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United Airlines Held an Exercise So Realistic That Its Personnel Had to Be Reassured That the 9/11 Attacks Were 'Not a Drill'
United Airlines personnel were subjected to a surprise training exercise 12 days before 9/11 in which they were led to believe that one of their planes had crashed. The exercise was so realistic that some of them ended up in tears or became physically sick. Consequently, on September 11, 2001, when two United Airlines planes were hijacked and then crashed, the manager who organized the exercise apparently thought his employees had mistaken reports about the terrorist attacks for part of an exercise and therefore told them, "This is not a drill!"
Furthermore, United Airlines had previously conducted other exercises that were based around scenarios resembling aspects of the 9/11 attacks, which may have caused its employees to be confused on September 11 over whether the crisis that day was real or simulated. The scenarios included hijackings and planes crashing into buildings.
New 9/11 Timeline Entries: Pre-9/11 Warnings about Al-Qaeda, Cheney's Military Aide on 9/11, and More
From the History Commons Groups blog:
New entries have been added to the Complete 9/11 Timeline at History Commons, which cover various events relating to the 9/11 attacks. Many of them describe warnings about the danger posed by al-Qaeda that were given in the 12 months leading up to 9/11 and some describe events from the day of September 11, 2001, itself.
Donald Rumsfeld Was Concerned about a Possible 'Modern-Day Version' of Pearl Harbor
A couple of new timeline entries deal with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's preoccupation, in the months before 9/11, with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in December 1941 that led America to enter World War II. In March 2001, Rumsfeld sent members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff a copy of the foreword to a book, which discussed the US government failures that led to the attack on Pearl Harbor. And in July that year, he wrote a note to himself in which he expressed his fear of the United States experiencing a "modern-day version" of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Other senior officials talked, in the months before 9/11, about the possibility of a Pearl Harbor-like event happening in the future. In June 2001, Army General Tommy Franks, commander in chief of the US Central Command, gave a speech in which he said the US needed to prepare for an "asymmetric" attack resembling the attack on Pearl Harbor. And on the day before 9/11, Charles Nemfakos, deputy under secretary of the Navy, said during a briefing that the US would have to suffer an attack comparable to the attack on Pearl Harbor before it would address the problems with its defense policy.
Officials Warned about the Danger Posed by Al-Qaeda
Air Defense Exercise a Month Before 9/11 Was Based Around Osama Bin Laden Carrying Out an Aerial Attack on Washington
NORAD's Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) held a training exercise just over a month before September 11, 2001, which had some uncanny similarities to the 9/11 attacks. The exercise, called Fertile Rice, was based around the scenario of Osama bin Laden--the man who supposedly ordered the 9/11 attacks--organizing an aerial attack on a high-profile government building in Washington, DC--one of the cities attacked on September 11.
NEADS personnel were scheduled to take part in an exercise on September 11. We therefore need to consider whether the similarities between the scenario for the Fertile Rice exercise and some of the incidents they had to deal with on the morning of September 11 caused them to mistake real-world events for part of the day's exercise and thereby impaired their ability to respond to the 9/11 attacks.
EXERCISE INVOLVED BIN LADEN PLANNING TO ATTACK WASHINGTON WITH A DRONE AIRCRAFT
A number of senior officials in the United States government and military gave warnings in the week before September 11, 2001, or early on the morning of September 11, that seem to have predicted the 9/11 attacks with chilling accuracy.
These men--as is described below--voiced concerns that Osama bin Laden would carry out an attack in the U.S. in the near future; warned that an al-Qaeda attack that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Americans could happen "at any time"; expressed concern that terrorists would attack the World Trade Center; warned about a "seminal event" occurring in the U.S. in which "hundreds, if not thousands" of Americans would be killed; said that "someone [is] going to attack us in a fashion we did not anticipate"; warned that "something big" was about to happen; and suggested the possibility of an attack taking place that would be equivalent to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, in which over 2,400 Americans died.
Why Did Navy Staffers at the Pentagon Fail to Respond to the Attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11?
of our people to respond is the second part of it."
- Admiral Robert Natter, commander of the U.S.
Navy's Atlantic Fleet on September 11, 2001 
Navy personnel at the Pentagon on the morning of September 11, 2001, including some key officials, appear to have acted with a surprising lack of urgency after they learned of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
Even though the Navy--along with the rest of the United States military--was responsible for protecting America if it was under attack, its personnel at the Pentagon seem to have done nothing, or very little, to help defend the country after they learned of the plane crashes at the World Trade Center. Remarkably, many of them continued with their normal work duties as if nothing unusual had happened. Furthermore, the Navy's top officials appear to have issued no orders to their personnel, regarding what to do in response to the crashes.
New 9/11 Timeline Entries: Crisis Action Teams, Early Accounts of the Government's Response to the 9/11 Attacks, and More
From the History Commons Groups blog:
A large number of entries have been added to the Complete 9/11 Timeline at History Commons, including many that provide new details about the events of September 11, 2001, and some that describe the initial official accounts of the military's response to the 9/11 attacks.
Air Force Secretary and Chief and Chief of Staff Learned of Attacks during Meetings
Several new timeline entries detail the actions of James Roche, the secretary of the Air Force, and John Jumper, the Air Force chief of staff, on September 11. Roche was alerted to the first plane crash at the World Trade Center during a meeting with several congressmen in his office at the Pentagon, in which the subject of Islamic fundamentalism was being discussed. Jumper, meanwhile, learned about the crashes at the WTC during a routine staff meeting, but he continued the meeting instead of responding right away.
After Jumper headed upstairs to Roche's office, the two men were escorted to the Air Force Operations Center in the basement of the Pentagon shortly after the building was attacked, at 9:37 a.m. When they arrived at the Operations Center, they started assisting the Air Force's response to the attacks.
A dozen Army personnel, including many senior officers, went ahead with a routine, previously scheduled meeting at 9:00 a.m. on September 11, 2001, in an area of the Pentagon that was severely damaged when the building was attacked at 9:37 a.m., even though a hijacked plane had crashed into the World Trade Center 14 minutes earlier and this incident had been reported on television since 8:49 a.m. Strangely, the officers were unaware of the crash when they went into their meeting and no one interrupted the meeting to let them know the U.S. was under attack after a second hijacked aircraft hit the World Trade Center at 9:03 a.m. They were consequently still continuing their meeting as if nothing was wrong, oblivious to the crisis that was taking place, when the Pentagon was hit and a huge fireball erupted into their room.
The immediate response to the 9/11 attacks of dozens of the most senior U.S. Air Force officials at the Pentagon who were together in a meeting when the attacks began appears to have been far from what we might reasonably expect, considering the serious and unprecedented crisis the officials had to deal with and the Air Force's key role in responding to it. Evidence suggests that after the first plane crash at the World Trade Center was reported on television on September 11, 2001, there was a delay of over 10 minutes before the officials' meeting was interrupted and the officials were alerted to the incident. The subsequent response of the officials appears to have been slow and lacking urgency.
More than 350 people who were originally scheduled to be on the four airliners hijacked in the 9/11 attacks either changed their plans and canceled their reservations--in many cases at the last minute--or simply failed to show up for the flights on the morning of September 11, 2001. While these individuals came from a variety of backgrounds, a remarkable number of them worked in, or had close connections to, Hollywood or other areas of the entertainment industry. Some of them were very well-known personalities.
For example, among the individuals who had reservations for American Airlines Flight 11--the first plane to be hijacked--were Seth Macfarlane, the creator of the cartoon Family Guy; actor Mark Wahlberg, the star of movies such as Boogie Nights and The Fighter; Bobby Farrelly, the writer and director of comedy movies such as Dumb & Dumber and There's Something About Mary; and Julia Child, the renowned chef and television personality. Sam Mendes, the director of American Beauty and the latest James Bond movie, Skyfall, was originally scheduled to be on American Airlines Flight 77, the third plane to be hijacked. And Robert Redford, the world-famous actor and director, narrowly avoided being on United Airlines Flight 93, the fourth plane to be hijacked.
Interestingly, one man who was originally booked on Flight 77--Erik Nelson--was later the executive producer of a National Geographic Channel documentary that attempted to debunk claims of U.S. government involvement in the 9/11 attacks.
It is also perhaps notable that a fair number of people who were originally scheduled to be on the hijacked flights but canceled their reservations or failed to turn up for their flights worked in professional sport. These included major league baseball player Brad Thomas, ice hockey coach Bruce Boudreau, and legendary basketball coach John Thompson.
Summarized in this article are accounts found in books, news articles, FBI documents, websites, or Internet blogs, of these individuals who were originally booked on the flights hijacked on September 11, but canceled their reservations or simply failed to show up for their flights.
New 9/11 Timeline Entries: White House Staffers' Actions on 9/11, President Apparently in Danger, and More
From the History Commons Groups blog:
A large number of entries have been added to the Complete 9/11 Timeline at History Commons. Most of these focus on the events of September 11, 2001, including the actions of White House personnel in response to the terrorist attacks that day, and a number of apparent threats to President Bush and his plane, Air Force One.
White House Officials Visited Emergency Bunker during Exercise
A new timeline entry describes a training exercise held shortly before 9/11 in which some senior White House staffers were shown to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), a bunker below the White House where numerous government officials went on September 11. Following the first attack on September 11, Josh Bolten, the deputy White House chief of staff, was called by a former member of the Clinton administration who wanted to check that he was aware of the PEOC.
Bolten, according to his own recollection, alerted National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to the second crash at the World Trade Center after seeing coverage of it on television. Later on, he headed to the PEOC where he joined Vice President Dick Cheney and other government officials.
Also early on the morning of September 11, a sheriff in Sarasota, Florida, was surprised to find that when he contacted colleagues who were with President Bush's Secret Service detail, shortly after he saw the TV reports of the first crash at the WTC, those colleagues were unaware of what had happened in New York.
A significant number of apparent terrorist incidents occurred on September 11, 2001, in which President Bush or locations associated with him, like the White House and Camp David, seemed to be the target. And yet for all these incidents, the apparent threat was subsequently claimed to be unfounded, perhaps having come about due to a misunderstanding. A possibility that has remained unexamined, however, is that the incidents were in fact scenarios in training exercises taking place that day.
It seems reasonable to assume that if the incidents were indeed exercise scenarios, the Secret Service, as the agency responsible for protecting the president and the White House, would have been participating in them. Alarmingly, though, the times at which some of the incidents occurred indicates that if they were scenarios in training exercises, these exercises were not canceled in response to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but instead continued until well after the real-world crisis ended. If the Secret Service was indeed involved in exercises at the time of the 9/11 attacks, then, we surely need to consider what effect these exercises had on the agency's ability to respond to the attacks.
Below are descriptions of eight apparent terrorist incidents that occurred around the time of the 9/11 attacks, in which the president or a location associated with the president appeared to be the target. The first two incidents involved the president himself seeming to be the terrorists' target; the next three involved Air Force One, the president's plane, being the apparent target; and the final incidents involved the places where President Bush lived, such as the White House, being the apparent target.
History Commons, the website that hosts the Complete 9/11 Timeline, is currently low on funds and urgently needs donations in order to meet its operations costs and develop its activities. In particular, History Commons is currently working on a new version of its crowdsource journalism app that should make it easy for people to collaborate on investigative efforts
The Complete 9/11 Timeline is a unique resource, which contains a huge amount of information relating to the 9/11 attacks. It includes over a thousand entries detailing the day of September 11, 2001, alone. It has the most detailed accounts of the numerous training exercises taking place on September 11 and the relevant training exercises held in the years leading up to 9/11. It has sections devoted to the official investigations of 9/11, such as the 9/11 Commission and the various investigations of the World Trade Center collapses, as well as much more.
Recent updates have included entries covering important topics such as the phone calls made by flight attendants Betty Ong and Amy Sweeney from the hijacked Flight 11; the conflicting orders and announcements that were made, regarding whether people should evacuate the World Trade Center; the actions of Laura Bush, the wife of President Bush, on September 11; and the actions of the Secret Service agents responsible for protecting Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne Cheney, on September 11.
It is important that History Commons has the necessary funds to continue. If you would like to make a donation (by credit card, PayPal, or check), click here.
New 9/11 Timeline Entries: Aborted Plan to Kill Bin Laden, Cheney & Family on 9/11, Secret Service Response to Attacks, and More
From the History Commons Groups blog:
A large number of new entries have been added to the Complete 9/11 Timeline at History Commons, including many that reveal details about the events of September 11, 2001, and others that describe important events from the years preceding the 9/11 attacks.
Security Chief Predicted Attacks on the WTC
Several entries relate to the actions of Rick Rescorla, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter's vice president for security at the World Trade Center, and his friend and former Army colleague Dan Hill. In 1990, the two men wrote a report that predicted a terrorist attack at the WTC closely resembling the 1993 bombing, involving a truck bomb in the underground garage. In the aftermath of the 1993 WTC bombing, Hill and Rescorla conducted an analysis of security and predicted that terrorists would attack the towers again, probably by crashing a plane into them. Rescorla consulted his friend Fred McBee, who, by using a flight simulator program on his computer, concluded that such a scenario was "very viable."
In 1998, Hill came up with a plan to go to Afghanistan and kill Osama bin Laden. In spring 2000, he met with an FBI agent to discuss the plan and request US military assistance. But a year later, after she consulted FBI headquarters, the agent informed Hill that his request had been rejected and so he had to drop his plan.
Some entries relate to training exercises held at the World Trade Center. In one drill, conducted in 1982, the Port Authority and other agencies actually practiced for the scenario of a plane crashing into the Twin Towers. In March 1993, during public hearings that examined the security aspects of the recent WTC bombing, Guy Tozzoli, a former director of the World Trade Department, said the Port Authority should again train for the possibility of a plane hitting the WTC, but his recommendation was ignored. However, in June 1999, September 2000, and summer 2001, the Port Authority and the New York City Fire Department held realistic exercises that simulated a major fire on an upper floor of the WTC.
The United States Secret Service--the law enforcement agency responsible for protecting the president and the White House--had a critical role to play in response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Various accounts, however, reveal that it was inexplicably slow to react to the crisis that day. Secret Service agents only appear to have acted with the kind of urgency we might reasonably expect more than 45 minutes after the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center and more than 30 minutes after the second plane crashed.
The Secret Service's slow response meant some high-level individuals the agency was responsible for protecting were allowed to remain at unsafe locations throughout much of the duration of the attacks, and so could have been killed or seriously injured if their locations had been targeted.
The Secret Service was also alarmingly slow to protect the White House--a building considered a likely target for terrorists--which meant the people there, including some key government officials, were left in danger throughout the attacks. It only ordered the evacuation of the White House about an hour after the attacks began.
In this article, as well as examining the Secret Service's apparent failure to adequately protect the White House on September 11, we will look at the experiences of three individuals--Vice President Dick Cheney, his wife, Lynne Cheney, and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice--and consider how the Secret Service appears to have failed to sufficiently protect them.
From the History Commons Groups blog:
Many new entries have been added to the Complete 9/11 Timeline at History Commons, covering a range of topics relating to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Contradictory Orders over Whether People Should Evacuate the WTC
Numerous entries examine the conflicting orders and announcements that were made, regarding whether people should evacuate or stay in the World Trade Center after the first plane hit the North Tower.
After the crash, George Tabeek, a WTC security manager, contacted the deputy fire safety directors in the Twin Towers with instructions to "evacuate the North Tower, but keep people inside the South Tower." But around the same time, some people in the North Tower heard an automated announcement advising them to stay in their offices.