Why Didn't The President Receive "Air Cover" On 9/11?
By Jon Gold
I saw someone mention tonight the fact that the Secret Service didn't bother to protect the President on 9/11, and this question occurred to me. "Did the President receive "Air Cover" at any time during his time at Booker Elementary?"
So, I set out to see when the President received "Air Cover." It made sense to me that during a time when America was "under attack" from kamikaze hijackers in commercial airliners, that the President of the United States would receive "Air Cover." Especially considering there was an international airport not 5 miles away. Makes sense, right?
Thanks to Paul Thompson's GREAT WORK, I found the following:
(More after the jump..)
(9:34 a.m.): Bush Leaves Booker Elementary School for Sarasota Airport; Possible Threat En Route
President Bush’s motorcade leaves Booker Elementary School and heads toward Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. [Washington Times, 10/8/2002; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004] A few days after 9/11, Sarasota’s main newspaper reports, “Sarasota barely skirted its own disaster. As it turns out, terrorists targeted the president and Air Force One on Tuesday, maybe even while they were on the ground in Sarasota and certainly not long after. The Secret Service learned of the threat just minutes after Bush left Booker Elementary.” [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/16/2001] Kevin Down, a Sarasota police officer at the scene, recalls, “I thought they were actually anticipating a terrorist attack on the president while we were en route.” [BBC, 8/30/2002] ABC News reporter Ann Compton, who is part of the motorcade, recalls, “It was a mad-dash motorcade out to the airport.” [BBC, 9/1/2002] A year later, Chief of Staff Andrew Card says, “As we were heading to Air Force One, we did hear about the Pentagon attack, and we also learned, what turned out to be a mistake, but we learned that the Air Force One package could in fact be a target.” [MSNBC, 9/9/2002]
No mention of "Air Cover" at all. The President of the United States is driving from Booker Elementary to Air Force One with NO "Air Cover" at all. At a time when America is "under attack" from kamikaze hijackers in commercial airliners.
It turns out, that sometime between 9:45 and 9:55am, the authorization for "fighter escort" was received.
(Between 9:45-9:55 a.m.): Clarke Initiates Continuity of Government Plans; Hears Shoot Down Talk from Cheney Bunker
At some point after the White House is evacuated, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke institutes Continuity of Government plans. Important government personnel, especially those in line to succeed the president, are evacuated to alternate Command Centers. Additionally, Clarke gets a ph one call from the PEOC Command Center where Vice President Cheney and National Security Adviser Rice are positioned. An aide tells Clarke, “ Air Force One is getting ready to take off with some press still on board. [President Bush will] divert to an air base. Fighter escort is authorized. And ... tell the Pentagon they have authority from the president to shoot down hostile air craft, repeat, they have authority to shoot down hostile air craft.” However, acting Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers wants the rules of engagement clarified before the shootdown order is passed on, so Clarke orders that pilots be given guidelines before receiving shootdown authorization. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 8-9] Clarke’s account that Cheney is giving shootdown authorization well before 10:00 a.m. matches Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta’s account of seeing Cheney giving what he interprets as a shootdown order before the Pentagon crash. [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] However, the 9/11 Commission later asserts that Cheney doesn’t make the shootdown decision until about 10:00 a.m. (see (Between 10:00-10:15 a.m.)). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
However, thanks to DHS, I found out that "fighter escort" took an AWFULLY long time getting there.
(9:56 a.m.): Air Force One Gets Airborne Without Fighter Escort
President Bush departs from the Sarasota, Florida, airport on Air Force One. [New York Times, 9/16/2001; Daily Mail, 9/8/2002; Washington Post, 1/27/2002; Associated Press, 9/12/2001; ABC News, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004; CBS News, 9/11/2002 ;Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001] Amazingly, his plane takes off without any fighters protecting it. “The object seemed to be simply to get the president airborne and out of the way,” says an administration official. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001] There are still 3,520 planes in the air over the US. [USA Today, 8/13/2002] About half of the planes in the Florida region where Bush’s plane is are still airborne. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/7/2002] Apparently, fighters don’t meet up with Air Force One until about an hour later. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke claims to have heard around 9:50 a.m. from the bunker containing Vice President Cheney that fighter escort had been authorized. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 8-9]
So roughly at around 10:56am, "Air Cover" finally arrives for the President of the United States. At a time when America is "under attack" from kamikaze hijackers in commercial airliners.
I set out to find when the President received "Air Cover" during his time at Booker Elementary, and found out instead that he didn't receive ANY "Air Cover" for nearly two hours after he was told America was "under attack."
It doesn't seem to me like the President was in any danger. At a time when America was "under attack" from kamikaze hijackers in commercial airliners.
Why is that?