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The Dangerously Delayed Reactions of the Secret Service on 9/11

Dick Cheney being evacuated to the PEOC on 9/11

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.

SECRET SERVICE COULD DETECT AND RESPOND TO TERRORIST ATTACKS
The Secret Service protects America's "most visible targets," which include the president, the vice president, and their families; the White House complex; the vice president's residence; and other buildings in Washington, DC. [1] It had an important role in responding to terrorism and was prepared to deal with terrorist attacks. A report by the Office of Management and Budget published in July 2001 noted that it was "responsible for protection of high visibility officials and facilities that terrorists might target." [2]

Paul O'Neill, the Treasury secretary in 2001, said four months before 9/11 that in response to heightened concerns about terrorism, the Secret Service was carrying out "security operations that deter, minimize, and respond to these threats." He added that it had counter-assault teams, a counter-surveillance unit, and counter-sniper assets that could "detect and prevent, and if necessary respond to, any and all terrorist attacks on the president or vice president." [3]

Furthermore, the Secret Service was uniquely able to defend the White House and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (the building next to the White House where most of the president's staff works)--two buildings that should have been considered potential targets in the 9/11 attacks--since both buildings were protected by its uniformed division. [4] Additionally, the Secret Service's emergency response team--a specialized unit within the uniformed division--comprised the "sharpshooters assigned to respond to any terrorist strike," according to U.S. News & World Report. [5]

In light of the agency's specific responsibilities, particularly those relating to dealing with terrorism, the Secret Service's performance on September 11 appears to have been particularly poor.

THE SECRET SERVICE ONLY RESPONDED TO THE ATTACKS AFTER THE SECOND CRASH
Despite the heightened concern about terrorism around that time, Secret Service agents have indicated that they thought the first plane crash at the WTC was an accident, and they only realized a terrorist attack was underway and started taking action when they learned of the second crash.

Paul Nenninger, a special agent, was at Secret Service headquarters in Washington on the morning of September 11 for a meeting. He recalled that one of the last people to arrive for the meeting "announced that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center." But, according to Nenninger, it was only after they learned that another plane had hit the WTC that the agents there for the meeting realized that "one plane could be an accident, [but] two was an attack." The agents then "disbanded and went to various support roles defined by the day's events." [6]

Brian Stafford, the director of the Secret Service in 2001, was also at the Secret Service headquarters when the attacks began. He recalled that after he learned about the first crash, he "thought and hoped that it was an accident." But, he said, "When the second one hit, we knew that it wasn't." [7]

After the second crash, according to Assistant Director Danny Spriggs, Stafford activated the Director's Crisis Center. [8] The Director's Crisis Center, located on the ninth floor of the headquarters building, was used to direct operations in emergencies. [9] Little has been revealed about what was done there to respond to the 9/11 attacks, however. Spriggs, who arrived at the Director's Crisis Center at around 9:35 a.m., recalled that his "area of concern" while he was there was "the location of our protective details and the safety of our protectees." [10]

SENIOR AGENTS MET TO DISCUSS 'SECURITY ENHANCEMENTS AT THE WHITE HOUSE'
A Secret Service official whose response to the 9/11 attacks deserves particular attention is Carl Truscott. As the special agent in charge of the presidential protective division, Truscott was responsible for the overall security of the president, the president's family, and the White House. [11] He was in his office at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building when the attacks began.

Truscott has recalled that he started taking action after he "observed the CNN broadcast of the aircraft crashing into the World Trade Center." (It is unclear if he was referring to the first crash, which occurred at 8:46 a.m. but was first reported on CNN at 8:48 a.m., or the second crash, which was broadcast live at 9:03 a.m.) Truscott's first response appears to have been to contact three other senior Secret Service agents--two of them with the presidential protective division and one with the technical security division--and ask them to come to his office for a meeting.

The meeting was intended to discuss the critical subject of "security enhancements at the White House," according to Truscott. After it commenced, Truscott and the three other agents addressed a number of issues, including placing counter-sniper support on the White House, placing counter-surveillance units near the White House, increasing the number of emergency response teams, and opening the Emergency Operations Center. The meeting, however, began at "approximately 9:18 a.m.," according to Truscott--more than 30 minutes after the first attack on the WTC and 15 minutes after the second. [12]

SECURITY ENHANCEMENTS AT THE WHITE HOUSE WERE ONLY 'PRECAUTIONARY STEPS'
Although the Secret Service was responsible for protecting the White House, it appears to have done little to defend the place for a significant time after the attacks began. Certainly, its initial actions seem much less than what we might reasonably expect, considering the unprecedented emergency that was taking place.

Although the Secret Service implemented "security enhancements" around the White House complex, since Carl Truscott's meeting to discuss these measures began at around 9:18 a.m., the security enhancements would presumably have only been initiated some time after 9:18 a.m., well after the attacks began. [13]

As the nation's capital, Washington should have been considered a likely target for any subsequent attacks after the WTC towers had been hit. An FBI spokesman in fact said, in 1999, that Washington was a "target-rich environment" for terrorists, because of all the embassies, monuments, and federal agencies there. [14] And yet the security enhancements around the White House were only "precautionary steps taken because of the strikes in New York," and not due to concerns about a possible attack in Washington, according to the 9/11 Commission Report. [15]

Additionally, some of the security enhancements appear to have been implemented half-heartedly, as if those who ordered them were unaware of the seriousness of the situation. Uniformed division officers who established a perimeter around the White House complex were ordered to keep their submachine guns out of sight, so they would not look too "militaristic." The officers were furious about this. One of them complained, "All we were left with were our pistols." And Secret Service executives only implemented the standard "emergency call-up" that would put all personnel on active duty after 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon was hit. [16]

THE SECRET SERVICE ONLY EVACUATED THE WHITE HOUSE AFTER THE PENTAGON ATTACK
Significantly, the Secret Service only ordered the evacuations of the White House and the adjacent Eisenhower Executive Office Building at around 9:45 a.m., seven or eight minutes after the Pentagon--which is only a couple of miles away from them--was attacked. [17]

The evacuations were ordered after Carl Truscott received a call from Danny Spriggs, who was at the Director's Crisis Center, in which Spriggs said that "the intelligence division duty desk was reporting Federal Aviation Administration information that a suspicious aircraft was coming toward Washington." [18] (Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controllers informed the Secret Service that an unidentified aircraft was heading toward the White House at around 9:33 a.m. [19]) Then, while he was still on the phone with Spriggs, Truscott received a call from a "White House security representative" and, based on what Spriggs had said to him, he told the security representative to evacuate the White House. [20]

What is worth noting, as CNN White House correspondent John King observed at the time, is that people started evacuating the White House in a slow, orderly fashion--and presumably of their own accord--about 25 minutes before the Secret Service ordered people to leave there. [21] So while some staffers apparently realized they would be better off away from the White House by around 9:20 a.m., it took the agency responsible for protecting the White House another 25 minutes before it came to the same conclusion and ordered an evacuation.

Consequently, by the time agents started telling people to get away from the White House, 12 minutes had passed since the Secret Service was alerted to the suspicious aircraft flying toward the presidential mansion. Had that aircraft crashed into the White House, the Secret Service's evacuation order would have come many minutes too late to have helped save the lives of people there.

VICE PRESIDENT'S WIFE STAYED AT A HAIR SALON DURING THE ATTACKS
The slowness of the Secret Service's response to the 9/11 attacks was evident in the way agents performed in moving people they were meant to protect to safe locations, where those people were less likely to be victims of any additional attacks. The experiences of Dick Cheney, Lynne Cheney, and Condoleezza Rice illustrate this. All three individuals were at or near the White House when the attacks began.

Lynne Cheney, as the wife of the vice president, was protected by the Secret Service. [22] She was at the Nantucket Hair Salon in Washington, just a block away from the White House, at the time the planes crashed into the WTC. [23] Special Agent Michael Seremetis, who was with her, has recalled that a television was on in the hair salon, showing coverage of the attacks in New York. Seremetis, or possibly another Secret Service agent with him, went and told Cheney about the crashes as they were being reported on TV. [24]

Cheney has claimed that, when she was told of them, she did not initially realize the crashes were terrorist attacks. "I was so naive," she recalled. "At the first one I thought, 'Gee, that's odd.' And then the second one--now this is really naive--I thought, 'That's really odd.'" She said it was only after "a few minutes" that "it just set in that this can't happen." [25] Even if this is true, however, Cheney's Secret Service agents should surely have realized a terrorist attack was underway when the second plane hit the WTC, if not before then.

In a "state of emergency"--like the situation on September 11--"the Secret Service's plan is to get every protectee to a secure site," according to a National Geographic Channel documentary about the Secret Service. [26] And yet the agents did not evacuate Cheney from the hair salon and head toward a secure location until at least 30 minutes after the second attack. [27]

LYNNE CHENEY WAS EVACUATED AFTER AGENTS LEARNED OF AN AIRCRAFT FLYING TOWARD THE WHITE HOUSE
Lynne Cheney's Secret Service agents only took action after they heard from the Joint Operations Center that an aircraft was flying toward the White House. This would presumably have been shortly after 9:33 a.m., when the Secret Service was alerted to this suspicious aircraft. [28]

Cheney's explanation for her agents' slow response to the attacks was that the crisis was not initially "a Washington event." [29] But while the first attacks took place in New York, Cheney's agents should surely have considered the possibility of further attacks, and that these might have occurred in Washington. Casey McGee, a Secret Service special agent, specifically stated, "Part of our training [in the Secret Service] was to expect a diversion, expect multiple attacks." [30]

Cheney also explained the initial inaction of her agents by saying they "had no knowledge of a plane headed toward Washington." [31] But what if a plane had been heading toward Washington without their knowledge? Or what if terrorists attacked the capital from the ground, perhaps by setting off a bomb? Cheney's agents should surely have contemplated possibilities such as these and acted accordingly.

After evacuating her from the hair salon, the Secret Service agents initially drove Cheney toward the vice president's residence in northwest Washington. But in a phone call with a colleague, they learned that a plane had hit the Pentagon and were instructed, therefore, to take her to the White House, where she could join her husband. [32]

Cheney has recalled that the Secret Service "decided that maybe it would be safer for me to be underneath the White House. The immediate threat was gone, so they took me there." [33] The Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), where the agents were taking her, was certainly safer than the Nantucket Hair Salon: the bunker below the White House was designed to withstand a nuclear attack. [34]

Lynne Cheney arrived at the White House at 9:52 a.m., according to a Secret Service timeline, and the 9/11 Commission Report stated that she finally entered the safety of the PEOC at around 9:58 a.m.--more than 1 hour and 10 minutes after the first plane hit the WTC. [35]

THE EVACUATION OF VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY
Dick Cheney, as the vice president on September 11, was one of America's "most visible targets" and was guarded by his own detail of Secret Service agents. The actions of those agents were crucial and so an analysis of what they did is important. This analysis, however, is complicated by conflicting evidence about when they evacuated Cheney from his office in the West Wing of the White House and took him to the PEOC.

Norman Mineta, the secretary of transportation in September 2001, has indicated that Cheney may have been evacuated some time before around 9:20 a.m. Mineta said that when he arrived at the PEOC on September 11, Cheney was already there. [36] Mineta said, on one occasion, that he arrived at the PEOC at 9:20 a.m.; on another occasion, he said he arrived there at 9:27 a.m. [37] But other accounts, including the 9/11 Commission Report, have stated that Secret Service agents only evacuated Cheney from his office and headed toward the PEOC at around 9:35 a.m., after they were alerted to the suspicious plane flying toward the White House. [38]

While further investigation is necessary to determine if Cheney was evacuated at the earlier time implied by Mineta or the later time stated in other accounts, we should certainly examine the accounts that describe Cheney being evacuated at around 9:35 a.m., because if they are correct it would mean the Secret Service failed to take action to protect the vice president for more than 30 minutes after the second plane hit the WTC and it became clear the U.S. was under attack.

LEAD AGENT LEARNED OF ATTACKS FROM TELEVISION
Dick Cheney's Secret Service agents reportedly learned of the crisis on September 11 when Special Agent James Scott, the shift leader, saw the coverage of the first crash at the WTC on television and then alerted the "working shift"--the "body men" who remain in close proximity to a protectee--to what had happened, presumably in a phone call or over his radio. [39] Although Scott has not stated his location at that time, he was presumably at the Joint Operations Center at the White House, where the White House complex is monitored and the location of every "protected person," including the vice president, is constantly tracked. [40] Scott, however, did not instruct his colleagues to evacuate Cheney from his office.

Around the same time, John McConnell, Cheney's chief speechwriter, was waiting outside the vice president's office and chatting with the Secret Service agent posted there. After the two men learned of the first crash at the WTC, but before the second crash occurred, the agent was called by the Secret Service's intelligence division. He was told that the WTC had been hit, specifically, by a "passenger jet," according to McConnell. After the agent passed on this detail to him, McConnell experienced a "sick feeling," because, he commented, "a passenger aircraft is not going to crash into the World Trade Center." [41] If McConnell's account is correct, the Secret Service agent outside Cheney's office should have been similarly concerned about what had caused the plane to crash. But still no attempt was made to evacuate the vice president.

LEAD AGENT BECAME CERTAIN THAT CRASHES WERE TERRORIST ATTACKS
After Scott learned of the second crash at the WTC, presumably seeing it live on television, he was "certain that the airplane crashes were terrorist activities," he has recalled. But he still did not order that Cheney be taken to a secure location. Instead, he conferred with the supervisor who was with him, and the two men discussed "emergency contingency plans and a heightened security alert."

Then at "approximately 9:30 a.m."--more than 25 minutes after the second attack--Scott went to the West Wing to meet with Cheney's shift agents who were posted there. But he did not instruct them to evacuate the vice president. Instead, he recalled, he "discussed the heightened alert and reviewed the contingency plan" with them. He then remained near Cheney's office door.

Scott has said he only took action to get Cheney to a safe location when he learned a suspicious aircraft was flying toward Washington. [42] This was presumably shortly after 9:33 a.m., when the Secret Service was first informed about the aircraft.

Even after it was alerted to the aircraft, there was a delay before the Secret Service took action. At 9:33 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission Report, a supervisor at Reagan National Airport in Washington called the Joint Operations Center at the White House and said, "An aircraft [is] coming at you and not talking with us." The Secret Service officer who answered the call--apparently Gregory LaDow--recalled that, after he was told about the aircraft, he was "about to push the alert button." However, he said, the supervisor then told him "that the aircraft was turning south and approaching Reagan National Airport," instead of continuing toward the White House. Therefore, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, "No move was made to evacuate the vice president at this time."

Action was finally taken after the Secret Service learned the plane was beginning to circle back. [43] Scott heard the "broadcast alert" from the Joint Operations Center over his radio, stating, "Unidentified aircraft coming toward the White House." [44] Some or perhaps all of Cheney's agents then went into the vice president's office, to move Cheney to the PEOC. The Secret Service ordered the evacuation of Cheney "just before 9:36," according to the 9/11 Commission Report. [45] The agents hurried Cheney down the hallway, past the Oval Office, and down to the basement of the White House. [46]

If this account, according to which the Secret Service moved Cheney from his office to take him to a secure location at around 9:35 a.m., is correct, the implications are serious. It would mean Cheney's agents did nothing to protect the vice president--the man who would have been running the country if the president was killed or incapacitated--for over 45 minutes after the first attack and over 30 minutes after the second. Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman commented on their slow response, writing that after they left the vice president's office, Cheney and his agents "were racing a jet aircraft on foot." Therefore, Gellman noted, "If the White House had been the target, Cheney would have lost the race." [47]

Cheney and his agents reached the safety of the underground tunnel leading to the PEOC about a minute after they left Cheney's office. Cheney then used a phone in the tunnel to talk with President Bush, who was by then on Air Force One, ready to fly out of Sarasota, Florida. Cheney finally entered the PEOC at around 9:58 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission Report. [48]

NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER WAS ONLY TAKEN TO A SECURE LOCATION AFTER THE PENTAGON ATTACK
Another key government official whose experiences on September 11 highlight the slow responses of the Secret Service was Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser. Rice was in the White House at the time of the attacks on the U.S. [49]

Although she was not one of the Secret Service's designated protectees at that time, immediately after the attacks on the WTC, the Secret Service apparently considered itself responsible for her safety: At the 9:18 a.m. meeting during which Carl Truscott and three other senior Secret Service agents discussed security at the White House, one item covered, according to Truscott, was "providing protection for National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice." However, as was the case for Lynne Cheney and also, according to some accounts, Dick Cheney, the Secret Service only moved Rice to a secure location after it learned about the unidentified aircraft flying toward the White House.

Rice was escorted from the White House Situation Room to the PEOC by Truscott. Truscott learned about the suspicious aircraft heading toward the White House during his 9:18 a.m. meeting, when, as previously mentioned, Danny Spriggs phoned him and alerted him to it. He subsequently left his office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building and headed toward the PEOC.

On the way there, Truscott stopped off at the Situation Room. [50] There, he told Rice she had to go to the PEOC. This appears to have been at around 9:45 a.m., as Rice has recalled that at the time, she had just been watching the first coverage of the Pentagon attack on TV. [51] (The Pentagon attack was first reported on CNN at 9:42 a.m. [52]) Rice called President Bush and spoke with him before Truscott escorted her out of the Situation Room. [53] Rice and Truscott then joined Dick and Lynne Cheney in the underground tunnel leading to the PEOC, and Rice entered the PEOC shortly before 10:00 a.m. [54]

But if the Secret Service considered itself responsible for protecting Rice that morning, the question arises as to why it waited so long before it moved her to a secure location. Surely, for her safety, Rice should have been taken to the PEOC immediately after the second plane hit the WTC, if not before then. Agents should have known, once they realized the U.S. was under attack, that Rice could have been killed or seriously injured if the White House was targeted. And yet the national security adviser only reached the safety of the PEOC about 55 minutes after the second attack took place.

ARMED AGENTS ORDERED PEOPLE TO RUN AWAY FROM THE WHITE HOUSE
The oddness of the Secret Service's sluggish initial response to the 9/11 attacks becomes more apparent when we compare it with the urgency and professionalism agents suddenly exhibited after around 9:35 a.m. or 9:45 a.m. on September 11. After that time, they reacted in a manner we might reasonably expect them to in such a crisis.

The new level of urgency was evident when Secret Service agents ordered people to evacuate the White House, at around 9:45 a.m. CNN's John King reported that, after that time, the people he saw leaving the White House grounds "were told and ordered by the Secret Service to run." [55] Major Robert Darling of the White House Military Office, who was also at the scene, described seeing the White House in "full evacuation mode." "I was struck by the number of uniformed and plainclothes Secret Service agents with automatic weapons drawn," he commented, "yelling over megaphones, 'Ladies, take off your heels and run for the exits; there's another plane inbound.'" Darling also noticed "grim-faced Secret Service agents" who were "taking up positions in and around the White House." [56]

Secret Service agents acted with the same urgency as they ordered people to leave the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next door to the White House, at that time. Ron Christie, the deputy assistant to the vice president for domestic policy, described the scene on the second floor of the building, writing: "The offices containing the vice president's Secret Service detail were flung open. Men and women I'd never seen before ran out with automatic weapons. They began to shout: 'Everybody evacuate the building. Get out now!'" [57] The New York Times described bomb squads "racing through the upper floors of the Old Executive Office Building, screaming, 'Get out, get out, this is real!'" [58]

The increased concern of the Secret Service meant people were refused entry to the White House grounds. After he was evacuated from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, David Addington, Dick Cheney's general counsel and legal adviser, tried to re-enter the White House complex but was denied access. A Secret Service agent told him no one was being allowed in. Addington then "tried several other entrances," but "without success," according to journalist and author Stephen Hayes. [59]

Lynne Cheney and her Secret Service agents experienced a similar response when they arrived at the White House as it was being evacuated. A guard refused to let their car into the White House grounds. [60] The guard "didn't know who I was," Cheney wrote. [61] "The security people at the White House were stunned that somebody would want to come in," she recalled, "and so made quite an effort to keep us out." Cheney's driver took the car over the curb and onto the sidewalk, to try and get into the grounds, but a fire engine was driven in front of the car to block its way. Eventually, though, Cheney and her agents were admitted in. [62]

AGENTS SHOWED INCREASED CONCERN FOR THE SAFETY OF THEIR PROTECTEES
The sudden change in the attitude of the Secret Service was reflected in the way agents treated the people they were protecting.

If the accounts stating that Dick Cheney was evacuated from his office at around 9:35 a.m. are correct, then there was a dramatic contrast between the vice president's Secret Service agents' lack of response to the two crashes at the WTC, and their rapid and determined actions after they learned an unidentified plane was flying toward the White House.

Even after the second plane crashed, Cheney was allowed to stay in his office and meet with several other government officials. He then spent "several minutes watching developments on the television," he has recalled, and was starting "to get organized to figure out what to do." [63] But at around 9:35 a.m., according to Barton Gellman, "Four or five Secret Service agents arrived, submachine guns in hand." One of them, James Scott, pushed through the group of officials around Cheney and told the vice president, "Sir, we need to move you--now." Cheney nodded, indicating he would respond in a moment. But Scott "brought down the flat of his hand--loud--on Cheney's desk," according to Gellman, and commanded, "Now!" [64] Cheney recalled that Scott then "grabbed [me], put a hand on my belt, another hand on my shoulder, and propelled me out the door of my office." [65]

A similar change was evident in the behavior of Lynne Cheney's Secret Service agents after they were alerted to the aircraft flying toward the White House. Whereas they previously allowed the vice president's wife to continue with her appointment at the hair salon, Lynne Cheney has recalled that the agents now moved her "rather briskly into a car," drove her "at rather high speed toward the vice president's house," and then "made a rather dramatic U-turn in the middle of the street and headed toward the White House." [66]

And while she had been allowed to stay in a non-secure location after the planes hit the WTC, Condoleezza Rice was treated with a new level of urgency at around 9:45 a.m., when Carl Truscott took her to the PEOC. Rice has recalled that when she phoned the president before going to the PEOC, the call had to be "brief" because she was "being pushed to get off the phone and get out of the West Wing." [67] Truscott, she said, was "pulling at my arm, saying, 'You have to go to the bunker.'" [68] Then, as she headed to the PEOC, she was "pushed along" the corridors by Truscott. [69]

In all three accounts--of Dick and Lynne Cheney, and Condoleezza Rice--we see that Secret Service agents did eventually respond to the 9/11 attacks in a way we might reasonably expect from such highly skilled professionals in an emergency. But why did they fail to respond that way after the second plane hit the WTC at 9:03 a.m., when, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, "nearly everyone in the White House ... immediately knew it was not an accident?" [70]

THE SECRET SERVICE WAS PREPARED FOR GROUND ATTACKS
Although the call it received at 9:33 a.m. about a suspicious aircraft flying toward the White House was "the first specific report to the Secret Service of a direct threat to the White House," according to the 9/11 Commission Report, how could the Secret Service have known, when it first became aware of the attacks in New York, that Washington or the White House would not also be attacked? A hijacked aircraft could have been flying toward Washington without its knowledge. Or terrorists could have attacked from the ground: A group brandishing firearms could have gone on a rampage in the capital, or a bomb, chemical weapon, or biological weapon could have been set off. The Secret Service should surely have anticipated these possibilities as soon as it realized or suspected the U.S. was under attack.

Secret Service agents apparently would have been prepared for these kinds of attacks: The Washington Post reported, "Of the more than 201 federal planning exercises conducted in the late 1990s, two-thirds were aimed at defending the public against biological and chemical attacks." [71]

Dick Cheney's Secret Service agents indeed seemed to recognize the possibility of a ground attack on the White House when they moved the vice president down toward the PEOC. Cheney recalled that they "positioned themselves at the top, middle, and bottom of the staircase, creating layers of defense in case the White House itself should be invaded." James Scott gave Cheney's other agents extra firearms and gas masks, presumably in case there was a chemical or biological attack on the White House. [72] But why did these agents wait so long before reacting with this high level of urgency and professionalism?

THE WHITE HOUSE WAS CONSIDERED A POSSIBLE TERRORIST TARGET
The slowness of the Secret Service in protecting the White House on September 11 seems particularly odd in light of the fact that the agency considered the place a possible target for terrorists and had been concerned that it might be attacked from the air.

Paul O'Neill revealed in May 2001 that the Secret Service held "interagency tabletop exercises in preparation for terrorist attacks on the White House." [73] And after the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, when there were concerns about the games being attacked using an aircraft, the Secret Service "continued to work on the problem of airborne threats to the Washington region," according to the 9/11 Commission Report. [74] Additionally, Marlin Fitzwater, the press secretary to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, said in 1994 that "aerial attacks" were "the ultimate fear for security people." [75]

The Secret Service's concerns would surely have been heightened because of an incident in 1994--actually on the night of September 11 that year--when a man stole a small propeller plane from an airport in Maryland and then crashed it into the wall of the White House. Time magazine commented, "The unlikely incident confirmed all too publicly what security officials have long feared in private: the White House is vulnerable to sneak attack from the air." [76]

Between 1998 and 2001, the Secret Service even held training exercises to test security at the White House, which involved computer simulations of planes crashing into the building. [77]

THE SECRET SERVICE HAD COMMUNICATION PROBLEMS ON SEPTEMBER 11
While a proper investigation is required to determine why the Secret Service performed so poorly in protecting the White House and some of the people it was responsible for on September 11, we can at least speculate as to some factors that may have been involved.

There is already some evidence suggesting the Secret Service's lines of communication were sabotaged on September 11, thereby hindering the agency's ability to respond to the terrorist attacks. The sabotage may have involved phones being jammed, or rogue employees deliberately failing to pass on information or failing to pass on information quickly enough.

For example, Nelson Garabito, a senior Secret Service agent who was responsible for coordinating the president's movements, phoned his counterpart at the Federal Aviation Administration promptly after the second attack on the WTC, and was told there were two planes that were unaccounted for and possibly hijacked in addition to the two that had hit the WTC. Garabito instructed someone with him to go upstairs and pass this information on to other Secret Service agents. But, for unknown reasons, the information was not passed on, or was passed on but not disseminated. It "failed to reach agents assigned to the vice president, and the vice president was not evacuated at that time," the 9/11 Commission Report stated. [78]

And Danny Spriggs said that when he arrived at the Director's Crisis Center at Secret Service headquarters at around 9:35 a.m., "many of the telephones" in the center were "not operational." However, it is unclear if he meant the phones were not working or were simply not yet being used. [79]

AGENTS WERE HINDERED BY 'CONFLICTING' AND 'UNCONFIRMED' INFORMATION
Further evidence that the Secret Service was affected by communication problems on September 11 was its lack of awareness of what was going on that day.

Laura Bush, the wife of President Bush, spent much of September 11 at Secret Service headquarters and has described the lack of information available to people there. "All of us in that basement conference room [at Secret Service headquarters] and many more in the Secret Service building were relying on rumors and on whatever news came from the announcers on television," she wrote. [80]

Danny Spriggs also described the lack of awareness of what was happening among those at Secret Service headquarters. He said the amount of information that came into the Director's Crisis Center throughout the day was "enormous." However, agents in the center were receiving "conflicting" information from the Secret Service's intelligence division, "unconfirmed data," and "raw information," which hindered their ability to make proper decisions. Spriggs recalled that one of his colleagues was making decisions based on "inaccurate data that could have been quickly verified." [81]

Confusion within the Secret Service was also indicated by the behavior of a senior agent who met Lynne Cheney when she arrived at the White House and escorted her through the building. Inside the White House, Cheney and the agent ran into I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the vice president's chief of staff, who was making his way to the PEOC.

Libby has recalled that the Secret Service agent appeared to be "a little confused" about where he should take Cheney. The agent, according to Libby, "had the impression that she was supposed to be in the mess area"--the cafeteria on the ground floor of the West Wing, which was much less secure than the underground PEOC.

Libby told the Secret Service agent, "I think we're--Mrs. Cheney and I--are supposed to be in the PEOC." But the agent, who was wearing an earpiece that Libby thought "he was getting some instructions off," believed they were "supposed to be somewhere else." Eventually, after "probably a minute or so," according to Libby, the agent received "the proper instruction" over his earpiece. Cheney, the agent, and Libby then headed toward the PEOC. [82]

WAS THE SECRET SERVICE HOLDING A TRAINING EXERCISE ON SEPTEMBER 11?
Another possible reason for the Secret Service's poor response to the terrorist attacks is that the agency was running a training exercise, maybe based around a scenario resembling the actual attacks that day. As previously mentioned, around that time, the Secret Service had been conducting "interagency tabletop exercises in preparation for terrorist attacks on the White House." [83] One of these exercises could have been scheduled for the morning of September 11, and could have been used to deceive and confuse agents. Some agents may have been unclear as to what was real and what was simulated, and could have mistaken actual events for part of the exercise.

While we can currently speculate, the actual reasons for the Secret Service's initial lack of response to the 9/11 attacks are still unknown. The amount of evidence publicly available about the Secret Service's actions on September 11 is, unfortunately, very small. A lot more relevant information therefore needs to come to light. And the actions of the Secret Service need to be a key area of consideration in any new investigations of the 9/11 attacks.

NOTES
[1] "Testimony of Paul H. O'Neill, Secretary of the Treasury, Before the Senate Committee on Appropriations." U.S. Department of the Treasury, May 8, 2001; "Mission Statement." United States Secret Service, 2002.
[2] Office of Management and Budget, Annual Report to Congress on Combating Terrorism. Washington, DC: Office of Management and Budget, July 2001, p. 81.
[3] "Testimony of Paul H. O'Neill, Secretary of the Treasury, Before the Senate Committee on Appropriations."
[4] Philip H. Melanson with Peter F. Stevens, The Secret Service: The Hidden History of an Enigmatic Agency. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2002, p. 169; "Protection: Uniformed Division." United States Secret Service, 2002.
[5] Chitra Ragavan, "Under Cloudy Skies." U.S. News & World Report, December 1, 2002.
[6] Paul L. Nenninger, "One Secret Service Agent's Experience." Southeast Missourian, August 29, 2011.
[7] Inside the U.S. Secret Service. National Geographic Channel, October 24, 2004.
[8] USSS memo, interview with AD C. Danny Spriggs, OPO. United States Secret Service, October 1, 2001.
[9] Ronald Kessler, In the President's Secret Service: Behind the Scenes With Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect. New York: Crown, 2009, pp. 23-24.
[10] USSS memo, interview with AD C. Danny Spriggs, OPO.
[11] "Assistant Director Carl J. Truscott Announces Plans to Retire From the U.S. Secret Service." United States Secret Service news release, April 1, 2004.
[12] USSS memo, interview with SAIC Carl Truscott. United States Secret Service, October 1, 2001.
[13] 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, pp. 35-36.
[14] "Washington Moves to Deter Millennial Terrorist Attacks." New York Times, November 15, 1999.
[15] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 36.
[16] Chitra Ragavan, "Under Cloudy Skies"; Philip H. Melanson, The Secret Service: The Hidden History of an Enigmatic Agency. 2nd ed. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2005, p. 331.
[17] "A Stunning 48 Hours of News." Associated Press, 2001; Dan Balz and Bob Woodward, "America's Chaotic Road to War." Washington Post, January 27, 2002.
[18] USSS memo, interview with SAIC Carl Truscott.
[19] "Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events: September 11, 2001." Federal Aviation Administration, September 17, 2001; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 39.
[20] USSS memo, interview with SAIC Carl Truscott.
[21] "The White House Has Been Evacuated." Breaking News, CNN, September 11, 2001.
[22] "Protection: Protective Mission." United States Secret Service, 2002.
[23] "9/11/01 Timeline." United States Secret Service, November 17, 2001; USSS memo, interview with SA Michael Seremetis. United States Secret Service, October 1, 2001.
[24] USSS memo, interview with SA Michael Seremetis; White House transcript, telephone interview of Mrs. Cheney by Newsweek magazine. White House, November 9, 2001.
[25] "Lynne Cheney--Excerpts." Associated Press, November 30, 2001.
[26] Inside the U.S. Secret Service.
[27] USSS memo, interview with SA Michael Seremetis.
[28] Ibid.
[29] White House transcript, telephone interview of Mrs. Cheney by Newsweek magazine.
[30] Inside the U.S. Secret Service.
[31] White House transcript, telephone interview of Mrs. Cheney by Newsweek magazine.
[32] USSS memo, interview with SA Michael Seremetis.
[33] "Lynne Cheney's July 2002 Talk at the National Press Club." NPR, July 2, 2002.
[34] David E. Sanger and Don Van Natta Jr., "In Four Days, a National Crisis Changes Bush's Presidency." New York Times, September 16, 2001; Dan Balz and Bob Woodward, "America's Chaotic Road to War."
[35] "9/11/01 Timeline"; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 40.
[36] Norman Mineta, interview by the Academy of Achievement. Los Angeles, CA, June 3, 2006.
[37] Norman Mineta, interview by Robert Hager. NBC News, September 11, 2002; National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States: Public Hearing. 9/11 Commission, May 23, 2003.
[38] "9/11/01 Timeline"; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, pp. 39-40.
[39] USSS memo, interview with ATSAIC Scott Johnson and SA James Scott. United States Secret Service, October 1, 2001.
[40] Scott Williams, "Joan Lunden's Night of Guns 'N' Gams." New York Daily News, December 22, 1997; "National Geographic Channel Steps Into the Line of Fire Alongside Special Agents of the U.S. Secret Service." National Geographic Channel news release, September 27, 2004.
[41] Stephen F. Hayes, Cheney: The Untold Story of America's Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President. New York: HarperCollins, 2007, pp. 329-330.
[42] USSS memo, interview with ATSAIC Scott Johnson and SA James Scott.
[43] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, pp. 39, 464.
[44] USSS memo, interview with ATSAIC Scott Johnson and SA James Scott.
[45] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, pp. 39-40.
[46] White House transcript, telephone interview of the vice president by Newsweek. White House, November 19, 2001.
[47] Barton Gellman, Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency. New York: Penguin, 2008, p. 115.
[48] Nicholas Lemann, "The Options." New Yorker, October 1, 2001; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 40.
[49] David E. Sanger, "Frozen in Memory, the First Moments of a Transformed World--Condoleezza Rice; National Security Adviser." New York Times, September 11, 2002.
[50] USSS memo, interview with SAIC Carl Truscott.
[51] David E. Sanger, "Frozen in Memory, the First Moments of a Transformed World--Condoleezza Rice; National Security Adviser."
[52] "Terrorism Strikes in the United States in a Massive Attack." Breaking News, CNN, September 11, 2001.
[53] White House transcript, interview of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice by Terry Moran of ABC. White House, August 6, 2002; David E. Sanger, "Frozen in Memory, the First Moments of a Transformed World--Condoleezza Rice; National Security Adviser."
[54] USSS memo, interview with SAIC Carl Truscott; Elisabeth Bumiller, Condoleezza Rice: An American Life: A Biography. New York: Random House, 2007, p. xiii.
[55] "The White House Has Been Evacuated."
[56] Robert J. Darling, 24 Hours Inside the President's Bunker: 9/11/01 The White House. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2010, p. 47.
[57] Ron Christie, Black in the White House: Life Inside George W. Bush's West Wing. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006, p. 129.
[58] David E. Sanger and Don Van Natta Jr., "In Four Days, a National Crisis Changes Bush's Presidency."
[59] Stephen F. Hayes, Cheney, p. 334.
[60] Ibid. p. 334.
[61] White House notes: Lynne Cheney notes, September 11, 2001.
[62] White House transcript, telephone interview of Mrs. Cheney by Newsweek magazine; Katherine M. Skiba, "Lynne Cheney Stresses Importance of History; Discusses Sept. 11." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, July 2, 2002; Stephen F. Hayes, Cheney, p. 334.
[63] Meet the Press. NBC, September 16, 2001; Stephen F. Hayes, Cheney, pp. 331-332.
[64] Barton Gellman, Angler, pp. 114-115.
[65] David Kohn, "The President's Story." CBS News, September 10, 2002.
[66] White House transcript, telephone interview of Mrs. Cheney by Newsweek magazine.
[67] White House transcript, interview of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice by Scott Pelley, CBS. White House, August 2, 2002.
[68] White House transcript, interview of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice by Evan Thomas of Newsweek magazine. White House, November 11, 2001.
[69] White House transcript, interview of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice by Scott Pelley, CBS.
[70] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 35.
[71] Joby Warrick and Joe Stephens, "Before Attack, U.S. Expected Different Hit." Washington Post, October 2, 2001.
[72] Dick Cheney with Liz Cheney, In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011, p. 1.
[73] "Testimony of Paul H. O'Neill, Secretary of the Treasury, Before the Senate Committee on Appropriations."
[74] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 345.
[75] Stephen Labaton, "Pilot's Exploit Rattles White House Officials." New York Times, September 13, 1994.
[76] Maureen Dowd, "Unimpeded, Intruder Crashes Plane Into White House." New York Times, September 13, 1994; Michael Duffy, "Flight of the Intruder." Time, September 26, 1994.
[77] Paul L. Nenninger, "One Secret Service Agent's Experience."
[78] "USSS Statements and Interview Reports." 9/11 Commission, July 28, 2003; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 464.
[79] USSS memo, interview with AD C. Danny Spriggs, OPO.
[80] Laura Bush, Spoken From the Heart. New York: Scribner, 2010, p. 202.
[81] "USSS Statements and Interview Reports."
[82] White House transcript, interview of Scooter Libby by Newsweek magazine. White House, November 16, 2001.
[83] "Testimony of Paul H. O'Neill, Secretary of the Treasury, Before the Senate Committee on Appropriations."

More evidence of Secret Service inaction on 9/11 ...

You can see more evidence of the pattern I've described here--of the Secret Service doing almost nothing in response to the 9/11 attacks until after around 9:35 a.m. or 9:45 a.m., when it suddenly jumped into action--in the accounts of President Bush and Laura Bush on September 11.

For details, see my previous blog entry, "Laura Bush on 9/11: Why Was the President's Wife Left Vulnerable and Unprotected?":
http://shoestring911.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/laura-bush-on-911-why-was-presidents.html
and Kevin Ryan's article, "Secret Service Failures on 9/11: A Call for Transparency":
http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2012/03/secret-service-failures-on-911-a-call-for-transparency.html

Excellent article.

There is also the thorny issue that President Bush's location in Sarasota had been published on the White House website at least 48 hours prior to the attack, so the president's location on the morning of 9/11 could have been pinpointed to a specific building, or city block, by the attackers. The Secret Service therefore knew that the president's location was public domain and if this attack had been a "genuine" act by foreign terrorists, then the president, his staff, the Secret Service detail, alongside a large number of school kids and teachers, were all in obvious and immediate danger. A junior member of the presidential Secret Service entourage, upon learning of the second plane hitting the South Tower at 9:02, jumped into action saying "OK we're outta here", only to get rebuffed by his bosses, who didn't evacuate the president until more than half an hour later.

More on Sarasota

For Bush to remain at the Booker School seems even more bizarre when you consider that the school was almost directly in line with the primary runway, #14/32, of the Sarasota Int'l Airport--which was less than two miles away. Planes approaching from the south would have flown almost directly over the school at a low altitude. Planes approaching from the north could pull out of a feinted landing and be at the school in less than a minute.

The school is quite easy to find from the air--near a railroad, next to a golf course and an open field, and marked by tennis courts and a running track. At one time on 9/11 the FAA believed there might be as many as 11 hijacked planes.

The account of Norman Mineta

The account of Norman Mineta stands in contrast to your described scenario of the secret service. The FAA-counterpart of Secret Service agent Nelson Garabito describes the moments differently, too..
"On 9/11
He went down and saw the second plane hit. All his information was coming from Nelson Garabito of the secret service, who was calling him from the White House JOC. Nelson fed information to him. This was Steenbergen only outside source. He doesn´t know how Nelson got his information."

Foreknowledge of two more hijacked planes around 09:03 heading towards D.C.
http://911blogger.com/news/2010-12-24/foreknowledge-two-more-hijacked-planes-around-0903-heading-towards-dc

Mineta/Secret Service

Does anyone else find it strange that the Secret Service mentions hurriedly ushering Mr. and Mrs. Cheney and Condoleezza Rice to the PEOC but always seem to fail to mention taking Mineta there in the initial chaos when they learned an aircraft was heading toward the White House?

I mean, he's important enough to be ushered to the White House after the crisis began and taken to the PEOC to consult with the vice president, but he fails to get mentioned by the Secret Service in all of the follow-up interviews. It's as if he wasn't there at 9:20 as he has claimed.

Other problems with Mineta's account

I've come across several problems with Norman Mineta's account of his journey to, and arrival at, the PEOC on September 11.

Firstly, Mineta said that when he arrived at the White House, the place was being evacuated, and people were "running away" or "running out" of there. (Source; source) But CNN's John King, who was outside the White House at the time and reporting the evacuation as it happened, said that people only started running away from the White House, in response to the Secret Service's orders, at around 9:45 a.m. Before then, people had been leaving the White House in a slow and orderly fashion. (Source) So this would indicate that Mineta arrived at the White House after 9:45 a.m., and could not have been in the PEOC at 9:20 a.m.

Also, in one interview, Mineta said that when he arrived at the PEOC, Dick Cheney "was there, and so was Mrs. Cheney. ... This was before American Airlines [Flight 77] went into the Pentagon." (Source, 4 mins. into the video.) However, all of the evidence I have come across about when Lynn Cheney arrived at the PEOC is consistent with her having arrived at the White House at around 9:52 a.m., as is stated in the Secret Service's timeline. (Source--Lynne Cheney is referred to here by her code name, "Author") So, if the Secret Service's timeline is correct, Mineta is also mistaken in his claim that "Mrs. Cheney" was in the PEOC when he arrived there, supposedly before Flight 77 hit the Pentagon.

Also, Miles Kara made what I think is an important point, by summarizing what Mineta reportedly was able to achieve between the second attack on the WTC at 9:03 a.m. and around 9:20 a.m. Kara wrote that on the morning of September 11: "Secretary Mineta was in his office on the top floor of the Department of Transportation building. He accomplished the following actions after UA 175 struck the South Tower. He assimilated what he saw and conversed with his staff. He took time to talk to CEO's of airlines. He descended to the ground floor and was driven to the White House West Wing gate, a minimum of eight minutes on a good day. He then passed through security and debarked at the West Wing where he met with Richard Clarke some time after the SVTS conference, which convened at 0940. ... Mineta had to then cross to the East Wing and descend to the PEOC." (Source)

So, according to his own accounts of his actions, it seems it would have been an extraordinary achievement if Mineta had reached the PEOC any time close to 9:20 a.m.

Even more problems

A couple of other problems off the top of my head: Mineta has always stated that he was on the phone with Monte Belger as the plane approached the Pentagon, Belger claimed in his interview with the commission that he did not get on the phone with Mineta until after the Pentagon attack. Also, the approach of the aircraft Mineta/Belger describes in no way resembles the approach of Flight 77 to the Pentagon. Belger describes an aircraft approaching from the northnorthwest (Great Falls, down river approach, USA today building) when Flight 77 came in from the West and … well, you already know the flight path.

There is a mountain of evidence supporting Mineta's later arrival time and a molehill supporting an earlier arrival time. But, some people just can't let go of their Cheney "stand-down order."

The testimony of Norman

The testimony of Norman Mineta is widely discussed and known at 911blogger. For example "Mineta's Testimony CONFIRMED".

Nevertheless there are important statements made by important FAA-personal, which need to be contributed to the discussion:

Mike Weikert was in charge in the FAA-Headquarter for the "primary net" (hijack-net). In his statement to the 911 commission, he describes, what happened shortly before the Pentagon attack. He says, that the FAA-Headquarter tried to "raise" the White House, Defense Department, and that Belger was monotoring "both nets":

"We were trying to raise them when we were tracking the plane that crashed in the Pentagon. Belger was in the room at the time. He was monitoring both nets." source

Monte Belger Acting (FAA Deputy Administrator) cannot remember speaking with Mineta, but can recall reports of a "high speed VFR", which flow eastward in this time:

"Belger clearly recalled reports of a "high speed VFR" headed eastward, though Belger does not recall speaking with the Secretary about this. The aircraft was characterized as an unidentified primary radar track that airtraffic had identified east of Dulles. From Belger 's perspective, he "obviously" knew there was a threat to DC when AAL77 crashed into the Pentagon." source

Nevertheless Belger confirms, that Mineta was with Cheney, and that Mineta gave Belger the command to ground all planes shortly after the attack.

"Belger does believe he knew that the Secretary was in the bunker of the White House, or that the Secretary was with Vice-POTUS (...) He and Garvey got on the phone with Norm Mineta who decided to bring everything down (around 9:45) which was implemented."
http://911blogger.com/news/2011-02-08/statements-monte-belger-mike-weikert-both-faa-regard-mineta-testimony

Yes, Mineta's testimony does

Yes, Mineta's testimony does get discussed here quite a bit, but it's almost always in the favor of the earlier arrival time. I was just pointing out that Shoestring is one of very few people that frequents 9/11blogger who is willing to post something that contradicts the consensus here. That is, that Mineta was in the bunker for the approach of American 77.

"We were trying to raise them when we were tracking the plane that crashed in the Pentagon. Belger was in the room at the time. He was monitoring both nets."

The above quote does not support the argument of an earlier time arrival by Mineta. Belger would not be trying to raise the White House if he was talking to Mineta from the White House as Mineta has claimed repeatedly.

Monte Belger Acting (FAA Deputy Administrator) cannot remember speaking with Mineta, but can recall reports of a "high speed VFR", which flow eastward in this time:

"Belger clearly recalled reports of a "high speed VFR" headed eastward, though Belger does not recall speaking with the Secretary about this.

The above quote does not support the argument of an earlier time arrival by Mineta in 2 separate ways.

(1) the aircraft Belger is describing approached from the West, the aircraft he describes to Mineta approaches from the northnorthwest on the Down River Approach (the DRA is a very specific flight path over the Potomac River for inbound aircraft approaching Reagan National). American 77 was never anywhere near the DRA, it was always to the west and south of Washington.

And (2) Belger "does not recall speaking with the secretary about this," meaning the aircraft that struck the Pentagon. Mineta has repeatedly stated that Belger started giving him reports of the aircraft approaching when it was 50 miles out (80 miles in one account). How could that happen if Belger "does not recall speaking with the secretary about this"?

"Belger does believe he knew that the Secretary was in the bunker of the White House, or that the Secretary was with Vice-POTUS (...) He and Garvey got on the phone with Norm Mineta who decided to bring everything down (around 9:45) which was implemented."

The above quote does not support the argument for an earlier time arrival by Mineta.

It may support an argument for a time earlier than claimed by the commission, but it does not put Mineta in the bunker at 9:20 or even before the Pentagon was struck.

Correction

I need to correct myself in this post. Belger wasn't reporting the aircraft 50 miles out, it was the young man in the bunker with the secretary that was reporting the aircraft 50 miles out.

Secret Service Stand Down

It all looks like the Secret Service were told to stand down until 9.45am.

And do we even really know the impact time of Flight 77? Barabra Honegger's view seems to tie most of the evidence together... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fvJ8nFa5Qk's

Suppose Cheney was late into the bunker... what was he doing for the hour during the emergency itself?!

I don't think you can take any statement at face value, even Mineta's. Shoestring's approach of using officially accepted material and poking holes in the official story is very credible and really shows up the tangled web of lies.

Further problems with Mineta's account

There is other evidence that casts doubt on Norman Mineta's claim that Dick Cheney was in the PEOC at around 9:20 a.m.

First, a number of government officials have described going to Cheney's office after Flight 175 hit the WTC at 9:03 a.m., where they discussed what had happened with the vice president. These officials include John McConnell (Source), Mary Matalin (Source), and Scooter Libby (Source). If their accounts are correct, at the very least it rules out the possibility that Cheney was evacuated in the initial period after the second attack on the WTC.

Second, I have come across accounts given by several people in which the person said they met Dick Cheney in the tunnel leading to the PEOC, and indicated this was at some time between around 9:40 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. These accounts have come from Lynne Cheney (Source), Scooter Libby (Source), and Secret Service agent Carl Truscott (Source). I have never read Mineta or anyone else claiming that Dick Cheney temporarily left the PEOC after first arriving there. So these accounts contradict Mineta's claim of Cheney being in the PEOC by around 9:20 a.m.

"10 Miles Out"

I don't think that Scooter Libby and Lynne Cheney can be considered independent sources for Dick. They might merely be covering for him. Besides,"sometime between 9:40 and 10:00" sounds very vague -- as opposed to 9:20 stated by Mineta.

Also the Transportation Sec. would have known that the Pentagon had already been hit after 9:37 and could not mistake events just before 10:00 as being FL 77 approaching the Pentagon. And isn't that the only plane that came within 10 miles of the Capitol?

United 93

"Also the Transportation Sec. would have known that the Pentagon had already been hit after 9:37 and could not mistake events just before 10:00 as being FL 77 approaching the Pentagon. And isn't that the only plane that came within 10 miles of the Capitol?"

Most people go wrong on the Mineta story because they only consider Flight 77 and don't consider what happened to Flight 93. While United 93 never came within 100 miles of Washington DC, there were lots and lots people that were definitely under the impression that it was bearing down on the capital.

The rescue operations at the Pentagon were suspended and all of the rescuers had to evacuate the area, the area surrounding the Pentagon was evacuated as far as way as the Naval Annex, and fighters were launched from Andrews Air Force Base all because an air traffic controller changed United 93's flight plan to reflect a course headed toward Reagan National (DCA). The projected landing time was at 10:28 a.m.

"The projected landing time

"The projected landing time was at 10:28 a.m."

Nelson Garabito knew shortly after the second hit, around 09:04, that two "outstanding" planes would fly to Washington, the second would arrive there at around 09:49 am (“45 Minutes out” at 09:04 am.)

Flight 93 was delayed 42 minutes. So it would have arrived in Washington at 10:28 am. 10:28 minus 42 minutes is 09:46 am!

This is foreknowledge, because flight 93 was not earlier hijacked as 09:28!

Read the statement of Garabitos FAA-counterpart Van Steenhagen:

"Nelson fed information to him. This was Steenbergen only outside source. He doesn´t know how Nelson got his information. This was received within 30 seconds of the 2nd plane hitting the World Trade Center."

Foreknowledge?

Isn't it strange how the people with foreknowledge of the most dastardly attack in world history gave up their foreknowledge willy-nilly before the attack was even finished?

Foreknowledge or not, Mineta was referring to the projected United 93 close to 10:30 and not American 77 at 9:30.

Here's an example of someone believing that United 93 was approaching Washington, DC around 10:30:

"Late in the morning of the Tuesday that changed everything, Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney was on a runway at Andrews Air Force Base and ready to fly. She had her hand on the throttle of an F-16 and she had her orders: Bring down United Airlines Flight 93. The day’s fourth hijacked airliner seemed to be hurtling toward Washington. Penney, one of the first two combat pilots in the air that morning, was told to stop it."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/f-16-pilot-was-ready-to-give-her-life-on-sept-11/2011/09/06/gIQAMpcODK_story.html

Penney's flight didn't get airborne until around 10:50 and they were still looking for United 93.

Down vote me all you like…

but it's still true. Just listen to the audio in the YouTube link below. Billy Hutchinson (BULLY 1) departed from Andrews at 10:38 with instructions to look for an "aircraft flying down the river" and Heather Penney's flight (CAPS 1) departed at 10:41 looking for an "unidentified, unknown" aircraft approaching Washington.

All 3 aircraft were sent up to look for a specific threat. That's because the White House/Secret Service was watching the projected 93 approach DC and they had called Andrews looking for fighter support. This shouldn't be anything new to anyone that has seriously examined 9/11.

Here's the audio:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gxEoYudBV0