James Ridgeway: Cheney's Bunker Mentality


Cheney's Bunker Mentality
By James Ridgeway | Sun May 24, 2009 9:43 PM PST

Say what you will about Dick Cheney, at least he's consistent. While he was in office, the Vice President made a practice of exploiting the fear and loss wrought by the 9/11 attacks to advance his own political agenda—and he's still doing it now. During his speech at the American Enterprise Institute on Thursday, according to Dana Milbank's calculations in the Washington Post, "Cheney used the word 'attack' 19 times, 'danger' and 'threat' six times apiece, and 9/11 an impressive 27 times."

In this putative rebuttal to Obama speech on national security, Cheney described how he spent the morning of 9/11 "in a fortified White House command post," receiving "the reports and images that so many Americans remember from that day," and then declared:

In the years since, I've heard occasional speculation that I'm a different man after 9/11. I wouldn't say that. But I'll freely admit that watching a coordinated, devastating attack on our country from an underground bunker at the White House can affect how you view your responsibilities.

Since he's evoking his experience as a rationalization for torture, this might be a good time to review exactly what it was that Cheney was doing in the bunker on that terrible day. Here again, consistency is the rule: A preponderance of evidence points to the fact that Dick Cheney spent the morning of September 11, 2001, violating the Constitution of the United States.

I wrote about the subject in my 2005 book The Five Unanswered Questions About 9/11. Based on the 9/11 Commission Report and a number of other sources (all of them public), I offered an account of how Cheney swept aside the Constitution, the laws governing military action, and a host of expert advisors, in the atmosphere of a palace coup. While President Bush was being shuttled around on Air Force One, the Vice President took charge of the country. Here's an excerpt from the book:

Presidential power is supposed to reside not in the Oval Office, but with the man, wherever he happens to be–whether in a remote military bunker or an elementary school classroom, or in the skies aboard Air Force One. But if any locus of government power existed on 9/11, it was not with President Bush, but rather in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), the bunker beneath the East Wing of the White House, where Vice President Dick Cheney arrived, by his own account, shortly before 10:00 a.m.

Cheney was not alone in the PEOC, but his companions appear to have remained largely silent, deferring in all things to the Vice President. Secretary of Transportation Norman Minetta, who had oversight of the Federal Aviation Administration, made his way to the bunker but didn't do much there. (He later told the 9/11 Commission that he had ordered all planes grounded at 9:45—but this decision was actually made independently by FAA National Operations Manager Ben Sliney, who was in his first day on the job.) National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice, always highly political and extremely deferential, remained low-key during what should have been a pivotal moment for her office.

The others who joined Cheney in the PEOC were not experts on terrorism, national security, civilian aviation, or military tactics, but a group of key right-wing political operatives. They included conservative media celebrity and then White House "counselor" Mary Matalin and longtime Bush campaign crony and White House Communications Director Karen Hughes, as well as Cheney's Chief of Staff, Scooter Libby, a leading neocon foreign policy strategist, and Cheney's wife, Lynne, a powerful conservative ideologue in her own right, who was escorted to her husband's side by the Secret Service.

According to "counterterrorism czar" Richard Clarke, a lone holdover from the previous administration, the PEOC was connected by telephone to a videoconference going on in the West Wing's Situation Room. This conference, at various points, included high-ranking officials from the Defense and State Departments, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Attorney General's office, CIA, FBI, and FAA. Within half an hour of the second WTC attack, teleconferences had also been established by the FAA and the Pentagon's National Military Command Center (NMCC).

But the the far more political group in the East Wing's PEOC seems to have had little use for Clarke's gathering of experts. In his book Against All Enemies, Clarke reports that someone in the PEOC later told him that attempts to listen in on the West Wing videoconference on speakerphone were impeded "because Mrs. Cheney keeps turning down the volume on you so she can hear CNN . . . and the Vice President keeps hanging up the open line to you."

The central decision faced by whoever took command that day, after the WTC attacks were a known fact, was a momentous one: Should the United States military be ordered to shoot down commercial airplanes full of civilian passengers, so that they, too, would not be used as missiles–most likely, it appeared, against targets in Washington, DC?

Under the law, in this or any other crisis requiring a military response, the decision to engage the military must be made by the President, as Commander-in-Chief. He gives his orders to the Secretary of Defense, who is supposed to implement these orders by passing them on to the relevant battle commands. In this chain of command, the Vice President has no place whatsoever. According to the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, crafted following the Kennedy assassination, the Vice President could claim such a place only if the President were for some reason "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office"—and even then, only with the support of the cabinet and concurrence of the Congress.

Even if he'd never read the Constitution, Dick Cheney could not have been ignorant of these rules. The military chain of command is not some remote or obscure formula. Long on the books, it was reinforced and clarified in the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986, debated and passed while Cheney was a member of Congress. Cheney also served as Secretary of Defense under the first George Bush—and surely would have paled at the thought of Vice President Dan Quayle giving out orders to shoot down planes.

But Vice President Cheney did, in fact, issue orders for military fighters to shoot down commercial jets on the morning of September 11. He told the 9/11 Commission, and has repeatedly told others, that he was authorized by the President in advance to give these orders. Evidence of this prior authorization is unsubstantiated and contradictory. At their own insistence, Cheney and Bush spoke to the 9/11 Commission together, in private session, and not under oath. And the Commission itself was often timid and circumspect when it came to challenging the administration or getting to the bottom of things. But even the carefully worded account in the 9/11 Commission Report, while it stops short of any conclusions or accusations, nonetheless leaves ample room for doubt.

According to the report, Bush and Cheney kept in touch that morning "not by an open line of communication, but through a series of calls." The report says Bush told the Commission he was "frustrated with poor communications that morning. He could not reach key officials, including Secretary Rumsfeld, for a period of time. The line to the White House shelter conference room—and the Vice President—kept cutting off."

Cheney told the Commission that he placed a call to Bush just before 10 a.m., when he arrived in the PEOC bunker. He said that the Air Force was trying to set up a combat air patrol (CAP) over Washington, and that he called to establish the rules of engagement for the CAP. Cheney reported telling Bush that the pilots would need authority "to shoot if the plane did not divert." The report continues: "He said the President signed off on that concept. The President said he remembered such a conversation, and that it reminded him of when he had been an interceptor pilot. The President emphasized to us that he had authorized the shootdown of hijacked aircraft."

Press accounts have also quoted Bush's later recollections of the conversation. After Cheney recommended that he authorize the shootdowns, Bush declared, "I said, 'You bet.' There was a little discussion, but not much."

The only person who remembers hearing the Vice President speak to the President at that time is the ever-faithful Condoleeza Rice. She testified to the Commission that she "remembered hearing him inform the President, 'Sir, the CAPS are up. Sir, they're going to want to know what to do.' Then she recalled hearing him say, 'Yes, Sir.'"

The Commission delicately concluded: "Among the sources that reflect other important events of that morning, there is no documentary evidence for this call, but the relevant sources are incomplete." They added that others surrounding the Vice President, including his Chief of Staff and his wife, "did not note a call between the President and Vice President" at that time. According to one report in Newsweek, some of the Commission's staff "flat out didn't believe the call ever took place," and expressed their skepticism in an early draft of their staff report. And one staff member said that pressure from the White House had led to the report being "watered down."

Shortly after 10:10 a.m., the bunker began receiving reports of a plane headed for Washington. These reports came from the Secret Service, which was getting information directly from the FAA–incorrect information, as it turned out, since the aircraft in question was Flight 93, which at that moment was wobbling through the skies over Western Pennsylvania as its passengers fought their hijackers for control. An aide told Cheney it was only 80 miles away from Washington, and asked him to authorize a shootdown.

According to the 9/11 Report, Cheney's "reaction was described by Scooter Libby as quick and decisive, 'in about the time it takes a batter to decide to swing.'" Cheney repeated the shootdown order a few minutes later, after hearing that the plane was now 60 miles out.

The only recorded challenge of any kind to Cheney's conduct came from Joshua Bolton, then the White House Deputy Chief of Staff. Bolton told the Commission that he "watched the exchanges and, after what he called 'a quiet moment,' suggested that the Vice President get in touch with the President and confirm the engage order. Bolton told us he wanted to make sure the President was told that the Vice President had executed the order. He said he had not heard any prior discussion on the subject with the President." Cheney put through the call at 10:18. This call, made after the order had already been given, is well documented, unlike earlier communications. Bush, of course, concurred with Cheney's decision.

Due to various communication problems, Cheney's orders were never received by the pilots over Washington. This is perhaps just as well: Shortly after this episode, at about 10:30, Cheney got word of another plane just five miles away, and immediately gave orders to "take it out." The Vice President, as it later turned out, had commanded military fighter jets to shoot down a low-flying Medevac helicopter.

In any case, the orders were moot. By the time they were issued, the passengers on Flight 93 had already done what their government failed to do: As their leaders hunkered down in safety, this handful of ordinary Americans had wrestled their plane to a crash landing, sacrificing their own lives in order to protect their nation's capital and their compatriots on the ground.

James Ridgeway is the senior correspondent for Mother Jones.


To begin... First of all, James is treating Cheney's "own account" as proof he arrived at the PEOC "shortly before 10:00 a.m." Which account is he referring to? It couldn't be this recent one from the same speech James is referencing. That account says, "when radar caught sight of an airliner heading toward the White House at 500 miles an hour. That was Flight 77" [...] "With the plane still inbound, Secret Service agents came into my office and said we had to leave, now. A few moments later I found myself in a fortified White House command post somewhere down below."

Flight 93 never came within 50, 30, or 10 miles of Washington D.C. so the plane the "young man" was referring to according to Mineta was, in fact, Flight 77.

Anyway... as James points out, shoot-down orders weren't issued by Cheney until 10:18. If Cheney was in the bunker before the Pentagon was hit, and the conversation between the "young man" and Cheney that Mineta referenced took place at 9:25, then what orders were they? Why did the "young man" question them by asking "do the orders still stand?" Why was that "young man" never named? Why was he never brought before the 9/11 Commission to testify? If the conversation that took place between the "young man" and Cheney took place at 9:25, and referenced already given orders, than those orders were given before 9:25.

What orders were they?

Do these people deserve to know how and why their loved ones were murdered? Do we deserve to know how and why 9/11 happened?

"What orders were they?"

Orders from the Global Military Industrial Complex

Cheney is just an office boy carrying our orders from the People who own the Federal Reserve, the White House, the Pentagon etc.

The same folks who are engineering the "Economic Crisis".

911 is a WHOLE LOT BIGGER than a bunch of Americans hiding out in a Bunker or at Offutt AFB.

International Masters with International Agendas.

The US Military has became as Merc arm for this nefarious people.

That is why SO many nations have been part of the silent complicity AND coverup.

Including Saudi Arabai, Jordan, Turkey, Israel, the European Union,China etc etc.

The CONSTITUTION is NOT going to "collapse" into pulverized dust no matter how much thermate/explosives or planes they throw at it

Cheney's Account

Did Cheney ever state explicitly that he arrived right before 10:00AM? Cheney had originally stated,

"When I arrived there[PEOC] within a short order, we had word the Pentagon's been hit.

So he would have arrived in the PEOC before the Pentagon was hit or a couple of minutes after at the latest.

The 9/11 Commission disavowed Norman Mineta's testimony because they believe he was confused about the time and the conversation between Cheney and this young man occurred while they were tracking the hypothetical route of Flight 93. The Commission reports,

"At some time between 10:10 and 10:15, a military aide told the Vice President and others that the aircraft was 80 miles out. Vice President Cheney was asked for authority to engage the aircraft. (218) His reaction was described by Scooter Libby as quick and decisive, "in about the time it takes a batter to decide to swing." The Vice President authorized fighter aircraft to engage the inbound plane. He told us he based this authorization on his earlier conversation with the President. The military aide returned a few minutes later, probably between 10:12 and 10:18, and said the aircraft was 60 miles out. He again asked for authorization to engage. The Vice President again said yes. (219)"

What sources did the 9/11 Commission use to contradict Norman Mineta's testimony?

Note 218 reads, "White House notes, Lynne Cheney notes, Sept. 11, 2001;White House notes, Lewis Libby notes, Sept. 11, 2001."

Note 219 reads. "For Libby's characterization, see White House transcript, Scooter Libby interview with Newsweek, Nov. 2001. For the Vice President's statement, see President Bush and Vice President Cheney meeting (Apr. 29, 2004). For the second authorization, see White House notes, Lynne Cheney notes, Sept. 11, 2001; White House notes, Lewis Libby notes, Sept. 11, 2001."

Note 220: ..."see also White House notes, Lewis Libby notes, Sept. 11, 2001 ("10:15-18:Aircraft 60 miles out, confirmed as hijack-engage?..."

So essentially the 9/11 Commission contradicts the testimony of Norman Mineta based on the notes of a convicted perjurer(Scooter Libby) and Cheney's wife. As well, why don't we have access to these "notes"?


Cheney told them during their private meeting. At least, I would think if he did tell them, he told them then. Could you please explain where you heard that members of the 9/11 Commission "believe he (Mineta) was confused?" The only reference to that I remember is from 9/11 Debunker and @sshole Ronald Wieck who said that when he spoke to Chris Kojm, that's what they said. That Mineta was confused. I don't believe anything that Ronald Wieck says, and I certainly don't believe anything Chris Kojm would say (look for the name Lee Hamilton).

Edit: Almost forgot. Chris Kojm was just named chair to the National Intelligence Council. Does that have influence on whether or not we should trust what he says? Don't know.

Do these people deserve to know how and why their loved ones were murdered? Do we deserve to know how and why 9/11 happened?

Either Cheney was there before the Pentagon Strike...

or he wasn't. Either he monitored the approach of a plane approaching the capital or he didn't. Either he gave orders regarding an approaching plane or he didn't. Either the orders were to stand-down or to shoot-down. Yet he tries to skirt the issue of giving any orders by denying that he was there until "about 10:00 a.m." Problem is that both Clarke and Mineta contradict this.... and Cheney even contradicts himself! (DRG's '9/11 Contradictions" does a brilliant job covering this).

Cheney wants to make it sound like he was taken into an underground bunker he didn't even know about (for his protection).
"I found myself underneath the White House". And that he was just watching passively as events unfolded, waiting for the president to give orders. Which he got around to doing around 10:00. Officially, this is the magic time that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld suddenly start taking charge and giving a shit about protecting America (just as the attacks have played out.) In reality, both Bush and Rummy were laying down while Cheney asserted authority via the S.S. to take charge of Air Defenses from the PEOC (the Secret Service takes rank over the military during a time of domestic attack, which by 9:03 a.m. was apparent) while simultaneously running war games exercises that he himself had scheduled for the morning of 9/11 via the May 9 Executive Order.

So war games provide cover for the false flag by diverting interceptors, putting false blips on radar, confusing FAA and NEADs, faking planes being hijacked and flown into buildings, etc..... while Cheney directly sabotaged the interception of whatever actually struck the Pentagon.

The Pentagon takes no action to defend itself, missiles don't respond, and they hide their surveillance videos. Mission Accomplished.

Same here

Yes, that was who I heard it from also. Ronald Wieck apparently contacted Chris Kojm to ask him why Mineta's testimony was left out of the Commission's final report. Ronald Wieck wrote,

"the 9/11 Commission determined that Norman Mineta's timeline was off by at least a half-hour. Christopher Kojm, former senior counsel for the commission, explained to me that Mineta's testimony was left out of the official report for a simple reason: although he tells the same stories as other witnesses, he has every event occurring much earlier than everyone else. As a fantasist, you must reject the consensus as inconvenient to the myths you promote. But, understand that the timeline was established not only by testimony but by the examination of phone logs."

I asked Ron Wieck who these other witnesses were and if I could see their testimony to the Commission? The 9/11 Commission only references the "notes" of Lynne Cheney and Scooter Libby in contradicting Mineta's testimony. So Chris Kojm seems to be full of it as well.

I also pointed out to Ron Wieck that the examination of the phone logs also doesn't support Cheney's timeline. Two of the phone calls(Cheney in the tunnel and Cheney once he reaches the PEOC) have no documentary record. They are based solely on the testimony/interviews of Bush and Cheney.

The 9/11 Commission Report states,

"We believe this call would have taken place sometime before 10:10 to 10:15...Among the sources that reflect other important events of that morning, there is no documentary evidence for this call, but the relevant sources are incomplete."

Obviously, Mineta's testimony is so damaging to the official account that the 9/11 Commission went through great lengths to conceal it.


Have a knack for making up stuff as they go along, and forgetting tidbits of information.

Do these people deserve to know how and why their loved ones were murdered? Do we deserve to know how and why 9/11 happened?

Ridgeway "error" and Lynn Cheney Notes

"Under the law, in this or any other crisis requiring a military response, the decision to engage the military must be made by the President, as Commander-in-Chief. He gives his orders to the Secretary of Defense, who is supposed to implement these orders by passing them on to the relevant battle commands."

While true in many situations, this was not the case with off-course airliners. The June 01 change brought the Secretary of Defense into the loop, in cases where lethal force might be required. Prior to that, intercepts were coordinated by the FAA/NMCC/NORAD- the OCT has failed to explain why there were (supposedly) no intercepts on 9/11

The 'Stand-Down Order'

Guilty for 9/11: Bush, Rumsfeld, Myers - Part 1

Mr. Cheney's Cover-up - Part 2 of 'Guilty for 9-11: Bush, Rumsfeld, Myers'

FWIW, Lynne Cheney's notes, starting at 9:55am, are here:



Her notes aren't really all that legible now are they? Any info on the notes of Libby?

I believe that Libby and Mineta are describing two separate events, or a separate event was created to cover for Cheney. In Mineta's testimony the plane is 50, 30, then 10 miles out. In Libby's it is 80 then 60 miles out. Mineta has Cheney as stating, "Of course, the orders still stand. Have you heard anything to the contrary?" While in Libby's notes the order is clear, "Engage", "I said Yes!"

Maybe this is the event that Libby and Lynne Cheney are referring to. From HistoryCommons,

10:15AM-10:35AM"...a warning of another hijacked aircraft flying towards Washington, DC, currently 20 minutes away. The warning is passed on by Special Agent Chris Combs, the FBI’s representative at the Pentagon crash site. Assistant Fire Chief James Schwartz then orders the fire and rescue personnel to evacuate to a highway overpass several hundred yards from the Pentagon. Combs receives the information about the inbound aircraft from the FBI’s Washington Field Office, which is in direct contact with the FAA. He then confirms it with the control tower at Washington’s Reagan National Airport. According to a report put out by the government of Arlington County, Virginia, updates are announced of the approaching aircraft “until the last warning when [it] went below radar coverage in Pennsylvania, an estimated 4 minutes flying time from the Pentagon.

according to the top of pg 6

according to the top of pg 6 of this Dec 03 document index, Libby's 9/11 notes were provided- i haven't seen the notes yet- they may have been withdrawn- notes of "white house staff" were withdrawn.

That makes sense that Libby/Lynne Cheney are referring to 93, and Mineta to 77.

Mineta's account has Lynne Cheney in the bunker before he gets there- previous pgs in Lynne Cheney's notes may have been withheld, without acknowledgment- these pgs were loose


Cheney uttered "9/11" twenty-seven times?

What is it about the tendency for the criminal to return to the scene of the crime? In many cases it's due to some sense of guilt or remorse, but regarding Cheney, who exhibits all the classic sociopathic traits, this is unlikely. What gives here?

I was struck by

Clarke's testimony stating that the phone kept hanging up in communications between PEOC and the West Wing.


Vice President keeps hanging up the open line to you..."

As if Cheney didn't have the ability to keep multiple lines open simultaneously.

Do these people deserve to know how and why their loved ones were murdered? Do we deserve to know how and why 9/11 happened?