along with a detailed summary of what happened during the call.… But for 9/11, the logs offered no evidence of a call between Cheney and Bush in which Bush authorized a shootdown. And Farmer’s team reviewed more than just one set of communications logs. There were seven of them—one maintained by the White House telephone switchboard, one by the Secret Service, one by the Situation Room, and four separate logs maintained by military officers working in the White House.” [SHENON, 2008, PP. 265-266] Issued by Cheney - The Commission believes Cheney issued the shootdown order between around 10:10 a.m. and 10:15 a.m. on 9/11, in response to reports of an aircraft heading toward Washington (see (Between 10:10 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 41] No Notes - Yet deputy White House chief of staff Josh Bolten, who was with Cheney at the time, had reportedly “not heard any prior conversation on the subject [of shooting down aircraft] with the president.” As Newsweek describes: “Nor did the real-time notes taken by two others in the room, Cheney’s chief of staff, ‘Scooter’ Libby—who is known for his meticulous record-keeping—or Cheney’s wife, Lynne, reflect that such a phone call between Bush and Cheney occurred or that such a major decision as shooting down a US airliner was discussed.… National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and a military aide said they remembered a call, but gave few specifics.” [NEWSWEEK, 6/20/2004] The notes of White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who had been on Air Force One with the president, show no reference to a shootdown order until several minutes after Cheney issued it (see 10:18 a.m.-10:20 a.m. September 11, 2001). "Completely Understandable" - Daniel Marcus, the general counsel of the 9/11 Commission, will later say he thought: “[I]n many ways, it would have been completely understandable for Cheney to issue a shootdown order without authorization from Bush. Whatever the constitutional issues, it would have been difficult to second-guess Cheney about a decision to save the White House from destruction if a suicide hijacker was bearing down on the capital and there were only seconds to act.” Yet, as Marcus will recall, Cheney’s staff is “obsessed with showing that he didn’t give the order.” [SHENON, 2008, PP. 266-267] Cheney Angry - White House lawyers will subsequently lobby the 9/11 Commission to amend its treatment of the shootdown issue in one of its staff reports (see June 15, 2004). [NEWSWEEK, 6/20/2004] And, on this same issue, an angry Cheney will try to get the 9/11 Commission Report changed just before it is released (see Shortly Before July 22, 2004). [SHENON, 2008, PP. 411-412] Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, John Farmer, 9/11 Commission, Daniel Marcus Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
July 24, 2007: Gonzales Contradicts Comey’s Testimony about Pressuring Ashcroft to Reauthorize NSA Wiretapping Program Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee concerning his 2004 visit to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft’s hospital room to pressure Ashcroft into signing a recertification of the NSA’s secret domestic wiretapping program (see March 10-12, 2004). Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey has already testified before the same committee (see May 15, 2007) that Gonzales, then White House counsel, and then-chief of staff Andrew Card tried to pressure Ashcroft, then just hours out of emergency surgery, to overrule Comey, who was acting attorney general during Ashcroft’s incapacitation. Gonzales and Card were unsuccessful, and Comey, along with Ashcroft, FBI director Robert Mueller, and others, threatened to resign if the program wasn’t brought into line with the Constitution. But today Gonzales tells a quite different story. Gonzales tells the committee that he and Card only went to Ashcroft because Congress itself wanted the program to continue (see March 10, 2004), and he and Card merely intended to “inform” Ashcroft about Comey’s decision, and not to try to get Ashcroft to overrule Comey. Many of the senators on the committee are amazed at Gonzales’s contention that Congress wanted Comey overruled. And they are equally appalled at Gonzales’s seemingly cavalier explanation that he and Card were not, as Comey has testified, trying to pressure a sick man who “wasn’t fully competent to make that decision” to overrule his deputy in such a critical matter: Gonzales’s contention that “there are no rules” governing such a matter does not carry much weight with the committee. Many senators, including Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), simply do not believe Gonzales’s explanations; she says that to secure Ashcroft’s reversal was “clearly the only reason why you would go see the attorney general in intensive care.” Gonzales replies that he and Card were operating under what he calls “extraordinary circumstances,” in which “we had just been advised by the Congressional leadership, go forward anyway, and we felt it important that the attorney general, general Ashcroft, be advised of those facts.” Only later in the hearing does Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) force Gonzales to admit that he was indeed carrying a reauthorization order from the White House, something that he likely would not have had if he were not there to secure Ashcroft’s signature. [TPM MUCKRAKER, 7/24/2007] Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) says in his opening statement that Gonzales has “a severe credibility problem,” and continues, “It is time for the attorney general to fully answer these questions and to acknowledge and begin taking responsibility for the acute crisis of leadership that has gripped the department under his watch.” He goes on to note that the Bush administration has squandered the committee’s trust “with a history of civil liberty abuses and cover-ups.” Gonzales garners little trust with his own opening, which states in part, “I will not tolerate any improper politicization of this department. I will continue to make efforts to ensure that my staff and others within the department have the appropriate experience and judgment so that previous mistakes will not be repeated. I have never been one to quit.” [USA TODAY, 7/24/2007] 'I Don't Trust You' - Arlen Specter (R-PA) is another senator who questions Gonzales’s veracity. “Assuming you’re leveling with us on this occasion,” he says, “…I want to move to the point about how can you get approval from Ashcroft for anything when he’s under sedation and incapacitated—for anything.” Gonzales replies, “Senator, obviously there was concern about General Ashcroft’s condition. And we would not have sought nor did we intend to get any approval from General Ashcroft if in fact he wasn’t fully competent to make that decision. But General—there are no rules governing whether or not General Ashcroft can decide, ‘I’m feeling well enough to make this decision.’” Gonzales adds that the fact that Comey was acting attorney general was essentially irrelevant, as Ashcroft “could always reclaim that. There are no rules.” “While he’s in the hospital under sedation?” Specter asks incredulously. [TPM MUCKRAKER, 7/24/2007] “It seems to me that it is just decimating, Mr. Attorney General, as to both your judgment and your credibility. And the list goes on and on.” [USA TODAY, 7/24/2007] After Gonzales’s restatement of his version of events, Specter observes tartly, “Not making any progress here. Let me go to another topic.” Gonzales goes on to say that he and Card visited Ashcroft hours after they had informed the so-called “Gang of Eight,” the eight Congressional leaders who are sometimes briefed on the surveillance program, that Comey did not intend to recertify the program as legal, “despite the fact the department had repeatedly approved those activities over a period of over two years. We informed the leadership that Mr. Comey felt the president did not have the authority to authorize these activities, and we were there asking for help, to ask for emergency legislation.” Gonzales claims that the Congressional leaders felt that the program should be reauthorized with or without Comey’s approval, and that since it would be “very, very difficult to obtain legislation without compromising this program…we should look for a way ahead.” Gonzales confirms what Comey has already said, that Ashcroft refused to overrule Comey. “…I just wanted to put in context for this committee and the American people why Mr. Card and I went. It’s because we had an emergency meeting in the White House Situation Room, where the congressional leadership had told us, ‘Continue going forward with this very important intelligence activity.’” Feinstein is also obviously impatient with Gonzales’s testimony, saying, “And I listen to you. And nothing gets answered directly. Everything is obfuscated. You can’t tell me that you went up to see Mr. Comey for any other reason other than to reverse his decision about the terrorist surveillance program. That’s clearly the only reason you would go to see the attorney general in intensive care.” Gonzales says that he and Card were only interested in carrying out the will of the Congressional leadership: “Clearly, if we had been confident and understood the facts and was inclined to do so, yes, we would have asked him to reverse [Comey’s] position.” When Feinstein confronts Gonzales on the contradictions between his own testimony’s and Comey’s, Gonzales retreats, claiming that the events “happened some time ago and people’s recollections are going to differ,” but continues to claim that the prime purpose of the visit was merely to inform Ashcroft of Comey’s resistance to reauthorizing the program. Like some of his fellows, Leahy is reluctant to just come out and call Gonzales a liar, but he interrupts Gonzales’s tortured explanations to ask, “Why not just be fair to the truth? Just be fair to the truth and answer the question.” [TPM MUCKRAKER, 7/24/2007] Leahy, out of patience with Gonzales’s evasions and misstatements, finally says flatly, “I don’t trust you.” [CNN, 7/24/2007] Whitehouse Grills Gonzales - Whitehouse wants to know if the program “was run with or without the approval of the Department of Justice but without the knowledge and approval of the attorney general of the United States, if that was ever the case.” Gonzales says he believes the program ran with Ashcroft’s approval for two years before the hospital incident: “From the very—from the inception, we believed that we had the approval of the attorney general of the United States for these activities, these particular activities.” It is now that Gonzales admits, under Whitehouse’s questioning, that he indeed “had in my possession a document to reauthorize the program” when he entered Ashcroft’s hospital room. He denies knowing anything about Mueller directing Ashcroft’s security detail not to let him and Card throw Comey out of the hospital room, as Comey previously testified. Whitehouse says, “I mean, when the FBI director considers you so nefarious that FBI agents had to be ordered not to leave you alone with the stricken attorney general, that’s a fairly serious challenge.” Gonzales replies that Mueller may not have known that he was merely following the wishes of the Congressional leadership in going to Ashcroft for reauthorization: “The director, I’m quite confident, did not have that information when he made those statements, if he made those statements.” [TPM MUCKRAKER, 7/24/2007; CNN, 7/24/2007] 'Deceiving This Committee' - Charles Schumer (D-NY), one of Gonzales’s harshest critics, perhaps comes closest to accusing Gonzales of out-and-out lying. Schumer doesn’t believe Gonzales’s repeated assertions that there was little or no dissent among White House and Justice Department officials about the anti-terrorism programs, and what little dissent there is has nothing to do with the domestic surveillance program. “How can you say you haven’t deceived the committee?” Schumer asks. Gonzales not only stands by his claims, but says that the visit to Ashcroft’s hospital bed was not directly related to the NSA program, but merely “about other intelligence activities.” He does not say what those other programs might be. An exasperated Schumer demands, “How can you say you should stay on as attorney general when we go through exercises like this? You want to be attorney general, you should be able to clarify it yourself.” [ASSOCIATED PRESS, 7/24/2007] Specter does not believe Gonzales any more than Schumer does; he asks Gonzales tartly, “Mr. Attorney General, do you expect us to believe that?” [CNN, 7/24/2007] In his own questioning, Whitehouse says that he believes Gonzales is intentionally misleading the committee about which program caused dissent among administration officials. Gonzales retorts that he can’t go into detail in a public hearing, but offers to provide senators with more information in private meetings. [ASSOCIATED PRESS, 7/24/2007] Gonzales’s supporters will later claim that Gonzales’s characterization of little or no dissent between the White House and the Justice Department is technically accurate, because of differences between the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program and that agency’s data mining program, but Senate Democrats do not accept that explanation (see Early 2004, May 16, 2007). Executive Privilege Undermines Congressional Oversight? - Specter asks Gonzales how there can be a constitutional government if the president claims executive privilege when Congress exerts its constitutional authority for oversight. Gonzales refuses to answer directly. “Senator, both the Congress and the president have constitutional authorities,” Gonzales says. “Sometimes they clash. In most cases, accommodations are reached.” “Would you focus on my question for just a minute, please?” Specter retorts. Gonzales then replies, “Senator, I’m not going to answer this question, because it does relate to an ongoing controversy in which I am recused,” eliciting a round of boos from the gallery. [CNN, 7/24/2007] Mueller Will Contradict Gonzales - Mueller will roundly contradict Gonzales’s testimony, and affirm the accuracy of Comey’s testimony, both in his own testimony before Congress (see July 26, 2007) and in notes the FBI releases to the media (see August 16, 2007). Impeach Gonzales for Perjury? - The New York Times writes in an op-ed published five days after Gonzales’s testimony, “As far as we can tell, there are three possible explanations for Mr. Gonzales’s talk about a dispute over other—unspecified—intelligence activities. One, he lied to Congress. Two, he used a bureaucratic dodge to mislead lawmakers and the public: the spying program was modified after Mr. Ashcroft refused to endorse it, which made it ‘different’ from the one Mr. Bush has acknowledged. The third is that there was more wiretapping than has been disclosed, perhaps even purely domestic wiretapping, and Mr. Gonzales is helping Mr. Bush cover it up. Democratic lawmakers are asking for a special prosecutor to look into Mr. Gonzales’s words and deeds. Solicitor General Paul Clement has a last chance to show that the Justice Department is still minimally functional by fulfilling that request. If that does not happen, Congress should impeach Mr. Gonzales.” [NEW YORK TIMES, 7/29/2007] A Washington Post editorial from May 2007 was hardly more favorable to Gonzales: “The dramatic details should not obscure the bottom line: the administration’s alarming willingness, championed by, among others, Vice President Cheney and his counsel, David Addington, to ignore its own lawyers. Remember, this was a Justice Department that had embraced an expansive view of the president’s inherent constitutional powers, allowing the administration to dispense with following the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Justice’s conclusions are supposed to be the final word in the executive branch about what is lawful or not, and the administration has emphasized since the warrantless wiretapping story broke that it was being done under the department’s supervision. Now, it emerges, they were willing to override Justice if need be. That Mr. Gonzales is now in charge of the department he tried to steamroll may be most disturbing of all.” [WASHINGTON POST, 5/16/2007] Entity Tags: Senate Judiciary Committee, Washington Post, Robert S. Mueller III, Arlen Specter, Alberto R. Gonzales, Andrew Card, “Gang of Eight”, Paul Clement, Sheldon Whitehouse, New York Times, Dianne Feinstein, Patrick J. Leahy, Charles Schumer, Federal Bureau of Investigation, David S. Addington, John Ashcroft, National Security Agency, James B. Comey Jr. Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
- ↑ http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2009/12/18/inside-situation-room
- ↑ 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 Rutenberg, Jim; Sanger, David E. (19 December 2006). "Overhaul Moves White House Data Center Into Modern Era". New York Times.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Loven, Jennifer (19 December 2006). "White House Remodeling 'Situation Room'". Washington Post. Associated Press.
- ↑ White House news image of Bush and Blair's teleconference in the newly renovated Situation Room, May 17, 2007
- ↑ White House news image of the ribbon-cutting ceremony in the newly renovated Situation Room, May 18, 2007
- Bohn, Michael (2004). Nerve Center: Inside the White House Situation Room. Potomac Books.
- Inside the White House: The Situation Room - Video tour of the White House Situation Room with explanation of operations and history
- Inside The White House Situation Room: A National Nerve Center, CIA Center for the Study of Intelligence
- White House Museum: West Wing ground floor, with floor plan and historical images