Why Did the Secret Service Report That a Plane Had Crashed into the White House on 9/11?

The White HouseFirefighters were called out to a major incident that supposedly occurred at the White House, minutes after the Pentagon was attacked on September 11, 2001. The Secret Service had reported that a plane had crashed into the home of the U.S. president, the building was on fire, and there had been a structural collapse. However, when members of the District of Columbia Fire Department arrived on the scene, it quickly became apparent to them that no such incident had taken place and they were promptly ordered to leave.

While it might be claimed that this incident was merely the result of confusion in the middle of an unprecedented crisis, there is an alternative explanation for it. Evidence suggests the Secret Service could have been running a training exercise on the morning of September 11, which included the scenario of a plane crashing into the White House.

For example, other government agencies are known to have been holding exercises on September 11 and so the Secret Service could have run an exercise that day in order to coordinate its activities with the activities of these agencies. Additionally, the Secret Service is known to have conducted exercises before 9/11, based around the scenario of a terrorist attack at the White House. In some exercises, it actually simulated a plane crashing into the White House. So, when it reported a plane crash at the White House on September 11, it may have been responding to a simulated incident that regularly featured in its exercises.

Furthermore, before it reported the crash, the Secret Service was alerted to a suspicious plane that was supposedly approaching Washington, DC. Evidence indicates that this plane may have been a simulated aircraft in an exercise, which was subsequently imagined to have crashed into the White House.

The Secret Service was, according to numerous accounts, alarmingly slow to respond to the 9/11 attacks. If the agency was running an exercise when the attacks occurred, this may help explain its poor performance, especially if the exercise was based around the scenario of suicidal terrorists using planes as weapons. Agents may have thought real world events they heard about were simulations in the exercise, and therefore failed to respond to them promptly and appropriately.

If the Secret Service's report about a plane crashing into the White House was made as part of an exercise, this has serious implications. The report was made around an hour after the first crash at the World Trade Center occurred and several minutes after the Pentagon--the third and final building to be hit that day--was attacked. If an exercise was taking place at that time, it would mean this exercise had been allowed to continue even when it was obvious that America was under attack and the Secret Service needed to help defend the nation.

If a Secret Service exercise was allowed to continue throughout the 9/11 attacks, we need to determine the reason for this. Was it the result of incompetence or confusion? Or was what happened a planned action, perhaps orchestrated by rogue government officials who aimed to paralyze the Secret Service at this critical time, thereby increasing the likelihood that the attacks succeeded?

At around 9:46 a.m. on September 11, the District of Columbia Fire Department (DCFD) sent a number of engines and trucks to the White House to respond to an alleged incident there. This was in response to an incorrect report made by the Secret Service--the agency that protects the president and the White House--that a plane had crashed into the presidential residence, the building was on fire, and some or all of it had collapsed. Because a building collapse had reportedly occurred, the DCFD's "cave-in task force" was sent to the White House along with the other units.

However, when the first firefighters arrived at the White House, they found no incident had occurred there and were ordered to leave. A uniformed officer waved them away and said: "Get the fuck outta here! There's a plane coming in!" "It was mass confusion; we go down to the White House and no one knows what's going on," Lieutenant Jeff Wright, one of the firefighters, has recalled.

The report about the crash was soon investigated and determined to be unfounded. However, DCFD units were kept near the White House in case an attack subsequently occurred there. [1]

This curious incident is virtually unknown and no official explanation has been provided as to why the Secret Service made such an obviously false report. A possibility we need to examine is that the agency was running a training exercise based around the scenario of a plane being crashed into the White House and its report to the emergency services was made as part of this exercise.

Curiously, the Secret Service appears to have been preparing for the possibility of the White House collapsing well before it reported that some or all of the building had come down. Specifically, at around 9:07 a.m., according to a Secret Service timeline, the agency's Technical Security Division contacted the "structural collapse team" at Fort Belvoir, an Army base about 20 miles south of Washington, and told it "that the Secret Service may have a need for [its] assets and [the team's personnel] should report to their duty station." [2]

This "structural collapse team" was the Military District of Washington (MDW) Engineer Company, which was tasked with "rescuing survivors of building breakdowns and preventing such collapses in emergencies." [3] The unit had never previously been called on to carry out its mission in a real-world situation, since its creation in 1989. [4]

But now the MDW Engineer Company was placed on "alert status" and on "30-minute standby" for the White House. Later that day, it was released to go to the Pentagon to help respond to the attack there and its personnel arrived at the Department of Defense headquarters early that afternoon. [5]

But why was a "structural collapse team" contacted when no collapse had occurred at the White House and there was no indication, at the time, that one was going to happen? A possible explanation is that the MDW Engineer Company was participating in a Secret Service exercise and it was contacted in preparation for a simulated plane crash, which, in the simulation, would cause some or all of the White House to collapse.

An incident consistent with the Secret Service running an exercise that involved the simulation of a plane being crashed into the White House occurred before the agency reported that a plane had hit the presidential residence. Specifically, the Secret Service was informed that at least one suspicious aircraft was approaching Washington. Evidence suggests this aircraft could have been a simulated plane that was going to crash into the White House.

Nelson Garabito, a senior agent at the Secret Service's Joint Operations Center who was responsible for protecting the White House airspace, received reports about the aircraft from Terry Van Steenbergen, an employee at Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) headquarters who was responsible for dealing with the president's movements.

Garabito contacted Van Steenbergen sometime after 9:03 a.m., when the second crash at the World Trade Center occurred, and Van Steenbergen told him two more planes were unaccounted for and possibly hijacked, in addition to the two that hit the Trade Center. He said one of these planes was heading toward Washington, and it was "30 miles out and coming in fast and low." [6]

Van Steenbergen's information led the Secret Service to believe the White House was in danger. "We were tracking two hijacked aircraft as they approached Washington, DC, and our assumption was that the White House was a target," Assistant Director Barbara Riggs, who was in the Director's Crisis Center at Secret Service headquarters that morning, recalled. [7]

It might be claimed that the suspicious aircraft Van Steenbergen told Garabito about was American Airlines Flight 77, the plane that allegedly crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. After all, Flight 77 was reportedly flying toward the White House before it changed course and then flew into the Pentagon. However, two pieces of evidence refute this possibility.

Firstly, it appears that Flight 77 was missing from air traffic controllers' radar screens when Van Steenbergen alerted Garabito to the suspicious aircraft, and so the FAA would have been unable to report that it was heading toward Washington at that time.

Van Steenbergen said he was in contact with Garabito "within 30 seconds" of the second crash at the World Trade Center. [8] Garabito said he called Van Steenbergen "a few minutes" after the second crash. [9] But a Secret Service timeline stated that the open line between the two men was established at 9:25 a.m., Van Steenbergen told Garabito two planes were unaccounted for at 9:27 a.m., and he reported that one of these was approaching Washington and was 30 miles from the White House between 9:30 a.m. and 9:31 a.m. [10] While these accounts conflict, all three appear inconsistent with the possibility that the plane Van Steenbergen said was heading toward Washington was Flight 77. This plane disappeared from controllers' radar screens at 8:56 a.m. and, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, was only located again at around 9:32 a.m., when controllers at Washington Dulles International Airport noticed it on their radar screens. [11]

Secondly, Flight 77 supposedly turned away from the White House three minutes before the Pentagon was hit. Based on an analysis of radar data, the 9/11 Commission Report stated that after flying eastward: "American 77 began turning south, away from the White House, at 9:34. It continued heading south for roughly a minute, before turning west and beginning to circle back." [12]

And yet Garabito and his colleagues believed the plane they were following never changed direction. They were counting down as it supposedly approached the White House and, Garabito described, "At one point, we got under a minute and I said, 'It's about 30 seconds out.'" He was then told that the aircraft had disappeared from radar screens. [13]

If the plane Van Steenbergen told Garabito about was Flight 77, he surely would have informed Garabito immediately when this aircraft changed course. Instead, it appears that Garabito and his colleagues thought a plane was going to crash into the White House right up to the time when the crash would have occurred.

Since the aircraft they were following appears to have been something other than Flight 77, it is surely possible that the aircraft Van Steenbergen told Garabito about was a simulated plane. This incident could therefore have been the simulation of the mock plane being crashed into the White House. If so, this simulated crash may have been what the Secret Service reported to the emergency services, thereby resulting in firefighters being sent to the White House.

One piece of evidence supports the possibility that Secret Service agents were participating in a training exercise on September 11, although not necessarily one involving a plane crash at the White House. This is the large amount of false information received by agents in the Director's Crisis Center (DCC) at Secret Service headquarters, which was used to direct operations in emergencies and was reportedly activated at 9:00 a.m. that day.

An agent recalled that personnel in the DCC were receiving an "enormous" amount of information on September 11, which included "conflicting info from ID, unconfirmed data, or raw information," and this information "hindered the DCC's ability to make proper decisions." Consequently, those in the DCC were "making decisions [based] on inaccurate data that could have been quickly verified, such as the misinformation [about] an aircraft that had crashed near Camp David." [14]

While it might be claimed that the misleading reports were simply the result of confusion in an unprecedented crisis, it is surely possible that they in fact related to simulated scenarios in an exercise. Perhaps Secret Service agents were being tested on how they would cope with the mass of information that would result if multiple crises occurred simultaneously.

Other evidence supports the possibility that, if the Secret Service was indeed running an exercise on the morning of September 11, this exercise may have included the simulation of a plane crashing into the White House. In particular, the Secret Service is known to have held exercises before then that involved this scenario. If the Secret Service believed a plane crashing into the White House was a scenario worth training for before 9/11, it surely could have simulated this scenario again if it was holding an exercise on September 11.

Specifically, since 1998, the Secret Service had run exercises at its James J. Rowley Training Center in Beltsville, Maryland, which involved the simulated crashing of planes into the White House on a piece of computer software provided by the military. These simulations were intended to test the responses of the agencies that provided security and support to the White House.

Paul Nenninger, a Secret Service agent who was assigned to the training center, described these exercises, but did not explicitly state whether the simulated crashes were imagined to be part of a terrorist attack. However, he indicated that this may have been the case, since he mentioned that the Secret Service's use of computer simulations "allow you to practice scenarios that can be attempted by a terrorist." [15]

Another piece of evidence supports the possibility that, if the Secret Service was running an exercise on September 11, this exercise could have involved some kind of simulated attack on the White House. Specifically, four months before 9/11, then-Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill stated that the Secret Service held "interagency tabletop exercises in preparation for terrorist attacks on the White House." [16] He did not say whether these exercises included simulations of a plane being crashed into the White House. All the same, his statement shows that around the time the 9/11 attacks occurred, the Secret Service considered the White House a potential target for terrorists when it held an exercise.

Furthermore, the Secret Service participated in a tabletop exercise at the White House in 1998, run by White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke, which involved a scenario in which a group of terrorists seized a Learjet, loaded it with explosives, and flew it toward a target in Washington. [17] While the identity of the imagined target is unreported, the existence of this exercise confirms that, before 9/11, the possibility of a plane being used as a weapon was something the Secret Service had considered in exercises.

It also seems logical to assume that the Secret Service would have regularly trained for the possibility of a plane crashing into the White House in light of an incident that occurred exactly seven years before 9/11. On the night of September 11, 1994, a man called Frank Eugene Corder stole a single-engine plane, flew to Washington, and crashed the plane into the wall of the White House. In fact, even before this incident occurred, the possibility of a plane being used as a weapon to attack the White House had been considered. Time magazine noted, shortly after Corder crashed a plane into the presidential residence, that security officials had "long feared in private" that the White House was "vulnerable to sneak attack from the air." [18]

The Secret Service, if it was planning to hold an exercise, may have scheduled this exercise specifically for the morning of September 11 so it could coordinate its activities with those of other government agencies. It has been reported that numerous agencies were running, or preparing for, exercises when the 9/11 attacks occurred. [19] And according to Major Don Arias, First Air Force chief of public affairs, different organizations would sometimes participate "in the same exercise for different reasons," because it was "common practice, when we have exercises, to get as much bang for the buck as we can." [20]

A major annual exercise that the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD)--the military organization responsible for monitoring and defending U.S. airspace--was in the middle of on September 11 may be particularly significant. Our knowledge of what this exercise, called Vigilant Guardian, involved is limited. [21] There is some evidence, however, that it could have included the scenario of a plane being crashed into the White House. If this was the case, the Secret Service might have used the same scenario so it could coordinate its activities with those of NORAD.

Vigilant Guardian has been described as a "transition to wartime operations command post exercise," an "air defense exercise simulating an attack on the United States," and a "simulated air war." [22] It included a series of "ever-escalating scenarios, from strained diplomacy to the outbreak of conventional warfare that headed inexorably toward nuclear conflict," according to the Denver Post. [23] It involved some "scripted inputs," such as "unknown aircraft that we scramble aircraft ... to intercept," Jeff Ford, an Air Force lieutenant colonel assigned to NORAD on September 11, said. [24]

An official document that has been publicly released outlines scenarios that were simulated as part of Vigilant Guardian in the five days before 9/11. However, this document does not describe the scenarios that were planned for the day of September 11. [25] It has been reported, though, that at least one hijacking was scheduled to be simulated that day.

Personnel at NORAD's Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, New York, which was responsible for coordinating the U.S. military's response to the 9/11 attacks, were actually going to learn of this simulated hijacking around the time when the Secret Service reported that a plane had crashed into the White House. Major Kevin Nasypany, the mission crew commander at NEADS, recalled that when NEADS was alerted to the first hijacking, at 8:37 a.m. on September 11, he said out loud, "The hijack's not supposed to be for another hour," which means it was set to occur at around 9:37 a.m.

This particular simulated hijacking, though, was apparently not going to involve the mock hijacked aircraft being crashed into the White House. According to Vanity Fair, it was going to involve politically motivated perpetrators getting control of the aircraft, landing it on a Cuba-like island, and seeking asylum there. [26]

However, the possibility that Vigilant Guardian was set to include the simulation of a plane being crashed into the White House on September 11 is supported by the fact that a scenario along these lines featured in previous NORAD exercises. This particular event was therefore one that NORAD considered worth training for.

Specifically, NORAD is known to have conducted at least three exercises in the three years before 9/11 that included the scenario of terrorists hijacking or stealing an aircraft with the intention of crashing it into the White House. These command post exercises, all called "Falcon Indian," were held in January 1999, June 1999, and June 2000. They all involved a scenario in which a Learjet, loaded with explosives, was under the control of terrorists who intended to crash the plane into the White House. [27]

An anomalous incident that occurred between the attacks on the World Trade Center and the attack on the Pentagon also supports the possibility that an exercise was taking place on September 11 based around the scenario of a plane crashing into the White House. Around 16 minutes before the Pentagon was hit, NEADS received an incorrect report that American Airlines Flight 11 had not actually crashed into the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m., as was believed, and was heading south toward Washington. It is surely possible that the aircraft being referred to was in fact a simulated plane in an exercise and this mock aircraft was subsequently imagined, by the Secret Service, to have crashed into the White House.

Specifically, at 9:21 a.m., Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the Boston Air Traffic Control Center, called NEADS and said: "I just had a report that American 11 is still in the air and it's on its way towards--heading towards Washington. ... It was evidently another aircraft that hit the [World Trade Center] tower." [28]

It seems odd that Scoggins passed on this inaccurate information without trying to verify it or gain more clarity first, since such a mystifying report was sure to cause confusion at NEADS at a time when the military needed precise information. Indeed, Scoggins's call created confusion at NEADS that lasted "for hours," according to Vanity Fair.

Furthermore, Scoggins admitted, air traffic controllers "were never tracking an actual plane on the radar after losing American 11 near Manhattan." He explained that, "had it continued south past New York in the direction it was flying before it dipped below radar coverage," Flight 11 would have "headed on a straight course toward [Washington]." And yet, despite the apparent lack of evidence that Flight 11 was still airborne, the only action he took before passing on the false report to NEADS was "talking to a supervisor." [29]

Scoggins's action makes more sense if the non-existent aircraft Scoggins told NEADS about was actually a simulated hijacked plane in the NORAD exercise. And if the Secret Service was running an exercise that was, at least to some degree, coordinated with the NORAD exercise, this mock aircraft could have featured in its exercise too.

Explanations for the false report about Flight 11 being airborne 35 minutes after it crashed have been vague and inadequate. The 9/11 Commission Report stated, "We have been unable to identify the source of this mistaken FAA information." [30] Scoggins claimed the misunderstanding came about during "an unwieldy conference call between FAA centers" that he was monitoring. "The word came across--from whom or where isn't clear--that American 11 was thought to be headed for Washington," he told Vanity Fair. [31] He told the 9/11 Commission he "never learned" who originally reported that Flight 11 was still airborne and heading toward Washington. [32] But according to author Lynn Spencer, the false information was announced during the FAA teleconference by someone at the Washington Air Traffic Control Center. [33]

Could the lack of clarity around how this incident arose be because it was a simulated scenario in a training exercise? Perhaps those who described the incident to the 9/11 Commission were unaware of this detail and were consequently unclear about how the false report came about. Or maybe measures were taken to cover up this detail and those who knew it were ordered to keep quiet.

It is notable that the time when Flight 11 was reported as being still airborne and flying toward Washington is probably consistent with this non-existent aircraft reaching the White House around the time the Secret Service reported that a plane crashed there. The timing of this event is therefore consistent with an exercise scenario being played out in which a hijacked plane flew south from New York to Washington and then crashed into the White House.

The Secret Service's incorrect report that a plane had crashed into the White House could be significant. Analysis of the incident gives rise to numerous questions relating to what exactly happened on September 11, who was responsible for the terrorist attacks that day, and why government agencies failed to stop them.

To begin with, who at the Secret Service reported the supposed crash to the emergency services? Why did they make the false report? Was their action performed as part of a training exercise? If so, what did the exercise involve? Did it include the scenario of a plane being crashed into the White House, which resulted in a fire and some or all of the building collapsing? Who planned it?

Additionally, who at the Secret Service alerted the MDW Engineer Company--the "structural collapse team"--at 9:07 a.m., even though no collapse had occurred at the White House and there was no evidence that an incident was going to take place that would cause it to collapse? Was the MDW Engineer Company contacted because it was participating in a Secret Service exercise that was going to include the scenario of the White House collapsing?

If the Secret Service's report to the emergency services was part of an exercise, this indicates the exercise was allowed to continue until at least 9:46 a.m., when the District of Columbia Fire Department was called out to respond to the alleged incident. This was an hour after the first crash at the World Trade Center occurred and nine minutes after the Pentagon--the final building to be hit that day--was attacked.

But if an exercise was indeed being conducted, surely this exercise should have been called off immediately when it became apparent that a real crisis was taking place, to which government agencies needed to respond. Certainly, some Secret Service agents appear to have quickly recognized the seriousness of the real-world emergency. "When we saw the plane crash into the second tower we knew it was no accident," Rebecca Ediger, who was in the Joint Operations Center that morning, recalled. [34] "At that moment," she said, "we all knew the first plane was not an accident; the country was under attack." [35] So why would an exercise be allowed to continue while America was under attack, when doing so might seriously impair the ability of the Secret Service to respond to the real-world crisis?

The performance of the Secret Service on September 11 was notably poor. [36] Author Philip Melanson, in a book about the agency, referred to the Secret Service's "slow start to 9/11 protection." [37] And U.S. News & World Report specifically pointed out that "Secret Service executives did not implement an 'emergency call-up' of all personnel until the third [hijacked] plane crashed, into the Pentagon." [38]

If the Secret Service was running an exercise while the terrorist attacks were taking place, this factor might help explain its poor performance. The exercise may have created confusion, which affected the ability of agents to respond to the attacks. Agents could have mistaken real-world events they heard about for simulated events in the exercise and consequently failed to respond to them as they normally would have. Perhaps agents had also been isolated from what was going on in the real world so they could focus on the exercise and it consequently took longer for them to learn that a genuine crisis was taking place.

An exercise could have been part of a deliberate attempt to paralyze the Secret Service when the agency was urgently needed to help protect the nation. If so, this would suggest a network of rogue officials in the U.S. government was involved in planning and conducting the 9/11 attacks, since only powerful individuals in key positions could have influenced when the Secret Service held its exercises and what these exercises involved. Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist network would certainly have been unable to influence these things.

More than 17 years after September 11, 2001, we still know little about the actions of the Secret Service that day. The limited information available is inconclusive. Despite the circumstantial evidence indicating the agency was running an exercise when the 9/11 attacks occurred, there is currently no official confirmation of such an exercise taking place. It is therefore essential that more information be released, so we can properly assess the actions of the Secret Service on September 11. This information may help us determine whether rogue employees deliberately acted to sabotage the response of their colleagues, in order to help ensure the attacks on the U.S. succeeded.

[1] Howard Witt, "This is Only a Test." Washington City Paper, September 21, 2001; Michael J. Ward, "Attack on the Pentagon: The Initial Fire and EMS Response." Journal of Emergency Medical Services, April 2002; Michael L. Smith, "DC Crews Dispatched to the Pentagon." Firehouse, November 2002.
[2] "Actions of TSD Related to Terrorist Incident." United States Secret Service, September 12, 2001; Garrett M. Graff, Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government's Secret Plan to Save Itself--While the Rest of us Die. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017, p. 333.
[3] Alfred Goldberg et al., Pentagon 9/11. Washington, DC: Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 2007, p. 96.
[4] Tim Hipps, "MDW Engineers Honored for Operation Noble Eagle." Fort Belvoir News, April 4, 2002; Jonathan Wiley, "Search and Rescue Challenge." Soldiers, August 2002; Ally Rogers, "911th Engineers Take Action in Training Scenario." Belvoir Eagle, February 16, 2012.
[5] Untitled document. United States Secret Service, 2001; Alfred Goldberg et al., Pentagon 9/11, p. 96.
[6] "USSS Statements and Interview Reports." 9/11 Commission, July 28, 2003.
[7] "Spotlight on: Barbara Riggs." PCCW eNewsletter, Spring 2006.
[8] "Memorandum for the Record: Interview With Terry Van Steenbergen." 9/11 Commission, March 30, 2004.
[9] "USSS Statements and Interview Reports."
[10] "Secret Service Timeline, Unclassified Extract." United States Secret Service, September 11, 2001.
[11] 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. 24-25; Staff Report: The Four Flights. 9/11 Commission, August 26, 2004, pp. 29, 33.
[12] "Flight Path Study: American Airlines Flight 77." National Transportation Safety Board, February 19, 2002; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, pp. 39, 464.
[13] "The Footnotes of 9/11." CNN Presents, CNN, September 11, 2011.
[14] "USSS Statements and Interview Reports."
[15] Paul L. Nenninger, "Simulation at the Secret Service: As Real as it Gets." In Learning Rants, Raves, and Reflections: A Collection of Passionate and Professional Perspectives, edited by Elliott Masie, pp. 175-187. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer, 2005, pp. 175-178; Paul L. Nenninger, "One Secret Service Agent's Experience." Southeast Missourian, August 29, 2011; "Secret Service Simulated Crashing Planes into the White House Before 9/11." Shoestring 9/11, September 24, 2011.
[16] "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.
[17] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, pp. 345, 457-458.
[18] Michael Duffy, "Flight of the Intruder." Time, September 26, 1994.
[19] See "Training Exercises on 9/11." History Commons, n.d.
[20] Michael C. Ruppert, Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers, 2004, p. 367.
[21] William M. Arkin, Code Names: Deciphering U.S. Military Plans, Programs, and Operations in the 9/11 World. Hanover, NH: Steerforth Press, 2005, p. 545.
[22] "Vigilant Guardian 01-2." Northeast Air Defense Sector, August 23, 2001; Leslie Filson, Air War Over America: Sept. 11 Alters Face of Air Defense Mission. Tyndall Air Force Base, FL: 1st Air Force, 2003, pp. 55, 122.
[23] Kevin Simpson, "Rearmed Forces: 9/11 Changed Military Life in Colorado." Denver Post, August 27, 2011.
[24] Thomas Doscher, "In Their Own Words--NORAD Members Recall September 11: Jeff Ford." Defense Visual Information Distribution Service, September 8, 2011.
[25] "NCOTA: Exercise Data." North American Aerospace Defense Command, July 25, 2003; "NORAD Exercises: Hijack Summary." 9/11 Commission, n.d.
[26] Michael Bronner, "9/11 Live: The NORAD Tapes." Vanity Fair, August 2006.
[27] "NEADS AOR Hijack/WMD Scenarios." U.S. Air Force, 2003; Senate Committee on Armed Services, Implications for the Department of Defense and Military Operations of Proposals to Reorganize the United States Intelligence Community. 108th Cong., 2nd sess., August 17, 2004.
[28] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 26; Lynn Spencer, Touching History: The Untold Story of the Drama That Unfolded in the Skies Over America on 9/11. New York: Free Press, 2008, p. 137.
[29] Michael Bronner, "9/11 Live."
[30] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 26.
[31] Michael Bronner, "9/11 Live."
[32] "Memorandum for the Record: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Boston Center Field Site Interview With Colin Scoggins, Military Operations Specialist." 9/11 Commission, September 22, 2003.
[33] Lynn Spencer, Touching History, p. 137.
[34] Susan Marshall, "Two PHS Grads Serve Top Office of the Land." Peabody Gazette-Bulletin, February 12, 2003.
[35] Kerry Jones, "Trust and Confidence." The Shocker, Summer 2002.
[36] See "Laura Bush on 9/11: Why Was the President's Wife Left Vulnerable and Unprotected?" Shoestring 9/11, June 18, 2012; "The Dangerously Delayed Reactions of the Secret Service on 9/11." Shoestring 9/11, October 2, 2013; "Why Did the Secret Service Leave the President and a School Full of Children in Danger in the Middle of the 9/11 Attacks?" Shoestring 9/11, March 4, 2017.
[37] Philip H. Melanson, The Secret Service: The Hidden History of an Enigmatic Agency. 2nd ed. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2005, p. 331.
[38] Chitra Ragavan, "Under Cloudy Skies." U.S. News & World Report, December 9, 2002.

Additional possible Secret Service exercises on 9/11

There is evidence that the Secret Service was running other training exercises on 9/11, in addition to the possible exercise described in this new article. For details, check out my previous article, "Targeting the President: Evidence of U.S. Government Training Exercises on 9/11," here: http://shoestring911.blogspot.com/2014/01/targeting-president-evidence-of-us.html

Was business jet following Flight 93 involved in an exercise?

I came across an interesting piece of information while I was researching this article.

I refer to the NORAD exercise "Falcon Indian," which included a scenario in which terrorists took a business jet and flew toward Washington, DC, with the intention of crashing the plane into the White House. Details of this exercise when it was held in January and June of 1999 are in this document: https://www.archives.gov/files/declassification/iscap/pdf/2013-002-doc8.pdf.

In the scenario, the hostile aircraft flew "in close formation" with a commercial aircraft, "Canada Air 600." I assume it did this so it would be invisible on radar: the document says it was "[h]idden underneath the Challenger." (See pp. 6 and 11 of the document.)

This reminded me of a curious detail about United Airlines Flight 93, the plane that supposedly crashed in a field in rural Pennsylvania on September 11. This aircraft was reportedly tracked for "a substantial period of time" by a business jet, ExecuJet 956, before it crashed (see http://www.historycommons.org/context.jsp?item=a928execujettracks&scale=0).

ExecutJet 956 appears to have been a similar type of aircraft to that used by the terrorists in the Falcon Indian exercises. It was a Cessna Citation 10 (see here for details: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cessna_Citation_X). This is according to Todd Sherwood Edgar, the plane's co-pilot (see pp. 2-3 of this PDF: https://www.scribd.com/document/24392516/T7-B19-Key-302s-Fdr-Entire-Contents-FBI-302s). The plane in Falcon Indian was a Learjet 35 (see here for details: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learjet_35).

This made me wonder if ExecutJet 956 might have been involved in a training exercise on September 11 that included a live-fly version of a scenario similar to the one in the Falcon Indian exercises. Execujet 956 could have been playing the part of a hostile aircraft like the Learjet in Falcon Indian, flying "in close formation" with Flight 93 in the way the Learjet flew in close formation with Canada Air 600.

It would certainly be odd if this was the case. But, in light of all the exercises taking place on 9/11 and the many anomalies around the hijackings, I think the possibility at least deserves to be looked into.

Dog gone! Jigsaw puzzle

Shoestring, I gotta hand it to you. You really know how to look at all these pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, and then weigh them for different angles on how they fit.

Another similarity with the Falcon Indian exercise

Thanks for the good words, Tom!

Another similarity between the events around ExecuJet 956 and the Falcon Indian exercises occurred to me. In the exercises, the aim of the mock terrorists was to crash a Learjet into the White House. And it has been claimed that the intended target of Flight 93, which ExecuJet 956 was tracking, was also the White House. Pretty curious, eh?

Steenbergen did not inform Garabito, but the other way around

Mister van Steenbergen describes the moments ...

"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. This was received within 30 seconds of the 2nd plane hitting the World Trade Center. Garabito said: "What should we do?", Steenbergen said: "We need to turn all the planes away from Washington. He concurred. The three people in his office called Dulles, National, BWI to tell the pilots to turn their aircraft out of class B airspace. (...) Once we started the planes moving outbound (...) all inbound planes were considered hostile. Steenbergen said, we needed fighters airborne. We had three people here in his office call over to Andrews, Langley etc. to see, if they would launch some fighters. Diane Creen, Karen Pontius, Scott Hagen were in his office that day. (...)"

The statements of van Steenbergen could be interpreted completly differently - in that way:

Steenbergen was informed by Garabino in the call about the two outstanding hijackings. In the section "On 9/11" Steenbergen is focused in information regarding hijacked planes, and he says explicitly, that "all his information was coming from Nelson Garabito" and, that "he does not know how Nelson got his information." The question is, how the secret service could have foreknowledge about the unfolding crisis, and why the secret service warned the FAA at all? Why did they pass the information?

The result of the phone call was that the FAA cleared the sky over Washington from incomming airtraffic!


The Airspace WASN'T Cleared

They were still landing at Reagan National (DCA) when AA77 (or whatever it was) made the descending loop. Pilots looking out their left window should have been able to see it looping. Yet we hear no ATCs at DCA asking planes on final approach to help identify, before ATC Creedon added the LOOK tag to the target.

So what happened? Why did 30 minutes go by without traffic being turned away from Class Bravo airspace?