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Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld 'Deserted His Post' While America Was Under Attack on 9/11

 

 

 

Donald Rumsfeld, the U.S. secretary of defense, proceeded as normal with his daily intelligence briefing at the Pentagon on the morning of September 11, 2001, despite learning that a second aircraft had hit the World Trade Center and America was clearly under attack. Even when the Pentagon was attacked, over 30 minutes later, he still did nothing to assist the military's response to the crisis and instead hurried outside to the crash site, simply to inspect the damage and help carry a stretcher. By the time that he became involved in defending his country, the terrorist attacks were over.

 

Rumsfeld, as secretary of defense, had important responsibilities that day. And yet he repeatedly ignored the appeals of colleagues when they tried to get him involved with the military's response to the attacks. Remarkably, he rejected the advice of two aides to abandon his usual activities because, he told them, if he did so, "the terrorists have won."

 

Some government and military officials, as well as journalists, have criticized Rumsfeld for effectively deserting his post at such a critical time, when he should have been focused on preventing possible further attacks. These commentators have made clear how unusual and unacceptable his actions were.

 

In light of what is known about the defense secretary's actions on September 11, we need to consider whether Rumsfeld's behavior while the 9/11 attacks were taking place was simply due to negligence and recklessness or the result of something more disturbing. Might Rumsfeld perhaps have known in advance what was going to happen on September 11?

 

If he had foreknowledge of 9/11, he would presumably have known he could get away with abandoning his responsibilities as secretary of defense while America was under attack. And if he knew what the targets would be, he would have known that the area of the building where his office was located would not be hit when the Pentagon was attacked, which meant it was safe for him to continue with his intelligence briefing. He would also have known there would be no second attack on the Pentagon and so he could safely go to the crash site after the building was hit.

 

Official investigations have failed to thoroughly probe Rumsfeld's actions on September 11 and the media have never inquired why the secretary of defense acted so inappropriately in response to the terrorist attacks. It is important, therefore, that we now closely examine what Rumsfeld did that day.

 

RUMSFELD THOUGHT THE FIRST CRASH WAS A 'TRAGIC ACCIDENT'


Donald Rumsfeld was hosting a breakfast meeting in his private dining room at the Pentagon, attended by several members of Congress, when the first hijacked plane--American Airlines Flight 11--crashed into the World Trade Center, at 8:46 a.m. on September 11. [1]

 

He learned of the crash shortly after it occurred when Larry Di Rita, his special assistant, sent him a note telling him what had happened. [2] Vice Admiral Edmund Giambastiani, his senior military assistant, received the note and passed the message on to him while he was in the meeting. He assumed the incident was a "tragic accident," he has recalled, and took no action in response to the news. His meeting apparently therefore continued until 9:00 a.m., when it was scheduled to end. [3]

 

He then went to his office for his intelligence briefing. [4] Giambastiani turned on the television and he then started watching the coverage of the burning World Trade Center. [5]

 

RUMSFELD WENT AHEAD WITH HIS INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING, DESPITE KNOWING AMERICA WAS UNDER ATTACK


Rumsfeld received a daily intelligence briefing, similar to the one provided to the president each morning. [6] The briefing on September 11 was scheduled to run from 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and was going to be delivered by DeNeige ("Denny") Watson, an analyst with the CIA. [7]

 

Watson learned of the first crash at the World Trade Center when she arrived at the Pentagon that morning and saw people watching the coverage of it on television. She learned of the second crash, and presumably realized that America was under attack, before she went in to brief Rumsfeld, seeing the incident live on television, at 9:03 a.m., in the anteroom of Rumsfeld's office. She immediately called the operations center at CIA headquarters and asked what people there knew about what was going on. She was told there were 50 airborne planes still unaccounted for.

 

In light of what was happening, Watson apparently expected Rumsfeld to cancel his schedule so he could focus on responding to the crisis. As she was about to go into his office, she "declined to even open her briefcase to pull out the PDB [President's Daily Brief], figuring it had been overtaken by events," author David Priess described. The secretary of defense, though, was determined to go ahead with the briefing.

 

Inside Rumsfeld's office, Watson relayed what she had been told by the CIA's operations center. And yet, while this information surely indicated that more attacks might be imminent, Rumsfeld just nodded his head and started flipping through the copy of the PDB she had brought with her. [8]

 

RUMSFELD WAS DETERMINED TO STICK TO HIS SCHEDULE


Around this time, while he was receiving the briefing, Rumsfeld was told about the second crash by Edmund Giambastiani. "Someone came in and said that another plane had hit a different tower of the World Trade Center," Rumsfeld recalled. [9] "I went in and informed the secretary [of the second crash]," Giambastiani said. [10] At that point, "it became clear that it was more than an accident," Rumsfeld commented. [11] "We knew there was a problem here," Giambastiani stated. [12] All the same, Rumsfeld continued with the briefing as if nothing unusual had happened.

 

Minutes after Watson entered the office, two of Rumsfeld's aides came in: Victoria Clarke, Rumsfeld's spokeswoman, and Larry Di Rita.

 

Clarke had been in her office at the Pentagon when she learned of the first crash from seeing the coverage of it on television. She'd called Di Rita to discuss the incident and, as the two were talking, they saw United Airlines Flight 175--the second hijacked plane--crashing into the World Trade Center live on their TVs. Realizing this was "clearly a terrorist attack of some kind," Clarke headed to Di Rita's office, down the hallway from Rumsfeld's office.

 

On the way, she made some notes about what needed to be done in response to the crisis, such as contacting the president, the vice president, and the director of the CIA. She and Di Rita then went together to Rumsfeld's office to discuss "the kinds of things [Rumsfeld] needed to do in response to this," Clarke recalled. [13] Upon entering the office, they told Rumsfeld what they knew about the terrorist attacks and that the crisis management process was starting up. [14]

 

Clarke and Di Rita wanted Rumsfeld to cancel his schedule, presumably so he could focus on responding to the attacks. "Sir, I think your entire schedule is going to be different today," Di Rita said. [15] But Rumsfeld refused to change his plans. [16]

 

He told them to go to the Pentagon's Executive Support Center (ESC), which was well equipped to deal with crisis, and said he would join them later. At that time, he "wanted to make a few phone calls," Clarke recalled. The two aides therefore left the office and headed to the ESC. [17] Rumsfeld, meanwhile, went back to skimming through the PDB. [18]

 

RUMSFELD WENT TO THE CRASH SITE AFTER THE PENTAGON WAS HIT


The secretary of defense was still in his office with Watson at 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon was attacked, and felt the building shake from the impact. "I knew that only something truly massive could have made hundreds of thousands of tons of concrete shudder," he recalled.

 

The attack on the Pentagon surely emphasized why he needed to get involved with responding to the crisis right away, as the extent of the emergency and the capability of the attackers became increasingly apparent. And yet he still did nothing to help the military react to the crisis. Instead, he rushed outside to the scene of the attack. [19] "I wanted to see what had happened; I wanted to see if people needed help," he has commented. [20]

 

Rumsfeld went to the site accompanied by Officers Aubrey Davis and Gilbert Oldach of the Defense Protective Service--the Pentagon's police force; Joseph Wassel, his communications officer; plus Rick Kisling and Kevin Brown, the director and deputy director of security for his office. [21]

 

Davis and Oldach had headed to Rumsfeld's office after Flight 175 hit the World Trade Center with the intention of moving the secretary of defense to a better-protected location. They'd encountered Rumsfeld outside his office just after the Pentagon was hit.

 

Rumsfeld hurried toward the scene of the attack based on information Davis was receiving over his radio. Davis called on Oldach to join him as he accompanied the secretary of defense to the crash site and motioned to Kisling, Wassel, and Brown, who were in the personnel security office, to do the same. Davis protested that Rumsfeld should head back, but the secretary of defense ignored his objections.

 

Rumsfeld and his entourage reached the crash site "by 9:40 at the latest," according to Davis. "It was not more than two or three minutes [after the building was hit] before we were actually on site," Davis said. [22]

 

COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER DETERMINED THAT RUMSFELD SHOULD RETURN TO THE PENTAGON


Upon reaching the scene of the attack, Rumsfeld inspected the area and helped carry a survivor on a stretcher to where they could get medical attention. [23] But after he had been at the site for some time, Wassel decided it was unnecessary for the secretary of defense to be there and told him, "I really need to get you on the phone with the president." Rumsfeld asked, "Where do we go?" Wassel apparently said they should return to the Pentagon. He recalled that he determined that "the hit seemed to be localized and we should have good communications inside the building." [24]

 

"At some moment, I decided I should be in [the Pentagon] figuring out what to do, because your brain begins to connect things," Rumsfeld has said. [25] He therefore announced, "Let's go" and led his group back inside.

 

Rumsfeld returned to the building at around 9:56 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., according to Davis. Accompanied by Davis, Wassel, Oldach, Brown, and Kisling, he initially went to his office and talked briefly with President George W. Bush on the phone. [26]

 

At around 10:10 a.m. to 10:15 a.m., he went to the ESC where a number of his colleagues had assembled. Those in the center included Stephen Cambone, a special assistant to Rumsfeld; William Haynes, the general counsel of the Department of Defense; Victoria Clarke; Larry Di Rita; and Edmund Giambastiani. [27]

 

In the well-equipped facility, Rumsfeld was finally in a location suitable for responding to the crisis. He was able to participate in the White House video teleconference while he was there. [28] But by the time he reached the ESC, the last of the four planes that were hijacked that morning--United Airlines Flight 93--had already crashed, reportedly going down in a field in Pennsylvania at 10:03 a.m., and so the attacks were over.

 

Rumsfeld then went to the Pentagon's National Military Command Center (NMCC), entering it at around 10:30 a.m. His "primary concern" once there was ensuring that the fighter pilots who had taken off to defend America's airspace "had a clear understanding of their rules of engagement," he told the 9/11 Commission. [29] He rapidly went to work on developing "some rules of engagement for what our military aircraft might do in the event another aircraft appeared to be heading into a large civilian structure or population," he said. [30]

 

In the NMCC, which was particularly well-equipped for dealing with the crisis, Rumsfeld was able to participate in the air threat conference call, which had been set up in response to the attacks. [31] But by the time he reached the center, it was too late for his actions to make a difference to the outcome of the attacks.

 

RUMSFELD THOUGHT THERE MIGHT BE ADDITIONAL ATTACKS


Donald Rumsfeld's failure to get involved with the military's response to the crisis until the terrorist attacks were over could have had serious consequences. However, according to retired Lieutenant Colonel Robert Darling, who was working for the White House Military Office on September 11, even if Rumsfeld had gone to the NMCC immediately after the second hijacked plane hit the World Trade Center, there is "no indication" that this action "would have changed the devastating outcome [of the attacks] for the better." [32]

 

Rumsfeld, though, ought to have been unaware of this at the time and should surely have assumed that he needed to get involved with responding to the crisis as quickly as possible. If 9/11 was a surprise, as has been officially claimed, no one would have known how many attacks were planned. Terrorists may have intended to hit numerous additional targets beyond the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Indeed, Victoria Clarke recalled, "Everybody was fixated for the first few hours on what could be next." [33]

 

Rumsfeld himself said he believed that additional attacks were possible. When asked, "Did you have a concern that the U.S. was about to be hit again in those early moments, those early hours?" he replied: "Sure. There's no question about it." Considering that three planes had crashed into buildings and other suspicious aircraft were still in the air, he explained, "you can't help but be very attentive to the possibility of another attack." [34]

 

If more attacks had been planned, Rumsfeld's failure to promptly get involved with the military's response to the crisis could have cost many lives. An unnamed senior White House official who was in the White House Situation Room that morning, trying to coordinate a response to the attacks, has angrily criticized Rumsfeld in this regard. "How long does it take for something bad to happen?" the official asked. "No one knew what was happening," they pointed out. "What if this had been the opening shot of a coordinated attack by a hostile power?" [35]

 

RUMSFELD WAS OUT OF COMMUNICATION WHILE HE VISITED THE CRASH SITE


A number of accounts have indicated that, regardless of its impact on the outcome of the attacks, Rumsfeld's decision to visit the scene of the Pentagon attack had a detrimental effect on the military's ability to respond to the crisis. It meant, for example, that in the 20 minutes between when Rumsfeld left his office and when he returned to the building, people who urgently needed to talk to him were unable to do so.

 

Aubrey Davis kept receiving frantic calls over his radio while he was with Rumsfeld at the crash site, saying: "Where's the secretary? Where's the secretary?" But he was unable to answer the inquiries. "I kept saying, 'We've got him,' but the system was overloaded," he recalled, "so I couldn't get through and they went on asking." [36] In that 20-minute period, Rumsfeld was "completely out of touch," journalist and author Andrew Cockburn concluded.

 

The situation was surely made worse because Rumsfeld failed to tell his command staff where he was going when he headed toward the crash site. [37] "He came out [of his office] and he didn't even talk to his staff," Joseph Wassel recalled. "His staff only found out where he was after the fact," Wassel said. [38]

 

Rumsfeld's colleagues therefore didn't know where the secretary of defense was at this critical time. Davis heard people over his radio saying, "Doctor Cambone wants to know where the secretary is; Admiral Giambastiani wants to know where the secretary is." [39] Several times in the half-hour after the Pentagon was attacked, Victoria Clarke heard people in the ESC asking where Rumsfeld was. [40] And for 30 minutes, personnel in the NMCC "couldn't find him," Brigadier General Montague Winfield said. [41]

 

Furthermore, because he went to the crash site, Rumsfeld was unable to join the Pentagon's air threat conference call when it commenced, at 9:37 a.m. Captain Charles Leidig, who ran the air threat conference, requested that the secretary of defense be brought into the conversation at the start of the call, but minutes later it was reported that Rumsfeld was nowhere to be found. [42] This meant that "the chain of command was broken," Cockburn concluded. [43] Rumsfeld only joined the conference call over 50 minutes after it began, once he arrived at the NMCC. [44]

 

THE ESC AND THE NMCC WERE EQUIPPED TO DEAL WITH THE ATTACKS


Analysis of Donald Rumsfeld's behavior at the time of the 9/11 attacks gives rise to many concerns. Rumsfeld appears to have acted in a way that was inconsistent with his responsibilities as secretary of defense and inappropriate in light of the crisis that needed his urgent attention.

 

He should surely have left his office right away after he learned a second plane had hit the World Trade Center and it became clear that America was under attack. To begin with, had he done so, he could have immediately gone to either the Executive Support Center or the National Military Command Center, where he would have been in a good position to respond to the attacks while they were still taking place.

 

The ESC and the NMCC, unlike Rumsfeld's office, were equipped to deal with a crisis like what happened that day. Additionally, numerous key officials responded to the terrorist attacks from these facilities. In either of them, therefore, Rumsfeld could have conferred with these officials about what to do in response to the attacks.

 

The ESC was a communications hub with a video teleconference facility, located on the third floor of the D ring--the second-outermost ring of the Pentagon. [45] It consisted of conference rooms that were secure against electronic eavesdropping. [46] People there had "instant access to satellite images and intelligence sources peering into every corner of the globe," Victoria Clarke described. [47] And "because it had so many communications in it," Joseph Wassel said, it could serve as a command center. [48]

 

Clarke called the ESC "the Pentagon's war room" and said it was "the place where the building's top leadership goes to coordinate military operations during national emergencies." [49] In it, therefore, Rumsfeld would have been well placed to respond to the attacks.

 

The NMCC, located in the Joint Staff area of the Pentagon, was a two-story complex of rooms that, Rumsfeld described, were "outfitted with televisions, computer terminals, and screens tracking military activities around the world." [50] It was equipped with numerous communications systems, including multiple screens for video conferences, and was staffed 24 hours a day by up to 200 employees. [51]

 

General Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on September 11, called it "a switchboard connecting the Pentagon, the civilian government, and the combatant commanders." [52] CNN called it the U.S. military's "worldwide nerve center." [53]

 

The NMCC had a key role to play during an event like what happened on September 11. It was "the operational center for any and every crisis, from nuclear war to hijacked airliners," Andrew Cockburn wrote. [54] "The job of the NMCC in such an emergency" as occurred on September 11, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, was "to gather the relevant parties and establish the chain of command between the National Command Authority--the president and the secretary of defense--and those who need to carry out their orders." [55]

 

The NMCC would presumably have been an ideal location for the secretary of defense to go to immediately when he learned that America was under attack. Indeed, after he finally entered it at around 10:30 a.m. on September 11, the communications network there "enabled him to keep in touch with key government officials and military commanders," according to the Department of Defense's book about the Pentagon attack. [56] Rumsfeld said he gained "situational awareness" of what was happening after he arrived at the center. [57]

 

Robert Darling, who spent much of September 11 responding to the crisis from the White House, wrote that he believed that "Rumsfeld's appointed place of duty" while the attacks were taking place "was at the helm in the NMCC." If the secretary of defense had gone to the NMCC earlier than he did, Darling wondered: "Could he have made a difference? What information would he have learned? What orders might he have given? Could there have been a better outcome?" [58]

 

THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE HAD SPECIFIC RESPONSIBILITIES DURING A CRISIS


Rumsfeld should also have canceled his schedule and left his office after he learned of the second attack because, as secretary of defense, he had a unique role to play during a crisis like what occurred on September 11. He therefore needed to get involved with the military's response to the attacks as quickly as possible in order to carry out his duties.

 

To begin with, he was part of the National Command Authority (NCA). The NCA consists of the president and the secretary of defense. [59] Directions for military operations originate from the NCA and, by law, no one else in the chain of command is permitted to authorize the execution of military action. [60] "No offensive, lethal military action will ever be taken by any component of the U.S. military without the direct consent of the president or the secretary of defense," Darling wrote. [61]

 

Cockburn called the NCA "the ultimate source of military orders, uniquely empowered, among other things, to order the use of nuclear weapons." In times of war, he wrote, the secretary of defense "was effectively the president's partner, the direct link to the fighting forces, and all orders had to go through him." [62]

 

As part of the NCA, Rumsfeld surely had a crucial role to play on September 11. But, Darling pointed out, "In the worst attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor, taking nearly 3,000 American lives, destroying billions of dollars' worth of property, sending Americans running in fear through our country's streets, and nearly crippling the world's largest financial system, no official National Command Authority response came until after the attacks had ended." [63]

 

THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE HAD A KEY ROLE IN THE RESPONSE TO HIJACKINGS


Rumsfeld's prompt involvement with the military's efforts to respond to the crisis was also surely important because the secretary of defense had a unique role to play when an aircraft hijacking occurred. The key role of the secretary of defense had been laid out in military instructions dating back as far as 1997, if not earlier. [64] The defense secretary was usually required to give his approval before the military could take action in response to a hijacking, according to the most recent of these instructions prior to 9/11.

 

The NMCC was the "focal point" within the Department of Defense for providing assistance in response to hijackings in U.S. airspace, the instruction stated. And upon being notified of a hijacking, the NMCC was, "with the exception of immediate responses," required "to forward requests for [Department of Defense] assistance to the secretary of defense for approval." [65]

 

Major General Larry Arnold, commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region on September 11, confirmed the crucial role of the secretary of defense when he described the procedure for responding to hijackings. "The FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] contacts the National Military Command Center whenever there is a problem," he said. "They, in turn, go to NORAD [the North American Aerospace Defense Command] to see if assets are available. Then the secretary of defense grants approval to intercept a hijacked airplane." [66]

 

Of course, the military should presumably have scrambled fighter jets in response to the four hijackings on September 11 even without Rumsfeld's approval simply due to factors such as the hijacked planes losing contact with air traffic control or deviating from their flight plans. The secretary of defense's permission was apparently unnecessary for responding to these kinds of emergencies. [67] All the same, in light of the defense secretary's unique responsibilities when a hijacking occurred, Rumsfeld should surely have become involved in the military's response to the crisis as soon as possible on September 11.

 

RUMSFELD PUT HIMSELF IN DANGER BY STAYING IN HIS OFFICE


Another reason why Rumsfeld should have left his office after he learned about the second crash at the World Trade Center is that, since by then it was clear that America was under attack and the Pentagon was a potential target, he should have been concerned for his own safety. Indeed, some officials who were in the Pentagon that day--including Stephen Cambone, Edmund Giambastiani, and William Haynes--have recalled wondering if the Pentagon would be attacked after they learned of the crashes at the World Trade Center. [68]

 

And yet Rumsfeld stayed in his office, simply for the sake of receiving a routine intelligence briefing, even though the office was in a vulnerable area of the Pentagon, on the third floor of its outer ring. He surely should have thought that he might be seriously injured or killed if terrorists attacked that part of the building by crashing an aircraft into it or by some other means, such as detonating a truck bomb outside of it.

 

Some of Rumsfeld's colleagues certainly seem to have believed he might be unsafe in his office. These include Cambone and Giambastiani. Following the second attack on the World Trade Center, Cambone went to Giambastiani's office and told Giambastiani they needed to get Rumsfeld out of the building. When Giambastiani asked why, Cambone mentioned the planes that had flown into the World Trade Center and said that "there was no telling what would happen next." The two men discussed "what the evacuation plan should be for the secretary," according to Giambastiani. [69]

 

Aubrey Davis and Gilbert Oldach also thought Rumsfeld might be in danger in his office. Davis recalled that after he saw Flight 175 crashing into the World Trade Center on television, at 9:03 a.m., he and his colleagues "looked at each other and knew that this was warning us to prepare to get Secretary Rumsfeld out of the building, and what measure we would utilize to transport Secretary Rumsfeld to a safe location." [70] Davis and Oldach then headed to Rumsfeld's office because they intended to take the secretary of defense to somewhere that was "better protected" than the office, according to Andrew Cockburn. They planned to take him "to some bunker somewhere." [71]

 

Their boss, John Jester, chief of the Defense Protective Service, seems to have shared their concern. At some point before they set off to take the secretary of defense to a safer location, he came into the room and said to them, "Let's get prepared to get Secretary Rumsfeld out of here." [72]

 

And Denny Watson appears to have recognized that Rumsfeld's office was in a vulnerable area of the Pentagon. After the building shook when it was attacked, Rumsfeld peered out of the window to look for signs of what had happened. Concerned at his action, Watson said, "Sir, everything in my training says you need to be back, away from those windows." [73]

 

Even if he was determined to stay in the Pentagon, Rumsfeld would surely have been safer if he had gone to the ESC or the NMCC after he learned about the second crash at the World Trade Center, rather than remaining in his office at that time. The ESC was "a secure facility" and had "a secure door with a screening process," William Haynes described. [74] And the NMCC was in an area that was presumably much less likely to be damaged than Rumsfeld's office was if the building was attacked. It was in "a very secure location," CNN reported, in the basement of the Pentagon. [75]

 

Although Rumsfeld did eventually leave his office, after the Pentagon was attacked, he then put himself in an even more vulnerable position by going to the crash site. He should surely have considered it possible that there would be additional attacks at the Pentagon, just like there had been a second attack at the World Trade Center. And if another attack occurred there, he would presumably have been most at risk of being killed or seriously injured outside the building, where there were no walls to protect him.

 

Those who accompanied him to the scene of the attack certainly seem to have thought so. While he was at the crash site, they "were really preaching [to him] that it is really dangerous," Oldach recalled. [76]

 

RUMSFELD'S VISIT TO THE CRASH SITE WAS BRIEF AND UNNECESSARY


Going to the scene of the attack, as well as putting the secretary of defense potentially in danger, was a pointless exercise. Although about 20 minutes passed between when Rumsfeld left his office to visit the crash site and when he returned to the building, the attack occurred on the opposite side of the Pentagon to his office. [77] Taking into account the time it would have taken to walk to and from the site, Rumsfeld could only have been at the crash scene for a few minutes. [78] This was presumably too little time for him to achieve anything meaningful while there.

 

Visiting the crash site--where all he did was inspect the area and help carry a stretcher--also meant Rumsfeld was unable to attend to the tasks he was responsible for at that time. Whereas any Pentagon employee could have gone to the site and reported back to Rumsfeld what they saw, and there were trained medical personnel whose job it was to assist the wounded, Rumsfeld was irreplaceable as the secretary of defense. "He was the secretary of defense; the country was under attack; he actually had a job to do," Andrew Cockburn commented. [79]

 

Rumsfeld offered a weak explanation for why he abandoned his responsibilities and went to the crash site, saying, "It was a funny thing for me to do, I suppose, and unusual, but I just felt I had to see what it was and what had happened, because no one knew." [80] Some of his colleagues, though, seem to have thought his actions were inappropriate. These include Stephen Cambone, who commented that Rumsfeld only stayed at the crash site for a short time because "his job was inside, not outside the building." [81]

 

And Joseph Wassell urged Rumsfeld to go back into the Pentagon because he recognized the unnecessity of the secretary of defense being at the scene of the attack. He recalled that after Rumsfeld and his entourage had been at the site for some time, he "decided that there was probably already a mechanism in place to take care of this recovery effort."

 

He therefore said to Rumsfeld, "Mr. Secretary, I know Doc Baxter [Colonel John Baxter, commander of the Air Force Flight Medicine Clinic] and I know that there is a mechanism." "This was going to be taken care of by the professionals," he has commented. He told Rumsfeld, "I really need to get you on the phone with the president." Rumsfeld agreed with his evaluation and subsequently headed back into the Pentagon. [82]

 

RUMSFELD IGNORED ATTEMPTS TO GET HIM INVOLVED WITH THE RESPONSE TO THE ATTACKS


The failure of Donald Rumsfeld to help deal with the crisis after the second crash at the World Trade Center occurred is particularly alarming considering that some of his colleagues apparently tried to get him involved with the military's response to the attacks at that time, but he rejected their advice. This indicates that he made a conscious decision to do nothing.

 

For example, when she entered his office to give him his intelligence briefing, Denny Watson told Rumsfeld: "Sir, you just need to cancel this [briefing]. You've got more important things to do." But he replied: "No, no. We're going to do this."

 

And when Victoria Clarke and Larry Di Rita came in and tried to get Rumsfeld to cancel his schedule, he refused to do so. They advised him to cancel his appointments for the rest of the day, presumably so he could focus on responding to the attacks. But, astonishingly, he told them: "No! If I cancel my day, the terrorists have won."

 

Even when Clarke and Di Rita pulled out a copy of his agenda, took him through it point by point, and showed him why each appointment could be canceled, Rumsfeld remained unmoved. His only response was to turn to the television on his desk and look at the coverage of the attacks in New York. After Clarke and Di Rita left the office, he just returned to skimming through the President's Daily Brief. [83]

 

Rumsfeld still failed to do anything meaningful when he returned to the building following his visit to the scene of the Pentagon attack. Although he talked on the phone with President Bush shortly after 10:00 a.m., the call apparently did little, if anything, to help deal with the attacks. According to a 9/11 Commission staff statement, "No one can recall any content [of the call] beyond a general request to alert forces." Rumsfeld and Bush "did not discuss the use of force against hijacked airliners," the statement added. [84] Rumsfeld's only recollection of the call in his memoir was of telling the president what he knew about the extent of the damage to the Pentagon. [85]

 

Then, after entering the ESC at around 10:10 a.m. to 10:15 a.m., rather than inquiring about the attacks or immediately issuing some orders, Rumsfeld "pulled out a yellow legal pad, took his seat at the head of a conference table, and wrote down three categories by which his thinking would be organized the rest of the day," according to Victoria Clarke. He wrote down "what we needed to do immediately, what would have to be underway quickly, and what the military response would be." [86]

 

Although the secretary of defense became more involved in the military's response to the attacks after he entered the NMCC, at around 10:30 a.m., his attempt at developing "rules of engagement" for the fighter pilots who were defending America's airspace was "an irrelevant exercise," according to Andrew Cockburn, since he did not complete and issue the rules until 1:00 p.m., "hours after the last hijacker had died." [87]

 

RUMSFELD CONTRIBUTED TO 'THE DYSFUNCTIONAL REACTION TO THE ATTACKS'


Donald Rumsfeld has been criticized by a number of officials and journalists for his blatant failure to help the military respond to the terrorist attacks on September 11 until it was too late to make a difference. These criticisms highlight the contrast between what Rumsfeld, as secretary of defense, should have done and what he actually did.

 

He "contributed materially to the whole dysfunctional reaction to the attacks," Cockburn said, explaining: "He was in the wrong place. ... He didn't do his duty and concerned himself with irrelevant matters." [88] He "essentially was a bystander that morning, with little or no input in the crisis," journalist James Ridgeway noted. [89]

 

Robert Darling expressed his concerns about Rumsfeld's actions, asking: "Why did Secretary Rumsfeld abandon his post that day by not responding to the National Military Command Center the moment the attack on our country was realized? Why didn't he attempt to contact the president sooner? Why was the National Command Authority so ineffective?" [90]

 

RUMSFELD'S DECISION TO GO TO THE CRASH SITE WAS 'UNBELIEVABLY SHOCKING'


Rumsfeld has faced particular criticism for his decision to visit the crash site immediately after the Pentagon was hit. "The country was under attack and yet the secretary of defense disappears for 20 minutes," Cockburn remarked. "He abandons his wider responsibilities to go look at the fire." [91]

 

"In the time that Rumsfeld had taken to go outside, he was out of the national command loop, out of touch with other high-level government officials who were trying frantically to figure out the nation's response," veteran Washington Post reporter Bradley Graham noted. He consequently "played no part in the urgent initial efforts to determine whether any additional air threats remained or in the decision to authorize military pilots to shoot down any menacing aircraft that refused to divert," Graham added. [92]

 

John Jester complained that since Rumsfeld was "in the National Command Authority," he "should not have gone to the scene" of the attack. "One of my officers tried to stop him and he just brushed him off," Jester said, adding, "I told his staff that he should not have done that." [93]

 

Darling criticized Rumsfeld's decision to leave the building and go to the crash site, saying: "His absence was unbelievably shocking. He should have been at his post in the national command structure organizing the defense of the country and instead he was outside helping the wounded." [94]

 

An unnamed senior White House official had particularly harsh words for Rumsfeld. He angrily commented: "What was Rumsfeld doing on 9/11? He deserted his post. He disappeared. The country was under attack. Where was the guy who controls America's defense? Out of touch!" The official said it was "outrageous" for Rumsfeld "to abandon [his] responsibilities and go off and do what you don't need to be doing, grandstanding." [95]

 

Rumsfeld, however, claimed his decision to visit the crash site was of little consequence. When asked if he thought his absence from the NMCC during the first minutes after the attack on the Pentagon had a detrimental effect, he replied: "I don't think so--who knows? My deputy was here. The chain of command was complete." [96]

 

DID RUMSFELD HAVE FOREKNOWLEDGE OF 9/11?


Donald Rumsfeld should surely have assumed, when he learned about the crashes at the World Trade Center on September 11, that his actions might make a difference to the outcome of the crisis and have got involved with the response to it as quickly as possible. Why, then, did he continue with a routine intelligence briefing and make a pointless visit to the scene of the Pentagon attack when his job was to protect his country? His actions effectively meant that for the entire time America was under attack, the nation was without a secretary of defense.

 

Furthermore, why was Rumsfeld apparently unconcerned for his own safety at the time of the attacks? If 9/11 was unforeseen, as has been officially claimed, he should surely have thought the Pentagon was a potential target after he learned what had happened at the World Trade Center.

 

Why, then, did he apparently place himself in danger by remaining in his office, on the outer ring of the building, at that time rather than going to somewhere less vulnerable? And why did he leave the relative safety of the building to visit the crash site after the Pentagon was hit, even though it was possible that the Pentagon would be attacked again?

 

It seems difficult to attribute Rumsfeld's actions to incompetence. Rumsfeld had been secretary of defense for eight months under President Bush when 9/11 occurred and previously served as defense secretary for 14 months during the presidency of Gerald Ford in the 1970s. [97] He should surely therefore have acquired a good understanding of his responsibilities in this important post and known what his duties were on September 11.

 

A possible, albeit sinister, explanation for Rumsfeld's actions while the 9/11 attacks were taking place is that Rumsfeld had foreknowledge of what was going to happen on September 11. If this was the case, he presumably would have known he could get away with taking no action in response to the attacks until it was too late to make a difference. And if he knew in advance what the targets of the attacks were going to be, he would have known he would be safe in his office while he received his intelligence briefing and at the scene of the attack after the Pentagon was hit.

 

VISITING THE CRASH SITE WAS 'VERY ASTUTE, POLITICALLY'


If Rumsfeld knew in advance what would happen on September 11, this could mean his decision to hurry to the scene of the Pentagon attack, where he was caught on video helping to carry a stretcher, may not have been spontaneous but could instead have been made beforehand, as a cynical way to exploit the catastrophe to improve his public image.

 

The decision to go to the crash site, while making it impossible for colleagues to communicate with him and apparently placing him in danger at the time, certainly benefited Rumsfeld later on. One Pentagon official said he thought the decision was "very astute, politically." Andrew Cockburn commented that Rumsfeld's "dash to the crash site could inspire loyalty and support" among the Pentagon workforce. [98]

 

Some people regarded Rumsfeld's "instinctive response" to the Pentagon attack as "a gutsy move that showed a basic humanity," according to Bradley Graham. Rumsfeld's "involvement, however brief, in the rescue efforts was a selfless act that won him a measure of appreciation and respect," Graham wrote. [99]

 

The defense secretary's actions, according to Cockburn, meant, "On a day when the president was intermittently visible, only Rumsfeld, along with New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, gave the country an image of decisive, courageous leadership." The few minutes he spent at the crash site "made Rumsfeld famous, changed him from a half-forgotten 20th-century political figure to America's 21st-century warlord." [100]

 

If Rumsfeld decided before September 11 that he would go to the scene of the attack immediately after the Pentagon was hit, this might explain why he was dressed ready to go to the crash site when the attack occurred. Normally, according to Cockburn, when he was in his office, Rumsfeld "would take off his suit jacket and put on a sort of like a vest, because he found it chilly in the office." And yet just 15 to 20 seconds after there was a loud "boom" when the Pentagon was hit, he was seen by Aubrey Davis walking out of his door, "looking composed and wearing the jacket he normally discarded while in his office." It appeared as if, in the space of under 20 seconds, Rumsfeld "had time to change his clothes, put on his going-outside jacket, [and] come out," Cockburn commented. [101]

 

If Rumsfeld indeed knew in advance what was going to happen on September 11, the question arises of how this came about. Did he know someone who had learned about the 9/11 attacks before they occurred or was involved in planning them and this person told him what was going to happen? Might Rumsfeld himself have been involved with planning the attacks, which would be falsely blamed on Islamic terrorists?

 

While these are serious and unsettling possibilities to suggest, they need to be investigated. As has been pointed out, Rumsfeld "deserted his post" while America was under attack. His decision to visit the crash site immediately after the Pentagon was hit instead of helping to defend his country was "unbelievably shocking." We therefore need to find out exactly why he neglected his duties at such a critical time, on what was surely the most important day of his professional life.

 

NOTES
[1] "National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States: Eighth Public Hearing." 9/11 Commission, March 23, 2004; Donna Miles, "Vice Chairman: 9/11 Underscored Importance of DoD Transformation." American Forces Press Service, September 8, 2006; Alfred Goldberg et al., Pentagon 9/11. Washington, DC: Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 2007, p. 130; Steve Vogel, The Pentagon: A History. New York: Random House, 2007, p. 428.
[2] "Secretary Rumsfeld Interview With Larry King, CNN." Larry King Live, CNN, December 5, 2001; Torie Clarke, Lipstick on a Pig: Winning in the No-Spin Era by Someone Who Knows the Game. New York: Free Press, 2006, p. 218; Donald Rumsfeld, Known and Unknown: A Memoir. New York: Sentinel, 2011, pp. 334-335.
[3] Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr., interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron, part I. Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, July 18, 2002; Donna Miles, "Vice Chairman: 9/11 Underscored Importance of DoD Transformation"; Donald Rumsfeld, Known and Unknown, pp. 334-335.
[4] "Secretary Rumsfeld Interview With John McWethy, ABC." U.S. Department of Defense, August 12, 2002; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2004, p. 37; Steve Vogel, The Pentagon, p. 428.
[5] Donald Rumsfeld, Known and Unknown, p. 335.
[6] Ibid.
[7] "Secretary Rumsfeld Interview With John McWethy, ABC"; David Priess, The President's Book of Secrets: The Untold Story of Intelligence Briefings to America's Presidents From Kennedy to Obama. New York: PublicAffairs, 2016, pp. 243-244.
[8] David Priess, The President's Book of Secrets, p. 244.
[9] "Secretary Rumsfeld Interview With John McWethy, ABC."
[10] Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr., interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron, part I.
[11] Face the Nation. CBS, September 8, 2002.
[12] Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr., interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron, part I.
[13] Victoria Clarke, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron. Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, July 2, 2002; Bill Vidonic, "Area Native Recalls Events at Pentagon." Beaver County Times, September 9, 2002; Torie Clarke, Lipstick on a Pig, pp. 216-218.
[14] "Assistant Secretary Clarke Interview With WBZ Boston." WBZ, September 15, 2001; Victoria Clarke, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron.
[15] Torie Clarke, Lipstick on a Pig, p. 219.
[16] David Priess, The President's Book of Secrets, p. 244.
[17] "Assistant Secretary Clarke Interview With WBZ Boston"; Victoria Clarke, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron; Torie Clarke, Lipstick on a Pig, p. 219.
[18] David Priess, The President's Book of Secrets, p. 244.
[19] Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy. New York: Scribner, 2007, pp. 1-2; Donald Rumsfeld, Known and Unknown, pp. 335-336.
[20] "Secretary Rumsfeld Interview With Larry King, CNN."
[21] Joseph M. Wassel, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron. Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, April 9, 2003; Aubrey Davis and Gilbert Oldach, interview by Diane Putney. Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, July 20, 2006.
[22] Aubrey Davis and Gilbert Oldach, interview by Diane Putney; Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, pp. 1-2.
[23] Alfred Goldberg et al., Pentagon 9/11, p. 130; Toby Harnden, "Donald Rumsfeld on How He Survived the September 11 Pentagon Attack." Daily Telegraph, September 9, 2011.
[24] Joseph M. Wassel, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron.
[25] "Secretary Rumsfeld Interview With Parade Magazine." U.S. Department of Defense, October 12, 2001.
[26] Joseph M. Wassel, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron; "National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States: Eighth Public Hearing"; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 43; Aubrey Davis and Gilbert Oldach, interview by Diane Putney.
[27] Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr., interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron, part II. Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, August 1, 2002; Torie Clarke, Lipstick on a Pig, pp. 219-221; William Haynes and Lawrence Di Rita, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Welch. Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, May 16, 2006; Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, pp. 5-6.
[28] Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr., interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron, part II; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 43.
[29] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, pp. 43-44; Donald Rumsfeld, Known and Unknown, p. 337.
[30] "Secretary Rumsfeld Interview With John McWethy, ABC."
[31] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, pp. 37-38.
[32] Robert J. Darling, 24 Hours Inside the President's Bunker: 9/11/01 The White House. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2010, pp. 106-108.
[33] Victoria Clarke, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron.
[34] "Secretary Rumsfeld Interview With John McWethy, ABC."
[35] Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, pp. 3-4.
[36] Aubrey Davis and Gilbert Oldach, interview by Diane Putney; Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, p. 2; "Andrew Cockburn: Author, 'Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy.'" Q&A, C-SPAN, February 25, 2007.
[37] "Journalist and Author Andrew Cockburn on Donald Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy." Democracy Now! March 7, 2007.
[38] Joseph M. Wassel, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron.
[39] Aubrey Davis and Gilbert Oldach, interview by Diane Putney.
[40] Victoria Clarke, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron.
[41] "9/11: Interviews by Peter Jennings." ABC News, September 11, 2002.
[42] Air Threat Conference and DDO Conference, Transcript. U.S. Department of Defense, September 11, 2001; Air Threat Conference Call, Transcript. U.S. Department of Defense, September 11, 2001; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 38.
[43] Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, p. 5.
[44] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 38.
[45] Lawrence Di Rita, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Stuart Rochester. Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, June 27, 2002; Steve Vogel, The Pentagon, p. 440.
[46] Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, p. 5.
[47] Torie Clarke, Lipstick on a Pig, p. 219.
[48] Joseph M. Wassel, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron.
[49] Torie Clarke, Lipstick on a Pig, p. 219.
[50] Donald Rumsfeld, Known and Unknown, p. 337.
[51] Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, p. 5.
[52] Richard B. Myers and Malcolm McConnell, Eyes on the Horizon: Serving on the Front Lines of National Security. New York: Threshold Editions, 2009, p. 151.
[53] "'The Pentagon Goes to War': National Military Command Center." American Morning, CNN, September 4, 2002.
[54] Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, p. 5.
[55] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 37.
[56] Alfred Goldberg et al., Pentagon 9/11, p. 132.
[57] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 44.
[58] Robert J. Darling, 24 Hours Inside the President's Bunker, pp. 104, 108.
[59] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 17; Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, p. 4.
[60] Multiservice Procedures for Humanitarian Assistance Operations. Fort Monroe, VA: U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, 1994; Geoffrey S. Corn, Rachel E. VanLandingham, and Shane R. Reeves (Editors), U.S. Military Operations: Law, Policy, and Practice. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016, p. 8; "DoD 101: Overview of the Department of Defense." U.S. Department of Defense, n.d.
[61] Robert J. Darling, 24 Hours Inside the President's Bunker, p. 103.
[62] Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, p. 4.
[63] Robert J. Darling, 24 Hours Inside the President's Bunker, p. 103.
[64] See Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, CJCSI 3610.01: Aircraft Piracy (Hijacking) and Destruction of Derelict Airborne Objects. Washington, DC: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, July 31, 1997.
[65] Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, CJCSI 3610.01A: Aircraft Piracy (Hijacking) and Destruction of Derelict Airborne Objects. Washington, DC: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, June 1, 2001.
[66] "Conversation With Major General Larry Arnold, Commander, 1st Air Force, Tyndall AFB, Florida." Code One, January 2002.
[67] See Bob Arnot, "What Was Needed to Halt the Attacks?" MSNBC, September 12, 2001; "Statement of Robin Hordon, Former FAA Air Traffic Controller." Patriots Question 9/11, April 10, 2007.
[68] Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr., interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron, part I; William J. Haynes II, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron, part I. Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, April 8, 2003; Donna Miles, "Vice Chairman: 9/11 Underscored Importance of DoD Transformation."
[69] Stephen Cambone, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron. Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, July 8, 2002; Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr., interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron, part I; Donna Miles, "Vice Chairman: 9/11 Underscored Importance of DoD Transformation."
[70] Aubrey Davis and Gilbert Oldach, interview by Diane Putney.
[71] Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, p. 1; "Journalist and Author Andrew Cockburn on Donald Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy."
[72] Aubrey Davis and Gilbert Oldach, interview by Diane Putney.
[73] David Priess, The President's Book of Secrets, p. 245.
[74] William J. Haynes II, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron, part I.
[75] A Status Report to Congress: The Renovation of the Pentagon. Washington, DC: Office of the Secretary of Defense, March 1, 1997, p. 23; "'The Pentagon Goes to War': National Military Command Center."
[76] Aubrey Davis and Gilbert Oldach, interview by Diane Putney.
[77] Charles Aldinger, "Aircraft Crashes Into Pentagon, Triggering Chaos." Reuters, September 11, 2001.
[78] Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, p. 3.
[79] "Journalist and Author Andrew Cockburn on Donald Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy."
[80] Steve Vogel, The Pentagon, p. 439.
[81] Stephen Cambone, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron.
[82] Joseph M. Wassel, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron.
[83] David Priess, The President's Book of Secrets, p. 244.
[84] "Staff Statement No. 17: Improvising a Homeland Defense." 9/11 Commission, June 17, 2004.
[85] Donald Rumsfeld, Known and Unknown, p. 337.
[86] Torie Clarke, Lipstick on a Pig, p. 222.
[87] Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, p. 7.
[88] "Journalist and Author Andrew Cockburn on Donald Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy."
[89] James Ridgeway, "On 9/11, Rumsfeld Fiddled While Cheney Ran the Country." Mother Jones, February 9, 2011.
[90] Robert J. Darling, 24 Hours Inside the President's Bunker, p. 109.
[91] "Andrew Cockburn: Author, 'Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy.'"
[92] Bradley Graham, By His Own Rules: The Ambitions, Successes, and Ultimate Failures of Donald Rumsfeld. New York: PublicAffairs, 2009, pp. 282-283.
[93] John Jester, interview by Alfred Goldberg, Diane Putney, and Stuart Rochester. Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, October 19, 2001.
[94] Philip Sherwell, "How the Drama Unfolded Aboard Air Force One, Inside the White House Bunker and at the Pentagon." Daily Telegraph, September 10, 2011.
[95] Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, pp. 3-4.
[96] Steve Vogel, The Pentagon, p. 441.
[97] "Secretary of Defense-Designate Donald Rumsfeld." PBS, December 28, 2000; George M. Watson Jr., Secretaries and Chiefs of Staff of the United States Air Force: Biographical Sketches and Portraits. Washington, DC: Air Force History and Museums Program, U.S. Air Force, 2001, p. 202; "Timeline: The Life & Times of Donald Rumsfeld." PBS, October 26, 2004.
[98] Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, p. 3.
[99] Bradley Graham, By His Own Rules, p. 283.
[100] Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, p. 3.
[101] Ibid. p. 1; "Andrew Cockburn: Author, 'Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy.'"

 

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                                                                             Donald Rumsfeld's Actions on 9/11

Project: Complete 911 Timeline
Open-Content project managed by matt, Derek, Paul, KJF, mtuck, paxvector


Thomas White.Thomas White. [Source: US Department of Defense]Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld hosts a breakfast meeting in his private dining room at the Pentagon. [Associated Press, 9/12/2001; US Department of Defense, 12/5/2001; 9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004] The meeting, which is attended by several members of Congress, is intended to discuss the Department of Defense’s Quadrennial Defense Review. As well as the secretary of defense, others in attendance include Rumsfeld’s senior military assistant, Navy Vice Admiral Edmund Giambastiani Jr.; Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz; Pete Geren, a special assistant to Rumsfeld; and Representatives John Mica (R-FL), Mark Steven Kirk (R-IL), Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Robin Hayes (R-NC), Doug Bereuter (R-NE), John Hostettler (R-IN), Kay Granger (R-TX), John Shimkus (R-IL), Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA), and Christopher Cox (R-CA). [Powell Moore, 9/10/2001 pdf file; Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 9/14/2001; Federal Computer Week, 3/31/2003; Vanity Fair, 5/9/2003; Powell Moore, 9/19/2003 pdf file; US Department of Defense, 9/10/2004; American Forces Press Service, 9/8/2006] Secretary of the Army Thomas White, who is at the meeting, appears to say it is also attended by numerous key military figures, later telling PBS: “Don Rumsfeld had a breakfast, and virtually every one of the senior officials of the Department of Defense—service chiefs, secretary, deputy, everybody, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And as that breakfast was breaking up, the first plane had hit the World Trade tower.” [PBS Frontline, 10/26/2004; PBS, 10/26/2004] By “chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” White presumably means Richard Myers, who is the acting chairman on this day, in place of Henry Shelton who is out of the country (see 7:15 a.m. September 11, 2001). [American Forces Press Service, 9/8/2006] During the course of the meeting Rumsfeld predicts that some kind of “shocking” world event will occur in the near future (see (Before 8:46 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Most accounts suggest the meeting is adjourned soon after the time the first World Trade Center tower is hit, presumably around 8:50 a.m., though one report says it ends at about 9:00 a.m. Just prior to the meeting ending, Rumsfeld is handed a note informing him of the crash (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). Giambastiani also sees this note. Whether the other people in attendance are notified of the crash at this time is unknown. [US Department of Defense, 12/5/2001; US Department of Defense, 8/12/2002; PBS, 10/26/2004; American Forces Press Service, 9/8/2006] White will later recall, “We all went on with the day’s business,” after leaving the meeting. White heads off to give a speech at the nearby Army Navy Country Club. [PBS Frontline, 10/26/2004] Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Giambastiani return to their offices. [Vanity Fair, 5/9/2003; American Forces Press Service, 9/8/2006] The members of Congress leave the building. [Washington Post, 1/9/2002] If Myers is at the meeting, as White appears to say, he must head promptly to Capitol Hill, as he enters another meeting in the offices of Senator Max Cleland (D-GA) before the time when the second WTC tower is hit (see Shortly Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Armed Forces Radio And Television Service, 10/17/2001; American Forces Press Service, 10/23/2001]

Secretary of State Colin Powell leaves his Lima, Peru hotel after hearing news of the attacks.Secretary of State Colin Powell leaves his Lima, Peru hotel after hearing news of the attacks. [Source: Agence France-Presse]Just prior to learning about the 9/11 attacks, top US leaders are scattered across the country and overseas:
bullet President Bush is in Sarasota, Florida. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
bullet Secretary of State Colin Powell is in Lima, Peru. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
bullet General Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is flying across the Atlantic on the way to Europe. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; Giesemann, 2008, pp. 19-40]
bullet Attorney General John Ashcroft is flying to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
bullet Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Joe Allbaugh is at a conference in Montana. [ABC News, 9/14/2002] Others are in Washington:
bullet Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice are at their offices in the White House. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
bullet Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is at his office in the Pentagon, meeting with a delegation from Capitol Hill. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
bullet CIA Director George Tenet is at breakfast with his old friend and mentor, former Senator David Boren (D-OK), at the St. Regis Hotel, three blocks from the White House. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
bullet FBI Director Robert Mueller is in his office at FBI headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
bullet Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta is at his office at the Department of Transportation. [US Congress, 9/20/2001]
bullet Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is at a conference in the Ronald Reagan Building, three blocks from the White House. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 1]

John Mica.John Mica. [Source: Publicity photo]Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Representatives Christopher Cox (R-CA) and John Mica (R-FL), and numerous others are meeting in Rumsfeld’s private Pentagon dining room, discussing missile defense (see (8:00 a.m.-8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Rumsfeld later recalls, “I had said at an eight o’clock breakfast that sometime in the next two, four, six, eight, ten, twelve months there would be an event that would occur in the world that would be sufficiently shocking that it would remind people again how important it is to have a strong healthy Defense Department that contributes to—that underpins peace and stability in our world.” [US Department of Defense, 12/5/2001] Wolfowitz recalls, “And we commented to them that based on what Rumsfeld and I had both seen and worked on the Ballistic Missile Threat Commission, that we were probably in for some nasty surprises over the next ten years.” [Vanity Fair, 5/9/2003] According to Mica, “the subject of the conversation Donald Rumsfeld was interested in was, the military had been downsized during the ‘90s since the fall of the Berlin Wall. And what we were going to do about [the] situation if we had another—the word [Rumsfeld] used was ‘incident.‘… And he was trying to make certain that we were prepared for something that we might not expect.” [US Congress. House. Oversight and Government Reform Committee, 8/1/2007] There are confused accounts that Rumsfeld says, “I’ve been around the block a few times. There will be another event,” just before the Pentagon is hit by Flight 77 (see (Before 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but such comments may have been made around this time instead. Shortly afterwards, someone walks in with a note informing Rumsfeld that a plane has just hit the WTC (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [US Department of Defense, 12/5/2001; 9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004] Mica later comments, “[L]ittle did we know that within a few minutes of the end of our conversation and actually at the end of our breakfast, that our world would change and that incident that we talked about would be happening.” [US Department of Defense, 9/10/2004]

Larry Di Rita.Larry Di Rita. [Source: US Department of Defense]Larry Di Rita, a special assistant to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, has sent a note to Rumsfeld to inform him of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. Although some initial reports suggest the WTC may have been hit by just a small plane, according to Victoria Clarke, the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, “Even in the accidental crash scenario, the military might be involved in some way. Rumsfeld needed to know.” Rumsfeld, who is currently hosting a breakfast meeting with several members of Congress (see (8:00 a.m.-8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001), later acknowledges having received this note. Yet apparently he does nothing in response. He recalls, “Everyone assumed it was an accident, the way it was described.” He says only that “we adjourned the meeting, and I went in to get my CIA briefing.” [US Department of Defense, 12/5/2001; 9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004; Clarke, 2006, pp. 217-218; Vogel, 2007, pp. 428]

A fighter pilot flying from Otis Air Base toward New York City later notes that it wouldn’t have mattered if he caught up with Flight 175, because only President Bush could order a shootdown, and Bush is at a public event at the time. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002] “Only the president has the authority to order a civilian aircraft shot down,” according to a 1999 CNN report. [CNN, 10/26/1999] In fact, by 9/11, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld also has the authority to order a shootdown, but he is not responding to the crisis at this time. [New York Observer, 6/20/2004] Furthermore, NORAD Commander Larry Arnold later states that on 9/11, “I have the authority in case of an emergency to declare a target hostile and shoot it down under an emergency condition.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 75]

Denny Watson.Denny Watson. [Source: Risk Assessment Network + Exchange]Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld goes ahead with his daily intelligence briefing in his office at the Pentagon, even though Denny Watson, his CIA briefer, urges him to cancel it and respond to the terrorist attacks. [Rumsfeld, 2011, pp. 335; Priess, 2016, pp. 244] Rumsfeld has just been in a meeting in his private dining room that was attended by several members of Congress (see (8:00 a.m.-8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). During it, he was informed that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/12/2001; US Department of Defense, 12/5/2001; 9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004] He assumed the crash was an accident. [Vogel, 2007, pp. 428; Rumsfeld, 2011, pp. 335]
Rumsfeld Went to His Office for His Intelligence Briefing - After the meeting ended, apparently around 9:00 a.m., he returned to his office to receive his intelligence briefing. [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 7/18/2002 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 37] Rumsfeld receives an intelligence briefing from Watson each morning, similar to the intelligence briefing provided to the president each day. The briefings usually last at least half an hour. [Rumsfeld, 2011, pp. 335; Priess, 2016, pp. 243] The briefing today is scheduled to run from 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. [US Department of Defense, 8/12/2002]
CIA Briefer Learned of the Crashes from TV - Watson, meanwhile, recently arrived at the Pentagon and learned about the crashes at the WTC. After she entered the building, she noticed people staring at a television, which showed the North Tower burning after being hit by a plane. She then went to the anteroom of Rumsfeld’s office, where she saw the second hijacked plane crashing into the WTC live on television (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). She immediately called the operations center at CIA headquarters to see if she could find out more about what was happening. She was told only that there were 50 planes still airborne that were unaccounted for.
Rumsfeld Refuses to Cancel the Briefing - Rumsfeld then calls Watson into his office. Assuming the briefing will be suspended due to what has happened in New York, the CIA analyst hasn’t even opened her briefcase to pull out her copy of the President’s Daily Brief (PDB). “Sir, you just need to cancel this,” she says to Rumsfeld as she enters the office. “You’ve got more important things to do,” she adds. Rumsfeld, however, wants to go ahead with the briefing. “No, no, we’re going to do this,” he says. Watson then sits down and tells Rumsfeld what she learned from the CIA’s operations center, but the secretary of defense simply nods his head and starts flipping through the PDB. [Priess, 2016, pp. 244] The PDB apparently contains no remarkable information today. “As we reviewed the threat reports from around the world, September 11 seemed to be no more or less different than any other day,” Rumsfeld will later comment. [Rumsfeld, 2011, pp. 336]
Rumsfeld Will Be Receiving the Briefing When the Pentagon Is Hit - Vice Admiral Edmund Giambastiani Jr., Rumsfeld’s senior military assistant, will come into the office around this time and tell the secretary of defense about the second crash at the WTC (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 7/18/2002 pdf file; US Department of Defense, 8/12/2002] Two of Rumsfeld’s aides will also come to the office and, like Watson, try, unsuccessfully, to persuade Rumsfeld to cancel his schedule so he can respond to the attacks (see a904rumsfeldrefuses). [Clarke, 2006, pp. 218-219; Priess, 2016, pp. 244] Rumsfeld will be in his office with Watson, still receiving his intelligence briefing, at 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon is attacked (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 130; Vogel, 2007, pp. 438-439]

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is told that a second plane has crashed into the World Trade Center by Vice Admiral Edmund Giambastiani Jr., his senior military assistant, but continues with a routine intelligence briefing. [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 7/18/2002 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 37; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 130] Rumsfeld learned about the first crash at the WTC during a meeting in his private dining room at the Pentagon, but he assumed it was an accident (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Vogel, 2007, pp. 428; Rumsfeld, 2011, pp. 334-335] After the meeting ended he returned to his office to receive his daily intelligence briefing. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 37] Giambastiani was at the meeting in Rumsfeld’s private dining room and similarly returned to his office when it ended—apparently around 9:00 a.m.—to continue with his regular work. The television in his office was on and so he saw the second hijacked plane crashing into the WTC live, at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). He apparently realized right away that the incident was a terrorist attack. “Then there was absolutely no doubt in anybody’s mind that it was not a random event or an accident,” he will later comment, adding, “There was absolutely no doubt in my mind.” He goes to tell Rumsfeld what has happened. “I went in and informed the secretary [of defense],” he will say. [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 7/18/2002 pdf file] “Someone came in and said that another plane had hit a different tower of the World Trade Center,” Rumsfeld will recall. [US Department of Defense, 8/12/2002] The two men apparently now realize the seriousness of the crisis. “When the second plane hit the World Trade Center, it became clear that it was more than an accident,” Rumsfeld will comment. [CBS, 9/8/2002] “We knew there was a problem here,” Giambastiani will say. [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 7/18/2002 pdf file] However, Rumsfeld continues with his intelligence briefing. “[H]e resumed the briefing while awaiting more information,” the 9/11 Commission Report will state. He will still be in his office receiving the briefing at 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon is attacked (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 37; Vogel, 2007, pp. 438-439]

Victoria Clarke, the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, and Larry Di Rita, a special assistant to the secretary of defense, try to persuade Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to cancel his schedule so he can respond to the terrorist attacks, but Rumsfeld refuses to do so and continues with a routine intelligence briefing. [Clarke, 2006, pp. 218-219; Priess, 2016, pp. 244] Rumsfeld is in his office at the Pentagon with Denny Watson, a CIA analyst, who is giving him his daily intelligence briefing. He is aware of the two crashes at the World Trade Center (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 37; Rumsfeld, 2011, pp. 334-335]
Aides Go to Talk with Rumsfeld about His Response to the Crisis - Clarke and Di Rita, meanwhile, learned of the attacks on the WTC from seeing the coverage of them on television. After the second crash, Clarke headed to Di Rita’s office, which is down the hallway from Rumsfeld’s office. There, she and Di Rita discussed “what had to be done right away in terms of the secretary [of defense],” Clarke will later recall. The two aides then headed together to see Rumsfeld, to talk with him about “the kinds of things he needed to do in response to this [crisis].”
Aides Tell Rumsfeld What They Know about the Attacks - After they enter Rumsfeld’s office, Clarke and Di Rita tell the secretary of defense what is happening and what they know about the attacks. They say the Executive Support Center (ESC) “is going to start getting spun up.” [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 6/27/2002 pdf file; Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 7/2/2002 pdf file; Clarke, 2006, pp. 216-219] The ESC is a secure communications hub with a video teleconference facility, located on the third floor of the Pentagon. [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 6/27/2002 pdf file; Vogel, 2007, pp. 440] It is “the place where the building’s top leadership goes to coordinate military operations during national emergencies,” according to Clarke.
Rumsfeld Refuses to Change His Schedule - Clarke and Di Rita also advise Rumsfeld to cancel his appointments for the rest of the day. “Sir, I think your entire schedule is going to be different today,” Di Rita says. But Rumsfeld refuses to do so. “No! If I cancel my day, the terrorists have won,” he says. Undeterred, the two aides pull out a copy of Rumsfeld’s agenda for the day and go through it point by point, explaining to the secretary of defense why each item could be canceled. However, Rumsfeld’s response is to look at the television on the desk and watch the coverage of the attacks on the WTC. [Clarke, 2006, pp. 219; Priess, 2016, pp. 244] Rumsfeld “wanted to make a few phone calls” at this time, Clarke will tell one interviewer. [WBZ Radio 1030 (Boston), 9/15/2001]
Aides Go to the Support Center to Respond to the Attacks - Rumsfeld tells the two aides to go to the ESC and wait for him there. Clarke and Di Rita therefore leave the office and head to the ESC (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). They will be in the ESC at 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon is attacked (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 7/2/2002 pdf file; Clarke, 2006, pp. 219-220] Rumsfeld, meanwhile, continues skimming through the copy of the President’s Daily Brief that Watson brought him. [Priess, 2016, pp. 244] He will still be in his office receiving his intelligence briefing when the Pentagon is attacked (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 130; Vogel, 2007, pp. 438-439]

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 (Shortly 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.

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]

Representative Christopher Cox (R-CA) will later claim he is still meeting with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at this time. They are still discussing missile defense, apparently completely oblivious of the approaching Flight 77. Watching television coverage from New York City, Rumsfeld says to Cox: “Believe me, this isn’t over yet. There’s going to be another attack, and it could be us.” According to the Daily Telegraph, Flight 77 hits the building “moments later.” [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001] In another telling, Cox will claim that Rumsfeld says: “If we remain vulnerable to missile attack, a terrorist group or rogue state that demonstrates the capacity to strike the US or its allies from long range could have the power to hold our entire country hostage to nuclear or other blackmail. And let me tell you, I’ve been around the block a few times. There will be another event.” Rumsfeld repeats this sentence for emphasis. According to Cox, “Within minutes of that utterance, Rumsfeld’s words proved tragically prophetic.” Cox also claims, “I escaped just minutes before the building was hit.” [Office of Representative Christopher Cox, 9/11/2001] However, Rumsfeld will claim that this meeting with Cox ended before the second World Trade Center crash, which occurred at 9:03 a.m. Cox himself will say that after being told of that crash, “[Rumsfeld] sped off, as did I.” Cox will say he immediately headed to his car, making it impossible for him to still be in the Pentagon “just minutes before” it is hit. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001] Another account will put Rumsfeld’s “I’ve been around the block a few times. There will be another event” comment two minutes before the first WTC crash at 8:46 a.m., when Rumsfeld reportedly made other predictive comments. [Associated Press, 9/16/2001]

According to most accounts, at the time the Pentagon is hit, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is in his office on the third floor of the Pentagon’s outer E Ring, receiving his daily intelligence briefing. [New York Times, 9/12/2001; Woodward, 2002, pp. 24; 9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004; Clarke, 2006, pp. 221; Cockburn, 2007, pp. 1; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 130; Vogel, 2007, pp. 438-439] As he later recalls, “the building shook and the tables jumped.” [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 130] Although he has been informed of the two aircraft hitting the World Trade Center (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he supposedly does not initially suspect a plane has hit the Pentagon, thinking instead that a bomb has gone off. [ABC News, 9/16/2001; MSNBC, 9/30/2001; Washington Post, 1/9/2002] In his nearby office, Rumsfeld’s senior military assistant Vice Admiral Edmund Giambastiani Jr. also hears the explosion, and walks through his doorway toward Rumsfeld’s office. As the two meet, Rumsfeld asks Giambastiani, “What the hell’s happening?” [American Forces Press Service, 9/8/2006; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 130] Rumsfeld then looks out his window but, he later recalls, sees “nothing here.” [Parade Magazine, 10/12/2001; Washington Post, 1/9/2002] He goes into the hallway and, accompanied by his security guards, hurries toward the crash site (see 9:38 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 130] However, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will later contradict these accounts. Clarke indicates that Rumsfeld has been participating in the video teleconference conducted from the White House Situation Room since shortly after the second WTC crash (see (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He claims that Rumsfeld is still involved in this conference at the time the Pentagon is hit, and he tells his deputy, “I can still see Rumsfeld on the screen, so the whole building didn’t get hit.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 2-3 and 7-8] If Clarke’s account were correct, this would presumably mean Rumsfeld is in the Pentagon’s Executive Support Center (ESC), which has secure video facilities, rather than in his office. [Washington Times, 2/23/2004] But according to other accounts, Rumsfeld does not go to the ESC until around 10:15 a.m., after he returns from the crash site (see (10:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Clarke, 2006, pp. 221; Cockburn, 2007, pp. 1-5]

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld heads for the crash site immediately after the Pentagon is hit. At the time of the attack, Rumsfeld is in his office proceeding with his regularly scheduled CIA briefing, despite being aware of the two attacks on the World Trade Center earlier on. Waiting outside his door is Officer Aubrey Davis of the Pentagon police, who is assigned to the defense secretary’s personal bodyguard and has come of his own initiative to move Rumsfeld to a better-protected location. According to Davis, there is “an incredibly loud ‘boom,’” as the Pentagon is struck. Just 15 or 20 seconds later, Rumsfeld walks out of his door looking composed, having already put on the jacket he normally discards when in his office. Davis informs him there is a report of an airplane hitting a section of the Pentagon known as the Mall. Rumsfeld sets off without saying anything or informing any of his command staff where he is going, and heads swiftly toward the Mall. Davis accompanies him, as does Rumsfeld’s other security guard Gilbert Oldach, his communications officer, and the deputy director of security for the secretary’s office. Finding no sign of damage at the Mall, Davis tells Rumsfeld, “[N]ow we’re hearing it’s by the heliport,” which is along the next side of the building. Despite Davis’s protests that he should head back, Rumsfeld continues onward, and they go outside near where the crash occurred. [Cockburn, 2007, pp. 1-2; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 130; Democracy Now!, 3/7/2007] The Pentagon was hit on the opposite site of the huge building to Rumsfeld’s office. [Reuters, 9/11/2001] Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Victoria Clarke will say that Rumsfeld is “one of the first people” to arrive at the crash scene. [KYW Radio 1060 (Philadelphia), 9/15/2001] He spends a brief time there (see Between 9:38 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. September 11, 2001), before returning to the building by about 10:00 a.m., according to his own account (see (10:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004] Rumsfeld will later justify his actions following the attack, saying, “I was going, which seemed to me perfectly logically, towards the scene of the accident to see what could be done and what had happened.” [US Department of Defense, 8/12/2002] As journalist Andrew Cockburn will point out, though, “[T]he country was under attack and yet the secretary of defense disappears for 20 minutes.” [C-SPAN, 2/25/2007] John Jester, the chief of the Defense Protective Service, which guards the Pentagon, will criticize Rumsfeld for heading to the crash scene at this time. He will say: “One of my officers tried to stop him and he just brushed him off. I told [Rumsfeld’s] staff that he should not have done that. He is in the national command authority; he should not have gone to the scene.” [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 10/19/2001 pdf file] The numerous reports of Rumsfeld going outside to the crash scene are apparently contradicted by counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke. In his 2004 book Against All Enemies, Clarke will give the impression that Rumsfeld never leaves a video conference for very long after the Pentagon is hit, except to move from one secure teleconferencing studio to another elsewhere in the Pentagon. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 7-9] However, video footage confirms that Rumsfeld does indeed go to the crash site. [CNN, 8/17/2002]

Stephen Cambone.Stephen Cambone. [Source: US Department of Defense]Immediately after the Pentagon was hit, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld left his office and headed to the crash scene (see 9:38 a.m. September 11, 2001). For the 20 minutes or so that he is gone, others are desperately trying to contact him. Among those seeking Rumsfeld are Stephen Cambone, his closest aide, who is currently in the Pentagon’s Executive Support Center (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), and also the National Military Command Center (see 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). Officer Aubrey Davis of the Pentagon police, who is accompanying Rumsfeld, is receiving frantic calls over his radio saying, “Where’s the secretary? Where’s the secretary?” Davis is unable to answer these requests. He later recalls, “I kept saying, ‘We’ve got him,’ but the system was overloaded, everyone on the frequency was talking, everything jumbled, so I couldn’t get through and they went on asking.” A senior White House official, who is in its Situation Room trying to coordinate a response to the attacks, will later angrily condemn Rumsfeld for having been out of touch during such a critical period. He says, “What was Rumsfeld doing on 9/11? He deserted his post. He disappeared. The country was under attack. Where was the guy who controls America’s defense? Out of touch! How long does it take for something bad to happen? No one knew what was happening. What if this had been the opening shot of a coordinated attack by a hostile power? Outrageous, to abandon your responsibilities and go off and do what you don’t need to be doing, grandstanding.” [Cockburn, 2007, pp. 2-4; C-SPAN, 2/25/2007]

This picture of Rumsfeld (center), taken from the US Army website, is captioned, “Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld returns to Pentagon inner offices Tuesday morning after surveying the damage from the hijacked plane which crashed into the building moments before.” This contradicts his claim that he was helping victims for nearly an hour after the attack. However, there is video footage of Rumsfeld helping a person on a stretcher and it is not known when this picture is taken exactly.This picture of Rumsfeld (center), taken from the US Army website, is captioned, “Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld returns to Pentagon inner offices Tuesday morning after surveying the damage from the hijacked plane which crashed into the building moments before.” This contradicts his claim that he was helping victims for nearly an hour after the attack. However, there is video footage of Rumsfeld helping a person on a stretcher and it is not known when this picture is taken exactly. [Source: US Army]Captain Charles Leidig, a deputy who is temporarily in charge of the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center (NMCC), is handling the NMCC’s crisis teleconference. He opens the call saying, “An air attack against North America may be in progress.” He mentions reports of a crash into the opposite side of the Pentagon, and requests that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld be added to the conference. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004 pdf file] Rumsfeld has a crucial role to play in coordinating the military response to an attack on the US. According to journalist and author Andrew Cockburn, since the Cold War, “In an age when an enemy attack might allow only a few minutes for detection and reaction, control of American military power became vested in the National Command Authority, which consists of the president and the secretary of defense. Collectively, the NCA is the ultimate source of military orders, uniquely empowered, among other things, to order the use of nuclear weapons. In time of war, therefore, Rumsfeld was effectively the president’s partner, the direct link to the fighting forces, and all orders had to go through him. Such orders were supposed to be transmitted from… the National Military Command Center.” Cockburn adds that the NMCC is “the operational center for any and every crisis, from nuclear war to hijacked airliners.” Yet, rather than join the NMCC conference, Rumsfeld has already gone out of the Pentagon to see the crash site, without telling any of his command staff where he was going, and remains out of contact for some time (see Between 9:38 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). Therefore, a few minutes after Leidig makes his request, Rumsfeld’s office will report back that he is nowhere to be found. Cockburn concludes, “The chain of command was broken.” [Cockburn, 2007, pp. 4-5; Democracy Now!, 3/7/2007] It is unknown whether Rumsfeld has a cell phone or pager on him, and if so, why he cannot be reached.

Rumsfeld show on a video broadcast on CNN helping carry a stretcher shortly after the Pentagon attack. He is in the center of the picture, wearing a dark jacket.Rumsfeld show on a video broadcast on CNN helping carry a stretcher shortly after the Pentagon attack. He is in the center of the picture, wearing a dark jacket. [Source: CNN]Within seconds of the Pentagon being hit, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld rushed out of his office and headed toward the crash scene (see 9:38 a.m. September 11, 2001). According to Officer Aubrey Davis, who is currently accompanying Rumsfeld as his bodyguard, when they reach the site, “There were the flames, and bits of metal all around. The secretary picked up one of the pieces of metal. I was telling him he shouldn’t be interfering with a crime scene when he looked at some inscription on it and said, ‘American Airlines.’” According to Rumsfeld, a person who’d seen the attack on the Pentagon informs him a plane had flown into it. Rumsfeld later recalls: “I saw people on the grass, and we just, we tried to put them in stretchers and then move them out across the grass towards the road and lifted them over a jersey wall so the people on that side could stick them into the ambulances. I was out there for a while, and then people started gathering, and we were able to get other people to do that, to hold IVs for people. There were people lying on the grass with clothes blown off and burns all over them.” [Parade Magazine, 10/12/2001; Cockburn, 2007, pp. 1-2] Versions of this story will appear elsewhere. [Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 9/12/2001; US Department of Defense, 12/5/2001; ABC News, 9/11/2002; Vanity Fair, 5/9/2003] Video footage confirms that Rumsfeld helps carry a stretcher at the crash scene. [CNN, 8/17/2002] One report will even describe him pulling budget analyst Paul Gonzales to safety from the burning wreckage. [Daily Telegraph, 9/16/2001] However, Gonzales later offers his own detailed recollections of pulling other people to safety, which fail to involve Rumsfeld in any way. [Washington Post, 3/11/2002] Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Victoria Clarke will say Rumsfeld is gone from the building for “about half an hour.” [WBZ Radio 1030 (Boston), 9/15/2001] A Pentagon spokesperson has Rumsfeld helping at the crash site for “15 minutes or so.” [Reuters, 9/11/2001] Another account will claim he loads the wounded onto stretchers for 15 minutes. [Scripps Howard News Service, 9/11/2001] However, considering the time it would have taken to walk to the crash site—each side of the enormous Pentagon is the length of three football fields—journalist Andrew Cockburn later concludes that Rumsfeld could only have been at the crash scene for a brief period. [Cockburn, 2007, pp. 3] Rumsfeld reportedly heads back into the Pentagon at the urging of a security agent, though in an interview soon after 9/11 he will claim the decision to go back inside was his own, saying, “I decided I should be in [the building] figuring out what to do, because your brain begins to connect things, and there were enough people there to worry about that.” [Parade Magazine, 10/12/2001; Washington Post, 1/27/2002] He tells the 9/11 Commission, “I was back in the Pentagon with a crisis action team shortly before or after 10:00 a.m.” (see (10:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004] While Rumsfeld is at the crash scene, others are frantically trying to get in touch with him but are unable to do so (see (9:38 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s office, and acting Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers’ office, report to the NMCC teleconference that they are still trying to track down Rumsfeld and Myers, respectively, and bring them into the conference. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Rumsfeld is apparently outside the Pentagon looking at the Flight 77 crash site (see Between 9:38 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. September 11, 2001), though counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke suggests Rumsfeld is elsewhere in the Pentagon for much of the time (see (Between 9:38 a.m. and 9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Myers’ whereabouts in the period after the Pentagon crash have not been fully explained (see (Between 9:55 a.m. and 10:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Rumsfeld and Myers do not enter the NMCC until about 10:30 a.m. (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld returns from the Pentagon crash site “by shortly before or after 10:00 a.m.” Then he has “one or more calls in my office, one of which was with the president,” according to his testimony before the 9/11 Commission. [9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004] The commission later concludes that Rumsfeld’s call with President Bush has little impact: “No one can recall any content beyond a general request to alert forces.” The possibility of shooting down hijacked planes is not mentioned. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Rumsfeld then goes to the Executive Support Center (ESC) located near his office, arriving there at around 10:15 a.m. In the ESC already are Stephen Cambone, Rumsfeld’s closest aide, Larry Di Rita, Rumsfeld’s personal chief of staff, and Victoria Clarke, the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. Rumsfeld had instructed Di Rita and Clarke to go to the ESC and wait for him there when they’d come to his office soon after the second WTC tower was hit at 9:03 A.M. (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Presently, Rumsfeld gives them their first confirmation that a plane hit the Pentagon, saying, “I’m quite sure it was a plane and I’m pretty sure it’s a large plane.” According to Clarke, he pulls out a yellow legal pad and writes down three categories, “by which his thinking would be organized the rest of the day: what we needed to do immediately, what would have to be underway quickly, and what the military response would be.” [Clarke, 2006, pp. 221-222; Cockburn, 2007, pp. 5-6] The Executive Support Center has secure video facilities, and while there, Rumsfeld participates in the White House video teleconference. This is the video conference that counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke claims Rumsfeld is a part of much of the morning (see (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Then at around 10:30 a.m., he moves on to the National Military Command Center NMCC, located next door to the ESC (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Times, 2/23/2004; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 43-44] Those in the NMCC are apparently unaware of Rumsfeld’s whereabouts during the half-hour from 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.: Brigadier General Montague Winfield later recalls, “For 30 minutes we couldn’t find him. And just as we began to worry, he walked into the door of the [NMCC].” [ABC News, 9/11/2002]

Just after President Bush authorizes the military to shoot down threatening aircraft, he speaks with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about this, according to some accounts. According to the Washington Post, Bush gave the shootdown authorization after taking off on Air Force One (see (Shortly After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He then talks “to Rumsfeld to clarify the procedures military pilots should follow in trying to force an unresponsive plane to the ground before opening fire on it. First, pilots would seek to make radio contact with the other plane and tell the pilot to land at a specific location. If that failed, the pilots were to use visual signals. These included having the fighters fly in front of the other plane. If the plane continued heading toward what was seen as a significant target with apparently hostile intent, the US pilot would have the authority to shoot it down.” [Washington Post, 1/27/2002] Journalist and author Bill Sammon will give a similar account, saying that, having spoken with Vice President Dick Cheney soon after Air Force One took off, Bush “then explained the shootdown order to Donald Rumsfeld, who was at the still-burning Pentagon.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 102] The 9/11 Commission will concur that the “president apparently spoke to Secretary Rumsfeld for the first time… shortly after 10:00.” However, contradicting earlier accounts, it will say, “No one can recall the content of this conversation, but it was a brief call in which the subject of shootdown authority was not discussed” (see (10:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to the Commission, furthermore, the phone call between Bush and Cheney where the president gives the shootdown authorization is not until 10:18 (see 10:18 a.m.-10:20 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 41 and 43] Bush’s senior adviser Karl Rove, who is on Air Force One with the president, will also say this critical call occurs “at about 10:20,” and add that, after it, Bush reports that he has just talked to Rumsfeld as well as Cheney. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] Rumsfeld will indicate he first learns that shootdown authorization has been given from Cheney rather than Bush, telling the 9/11 Commission that the vice president “informed me of the president’s authorization to shoot down hostile aircraft” over the air threat conference call. [9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004] The conversation he is referring to does not occur until 10:39 a.m. (see 10:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 43]

US military installations are placed on the highest state of alert, known as Force Protection Condition Delta (FPCON Delta), in response to the terrorist attacks in New York and at the Pentagon. The raised threat level applies to every US military installation across the country and around the world, and every member of the US armed forces. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001] Measures that are taken once FPCON Delta has been declared include placing more guards on duty at installations, having all vehicles on installations identified, and having all personnel positively identified. Additionally, all suitcases, briefcases, and packages brought into an installation must be searched. [Slate, 9/12/2001]
Rumsfeld and Myers Decide to Raise FPCON - The decision to raise the force protection condition is apparently made by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and/or acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers. Rumsfeld will tell the 9/11 Commission that after he arrives at the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center (NMCC) (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he and Myers “discussed, and I recommended… increasing the force protection level.” [9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004] Myers will later write that after he arrives at the NMCC (see (Between 9:55 a.m. and 10:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he “recommended that all American military commands and units worldwide go to [FPCON] Delta.” He will add: “Terrorists had staged major attacks in New York and Washington. Although we did not yet have reliable intelligence on when and where they would strike next, it seemed likely that they would.” [Myers, 2009, pp. 153] But White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke will write that he gave the instruction to raise the force protection condition, at around 9:30 a.m. (see (9:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Clarke, 2004, pp. 5-6]
Conflicting Times Given for Raising of FPCON - The exact time at which the force protection condition is raised is unclear. CNN’s Barbara Starr will report that “all US military forces [are] ordered to Condition Delta” at 10:10 a.m. [CNN, 9/4/2002] However, other evidence indicates the force protection condition is raised at a later time, around 10:35 a.m. Rumsfeld only enters the NMCC at about 10:30 a.m., indicating it is raised after that time. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 43-44] And at 10:38 a.m., after Vice President Dick Cheney asks him on the air threat conference call if US forces are on “heightened alert,” Rumsfeld will reply, “Yes,” and say they are at FPCON Delta. [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file]
Some Areas Already at FPCON Delta - Although the entire US military is now under the same FPCON level, usually, different locations can have different FPCON levels. [Slate, 9/12/2001] US forces in some parts of the world, particularly the Middle East and the Persian Gulf region, are in fact already at FPCON Delta. [New York Times, 9/12/2001] (The force protection condition was raised in those areas in late June, after intelligence reports suggested that terrorists might attack American military or civilian targets in the region (see June 21, 2001). [Los Angeles Times, 6/23/2001; National Public Radio, 5/23/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 257] ) Shortly after the force protection condition is raised, Rumsfeld will order that the defense readiness condition also be raised (see (10:43 a.m.-10:52 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326, 554]
Five Possible Force Protection Conditions - The force protection condition is a “chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff-approved standard for identification of, and recommended responses to, terrorist threats against US personnel and facilities,” according to the Department of Defense. [US Department of Defense, 11/8/2011 pdf file] It was created in June 2001 and replaced the “terrorist threat condition,” or “Threatcon.” [Los Angeles Times, 1/22/2002] There are five possible force protection conditions. The lowest, FPCON Normal, means no threat of terrorist activity is present. The other conditions are Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, up to the highest, FPCON Delta, which means a terrorist attack has occurred or intelligence has been received indicating that action against a specific location is likely. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Slate, 9/12/2001]

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, missing for at least 30 minutes, finally enters the NMCC, where the military’s response to the 9/11 attacks is being coordinated. [CNN, 9/4/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Rumsfeld later claims that he only started to gain a situational awareness of what was happening after arriving at the NMCC. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Rumsfeld was in his office only 200 feet away from the NMCC until the Pentagon crash at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). His activities during this period are unclear. He went outside to the Flight 77 crash site and then stayed somewhere else in the Pentagon until his arrival at the NMCC. Brigadier General Montague Winfield later says, “For 30 minutes we couldn’t find him. And just as we began to worry, he walked into the door of the [NMCC].” [ABC News, 9/11/2002] Winfield himself apparently only shows up at the NMCC around 10:30 a.m. as well.

After he finally arrives at the National Military Command Center in the Pentagon (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Donald Rumsfeld’s primary concern, according to the 9/11 Commission, is “ensuring that the [military fighter] pilots [have] a clear understanding of their rules of engagement.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 44] Rumsfeld later recalls, “It was clear they needed rules of engagement telling them what they should and should not do. They needed clarity. And there were no rules of engagement on the books for this first-time situation where civilian aircraft were seized and were being used as missiles.” By this time, the president has supposedly already given authorization for the military to shoot down hijacked aircraft (see (Between 10:00 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and Dick Cheney informs Rumsfeld of this over the air threat conference at 10:39 (see 10:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). Rumsfeld says that, “Throughout the course of the day,” along with acting Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers, he “returned to further refine those rules.” [9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004] As journalist Andrew Cockburn will later remark though, Rumsfeld’s work on the rules of engagement “was an irrelevant exercise for he did not complete and issue them until 1:00 p.m., hours after the last hijacker had died.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 465; Cockburn, 2007, pp. 7]

Vice President Dick Cheney tries to bring Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld up to date over the National Military Command Center’s (NMCC) conference call (see 9:29 a.m.-9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001), as Rumsfeld arrived at the NMCC just minutes earlier (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Cheney explains that he has given authorization for hijacked planes to be shot down and that this has been passed on to the fighter pilots. Rumsfeld asks, “So we’ve got a couple of aircraft up there that have those instructions at the present time?” Cheney replies: “That is correct. And it’s my understanding they’ve already taken a couple of aircraft out.” Then Rumsfeld says: “We can’t confirm that. We’re told that one aircraft is down but we do not have a pilot report that they did it.” Cheney is incorrect about his authorization having reached the pilots (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld refuses to leave the Pentagon, despite the smoke leaking into the National Military Command Center (NMCC) where he is currently working, the danger of a second attack on the Pentagon, and a White House request to begin implementing Continuity of Government (COG) measures. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 132] After being out of touch with his colleagues at the Pentagon since the time of the attack there (see (9:38 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001), Rumsfeld finally entered the NMCC at around 10:30 a.m. (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 43-44; Cockburn, 2007, pp. 2-6] It is now noticed that smoke is seeping into the center. With people beginning to cough, aides suggest Rumsfeld should leave the building, but he is uninterested in their advice. Even when they warn that the smoke might be toxic, he still ignores them. Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, tells him he should leave the Pentagon. But Rumsfeld instead orders Wolfowitz to leave the NMCC and fly to Site R, the alternate command center outside Washington (see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to journalist and author Steve Vogel, this is “contrary to the established Continuity of Government plan, which called for the secretary of defense to relocate to the alternate command center.… The secretary figured the 45 minutes to an hour it would take to evacuate to Site R would leave him out of touch for too long.” Rumsfeld will later explain: “That’s life. That’s what deputies are for.” [Vogel, 2007, pp. 441]

The US military’s defense readiness condition is raised from Defcon 5, the lowest possible level, to Defcon 3, an intermediate level that requires a heightened alert status for US armed forces worldwide, and which is the highest the defense readiness condition has been for 28 years. [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 7/18/2002 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326, 554; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 131; Rumsfeld, 2011, pp. 338]
Rumsfeld Recommends Raising Defcon - The decision to go to Defcon 3 is reportedly made by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. [US Department of Defense, 8/12/2002] Rumsfeld will later recall that after he arrives at the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center (NMCC) (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he talks with General Richard Myers, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and “[w]e discussed and I recommended raising the defense condition level from five to three.” [9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004]
Teleconference Participants Told to 'Hold Off' on Defcon 3 - Rumsfeld directs that the US military go to Defcon 3. At 10:43 a.m., it is announced on the air threat conference call that the secretary of defense “has directed that we go to Defcon 3 and be prepared to go to [Defcon] 2.” However, a minute later, Rumsfeld talks to Vice President Dick Cheney on the conference call, and Cheney says he will have to run the decision to go to Defcon 3 by the president, “and let him make the call.” Therefore, at 10:45 a.m., those on the conference call are told to “hold off on Defcon 3.”
Order to Raise Defcon Reinstated - But Rumsfeld believes raising the defense readiness condition is urgent. [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326, 554] There is therefore a “historical discussion about how the move to Defcon 3 went during previous crises, Cuba specifically [i.e. the Cuban missile crisis in 1962],” Captain Charles Leidig, who is also in the NMCC, will later recall. With their reference being “a book on the shelf,” according to Leidig, Myers is shown that he has “approval authority to go to Defcon 3.” [9/11 Commission, 4/29/2004 pdf file] After consulting Defense Department directives, Rumsfeld concludes that he has the authority to issue the order to raise the defense readiness condition. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554] Therefore, at 10:46 a.m., those on the air threat conference call are told: “Override last instructions. The vice chairman [i.e. Myers] is directing we go to Defcon 3.” A few minutes later, an announcement is made on the conference call, “Emergency action message released at 14:52 [Zulu time, i.e. 10:52 a.m. Eastern time], re: Defcon 3.” [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 2004]
Raising Defcon Is a 'Huge Move' - Rumsfeld will later agree with an interviewer that raising the defense readiness condition is “a very serious step for the nation.” [US Department of Defense, 8/12/2002] It was last raised to Defcon 3 during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, when Rumsfeld had been the United States ambassador to NATO. Regarding the decision to raise it, Myers tells Rumsfeld, “It’s a huge move, but it’s appropriate.” [US Department of Defense, 1/9/2002; Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 pdf file; Rumsfeld, 2011, pp. 338]
President Later Told of Decision - The decision to go to Defcon 3 will soon be communicated within NORAD (see 11:03 a.m.-11:12 a.m. September11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2003; 9/11 Commission, 2004; 9/11 Commission, 2/3/2004 pdf file] Rumsfeld will brief President Bush on the decision (see (11:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554; Bush, 2010, pp. 133] Apparently around the time the defense readiness condition is raised, Rumsfeld and/or Myers also decide to raise the force protection condition of US military installations (see (Between 10:10 a.m. and 10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004; Myers, 2009, pp. 153]
Defcon 3 Intended for Cold War - Some individuals will later be critical of the decision to raise the defense readiness condition at this time. John Farmer, the senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission, will write that Defcon 3 is in fact “a Cold War-era designation, devised to respond to a nuclear threat.” [Farmer, 2009, pp. 235] According to Farmer and other 9/11 Commission staffers, it is “suited more to a Cold War conflict than to al-Qaeda’s attack.” [Rutgers Law Review, 9/7/2011 pdf file] General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD, will similarly say that Defcon 3 is “not intended for [events like] the attacks of 9/11 and thus could have complicated the response to the attacks.” He will say he does not think that raising the condition would have “done anything for us” within the continental United States. [9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004 pdf file]
Defcons Are Phased Increases in Combat Readiness - The defense readiness condition is a “uniform system of progressive alert postures for use between the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the commanders of unified and specified commands, and for use by the [armed] services,” according to the Department of Defense. [US Department of Defense, 11/8/2011 pdf file] Defcons are phased increases in combat readiness and are graduated to match situations of varying military severity. They are numbered, from Defcon 5, which means “normal peacetime readiness,” down to Defcon 1, which means “maximum force readiness.” The current level, Defcon 3, represents an “increase in force readiness above normal readiness.” [Federation of American Scientists, 4/29/1998] The defense readiness condition will remain at Defcon 3 until three days later, when it will be reduced one notch, to Defcon 4 (see September 14, 2001). [Washington Post, 1/30/2002]

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld speaks with President Bush, and they discuss the rules of engagement for fighter pilots and Rumsfeld’s decision to raise the defense readiness condition to Defcon 3. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 465, 554] Rumsfeld is in the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon and Bush is on board Air Force One, flying toward Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. [9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004; St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] After Rumsfeld entered the NMCC at around 10:30 a.m. (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he had been concerned with ensuring that fighter pilots defending US airspace have a clear understanding of their rules of engagement, so they know “what they could and could not do” (see (10:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 43-44] He also directed that the nation’s armed forces go to Defcon 3, an increased state of military readiness (see (10:43 a.m.-10:52 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 131]
President Approves Decision to Raise Defcon - Rumsfeld now speaks with Bush and, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, tells him that the Department of Defense is “working on refining the rules of engagement, so pilots would have a better understanding of the circumstances under which an aircraft could be shot down.” Also at this time, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, Rumsfeld briefs Bush on his decision to raise the defense readiness condition to Defcon 3. When Rumsfeld ordered that the condition be raised, Vice President Dick Cheney told him to run the issue by the president; Rumsfeld replied that he would “call him shortly.” [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 465, 554] Bush gives Rumsfeld his approval for having raised the defense readiness condition. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; Bush, 2010, pp. 133]
Defense Readiness Condition Possibly Discussed at Later Time - Although the 9/11 Commission Report will say Rumsfeld and Bush’s discussion of the defense readiness condition occurs at 11:15 a.m., in his 2010 book Decision Points, Bush will write that he approves Rumsfeld’s decision when he speaks to Rumsfeld from the office of Lieutenant General Thomas Keck at Barksdale Air Force Base. [Bush, 2010, pp. 133] If correct, this would mean the relevant phone call takes place sometime after 12:11 p.m., when Bush goes to Keck’s office (see (12:11 p.m.-1:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 112-113; American History, 10/2006 pdf file]

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

From Barksdale Air Force Base, President Bush speaks with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld informs the president that it had been an American Airlines plane that hit the Pentagon. Previously, there had been a question as to whether it was hit by a smaller plane or a helicopter. [New Yorker, 9/25/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 116] Rumsfeld also tells Bush, “This is not a criminal action. This is war.” Washington Times reporter Rowan Scarborough later reflects, “Rumsfeld’s instant declaration of war… took America from the Clinton administration’s view that terrorism was a criminal matter to the Bush administration’s view that terrorism was a global enemy to be destroyed.” [Washington Times, 2/23/2004] Bush reportedly tells Rumsfeld that there will “be a counterattack and that the military [will] not be hamstrung by politics the way it had been in Vietnam.” He says to Rumsfeld, “It’s a day of national tragedy and we’ll clean up the mess. And then the ball will be in your court and [incoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] Dick Myers’s court to respond.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 116]

Two sections from Rumsfeld’s notes, dictated to Stephen Cambone.Two sections from Rumsfeld’s notes, dictated to Stephen Cambone. [Source: Defense Department]Defense Secretary Rumsfeld aide Stephen Cambone is taking notes on behalf of Rumsfeld in the National Military Command Center. These notes will be leaked to the media nearly a year later. According to the notes, although Rumsfeld has already been given information indicating the 9/11 attacks were done by al-Qaeda (see 12:05 p.m. September 11, 2001) and he has been given no evidence so far indicating any Iraqi involvement, he is more interested in blaming the attacks on Iraq. According to his aide’s notes, Rumsfeld wants the “best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] at same time. Not only UBL [Osama bin Laden].… Need to move swiftly.… Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.” [CBS News, 9/4/2002; Bamford, 2004, pp. 285] In a 2004 book, author James Moore will write, “Unless Rumsfeld had an inspired moment while the rest of the nation was in shock, the notes are irrefutable proof that the Bush administration had designs on Iraq and Hussein well before the president raised his hand to take the oath of office.” [Moore, 3/15/2004, pp. 18]

President Bush takes part in a video teleconference at Offutt Air Force Base. Chief of Staff Andrew Card sits on his left, and Admiral Richard Mies sits on his left. President Bush takes part in a video teleconference at Offutt Air Force Base. Chief of Staff Andrew Card sits on his left, and Admiral Richard Mies sits on his left. [Source: White House]At Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, President Bush convenes the first meeting of the National Security Council since the attacks occurred. [Woodward, 2002, pp. 26] He begins the video conference call from a bunker beneath the base. He and Chief of Staff Andrew Card visually communicate directly with Vice President Cheney, National Security Adviser Rice, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, CIA Director Tenet, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, and others. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; ABC News, 9/11/2002; Washington Times, 10/8/2002] According to Clarke, Bush begins the meeting by saying, “I’m coming back to the White House as soon as the plane is fueled. No discussion.” But according to Condoleezza Rice, he begins with the words, “We’re at war.” Clarke leads a quick review of what has already occurred, and issues that need to be quickly addressed. Bush asks CIA Director Tenet who he thinks is responsible for the day’s attacks. Tenet later recalls, “I told him the same thing I had told the vice president several hours earlier: al-Qaeda. The whole operation looked, smelled, and tasted like bin Laden.” Tenet tells Bush that passenger manifests show that three known al-Qaeda operatives had been on Flight 77. According to Tenet, when he tells the president in particular about Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar (two of the alleged Flight 77 hijackers), Bush gives Mike Morell, his CIA briefer, “one of those ‘I thought I was supposed to be the first to know’ looks.” (Other evidence indicates the third al-Qaeda operative whose name is on the passenger manifest would be Salem Alhazmi (see 9:53 p.m. September 11, 2001).) Tenet tells the meeting that al-Qaeda is “the only terrorist organization capable of such spectacular, well-coordinated attacks,” and that “Intelligence monitoring had overheard a number of known bin Laden operatives congratulating each other after the attacks. Information collected days earlier but only now being translated indicated that various known operatives around the world anticipated a big event. None specified the day, time, place or method of attack.” Richard Clarke later corroborates that Tenet had at this time told the president he was certain that al-Qaeda was to blame. Yet only six weeks later, in an October 24, 2001 interview, Rice will claim differently. She will say, “In the first video conference, the assumption that everybody kind of shared was that it was global terrorists.… I don’t believe anybody said this is likely al-Qaeda. I don’t think so.” Tenet also relays a warning the CIA has received from French intelligence, saying another group of terrorists is within US borders and is preparing a second wave of attacks. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld briefs on the status of US forces, and states that about 120 fighters are now above US cities. [Woodward, 2002, pp. 26-27; Clarke, 2004, pp. 21-22; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326 and 554; Tenet, 2007, pp. 169] The meeting reportedly ends around 4:00-4:15 p.m. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Washington Times, 10/8/2002]

A US Airways airliner.A US Airways airliner. [Source: Public domain]A US Airways plane that is flying to the United States from Madrid, Spain, is incorrectly suspected of being hijacked. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; White House, 10/24/2001] It is stated over an FAA teleconference that the White House has reported this suspicious aircraft, which is heading to Philadelphia International Airport, and the military is scrambling fighter jets in response to it. [Federal Aviation Administration, 1/2/2002 pdf file] NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) was alerted to the plane by US Customs and the FBI, according to a NORAD representative on the Pentagon’s air threat conference call (see 9:37 a.m.-9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). NORAD has been unable to locate the aircraft on radar, according to the NORAD representative. [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001] Accounts conflict over whether the plane is US Airways Flight 930 or Flight 937. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 1/2/2002 pdf file]
Plane Is Reportedly Transmitting the Hijack Signal - Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, who is in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, will later recall that when those in the PEOC learn of the suspect flight, “we got word that it was only 30 minutes or so outside of US airspace.” According to Libby, the plane’s transponder is transmitting the code for a hijacking: He will say it is reported that the flight has been “showing hijacking through some electronic signal.” [White House, 11/14/2001] However, according to the NORAD representative on the air threat conference call, the plane’s transponder has not been “squawking” the code for a hijacking. “We do not have squawk indication at this point,” he has said.
Plane Is Reportedly Diverted to Pittsburgh - An FAA representative on the air threat conference call apparently says an e-mail has been sent from the suspicious aircraft, stating that the plane is being diverted to Pittsburgh, although the FAA representative’s communications are distorted and therefore unclear. [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001]
President Says Fighters Can Shoot Down the Plane - President Bush discusses the suspicious US Airways flight with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld over the air threat conference call after landing at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001) and Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR), listens in. [Filson, 2003, pp. 87-88] Rumsfeld wants Bush to confirm that fighters are authorized to shoot down the plane if it is considered a threat to a city in the US. “The reason I called… was just to verify that your authorization for the use of force would apply as well in this situation,” he says. Bush replies, “It does, but let us make sure that the fighters and you on the ground get all the facts.” [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001]
Plane Is on the Ground in Spain - After a time, it will be found that the plane is not a threat and is on the ground in Spain. Arnold will be called by Colonel Robert Marr, the battle commander at NEADS, and told, “We just talked to the airline and that aircraft is back on the ground in Madrid.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 88] According to Libby, “It turned out that, I think, it was only 35 minutes out of Spanish airspace, not out of our airspace.” [White House, 11/14/2001] Reggie Settles, the FAA representative at NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center in Colorado, will be informed by US Airways that Flight 937 in fact never existed. However, he will be told, there is a US Airways Flight 911, which “took off from Madrid,” but “has turned back and returned to Madrid,” and “is not en route to the United States.” [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001]
President Decides to Leave Offutt after the Concerns Are Resolved - After he learns that the suspicious plane is back in Spain, Arnold will pick up the hot line and tell Bush: “Mr. President, this is the CONR commander.… No problem with Madrid.” According to Arnold, Bush will reply, “Okay, then I’m getting airborne.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 88] Bush will take off from Offutt aboard Air Force One at around 4:30 p.m. (see (4:33 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/12/2001] Numerous aircraft are incorrectly suspected of being hijacked on this day (see (9:09 a.m. and After) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 28; Newhouse News Service, 3/31/2005] The US Airways flight from Madrid is the last of these, according to Arnold. [Code One Magazine, 1/2002]

White House adviser Karen Hughes briefly speaks to the media and says President Bush is at an undisclosed location, taking part in a video conference. This is possibly the only in-person media appearance by any Bush administration official since the attacks and until a news conference by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld at 6:40 p.m. [CNN, 9/12/2001]

Donald Rumsfeld speaking at his 6:42 p.m. news briefing. Behind the secretary of defense, left to right, are Thomas White, Henry Shelton, John Warner, and Carl Levin.Donald Rumsfeld speaking at his 6:42 p.m. news briefing. Behind the secretary of defense, left to right, are Thomas White, Henry Shelton, John Warner, and Carl Levin. [Source: Bob Houlihan/US Navy]Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and four other senior officials give a news briefing at the Pentagon, which is broadcast live around the world, to reassure the public that the US government is still functioning and the nation is strong, and during the briefing Rumsfeld says that, despite the devastating attack there, the Pentagon will reopen the following day. [Government Executive, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; Giesemann, 2008, pp. 34; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 436] Joining Rumsfeld in the Pentagon press room to give the briefing are Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John Warner (R-VA), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the committee’s ranking minority member, respectively; General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who has returned to the US after his flight to Europe was aborted (see (8:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001); and Secretary of the Army Thomas White, who has come to the Pentagon from the alternate command location. [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 145] Levin and Warner called Rumsfeld earlier in the day, promising him their wholehearted support, and he had suggested they come over to the Pentagon. [Clarke, 2006, pp. 228]
Officials Addressing Millions of Americans - As Rumsfeld and the four other men stood outside the press room before the briefing, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Victoria Clarke informed them, “Gentlemen, you are about to address 320 million Americans who have witnessed an unspeakable tragedy today.” [Giesemann, 2008, pp. 34]
Pentagon 'Will Be in Business Tomorrow' - Rumsfeld begins the briefing, reading out a statement he has written by hand. He says, “This is a tragic day for our country,” and adds, “We have taken a series of measures to prevent further attacks and to determine who is responsible.” After summarizing some of the Defense Department’s actions throughout the day, Rumsfeld gives reassurance that the Pentagon is still up and running, pointing out that “the briefing here is taking place in the Pentagon. The Pentagon’s functioning,” and, he adds, “It will be in business tomorrow.” Shelton calls the day’s terrorist attacks “an outrageous act of barbaric terrorism carried out by fanatics,” and states, “I have no intentions of discussing today what comes next, but make no mistake about it, your armed forces are ready.”
'No Information' that Military Shot Down Any Aircraft - Rumsfeld takes a number of questions from reporters, but refuses to speculate about any uncertain information. When asked: “What about Osama bin Laden? Do you suspect him as the prime suspect in this?” Rumsfeld answers, “It’s not the time for discussions like that.” One reporter says, “[T]here were rumors earlier in the day that the plane which crashed in Pennsylvania had been brought down by the United States, either shot down or in some other manner,” to which Rumsfeld responds, “We have absolutely no information that any US aircraft shot down any other aircraft today.” [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001; Clarke, 2006, pp. 230-231]
Briefing Would Be a 'Powerful Statement' - The briefing has come about because Clarke felt earlier on that Rumsfeld should do a media briefing today and that, despite the objections of others, it should be conducted at the Pentagon, as this would be “the most powerful statement we could deliver that we were open for business.” Rumsfeld agreed with Clarke’s suggestion to hold such a briefing. [Clarke, 2006, pp. 229-230] Shelton will later recall that the feedback the briefing generates “by far surpassed any other I have ever received. The nation was obviously shaken and looking for reassurance that their government was still functioning.” [Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 436]

President Bush (below television screen) meeting with the National Security Council in a bunker below the White House. In the far row from left to right, are Attorney General Ashcroft, President Bush, Chief of Staff Card, CIA Director Tenet, and counterterrorism “tsar” Ckarke. In the near row, Secretary of State Powell can be seen waving his hand, and National Security Advisor Rice sits to his right.President Bush (below television screen) meeting with the National Security Council in a bunker below the White House. In the far row from left to right, are Attorney General Ashcroft, President Bush, Chief of Staff Card, CIA Director Tenet, and counterterrorism “tsar” Ckarke. In the near row, Secretary of State Powell can be seen waving his hand, and National Security Advisor Rice sits to his right. [Source: Eric Draper/ White House]President Bush meets with his full National Security Council. According to journalist Bob Woodward, this meeting turns out to be “unwieldy.” So at 9:30 p.m., Bush follows it with a meeting with a smaller group of his most senior principal national security advisers in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) beneath the White House. Bush and his advisers have already decided bin Laden is behind the attacks. As the president later recalls, in these meetings, “That’s when we first got the indication… we’ve identified, we think it’s al-Qaeda.” He says the FBI now thinks that “it’s al-Qaeda, and we start to develop our plans to get them. I mean, there wasn’t any hesitation. We’re starting the process of coalition-building and how to get ‘em.” (According to other accounts, though, the CIA had informed Bush hours earlier that it was virtually certain al-Qaeda was to blame for the attacks (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001).) CIA Director George Tenet says that al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan are essentially one and the same. Tenet says, “Tell the Taliban we’re finished with them.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 133; Woodward, 2002, pp. 31-33; Washington Post, 1/27/2002] The president says, “I want you all to understand that we are at war and we will stay at war until this is done. Nothing else matters. Everything is available for the pursuit of this war. Any barriers in your way, they’re gone. Any money you need, you have it. This is our only agenda.” When, later in the discussion, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld points out that international law only allows force to prevent future attacks and not for retribution, Bush yells, “No. I don’t care what the international lawyers say, we are going to kick some ass.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 23-24] Bush will subsequently announce a new US doctrine of preemptive attack the following June (see June 1, 2002). [Time, 6/23/2002] During the meeting, the president refers to the present political situation as a “great opportunity” (see (Between 9:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). By the time the meeting ends, it is after 10 p.m. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 133]

A section from Rumsfeld’s notes, dictated to Stephen Cambone.A section from Rumsfeld’s notes, dictated to Stephen Cambone. [Source: Defense Department] (click image to enlarge)Stephen Cambone, the Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, makes the following note for Defense Secretary Rumsfeld at an emergency policy meeting, “AA 77—3 indiv have been followed since Millennium + Cole. 1 guy is assoc of Cole bomber. 2 entered US in early July (2 of 3 pulled aside and interrogated?).” Although four of the subsequently alleged Flight 77 hijackers were known to the authorities in connection with terrorism before 9/11, it appears that the three referred to here as being followed are Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, and Salem Alhazmi, due to their ties to an al-Qaeda Malaysia summit around the Millennium (see January 5-8, 2000) and ties to the USS Cole bombing (see October 12, 2000). Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar initially arrived in the US shortly before or after the Millennium plot was due to come to fruition (see November 1999 and January 15, 2000), even entering at Los Angeles Airport (LAX), a target of the plot. If the note is literally correct that some US authorities were following these three since the Millennium, this would contradict the 9/11 Commission’s position that the trail of the three was lost shortly after the Millennium. The comment that one of the hijackers is an associate of a Cole bomber could refer to photos the CIA had before 9/11 identifying Almihdhar standing next to Cole bomber Fahad al-Quso (see Early December 2000) or photos of him standing next to Cole bomber Khallad bin Attash (see January 4, 2001). The note’s mention that two of them entered the US in July is also accurate, as Salem Alhazmi entered the US on June 29 (see April 23-June 29, 2001) and Khalid re-entered on July 4 (see July 4, 2001). [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file; US Department of Defense, 2/6/2006 pdf file] Earlier in the day, Cambone took notes for Rumsfeld that indicate Rumsfeld is keen to move against Iraq following the 9/11 attacks, even though he was aware there may be no connection between Iraq and 9/11 (see (2:40 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file; Guardian, 2/24/2006]

Entity Tags: Khalid Almihdhar, Stephen A. Cambone, Salem Alhazmi, Nawaf Alhazmi, Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Key Hijacker Events, Alhazmi and Almihdhar, CIA Hiding Alhazmi & Almihdhar, All Day of 9/11 Events, Donald Rumsfeld, Al-Qaeda Malaysia Summit

 
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Donald Rumsfeld on 9/11: An enemy within

Matthew Everett
Online Journal
Wednesday, May 30, 2007 

What was Rumsfeld doing on 9/11? He deserted his post. He disappeared. The country was under attack. Where was the guy who controls Americas defense? Out of touch! --A senior White House official

On September 11, 2001, the United States suffered its worst attack since Pearl Harbor. Yet, as evidence shows, the country was in many ways undefended for the entire duration of the assault. The Air Force was nowhere to be seen until it was too late. [1] The commander in chief of the armed forces, President George W. Bush, continued with a pre-planned photo op at a school in Florida, only leaving the place at 9:35, just before the time the Pentagon was struck. [2] The acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers was on Capitol Hill. Despite seeing the television reports of the World Trade Center after it was first hit, he continued with a scheduled meeting there, and supposedly was not notified when the second plane hit at 9:03. He therefore did not head back to the Pentagon until around the time it too was hit, and only joined the critical air threat conference call shortly before 10 a.m. By that time, the attacks were nearly over. [3]

Furthermore, new evidence shows that for the critical two hours in which the attacks occurred, the country was effectively without a secretary of defense. An analysis of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfelds actions on 9/11 reveals several occasions when he was alerted to the attacks that were taking place. Each time, if he were not already doing so, he should have leapt into action and assumed his responsibilities in coordinating a crisis response, and helping to protect the people of America. Yet, instead, his responses were consistent: He did nothing.

 

Donald Rumsfeld on 9/11

Donald Rumsfeld started the morning of 9/11 with an 8 oclock breakfast meeting with several members of Congress, held in his private dining room at the Pentagon, to discuss the subject of missile defense. During this meeting, according to his own recollection, Rumsfeld warned that sometime in the next two, four, six, eight, ten, twelve months there would be an event that would occur in the world that would be sufficiently shocking that it would remind people again how important it is to have a strong healthy defense department that contributes to -- that underpins peace and stability in our world. He was subsequently informed of the first attack in New York promptly after it happened. He says: [S]omeone walked in and handed [me] a note that said that a plane had just hit the World Trade Center. [4]

Larry Di Rita, a special assistant to Rumsfeld, had sent this note. Although initial news reports had been unclear, with some of them suggesting the WTC might have been hit by just a small plane, according to Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Torie Clarke: Even in the accidental crash scenario, the military might be involved in some way. Rumsfeld needed to know. Yet after receiving Di Ritas note, rather than initiating or joining any emergency response process, Rumsfeld continued as if this were just an ordinary day. As he later recounted: [W]e adjourned the meeting, and I went in to get my CIA briefing. [5]

Inside her office in the Pentagon, Torie Clarke saw the second plane hitting the World Trade Center live on television. It was now obvious that the U.S. was under attack. As she later described: [I]mmediately, the crisis management process started up. Along with Larry Di Rita, she headed to Rumsfelds office. When they arrived there, Di Rita told the defense secretary: Sir, I think your entire schedule is going to be different today. By this time, the Pentagon Executive Support Center (ESC) was going into operation. Located down the hallway from Rumsfelds office, the ESC comprises several conference rooms that are secure against electronic eavesdropping. It is, according to Clarke, the place where the buildings top leadership goes to coordinate military operations during national emergencies. One would therefore have expected Rumsfeld to have gone straight there, or to the National Military Command Center (NMCC), located next door to it. Yet, as before, he continued as if this were an ordinary day. He told Clarke and Di Rita to go to the ESC and wait for him. In the meantime, he would get his daily intelligence briefing, which was already scheduled for nine thirty. Rumsfeld wanted to make a few phone calls, so he stayed in his office. [6]

What Donald Rumsfeld did in the next half-hour is unclear. Even in his prepared testimony to the 9/11 Commission, he said nothing about his actions during this crucial period leading up to the attack on the Pentagon. [7] But important new details of his response to the Pentagon strike itself have been revealed in the account of Aubrey Davis, an officer with the Pentagon police, who was assigned to be Rumsfelds personal bodyguard the morning of 9/11. This account appears in Andrew Cockburns recent biography, Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy.

From watching televised reports of events in New York, Davis had concluded that America was under attack and the Pentagon could be a target. Of his own initiative, hed made his way to move the secretary of defense to a better-protected location. Just after 9:37 a.m., while Rumsfeld was in his office with his CIA briefer, Davis was standing outside his door. Then, he says, he heard an incredibly loud boom, as the Pentagon was struck.

Cockburn describes: Fifteen or twenty seconds later, just as [Daviss] radio crackled with a message, the door opened and Rumsfeld walked out, looking composed and wearing the jacket he normally discarded while in his office. Cockburn told an interviewer: I couldnt discover what he was wearing inside his office that morning -- but normally he would take off his suit jacket and put on a sort of like a vest, because he found it chilly in the office. So . . . I think he had time to change his clothes, put on his going-outside jacket, come out. How could Rumsfeld have changed his clothes in the space of just 15 to 20 seconds? If he was already dressed to go outside when the Pentagon was hit, was this just a fortunate coincidence? Or is it possible that he knew in advance that the Pentagon was going to be attacked, and therefore had put on his jacket ready to respond when this happened?

As the defense secretary appeared, Davis repeated to him what hed just heard on his radio: Reportedly, an airplane had hit a section of the Pentagon known as the Mall. Rumsfeld set off without a word and without informing any of his command staff where he was going, heading swiftly towards the Mall, with Davis and some colleagues trying to keep up behind him. Finding no sign of damage there, Davis told the secretary: [N]ow were hearing its by the heliport, which was the next side of the building.

Interfering with a crime scene

Despite Daviss protestations that he should turn back, Rumsfeld continued onwards, and the group soon found its way outside, emerging close to the area of impact. Davis recalls: There were the flames, and bits of metal all around. The secretary picked up one of the pieces of metal. I was telling him he shouldnt be interfering with a crime scene when he looked at some inscription on it and said, American Airlines. Then someone shouted, Help, over here, and we ran over and helped push an injured person on a gurney over to the road. [8]

It may sound hard to believe that Rumsfelds immediate response to the Pentagon attack was to rush to the crash site like this and help carry a stretcher, rather than staying inside to carry out his responsibilities as secretary of defense. Yet he was caught on camera doing so, and video footage is available proving the fact. [9]

He didnt stay there for long, however. Though he was away from his office for around 20 minutes, as Cockburn points out: Given the time it took to make their way down those Pentagon corridors -- each side of the enormous building is the length of three football fields -- Rumsfeld was actually at the crash site for only a fraction of that period. [10]

When Rumsfeld dashed out to help at the crash scene, his intention was presumably to present an image to the public of an American hero, looking after the vulnerable and injured at a time of crisis. Perhaps this was why, just days later, his spokeswoman, Torie Clarke. made a point of informing an interviewer: Secretary Rumsfeld was one of the first people out there after it happened. No doubt hinting towards the actions of her boss, shed continued: Theres example after example of heroism, of people who helped at the crash site, trying to help victims and get people to ambulances. [11] Yet Rumsfelds actions were not heroic at all. America was under attack. He was the secretary of defense. There could have been another plane heading for the Pentagon, perhaps intending a double-strike on the place, like what had just occurred at the World Trade Center. Or maybe a plane was on a crash course for another populated area. He had a crucial role to play in helping to protect his country. But by heading outside without informing his staff where he was going, he was unable to carry this out.

Breaking the chain of command

As we now know, Rumsfelds actions hindered the emergency response to the ongoing attacks. For the 20 minutes or so that he was gone from his office, other officials were desperately trying to contact him, but were unable to do so. Aubrey Davis was receiving frantic calls over his radio saying: Wheres the secretary? Wheres the secretary? Yet he was unable to answer these. As he recalls: I kept saying, Weve got him, but the system was overloaded, everyone on the frequency was talking, everything jumbled, so I couldnt get through and they went on asking. [12]

One of the officials trying to contact Rumsfeld was Captain Charles Leidig, who was temporarily in charge of the Pentagons National Military Command Center. At 9:39 a.m., Leidig opened an air threat conference call, declaring: An air attack against North America may be in progress. The NMCC then requested that the secretary of defense be added to this conference. [13] Rumsfeld in fact had a vital role to play in coordinating the military response to an attack on the U.S. Andrew Cockburn explains: Though most people assume that the chain of command runs from the president to the vice president, the cold war bequeathed a significant constitutional readjustment. In an age when an enemy attack might allow only a few minutes for detection and reaction, control of American military power became vested in the National Command Authority, which consists of the president and the secretary of defense. Collectively, the NCA is the ultimate source of military orders, uniquely empowered, among other things, to order the use of nuclear weapons. In time of war, therefore, Rumsfeld was effectively the presidents partner, the direct link to the fighting forces, and all orders had to go through him. Such orders were supposed to be transmitted from . . . the National Military Command Center. Cockburn adds that the NMCC is the operational center for any and every crisis, from nuclear war to hijacked airliners. [14]

The secretary of defenses specific responsibility in the event of an airplane hijacking was made clear in a July 1997 military instruction, which was slightly revised in June 2001. This stated: In the event of a hijacking, the NMCC will be notified by the most expeditious means by the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration]. The NMCC will, with the exception of immediate responses as authorized by reference d, forward requests for DOD [Department of Defense] assistance to the secretary of defense for approval. [15]

Yet Rumsfeld was out of the loop. A few minutes after the NMCC requested that he be added to the air threat conference, the defense secretarys office reported back that he was nowhere to be found. As Cockburn concludes: The chain of command was broken. [16]

A senior White House official, who was in its Situation Room on 9/11, trying to coordinate an emergency response, has angrily condemned Rumsfelds actions at this time: What was Rumsfeld doing on 9/11? He deserted his post. He disappeared. The country was under attack. Where was the guy who controls Americas defense? Out of touch! How long does it take for something bad to happen? No one knew what was happening. What if this had been the opening shot of a coordinated attack by a hostile power? Outrageous, to abandon your responsibilities and go off and do what you dont need to be doing, grandstanding. [17]

Rumsfelds actions after the Pentagon was hit were extraordinary. If 9/11 was indeed a surprise attack, as the U.S. government claims, then he could have been putting thousands of lives at risk. What if more planes had been on a crash course towards populated areas? In fact, emergency responders had to be evacuated from the Pentagon site at around 10:15 a.m., due to an incorrect report of another hijacked plane approaching Washington, D.C. [18] And according to Vanity Fair, False reports of hijackings continued well into the afternoon of 9/11. [19] So why did Rumsfeld abandon his post in the middle of the worst attack on the United States for 60 years? There is a simple and logical explanation. Though chilling in its implications, it needs to be seriously considered as a possibility: Donald Rumsfeld had foreknowledge of what would happen that morning, and therefore he knew that the Pentagon would not be hit again. Either people in the know had informed him of what was going to happen beforehand, or else he knew because he had been a participant in the planning of the attacks.

Rumsfeld heads back inside

Rumsfeld left the crash site and was back in the Pentagon by shortly before or after 10:00 a.m. He says he had one or more calls in my office, one of which I believe was with the President. [20] However, according to the 9/11 Commission: No one can recall the content of this conversation, but it was a brief call in which the subject of shootdown authority was not discussed. [21]

Then, at around 10:15, he finally entered the Executive Support Center. In it already were Stephen Cambone, his closest aide, Larry Di Rita, and Torie Clarke. He gave them their first confirmation that a plane had hit the building, saying: Im quite sure it was a plane and Im pretty sure it a large plane. He spent a short time at the ESC before moving on to the National Military Command Center next door at around 10:30. [22] Prior to this, even after hed re-entered the Pentagon at 10 oclock, those in the NMCC had apparently been unaware of Rumsfelds whereabouts. Brigadier General Montague Winfield later recalled: For 30 minutes we couldnt find him. And just as we began to worry, he walked into the door of the National Military Command Center. [23]

Once there, Rumsfelds priority was, according to the 9/11 Commission, ensuring that the [military fighter] pilots had a clear understanding of their rules of engagement, so they would have a better understanding of the circumstances under which an aircraft could be shot down. Rumsfeld has explained that, Throughout the course of the day, along with acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers, he returned to further refine those rules. Yet, as Cockburn points out, this was an irrelevant exercise, as Rumsfeld did not complete and issue his rules of engagement until 1:00 p.m., hours after the last hijacker had died. [24]

So here we have it: America was under attack, starting at 8:14 a.m. (the alleged takeover of Flight 11) and ending minutes after 10 a.m. (when Flight 93 supposedly crashed into a field in Pennsylvania). Yet the only thing we know the secretary of defense did in response, so as to protect the American people, was issue some instructions to fighter pilots -- at 1 oclock in the afternoon.

An enemy within

Andrew Cockburn concludes that Donald Rumsfelds actions on 9/11, in particular his desertion of his post in order to be seen helping at the Pentagon crash site, changed him from a half-forgotten twentieth-century political figure to Americas twenty-first-century warlord. On a day when the president was intermittently visible, only Rumsfeld, along with New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, gave the country an image of decisive, courageous leadership. [25] Yet, as a closer analysis shows, Rumsfeld behavior that morning was sinister and highly suspicious. The fact that an individual in such a position of responsibility should have acted as Rumsfeld did at such a critical moment should be of concern to us all.

Notes

[1] Two F-15 fighter jets were reportedly launched from Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts at 8:46 a.m. Yet, according to the 9/11 Commission, they did not arrive over Manhattan until 9:25 a.m. See 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, Authorized Edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2004, pp. 20 and 24. In fact, the accounts of numerous eyewitnesses who were in Manhattan that morning suggest the F-15s did not arrive there until even later, some time after 10 a.m. See the following entry in Paul Thompsons Complete 9/11 Timeline: Three F-16s were also ordered into the air from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia at 9:24 a.m. However, according to the 9/11 Commission, they headed east over the ocean instead of north, as originally instructed. They were therefore further away from the Pentagon when it was hit than they had been when they took off. See 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 27.

[2] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, pp. 38-39.

[3] Senate Armed Services Committee, U.S. Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) Holds Hearing on Nomination of General Richard Myers to be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 107th Cong., 1st sess., September 13, 2001. Interview: General Richard B. Myers Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff With Petty Officer Quinn Lyton, USN. Armed Forces Radio and Television Service, October 17, 2001; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 38.

[4] Robert Burns, Pentagon Attack Came Minutes After Rumsfeld Predicted: There Will be Another Event. Associated Press, September 12, 2001; Secretary Rumsfeld Interview With Larry King. Larry King Live, CNN, December 5, 2001; Torie Clarke, Lipstick on a Pig: Winning in the No-Spin Era by Someone Who Knows the Game. New York: Free Press, 2006, p. 218.

[5] Secretary Rumsfeld Interview With Larry King; Torie Clarke, Lipstick on a Pig, pp. 217-218.

[6] Assistant Secretary Clarke Interview With WBZ Boston, WBZ Boston, September 15, 2001; Torie Clarke, Lipstick on a Pig, pp. 216-219; Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy. New York: Scribner, 2007, p. 5. The first chapter of this book, detailing Rumsfelds actions on 9/11, is available online.

[7] Testimony of U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld Prepared for Delivery to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States. 9/11 Commission, March 23, 2004.

[8] Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, pp. 1-3; Andrew Cockburn: Author, Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy. Q&A, C-SPAN, February 25, 2007; Journalist and Author Andrew Cockburn on Donald Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy. Democracy Now! March 7, 2007.

[9] See, for example, CNN Tribute: America Remembers. CNN, August 20, 2002. Footage of Rumsfeld helping carry a stretcher, taken from this documentary, is available online.

[10] Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, p. 3.

[11] Assistant Secretary Clarke Interview With KYW Philadelphia, KYW Radio, Philadelphia, September 15, 2001.

[12] Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, p. 2; Andrew Cockburn: Author, Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy.

[13] �Statement of Capt. Charles J. Leidig, Jr. Commandant of Midshipmen United States Naval Academy Before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.9/11 Commission, June 17, 2004. 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, pp. 37-38.

[14] Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, pp. 4-5.

[15] Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, CJCSI 3610.01, Aircraft Piracy (Hijacking) and Destruction of Derelict Airborne Objects, Washington, D.C.: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, July 31, 1997. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, CJCSI 3610.01A, Aircraft Piracy (Hijacking) and Destruction of Derelict Airborne Objects. Washington, D.C.: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, June 1, 2001.

[16] Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, p. 5.

[17] Ibid. p. 4.

[18] Arlington County, Virginia, report, Titan Systems Corp., Arlington County: After-Action Report on the Response to the September 11 Terrorist Attack on the Pentagon. 2002, p. A-30.

[19] Michael Bronner, 9/11 Live: The NORAD Tapes. Vanity Fair, August 2006.

[20] Testimony of U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld Prepared for Delivery to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States.

[21] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 43.

[22] Torie Clarke, Lipstick on a Pig, p. 221; Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, pp. 5-6.

[23] 9/11: Interviews by Peter Jennings. ABC News, September 11, 2002.

[24] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, pp. 44 and 465; Testimony of U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld Prepared for Delivery to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States; Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, p. 7.

[25] Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, p. 3.

Matthew Everett writes for the Center for Cooperative Research, and has also written major articles about 9/11 for the Journal of Psychohistory.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      ____________________________________________________________________________________________

 

                                                                         War Crimes and 9/11: Why Dick and Don Are Suspects

Richard Clarke, the former counterterrorism official, has recently come out suggesting that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld should be brought up on war crimes. Unfortunately, media outlets reporting this story have failed to examine Clarke’s long relationship to Cheney and Rumsfeld and his record of having prevented the capture of Osama bin Laden. These omissions highlight that, although Cheney and Rumsfeld undoubtedly are guilty of post-9/11 war crimes, suspicions that they helped create the pretext for those crimes go unreported.Clarke’s history is regularly misrepresented in the media. It’s often said that he started in his counterterror position under Clinton when he was, in fact, appointed to it by George H.W. Bush in 1992. Clarke is a right wing hawk who had close ties to Cheney and Rumsfeld going back at least another decade with his selection for a secret Reagan Administration project. Clarke, Cheney and Rumsfeld were among a small group that spent nearly 30 years practicing to takeover the United States government in the Continuity of Government (COG) program. Their secretive COG plan was implemented only once—on the morning of 9/11.

 

 

Considering the media’s treatment of Clarke, it’s no surprise that most people have little or no understanding of his relationship to Cheney and Rumsfeld. It’s also not surprising that some people don’t know why these men are primary 9/11 suspects, despite the many reasons to consider that Cheney and Rumsfeld were behind the attacks. Apart from the lack of critical reporting, much of the evidence against Cheney and Rumsfeld is circumstantial. But the amount of evidence linking them to the crimes is far greater than that used to accuse Khalid Sheik Mohammed and Osama bin Laden.

 

Apart from George W. Bush, who was well controlled on that day, Cheney and Rumsfeld were in the most important positions of power on 9/11. Some of their closest colleagues were also in positions to affect the crimes.

 

  • Rumsfeld’s direct subordinate Ralph Eberhart was in charge of the military exercises that disrupted the nation’s air defense response on 9/11.

  • Cheney’s protégé Duane Andrews led SAIC on 9/11. Andrews was a leading expert on the DOD systems that failed and SAIC had numerous suspicious links to the facilities and systems impacted, as well as to the official accounts for what happened.

  • Rumsfeld’s deputy Paul Wolfowitz managed the Pentagon renovation project that was focused on the exact spot where the Pentagon was hit.

  • Rumsfeld’s fellow ABB director Peter Janson managed the company that did the renovation work at the Pentagon and that was hired to clean up the Pentagon and the WTC.

  • After the attacks, Cheney’s old business partner Bruce Bradley went into business with WTC security company manager Barry McDaniel.

  • Rumsfeld’s close friend Frank Carlucci ran the Carlyle Group, a company that was partly funded by the Bin Laden family and that employed Barry McDaniel before he left to run security at the WTC.

  • Cheney and Rumsfeld were both on the advisory board of Salomon Smith Barney, the company that occupied almost all of WTC 7.

  • Paul Bremer, the terror propagandist who was selected by Rumsfeld to govern occupied Iraq, had an office in the WTC and helped present the official account of what happened.

  • Porter Goss, the old CIA operative who ran the initial investigation, had “long shown himself to be under the spell of Vice President Dick Cheney.”

The actions of Cheney and Rumsfeld on 9/11 also suggest their involvement in the crimes.

 

Vice President Cheney was in charge at the White House. That morning, he had an unusual early meeting with Sean O’Keefe, who was deputy assistant to the president and Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget. O’Keefe had been a close colleague of Cheney at the Pentagon and served as Secretary of the Navy under George H.W. Bush. The meeting with O’Keefe was remarkable in that, unlike Cheney’s normal meetings, it was unscheduled and lasted longer than Cheney normally allowed. And although the conversation seemed urgent, “In time, neither man would be able to recall what it was that had been so important.”

 

The attacks began as Cheney and O’Keefe were meeting in Cheney’s office. O’Keefe then left and Cheney began another meeting with his speechwriter. It was reported that other members of the White House staff began to congregate there until the Secret Service came in to move the vice president to the lower levels.

 

When questioned by the 9/11 Commission, Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta testified that he came to the basement operations center at the White House, around 9:20 a.m., and Cheney was already there. Mineta said that Cheney had an exchange with a “young man” who came in and out over a period of time, giving Cheney updates about an incoming plane and asking if “the orders still stand.” Mineta’s testimony indicates that Cheney was aware of Flight 77 as it was approaching Washington, before the official account says that anyone knew, and that he was maintaining orders about that incoming plane.

 

Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was in charge at the Pentagon. As the attacks were beginning, he was finishing a breakfast meeting with Pentagon leaders. Attendees said that at this meeting Rumsfeld predicted that a shocking world event would occur in the near future, one that would remind people of the need for a strong U.S. military.

 

By the time that the second plane hit the WTC, Rumsfeld had moved on to a meeting with his CIA briefer. Reports vary on where he was after that, but national security advisor Condoleezza Rice claimed that she could not reach him. Some said that Rumsfeld continued with regularly scheduled meetings after the second strike, and that he was on a roll with his predictions that morning. Apparently, he told Congressman Christopher Cox “Believe me, this isn’t over yet. There’s going to be another attack, and it could be us.” Minutes later, the Pentagon was hit.

 

After the Pentagon was hit, Rumsfeld wandered out to the parking lot for approximately 30 minutes. His presence there showed that he was not concerned about other planes that were reported hijacked and that he was not considering the danger to other potential targets. It was as if he knew what to expect.

 

To explain his behavior, Rumsfeld later stated; “I wanted to see what had happened. I wanted to see if people needed help. I went downstairs and helped for a bit with some people on stretchers. Then I came back up here and started—I realized I had to get back up here and get at it.”

 

Rumsfeld did not concern himself with the work of his direct subordinate, NORAD commander Ralph Eberhart, and he did not do his job to ensure the nation’s air defenses. Meanwhile, NORAD experienced inexplicable failures and Eberhart lied about it to Congress afterward.

 

After the 9/11 attacks, Cheney tried to prevent an investigation.  It was later learned that Rumsfeld co-authored a letter to the 9/11 Commission, warning it to limit its investigation and denying it access to critical evidence. According to Kean and Hamilton’s book Without Precedent, each of the commissioners was also invited to have private meetings with Rumsfeld, who gave them advice throughout the investigation. This was despite the fact that Rumsfeld’s DOD failed to provide many of the documents that had been requested.

 

Considering the unraveling of the official accounts for 9/11, people don’t need more deceptive comments from Richard Clarke about the obvious post-9/11 crimes of Cheney and Rumsfeld.  What people need to understand is that Cheney and Rumsfeld were running the show on 9/11 and were in perfect position to coordinate the attacks. Their actions on that day, as well as their surprising links to others who had the access and knowledge to accomplish the crimes, make them prime suspects.