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8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001: Rookie in Command of the NMCC
Captain Charles Leidig, the deputy for Command Center operations at the NMCC, takes over temporarily from Brigadier General Montague Winfield and is effectively in charge of NMCC during the 9/11 crisis. Winfield had requested the previous day that Leidig stand in for him on September 11. Leidig had started his role as Deputy for Command Center Operations two months earlier and had qualified to stand in for Winfield just the previous month. Leidig remains in charge from a few minutes before the 9/11 crisis begins until about 10:30 a.m., after the last hijacked plane crashes. He presides over an important crisis response teleconference that has a very slow start, not even beginning until 9:39 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001: Pentagon Command Center Staff See Second Attack on WTC, Yet Accounts Conflict Over Urgency of Their Response
Those in the National Military Command Center (NMCC) within the Pentagon see the second plane hitting the World Trade Center live on television. According to Dan Mangino, an operations officer at the center, the staff there had thought the first WTC crash was a “terrible accident,” but after seeing the second one, “we knew immediately that it was a terrorist attack.” The American Forces Press Service later reports, “Personnel in the center shifted into hyperdrive.… Phones in the center began ringing off the hook.” Mangino says he initiates “the process to stand up a working group in advance of the direction that would come down later.” One of his deputies is responsible for this process. Yet, despite this supposed urgency, Mangino later recalls that he “knew he would have little time in the days ahead, so he quickly ran to the concourse to get some money out of an automated teller machine.” He will not arrive back at the NMCC until after the Pentagon is hit. [American Forces Press Service, 9/7/2006] Brigadier General Montague Winfield had earlier on allowed a colleague to temporarily take over from him as the NMCC’s deputy director for operations (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). Yet, despite the obvious emergency now taking place, he does not retake charge of the center until more than an hour later, at around 10:15-10:30 a.m. (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Furthermore, according to the 9/11 Commission, the NMCC does not begin a “significant event” conference call in response to the attacks until 9:29 a.m., which is 26 minutes after the South Tower is hit (see (9:29 a.m.-9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 37]
(Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001: NMCC Commander Concludes US is Under Attack, Yet Does Not Retake Charge of Center
Brigadier General Montague Winfield, commander of the National Military Command Center (NMCC), the Pentagon’s emergency response center, later says, “When the second aircraft flew into the second tower, it was at that point that we realized that the seemingly unrelated hijackings that the FAA was dealing with were in fact a part of a coordinated terrorist attack on the United States.” [ABC News, 9/14/2002] For unknown reasons, Winfield had stepped down from his usual position at 8:30 a.m., and allowed Captain Charles Leidig to temporarily take his place as deputy director for operations in the NMCC (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004 pdf file] Post 9/11 news reports will give the impression that Winfield remained in the NMCC throughout the course of the attacks, and was aware of the unfolding events. None of them will mention him ever having left the center. [CNN, 9/4/2002; ABC News, 9/11/2002] Yet, despite concluding that the US is suffering a “coordinated terrorist attack,” Winfield allows Leidig to continue as his stand-in, and does not take over from him and resume charge of the center until shortly after Flight 93 has crashed. This would presumably be around 10:15-10:30 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
(9:29 a.m.-9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Pentagon Command Center Begins High Level Conference Call
Captain Charles Leidig is temporarily in command of the National Military Command Center (NMCC), “the military’s worldwide nerve center.” In response to the attacks on the World Trade Center, he convenes a conference call. [CNN, 9/4/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004 pdf file] Telephone links are established between the NMCC located inside the Pentagon (but on the opposite side of the building from where the explosion will happen), Canada’s equivalent Command Center, Strategic Command, theater commanders, and federal emergency-response agencies. At one time or another, President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, key military officers, leaders of the FAA and NORAD, the White House, and Air Force One are heard on the open line. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] NORAD command director Captain Michael Jellinek claims this call was initiated “at once” after the second WTC tower was hit. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002] However, the 9/11 Commission concludes it starts at 9:29 a.m. According to the commission, it begins as an all-purpose “significant event” conference. But at 9:30, Leidig states that it has just been confirmed that Flight 11 is still airborne and is heading toward Washington, DC. (This incorrect information apparently arose minutes earlier during a conference call between FAA centers (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001).) In response to this erroneous report, the significant event conference is ended at around 9:34. It then resumes at about 9:37 as an air threat conference call, which lasts for more than eight hours. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 37] This is broadcast over a loudspeaker inside the NMCC. [US News and World Report, 8/31/2003] Brigadier General Montague Winfield, who later takes over from Leidig in charge of the NMCC, says, “All of the governmental agencies that were involved in any activity going on in the United States at that point, were in that conference.” [ABC News, 9/11/2002] The call continues right through the Pentagon explosion; the impact is not felt within the NMCC. [CNN, 9/4/2002] However, despite being in the Pentagon when it is hit, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld doesn’t enter the NMCC or participate in the call until 10:30 a.m. (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
(9:36 a.m.-10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Military Claims it is Tracking Flight 93 and Ready to Shoot it Down; 9/11 Commission Says Otherwise
Several senior officials claim that the US military is tracking Flight 93 as it heads east and is ready to shoot it down if necessary:
- Brigadier General Montague Winfield says that the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center (NMCC) has “received the report from the FAA that Flight 93 had turned off its transponder, had turned, and was now heading towards Washington, DC.” He adds, “The decision was made to try to go intercept Flight 93.” [ABC News, 9/11/2002]
- Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region, says, “I was personally anxious to see what 93 was going to do, and our intent was to intercept it.” Three fighters have taken off from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia (see 9:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). According to Arnold, “we launched the aircraft out of Langley to put them over top of Washington, DC, not in response to American Airline 77, but really to put them in position in case United 93 were to head that way.” [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] He says, “as we discussed it in the conference call, we decided not to move fighters toward 93 until it was closer because there could have been other aircraft coming in,” but adds, “I had every intention of shooting down United 93 if it continued to progress toward Washington, DC… whether we had authority or not.” [Filson, 2004, pp. 73]
- NEADS Commander Robert Marr is reportedly “focused on United Flight 93, headed straight toward Washington.” He concurs with Arnold, saying, “United Airlines Flight 93 would not have hit Washington, DC. He would have been engaged and shot down before he got there.” [Filson, 2004, pp. 73] Marr and Arnold both say they were tracking Flight 93 even earlier on, while it was still it was still heading west (see Before 9:36 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Yet, completely contradicting these claims, the 9/11 Commission will conclude that the military only learned about Flight 93 around the time it crashed. It says the NMCC learned of the hijacking at 10:03 a.m. (see 10:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). Based upon official records, including recordings of the NEADS operations floor, it says NEADS never followed Flight 93 on radar and was first alerted to it at 10:07 a.m. (see 10:07 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 30-31, 34 and 42; Washington Post, 4/30/2006; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006]
(10:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Rumsfeld Returns to the Pentagon; Speaks to Bush and Temporarily Joins White House Teleconference
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 Torie 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 (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]
(10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Missing Rumsfeld Finally Enters NMCC
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.