Friday, October 26, 2007

The statements of Norman Mineta - a chronology

Here's a survey of Mineta's statements on the events in the morning of 9/11 without comments - for documentation purposes. I learned only recently of the The Daily Californian and MSNBC interviews.

Congressional testimony, September 20, 2001

On the morning of September 11th, on first word of the attack, I moved directly
to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center in the White House. As soon as I was aware of the
nature and scale of the attack, I called from the White House
to order the air traffic system to land all aircraft, immediately and without
exception. That was an unprecedented step. But with the risk of additional
flights that might be used as terrorist weapons, I believe that it was the right
and necessary step to take.

Washington Post, January 27, 2002

Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta, summoned by the White House to the bunker, was on an open line to the Federal Aviation Administration operations center, monitoring Flight 77 as it hurtled toward Washington, with radar tracks coming every seven seconds. Reports came that the plane was 50 miles out, 30 miles out, 10 miles out-until word reached the bunker that there had been an explosion at the Pentagon.

Mineta shouted into the phone to Monte Belger at the FAA: "Monte, bring all the planes down." It was an unprecedented order-there were 4,546 airplanes in the air at the time. Belger, the FAA's acting deputy administrator, amended Mineta's directive to take into account the authority vested in airline pilots. "We're bringing them down per pilot discretion," Belger told the secretary.

"[Expletive] pilot discretion," Mineta yelled back. "Get those goddamn planes down."

Sitting at the other end of the table, Cheney snapped his head up, looked squarely at Mineta and nodded in agreement.

Daily Californian, March 18, 2002

That morning, I was having breakfast with the Deputy Prime minister of Belgium Isabelle Durant. Mrs. Durant is also the minister of transport for Belgium. So Jane Garvey, the administrator of the FAA and I were having breakfast with her in my conference room.

My chief of staff then came in and said, 'Mr. Secretary, can I see you?' The television was on and obviously it was the World Trade Center with all this black smoke coming out of it. So I asked John, 'What the heck is that?.' And he said, 'Well we don't know. We have heard explosion, we have heard the possibility of an airplane that went into the building.' And so I said, 'Keep me posted,' and I went back into my breakfast meeting. I explained to Mrs. Durant what was going on.

Then in about five or six minutes, the chief of staff came back in and said, 'Mr. Secretary, may I see you again?' He said at that point that it has been confirmed it was a commercial airliner that went into the World Trade Center. And as I was standing there watching the television set, all of a sudden from the right side of the screen came a gray object and then it sort of disappeared and the next thing, from the left of the screen was this white yellow orangey billow of cloud coming out of the left side of the screen, so I ran into the conference room and told Mrs. Durant I was going to have to leave and take care of whatever this was about.

I told Jane to come back in with me, and soon after that, I got a call from the White House saying for me to get over there right away. So I grabbed some papers, grabbed some stuff and went to the garage. I got in my car and went over to the White House. Its only seven minutes away. I drove into the White House grounds, and everyone was running out of the White House, running out of the Executive Office Building.

And I said to the people with me, 'Is there something wrong with this picture? We are driving into the White House and everyone else is running out of it. So I went into the White House and was briefed by Dick Clark of the National Security Council and he said, 'You have to get over to the Presidential Emergency Operation Center to be with the vice president.' ...

We started to monitor what was going on. We knew that there were now two airplanes that had gone into World Trade Center 1 and World Trade Center 2, and I had a direct line set up with the FAA.

Someone came in and said, 'Mr. Vice President, there is a plane 50 miles out.' I asked our FAA people, 'Can you see an aircraft coming in 50 miles out?' and they said, 'Yeah, we're tracking it, but the transponder is off, so we don't know what the identification of that airplane is.' Pretty soon the same person came in and informed the vice president, sitting right across from me at the conference table, that the airplane is 30 miles out. I asked the FAA about it and they said, 'Yeah, we know where the plane is, but we don't know who it is.'

Then they came in and said it was 10 miles out. Soon after that, I was talking to the deputy director of the FAA, and he told me they had lost the target off the screen. Soon after that, then, the vice president was informed that there was an explosion at the Pentagon. So I was trying to relate with the air traffic controllers where that plane went to see whether it was close to the Pentagon. The radar is very difficult to pinpoint it to a ground location.

But while I was talking to the FAA, someone broke into the conversation and said, 'Mr. Secretary, we have just had confirmation from the Arlington County Police Department that they saw a commercial airliner-an American airline-go into the Pentagon.

Well, its like anything else, if you see one of something occur you consider that an accident. But when you see two of the same thing occur then you know that there is a pattern or a trend. In this instant we had three of the same thing occur, and that is a program or a plan. So I then informed the FAA to bring all the airplanes down.

I said, 'Any airplanes coming into the Eastern seaboard, turn them around and get them out of the Eastern seaboard heading west. Any planes heading west, have them go on to their destination if they are close by. But in any event bring all the airplanes down."

MSNBC, September 11, 2002

MINETA: I had a breakfast meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium who also is the minister of Transport. She, Mrs. Durante, Jane Garvey, the head of FAA, and I were going to have breakfast.

And so we were in the midst of having breakfast and my chief of staff came into the breakfast and said, "Mr. Secretary, may I see you?"

So I excused myself, went into my office, and at the other end of the office is a TV set and as I walked in, obviously it's the World Trade Center, black smoke billowing out of there, and I said, "What the heck is that?"

He said, "Well, we don't know, we've heard explosion, we've heard GA -- general aviation -- aircraft go into it. So we don't know."

I said, "Well, keep me posted," and I went back into the conference room, and then told Mrs. Durante about what I saw and knew so far about what was happening in New York.

Then about five minutes later, John Flaherty, my chief of staff, came back in and said, "Mr. Secretary, may I see you?"

So I came back into the office and he said it's been confirmed, it was a commercial airliner that went into the World Trade Center, and so as I then started getting closer to my TV set and I was watching it, and all of a sudden from the right side of the set I see something gray, and then it sort a disappears, and then from the right side of the screen I see this white billowing, yellow-orange cloud, and I go, "Holy cow!"

I turned around, ran into the conference room, and I said, "Mrs. Durante, I'm going to have to excuse myself cause I don't know what's going on in New York City. Jane, you've got to get back to FAA."

And so by the time I came back into my office, I had a call from the White House saying, "Get, get over here right away." So I grabbed a, a few papers and a manual, and ran down to the car, red light and sirens, went over to the White House.

HAGER: So you already knew commercial airliner fairly early on then. Initially, initially you were wondering, "Is it general aviation?"

MINETA: That's right.

HAGER: Which would be the first reaction.

MINETA: That's right. And I was thinking about the, the B-25 that went into the Empire State Building during World War II.

And so anyway, we drove into the White House on West Executive Drive. People were coming out of the White House, pouring out of the Executive Office Building, running over towards Lafayette Park, and I said to my driver and security person, I said, "Hey, is there something wrong with this picture, cause here we are driving in and everybody else is running out."

So I ran into the White House and someone said you have to be briefed by Dick Clarke of the National Security Council.

So I went into the Situation Room and he briefly told me what was going on, and then he said you've got to be down in the PEOC with the Vice President. I said I don't know where the PEOC is, the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, and there was a Secret Service agent standing there, and he says, "I'll take you over there right away."

So we went running down and went into the PEOC which is the bunker, as you know, under the White House.

I started to establish a direct line to the FAA to find out what was going on, and the Vice President and I were across from each other on the conference room table in the PEOC, and about this time someone came in and said this was -- when I finally got in there, it was probably about 9:27, is what I recall.

And a little later on, someone said, "Mr. Vice President, there's a plane 50-miles out." So I was talking to Monte Belger, the Deputy Director of the FAA, and I said, "Monte, what do you have 50-miles out?"

He said, "Well, we have a target, bogey, on the radar, but the transponder's been turned off, so we have no identification of this aircraft. We don't know who it is. We don't know what altitude it's at, speed or anything else. All we're doing is watching with the sweep of the radar, the dot moving from position to position."

So then someone came in, the same person came in and said, "Mr. Vice President, it -- the plane's 30-miles out." So I said, "Monte, can you see it, and where is it in relationship to the ground?"

He said, "Well, that's difficult to really determine. I would guess it's somewhere between Great Falls and National Airport, coming what they call the DRA, the down river approach."

And so then the person came in and said, "Mr. Vice President, the plane's ten-miles out," and so I said, "Monte, where is it?" and he said, "Well, I'm not really sure but I'd be guessing somewhere maybe between the USA Today building and, and National Airport."

And then pretty soon he said, "Oh-oh, we just lost the target." And so a few moments later, someone came in and said, "Mr. Vice President, there's been an explosion at the Pentagon."

So I said, "Monte, is there something -- can you identify it as being at the Pentagon?" He said, "No, we can't really pinpoint it like that."

Then about that time someone broke into our phone conversation and said, "Mr. Secretary, we've had a call from an Arlington County police officer saying that he saw an American Airlines airplane go into the Pentagon."

At that point I said, "Monte, bring all the airplanes down," and we had a slight conversation about that, and then the professionalism of the air traffic controllers and the skill of the pilots and the flight deck, and the flight attendants in the flight cabins, we're able to bring down over 4600 airplanes in about two hours, safely and without incident.

And it was one of these, where every so often Monte would call me and say, "3212 airplanes still in the air." "2112." "1174." And he just kept on reporting back to me as to the number of airplanes left. And as I recall, about 12:20, somewhere around in there, I finally said to him, -- to the Vice President -- I said, "Mr. Vice President, all the airplanes are down" and to me it was just miraculous that the great working team of the airplanes and the air traffic controllers were able to bring everything down safely.

HAGER: Let me take you back over some of that. Now, when you're in your office and you're first seeing it on the TV, I think you said your initial reaction is maybe it's a private plane of some kind. But I think in the second case, you knew right away that was a commercial airliner.

MINETA: I saw a gray airplane, and first I thought maybe -- and I didn't think of it in terms of a commercial airliner and I thought maybe it might be the size of a King Air or a G5, or something of that nature. And then I really should have, if I thought about it, gray -- United Airlines, and -- but it just happened so quickly, that it just, other than seeing a gray object come in, I really couldn't assess what kind of an airplane it might have been.

HAGER: I'm wondering when the first explosion occurred, you could think, you know, somebody had a heart attack -- a pilot, or somebody lost, something like that, equipment failure. But when the second tower is hit, I'm wondering what was flashing through your mind, because then we begin to get sinister implications.

MINETA: Well, the whole issue was what was the nature of what's going on, not only was it a commercial airline, but what's going on with two airplanes going into the World Trade Center, into the twin towers?

Well, when that third one went into the Pentagon, it's like anything else. If you see one of something it's an accident. When you see two of the same thing, it's a pattern or a trend. But when you three -- see three of the same thing occurring, then you know it's a program or a plan.

And so that's when it was decided that all the airplanes had to be brought down.

HAGER: Had the implication of the idea of terrorist attack -- was that one of the things you might have thought of after the second tower?

MINETA: Not at all. I mean, to have the thought of a commercial airliner being used as a missile or the weapon itself, at that point was the farthest thing in my mind.

HAGER: Even after the second tower was --

MINETA: Ever after the second one.

HAGER: Now coming over to the White House and you're down there in the bunker, and that third unidentified blip is coming down the Potomac.

For one thing, had you thought about the possibility that it might be -- I mean you're at the White House. That's the center where everything is going on. Is that something that would have gone through your mind?

MINETA: Well, the question was where is it coming. And so as I was asking Monte, it was following pretty much the DRA, the down river approach, and it had not crossed over towards the White House or towards the Capitol. It was staying on its line towards what would normally be the traffic pattern into National Airport.

And in fact, later on, in looking at the radar track, the plane had actually over-passed the Pentagon, then turned around and then came back into it, and it never took a wide sweep to cross over to the east side of the White House.

On the other hand, we had seven or eight uniden -- or unaccounted-for airplanes, and then I heard about an airplane going down on the Ohio-Kentucky border.

So I said to Monte, I said, "Have we heard anything further about what you just mentioned a little while ago, about that plane down in, along the border of Ohio and Kentucky?" And he said no, we haven't heard anything.

I said, "Well, have you called the Ohio State Patrol or the Kentucky State Patrol to find out if they've heard anything?"

Cause if someone sees an airplane crash, they're immediately going to call the law enforcement agency. I said find out from them if they've heard anything.

But that turned out to be negative. And then about what, 10:15 or so, then we heard about the crash up in Shanksville, and so then the question of course -- and the other thing that happened when the person came in and said that the plane was ten miles out, he said do the orders still stand, and the Vice President said of course the orders still stand.

Have you heard anything to the contrary? I was thinking what are they talking about?

Then I thought, "Oh, my gosh, I wonder if they've scrambled aircraft and have aircraft up there now."

HAGER: And the order would be to shoot --

MINETA: Shoot it down. So then when I heard about the Shanksville plane, then I thought what happened to that airplane? Did it go down on its own?

HAGER: When you first heard that plane went down in Shanksville, what were you thinking?

MINETA: Well, the question, when I first heard about that plane was what happened to it. Did it go down on its own or might it have been shot down by one of the aircraft that had been scrambled, and -- now I knew that afterwards, that planes had been scrambled to intercept the airplane coming in on the river approach, but because it was coming up from Norfolk, it was still 10, 11 minutes away when that plane went into the Pentagon.

But by that time I knew that there was an airplane now in the area and so then when I heard about the Shanksville airplane, then the question came up, "Wow, what happened to that?"

Did it go down on its own or was it shot down? And even the Pentagon was not able to answer that until some two hours after that plane had gone down.

HAGER: Was it a fleeting idea at all in, in your head, that, "Gee, they might be coming for us?"

MINETA: Oh, absolutely, it's something like that, but at least at the time the track of the radar was following what would be considered the down-river approach and it never came over to cross the east side of the Potomac River and it just followed the river all the way in.

But the -- of course the thought about, you know, is the White House the target, because I think as we found out later on, about the way al Qaida operates, they were looking for significant, something of a significant nature and that they wanted to go after political, economic and a military icon.

So here in terms of icon, they had hit the twin towers in New York, in terms of economic icon and then now they've struck the Pentagon, the military icon, and you think about political icon either being in the White House or the Capitol.

HAGER: Not to dwell on the personal, but besides being Secretary of Transportation, you're a human being. Did this thing ever get your heart pumping or make your adrenaline go?

MINETA: Oh, absolutely. I mean you're on the edge of your seat and you're saying, "Monte, tell me what's going on. What is it?" Because we're in the bunker and we're getting bits and pieces of news.

We frankly have had CNN, Fox and NBC on in the screens inside the bunker, and that was really as probably up to date news as we were getting in the bunker and then the input that the Vice President was getting from his staff.

HAGER: Now moving to the decision to bring the planes down, you said you had a discussion, but I heard it described as a somewhat more animated discussion than that.

MINETA: It was. What had happened was that earlier that day, as this was all unfolding, I had already talked to Don Carty, the CEO at American Airlines, and Jim Goodwin, the CEO of United Airlines about accounting for their own airplanes, and so they had placed ground holds on their airplanes on the East Coast, in other words, no airplanes were to take off.

When the third one struck, I told Monte -- I said bring all the airplanes down and he said we'll do them, we'll do that according to pilot discretion.

Well, pilot discretion was to me a little too loose in the sense of I don't want pilots to go another hour to flight or their destination. I wanted those airplanes down.

So I told Monte, I said, you know, in effect, "The hell with pilot discretion, get those planes down."

ABC News, September 11, 2002


Someone came in and said Mr. Vice President, there's a plane out 50 miles.


(VO) Mineta confers with Federal Aviation Deputy Chief Monty Belger.


And so I said, Monty, what do you have? He said, well we're watching this target on the radar, but the transponder's been turned off. So we, have no identification.


(VO) At the FAA's Air Traffic Control Center near Washington's Dulles Airport, Danielle O'Brien is at a radar scope.


It was an unidentified plane to the southwest of Dulles moving at a very high rate of speed.


Someone came in and said, Mr. Vice President, the airplane's 30 miles out.


We caught on the radar scope, a few blips, maybe seven or eight, you know, just enough to kind of go around in a half circle and then fade right over, losing radar contact right over, Washington. I said, my God, what is that?


He was fast and it was just, it would be unprecedented for a commercial plane to come screaming through your air space at that kind of speed, unidentified, without making some type of communication.


We knew that he was headed in that direction and we were calling, Washington Center, oh, my God, you've got, he's coming towards you.


The fellow came in and said, it's ten miles out. Assuming that it was coming into, National Airport, Ronald Reagan National Airport.


(VO) At Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, F-16 fighter pilots Brad Derrig and Dean Eckmann scramble into the air. They are 105 miles, 12 minutes south of Washington. It is just 9:30 a.m.


We're directed to go and which turned out to be Reagan National which is right by the Pentagon.


Our supervisor picked up our line to the White House and started relaying to them the information. We have an unidentified, very fast moving aircraft inbound toward your vicinity, eight miles west, seven miles west, and it went, six, five, four, . . .


He said, uh-oh, we just lost the bogey, meaning the target went off the screen. So I said, well, where is it? And he said, well, we're not really sure.


(VO) Deep beneath the White House, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta issues an unprecedented order.


The planes that are coming into the eastern seaboard, turn them around and get them going west. If they're going west, have them land at their destination, but in any event if they're not too far away, have them land.


(VO) More than 4,000 planes are in the skies over the US. FAA policy allows pilots to use their own discretion to decide where and when they land in an emergency. But on this morning, . . .


I said, "screw pilot discretion, get the damn planes down."



(VO) White House photographer David Bohrer watches the tense moment and records it on film.


Eventually it narrowed to Flight 93. That was the biggest threat at that point.


If you take the trajectory of the plane, of Flight 93 after it passes Pittsburgh and draw a straight line, it's gonna go to Washington, DC.


You just had to do something instantaneously.


There was a, a PEOC staffer who would keep coming in with updates on Flight 93's progress towards DC.

9/11 Commission testimony, May 23, 2003

On Tuesday morning, September 11th, 2001, I was meeting with the Belgian transport minister in my conference room adjacent to my office, discussing aviation issues. Because of the agenda, FAA Administrator Jane Garvey was also in attendance.

A little after 8:45 a.m., my chief of staff, John Flaherty, interrupted the meeting. He asked Administrator Garvey and me to step into my office, where he told me that news agencies were reporting that some type of aircraft had flown into one of the towers of New York's World Trade Center.

Information was preliminary, so we did not know what kind of aircraft nor whether or not it was intentional. Jane Garvey immediately went to a telephone and contacted the FAA operations center. I asked to be kept informed of any developments and returned to the conference room to explain to the Belgian prime minister that our meeting might have to be postponed.

In an incident involving a major crash of any type, the Office of the Secretary goes into a major information-gathering response. It contacts the mode of administration overseeing whatever mode of transportation is involved in the incident. It monitors press reports, contacts additional personnel to accommodate the surge in operations, and centralizes the information for me through the chief of staff.

In major incidents, it will follow a protocol of notification that includes the White House and other agencies involved in the incident. These activities, albeit in the nascent stage of information-gathering, took place in these initial minutes.

A few minutes after my return to the conference room, my chief of staff again asked me to step back into my office. He then told me that the aircraft was a commercial aircraft and that the FAA had received an unconfirmed report that a hijacking of an American Airlines flight had occurred.

While Mr. Flaherty was briefing me, I watched as a large commercial jet flew into the second tower of the World Trade Center. At this point things began to happen quickly. I once more returned to the conference room and informed the minister of what had happened and ended the meeting. I received a telephone call from the CEO of United Airlines, Jack Goodman, telling me that one of United's flights was missing. I then called Don Carty, the CEO of American Airlines, and asked him to see if American Airlines could account for all of its aircraft. Mr. Flaherty reported to me that Jane Garvey had phoned to report that the CEO of Delta Airlines had called the FAA and said it could not yet account for all of its aircraft.

During this time, my office activated the Department of Transportation's crisis management center, which was located on the 8th floor at that time of the Department of Transportation headquarters, and provides for senior DOT personnel to conduct surge operations in a coordinated manner.

By this time, my office had contacted the White House. A brief moment later, the White House called my chief of staff and asked if I could come to the White House and operate from that location. I decided that, given the nature of the attack and the request, that I should be at the White House directly providing the president and the vice president with information.

When I got to the White House, it was being evacuated. I met briefly with Richard Clark, a National Security Council staff member, who had no new information. Then the Secret Service escorted me down to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, otherwise known as the PEOC. I established contact on two lines, one with my chief of staff at the Department of Transportation, and the second with Monty Belger, the acting deputy administrator of the FAA, and Jane Garvey, both of whom were in the FAA operations center.

And as the minutes passed, the developing picture from air traffic control towers and radar screens became increasingly more alarming. Some aircraft could not be contacted. While on a normal day that may be just a communications snafu, we were faced with trying to quickly sort out minor problems from significant threats. We did not know how many more attacks might be in progress.

The FAA began to restrict air travel in the Northeast United States by a combination of actions which included sterilizing air space in certain regions and at various airports, and ultimately a nationwide ground stop of all aircraft for all locations, regardless of destination.

Within a few minutes, American Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. At this time, as we discussed the situation with the North American Aerospace Defense commander and his staff, we considered implementing an emergency system of coordinated air traffic management to allow maximum use for defensive activities.

It was clear that we had to clear the air space as soon as possible to stop any further attacks and ensure domestic air space was available for emergency and defensive use. And so at approximately 9:45 a.m., less than one hour after I had first been notified of an airplane crash in New York, I gave the FAA the final order for all civil aircraft to land at the nearest airport as soon as possible. It was the first shutdown of civil aviation in the history of the United States.

Within minutes, air traffic controllers throughout the nation had directed 700 domestic and international flights to emergency but safe landings. Within another 50 minutes, air traffic controllers, working with skilled flight crews, made sure another 2800 airplanes returned safely to the ground.

By shortly after noon, less than four hours after the first attack, U.S. air space was empty of all aircraft except military and medical traffic. A total of approximately 4500 aircraft were landed without incident in highly stressful conditions. Additionally, all international inbound flights were diverted from U.S. air space and U.S. airports.

Unfortunately, during this time we also learned that United Flight 93 crashed in Stony Creek Township, Pennsylvania. As America knows, but it is important to keep repeating, that aircraft never reached the terrorists' target due to the heroic actions taken by the passengers and crew on United Flight 93.


MR. HAMILTON: We thank you for that. I wanted to focus just a moment on the Presidential Emergency Operating Center. You were there for a good part of the day. I think you were there with the vice president. And when you had that order given, I think it was by the president, that authorized the shooting down of commercial aircraft that were suspected to be controlled by terrorists, were you there when that order was given?

MR. MINETA: No, I was not. I was made aware of it during the time that the airplane coming into the Pentagon. There was a young man who had come in and said to the vice president, "The plane is 50 miles out. The plane is 30 miles out." And when it got down to, "The plane is 10 miles out," the young man also said to the vice president, "Do the orders still stand?" And the vice president turned and whipped his neck around and said, "Of course the orders still stand. Have you heard anything to the contrary?" Well, at the time I didn't know what all that meant. And --

MR. HAMILTON: The flight you're referring to is the --

MR. MINETA: The flight that came into the Pentagon.

MR. HAMILTON: The Pentagon, yeah.

MR. MINETA: And so I was not aware that that discussion had already taken place. But in listening to the conversation between the young man and the vice president, then at the time I didn't really recognize the significance of that.

And then later I heard of the fact that the airplanes had been scrambled from Langley to come up to DC, but those planes were still about 10 minutes away. And so then, at the time we heard about the airplane that went into Pennsylvania, then I thought, "Oh, my God, did we shoot it down?" And then we had to, with the vice president, go through the Pentagon to check that out.

MR. HAMILTON: Let me see if I understand. The plane that was headed toward the Pentagon and was some miles away, there was an order to shoot that plane down.

MR. MINETA: Well, I don't know that specifically, but I do know that the airplanes were scrambled from Langley or from Norfolk, the Norfolk area. But I did not know about the orders specifically other than listening to that other conversation.

MR. HAMILTON: But there very clearly was an order to shoot commercial aircraft down.

MR. MINETA: Subsequently I found that out.

MR. HAMILTON: With respect to Flight 93, what type of information were you and the vice president receiving about that flight?

MR. MINETA: The only information we had at that point was when it crashed.

MR. HAMILTON: I see. You didn't know beforehand about that airplane.

MR. MINETA: I did not.

MR. HAMILTON: And so there was no specific order there to shoot that plane down.

MR. MINETA: No, sir.

MR. HAMILTON: But there were military planes in the air in position to shoot down commercial aircraft.

MR. MINETA: That's right. The planes had been scrambled, I believe, from Otis at that point.


MR. ROEMER: Nice to see you, Mr. Secretary, and nice to see you feeling better and getting around as well, too.

I want to follow up on what happened in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center and try to understand that day a little bit better. You said, if I understood you correctly, that you were not in the room; you were obviously coming from the Department of Transportation, where you had been busy in a meeting in official business, but you had not been in the room when the decision was made -- to what you inferred was a decision made to attempt to shoot down Flight 77 before it crashed into the Pentagon. Is that correct?

MR. MINETA: I didn't know about the order to shoot down. I arrived at the PEOC at about 9:20 a.m. And the president was in Florida, and I believe he was on his way to Louisiana at that point when the conversation that went on between the vice president and the president and the staff that the president had with him.

MR. ROEMER: So when you arrived at 9:20, how much longer was it before you overheard the conversation between the young man and the vice president saying, "Does the order still stand?"

MR. MINETA: Probably about five or six minutes.

MR. ROEMER: So about 9:25 or 9:26. And your inference was that the vice president snapped his head around and said, "Yes, the order still stands." Why did you infer that that was a shoot-down?

MR. MINETA: Just by the nature of all the events going on that day, the scrambling of the aircraft and, I don't know; I guess, just being in the military, you do start thinking about it, an intuitive reaction to certain statements being made.

MR. ROEMER: Who was the young man with the vice president?

MR. MINETA: Frankly, I don't recall.

MR. ROEMER: And was there another line of communication between the vice president -- and you said you saw Mr. Richard Clark on the way in. Was Clark running an operations center as well on that day?

MR. MINETA: Dick was in the Situation Room.

MR. ROEMER: So there was the Situation Room making decisions about what was going to happen on shootdowns --

MR. MINETA: I don't believe they were --

MR. ROEMER: -- as well as the PEOC?

MR. MINETA: I don't believe they were making any decisions. I think they were more information-gathering from various agencies.

MR. ROEMER: Could it have been in the Situation Room where somebody in the Situation Room recommended the shoot-down and the vice president agreed to that?

MR. MINETA: Commissioner Roemer, I would assume that a decision of that nature would have had to be made at a much higher level than the people who were in the Situation Room.

MR. ROEMER: So take me through that. The Situation Room is monitoring the daily minute-by-minute events and they find out that Flight 77 is headed to the Pentagon. Somebody's got to be getting that information. The Situation Room is then communicating with the PEOC and saying, "We've got another flight that's on its way toward the Pentagon. Here are the options." Then the vice president talks to the president and says, "Here are the options; we have a shoot-down recommendation. Do you agree, Mr. President?" Is that what happens?

MR. MINETA: Again, that would be speculation on my part as to what was happening on that day, so I just wouldn't be able to really answer that -- on that inquiry.

MR. ROEMER: I know, because you had been conducting official business, and I'm sure you were hurriedly on your way over there.

MR. MINETA: As I was listening --

MR. ROEMER: I'm just trying to figure out how the Situation Room, which was gathering the minute-by-minute evidence and information and talking probably to a host of different people, and how they're interacting with the PEOC and then how the PEOC is interacting with the president, who is at that point on Air Force One, how a decision is made to shoot down a commercial airliner.

And then would you say -- let's say we're trying to put that part of the puzzle together. Then would your inference be that they scrambled the jets to shoot down the commercial airliner, it failed, and the commercial airliner therefore crashed into the Pentagon, the jets were not able to get there in time to succeed in a mission that they'd been tasked to do?

MR. MINETA: I'm not sure that the aircraft that were scrambled to come up to the DC area from Norfolk were under orders to shoot the airplane down. As I said, I just --

MR. ROEMER: But it was an inference on your part.

MR. MINETA: It was an inference, without a doubt. And that's why, in thinking about the United plane that went down in Pennsylvania, the question that arose in my mind --

MR. ROEMER: Right away was "Was that shot down?" And did you ever get an answer to that?

MR. MINETA: Yes, sir. The vice president and I talked about that. We then made the inquiry of the Department of Defense. They then got back to us saying, "No, it was not our aircraft."

MR. ROEMER: No shots were fired and no effort was made to shoot that down.

MR. MINETA: That's correct.

Academy of Achievement, June 3, 2006

Norman Mineta: That morning I was having breakfast with the Vice Premier of Belgium, Isobel Durant, who was also the Minister of Transport, and Jane Garvey, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration, was also there at breakfast. So the three of us were having breakfast, and my Chief of Staff, John Flaherty, came in and said, "Mr. Secretary, may I see you?" So I excused myself, went into my office. At the other end of my office, I have a television set. Obviously, the World Trade Center, black smoke pouring out of there. I said, "What the heck is that?" He said, "Well, we don't know. We have heard 'explosion,' we've heard 'general aviation plane going into the building,' we've heard 'commercial airplane going into the building.' We don't know." So I said, "Well, I am going to go back into the breakfast, keep me posted." So I went in and explained to Jane and to Mrs. Durant what I had just been told. About six or seven minutes later, John came back in and said, "May I see you?" So I excused myself, went back in, and he said, "It has been confirmed. It was an American Airlines (plane) that went into the World Trade Center." I went up to the TV set to get a closer look, see if I could see the hole where the plane went in, and as I was watching the TV set, all of a sudden a gray object comes from the right side of the screen, comes across, sort of disappears, and then a yellow and white billowy cloud over here, and I go, "Holy Cow, what the heck was that."

I ran back into the conference room and said, "I don't know what is going on in New York, but Mrs. Durant, I have got to excuse myself. Jane, you have got to get back to the Operations Center over at FAA." I excused myself, came back into the office. By that time, the White House had called and said I had to get over there right away.

I grabbed some manuals and some papers, went down to the car, and we went over to the White House. As we went in West Executive Drive, people pouring out of the Executive Office building, people running out of the White House, and I said to my driver and security guy, "Is there something wrong with this picture? We are driving in, and everybody else is running away." So I went into the White House and someone said, "You have to be briefed by Dick Clark in the Situation Room." So I went in there, he talked to me for four or five minutes, and he said, "You have got to go to the PEOC." I said, "What's the PEOC?" He said, "That's the Presidential Emergency Operations Center." I said, "I don't know where that is or what it is." There was a Secret Service agent standing there, says, "I will take you." Well, it's that bunker that's way under the White House.

I got to the PEOC and the Vice President was already there. Big conference table, and there are phones all along here. I took a phone and called my office, kept it an open line, and then I took another phone, called FAA -- Federal Aviation Administration Operations Center -- and kept it at open line and kept working the two phones.

Some young man came in and said to the Vice President, "There's a plane 50 miles out coming towards D.C." So I said to Monty Belger, who is the No. 2 at FAA, I said, "Monty, what do you have on radar on this plane coming in?" He said, "Well, the transponder has been turned off, so we don't know who it is, and we don't know the altitude or speed." I said, "Well, where is it?" He said, "It's somewhere beyond Great Falls right now." Then, the young man came in and said it's 20 miles away. I'd say, "Well, Monty, where is this plane in relationship to the ground?" On radar it is hard to associate with a ground point, but they'd be able to tell you roughly the distance from wherever you are, but he couldn't tell you the speed or altitude, and then all of a sudden, as I was talking to him, he said, "Oh, I lost the bogie. Lost the target." I said, "Well, where is it?" He said, "Well, it's somewhere between Rosslyn and National Airport," and about that time someone broke into the conversation and said, "Mr. Secretary, we just had a confirmation from an Arlington County police officer saying that he saw an American Airlines plane go into the Pentagon." So then I said, "Monty, bring all the airplanes down." When you see one of something happen, it's an accident; when you see two of the same thing happening, it's a trend, something. When you see three, it's a plan. So I said, "Bring all the planes down."

You mean ground all the planes?
Norman Mineta: Ground all the planes. We already had a ground hold on planes going into New York. Any plane that was going to leave from Atlanta heading to New York, those planes were left on the ground in Atlanta. That happened maybe about 8:30 or 8:40 in the morning. Now this is about 9:27.

I said, "Bring all the planes down." Well, at that point, we had 4,638 airplanes in the air. With the skill of the air traffic controllers and the skill of the airplane pilots and the flight cabin crew, getting all the passengers prepared, they brought all those planes down in two hours and 20 minutes. It was really the skill of everybody just bringing those airplanes down. Now, he said, "We will bring the planes down per pilot discretion," and I said, "Screw pilot discretion," because I didn't want a pilot who was over Kansas City thinking, "Well, I will fly on to LA, sleep in my own bed tonight," because I wanted all those airplanes down. We had, at that point, seven to ten airplanes still unaccounted for from the airlines, and so I wanted to get all those airplanes down. I didn't want that pilot in Kansas making his own decision. I said, "Bring them all down."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Where was Flight 77 after 8:56?

This article has been published on the Loose Change forum a while ago. I was surprised that the fate of Flight 77 is widely unknown, so I re-post it here.

I would like to illuminate the fate of Flight 77 after it vanished from radar because it looks to me that many people don't know much about it, despite its importance.

At 8:56, the blip of Flight 77 vanished from the radar screens of Indianapolis Center, the responsible ATC facility, and at the same time radio communication was lost. This is a well known and well confirmed fact. Just take a look at the ATC transcript:

The controllers thought it had crashed and submitted their assessment to other ATC centers, FAA headquarters and American Airlines. This caused the top AA management to believe that Flight 77 crashed into the South Tower - they believed it until the Pentagon strike! There were also rumors going around that a plane crashed near the Ohio-Kentucky border (as confirmed in Richard Clarke's "Against all enemies"), which is exactly the area where Flight 77 vanished (take a look at the Flight Explorer animation in the transcript link).

For sure, the controllers activated primary radar as soon as they lost Flight 77 to look for him, but this measure was obviously not successful. Flight 77 was not detected by any controller until it was picked up at 9:32 by Dulles TRACON controllers. (The only man who knew its position at 9:25 was Norman Mineta...)

For someone who's aware of Operation Northwoods this stinks of a plane swap: Flight 77 crashed or landed somewhere near the Ohio-Kentucky border, and the plane that was detected by the Dulles controllers was not Flight 77.

The 9/11 Commissioners are surely aware of Operation Northwoods, but advocate another theory:

The failure to find a primary radar return for American 77 led us to investigate this issue further. Radar reconstructions performed after 9/11 reveal that FAA radar equipment tracked the flight from the moment its transponder was turned off at 8:56. But for 8 minutes and 13 seconds, between 8:56 and 9:05, this primary radar information on American 77 was not displayed to controllers at Indianapolis Center.142 The reasons are technical, arising from the way the software processed radar information, as well as from poor primary radar coverage where American 77 was flying.

According to the radar reconstruction, American 77 reemerged as a primary target on Indianapolis Center radar scopes at 9:05, east of its last known posi-tion. The target remained in Indianapolis Center's airspace for another six minutes, then crossed into the western portion of Washington Center's airspace at 9:10.As Indianapolis Center continued searching for the aircraft, two managers and the controller responsible for American 77 looked to the west and southwest along the flight's projected path, not east-where the aircraft was now heading. Managers did not instruct other controllers at Indianapolis Center to turn on their primary radar coverage to join in the search for American 77.143

In sum, Indianapolis Center never saw Flight 77 turn around. By the time it reappeared in primary radar coverage, controllers had either stopped looking for the aircraft because they thought it had crashed or were looking toward the west. Although the Command Center learned Flight 77 was missing, neither it nor FAA headquarters issued an all points bulletin to surrounding centers to search for primary radar targets. American 77 traveled undetected for 36 minutes on a course heading due east for Washington, D.C.144

So the Commission thinks that at first, Flight 77 slided into a radar hole and was therefore not visible to controllers. This raises the question why the controllers, who surely were familiar with the position and extent of this alleged radar hole, were so quickly convinced that Flight 77 had crashed.

After that, the Commissions surprises us with their finding, obtained through "radar reconstruction", that Flight 77 reemerged at the radar screens of Indianapolis controllers, but was missed by them, because they were looking into the wrong direction.

Someone here who has the same little trust in the competence of professional controllers?

Then the Commission continues with the claim that Flight 77 crossed the border to Washington Center at 9:10, heading eastwards. But the Washington controllers didn't detect the plane either, because they were "not told to look for primary targets."

This is a breathtaking claim. Of course, Washington Center was informed by Indianapolis pretty early about the loss of Flight 77. Did the controllers expect it to reappear with full transponder data, and did they refrain from activating the primary radar routine for this reason?

The claim is not only an insult to the intelligence of the controllers, it is also wrong. Here is a transcript snippet between Washington Center and NEADS which proves that they were indeed looking for AA 77 for a long time:


WASHINGTON CENTER: Now, let me tell you this. I—I'll—we've been looking. We're—also lost American 77—

WATSON: American 77?

DOOLEY: American 77's lost—

WATSON: Where was it proposed to head, sir?

WASHINGTON CENTER: Okay, he was going to L.A. also—

WATSON: From where, sir?

WASHINGTON CENTER: I think he was from Boston also. Now let me tell you this story here. Indianapolis Center was working this guy—

WATSON: What guy?

WASHINGTON CENTER: American 77, at flight level 3-5-0 [35,000 feet]. However, they lost radar with him. They lost contact with him. They lost everything. And they don't have any idea where he is or what happened.

Bottom line: Whatever happened to Flight 77, it's official flight path after 8:56 is pure speculation, and the evidence suggests that it didn't fly back to Washington at all. To those who say that Flight 77 hit the Pentagon or are agnostic on this question, this is another serious blow.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Mineta and the elusive plane crash at Camp David

"With respect to the events of the day, as you know when we took off, both towers of the World Trade Center had fallen, serious fire at the Pentagon which is still raging and has not been brought under control yet. Other planes crashed elsewhere in the United States, one crashed near Camp David and the other crashed out in western Pennsylvania."

Colin Powell, Secretary of State, September 11, 2001, ~12:30 a.m. on a news conference aboard the aircraft that took him back from Lima, Peru, to Washington DC.

In the previous entry I have summarized evidence that Mineta didn't tell the truth in his testimony. Now some questions arise automatically: did he confuse certain facts, or did he lie, and if he lied, why did he do it? In this entry I will deal with these questions and their consequences.

Mineta's motives

Some researchers argue that Mineta "mixed up" times unintentionally. Mineta does not only report the wrong time, however, but the identity of the incoming plane, too, and this was certainly not unintentional. Bob Woodward had interviewed him in January 2002 already:

Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta, summoned by the White House to the bunker, was on an open line to the Federal Aviation Administration operations center, monitoring Flight 77 as it hurtled toward Washington, with radar tracks coming every seven seconds. Reports came that the plane was 50 miles out, 30 miles out, 10 miles out-until word reached the bunker that there had been an explosion at the Pentagon.

Like everybody in the PEOC and the White House, Mineta was aware of the Pentagon crash after 10 o'clock. So as a direct witness of Cheney's shootdown order, he knew that the order didn't refer to the plane that hit the Pentagon, a detail he certainly had not forgotten when testifying to the Commission.

This leaves us with the only conclusion that Mineta lied in his testimony and the interesting question why he did it. I do not claim to be able to look into his head, but there are three key points:

- Vanity: Mineta has shown that he is not immune against giving himself airs; for instance, he claims to have issued the historical FAA grounding order, but in The Mineta Myth we learn otherwise.

- Carelessness: Mineta has shown that his public remarks are not always well thought-out; in this interview from June 2006 he himself delivers contradiction to his testimony in reporting how people were running out of the White House when he arrived there. He testified that he arrived at 9:15~9:20 at the White House, but at this time, there were no panicky people running away. This happened at 9:40~9:45.

- Pressure: Mineta was probably not supposed to talk about certain things that happened in the PEOC. It is only this last point that I will concentrate on now.

It should be noted that his story was on the public market since his congressional testimony of September 20, 2001, that's why he was compelled to repeat it. Weeks later, he was thoroughly squeezed out by Woodward, but he had no motive to fantasize a story out of the blue. So while he was pleased to tell Woodward insider stories of what he experienced in the PEOC, he understandably didn't dare to bust the official story by mentioning "phantom Flight 93" - this is the plane that caused Cheney to issue his "shootdown order".

I will now try to make the case for my main thesis:

Mineta indeed was talking about a plane that was headed towards Washington, and it was identical to the ominous plane that allegedly crashed near Camp David. But the existence and identity of this plane was supposed to be kept hidden. And Mineta played alongside the rules.

Evidence for the Camp David crash rumor

Surprisingly, there is a lot of information to find out about the Camp David crash. So let's chase it down. Whether the crash was fact or only rumor doesn't matter for the moment; what's relevant is that the crash message was common knowledge to a lot of top-level government officials and even leaked out to the media.

Source #1:
Powell's news conference; all we know at this point is that a hijacked airliner allegedly crashed in the vicinity of Camp David. No details available yet.

Source #2: CBS News; the following segment was aired at about 11 a.m. We learn here that the plane belonged to United Airlines and had the flight number 93. Source: FAA, via FBI. This is very strange, of course, because the Pennsylvania crash had already been reported 30 minutes earlier by CBS and other stations (without identifying the airliner, however).

JIM STEWART reporting:

Dan, we've just received word from the FBI that a United Airlines flight has apparently
crashed at Camp David, the home of--or the retreat of the president. We have no word on casualties. The FBI tells us only that they have a report from the FAA that they are trying to confirm that a United Airlines flight has crashed in the vicinity of or at Camp David.

Only moments ago when I was speaking with the FBI, the thought there was that he would possibly go to Camp David. If this report is true from the FAA by way of the FBI, that would now appear not to be a--a plausible alternative. Where to take Congress, since that--the House and Senate now have been evacuated--is also a question for them to decide.

RATHER: Jim, about this report that a United Airlines plane has crashed into Camp David, Maryland, the presidential retr--retreat just outside of Washington, repeat the source on that for our listeners and viewers, please.

STEWART: The source of this information is an FBI official in Washington who says that he has been informed by the FAA; has not confirmed it, himself, but has been informed by the FAA that a United Airlines flight--he says it's United Airlines Flight 93--has crashed into the vicinity of or at Camp David.

Dan, I will tell you one other thing, too, that the FBI and terrorist experts here have immediately noted. And that is today, September the 11th, is the anniversary of the Camp David accords signed at that historic location after--after weeks of negotiations between the Arabs and the Israelis and, of course, has been a thorn in the de--side of--of both parties now for some years and--and a source of great consternation. You can't help but notice, according to the FBI, the coincidence of the date. And now, if this is true, the coincidence of the target. Dan.

Source #3:
Northwestern Chronicle; here we learn that the plane was "forced down" by F-16 fighters near Camp David, which can be interpretated as a shootdown.

Source #4: 9/11 Commission Report; here's a radio conversation between NEADS and a controller from Washington Center (p. 31):

NEADS: I also want to give you a heads-up, Washington.
FAA (DC): Go ahead.
NEADS: United nine three, have you got information on that yet?
FAA:Yeah, he's down.
NEADS: He's down?
NEADS: When did he land? 'Cause we have got confirmation-
FAA: He did not land.
NEADS: Oh, he's down? Down?
FAA: Yes. Somewhere up northeast of Camp David.
NEADS: Northeast of Camp David.
FAA: That's the last report. They don't know exactly where.

The extremely vague description of the crash site - "somewhere northeast of Camp David" - shows that the airplane in question here is not identical to the plane that crashed near Shanksville, because the location of the latter one was known to the FAA with a high degree of accuracy: 15 miles south of Johnstown. Here's a radio talk in reference to the Shanksville crash (Source: 9/11 Commission report, p. 30):

Command Center: O.K. Uh, there is now on that United 93.
FAA Headquarters: Yes.
Command Center: There is a report of black smoke in the last position I gave you, fifteen miles south of Johnstown.
FAA Headquarters: From the airplane or from the ground?
Command Center: Uh, they're speculating it's from the aircraft.
FAA Headquarters: Okay.
Command Center: Uh, who, it hit the ground. That's what they're speculating, that's speculation only.

Which controller would circumscribe the location of Shanksville by "somewhere up northeast of Camp David"? Camp David is about 100 miles away from Shanksville. So this is strong evidence that twe two "United 93"s are not identical, and that NEADS and Washington Center were aware of the alleged Camp David crash, too.

Source #5:
Arlington After-Action Report; this report confirms the CBS information about airline and flight number, mentions the same sources (FAA/FBI) and adds a few details: this "United 93" was heading towards Washington at about 10:15 and caused an evacuation of the crash site at the Pentagon. It proceeded on its way and dropped under radar when it was 4 minutes away from the Pentagon.

The first of these (evacuations) occurred at about 10:15 a.m. on September 11, when Special Agent Combs told Chief Schwartz another hijacked airliner was flying on a trajectory toward Washington, DC, and was 20 minutes away. Special Agent Combs got this information from the command center at the FBI WFO, which was in direct contact with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Using a radio belonging to an airport firefighter, he confirmed the information directly with the control tower at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. The Incident Commander ordered fire and rescue personnel to relocate to the relative safety of a highway overpass. The evacuation required fire and rescue personnel to move in full firefighting gear the equivalent of five football fields. Chief Schwartz issued a warning with each flight status update until the last warning when the airliner went below radar coverage in Pennsylvania, an estimated 4 minutes flying time from the Pentagon. Five minutes later, Special Agent Combs told him the airplane had crashed in Pennsylvania and the all clear was sounded. At 10:37 a.m., United Airlines Flight #93 crashed into a field near Shanksville, PA. The heroic actions of doomed passengers had thwarted the terrorist plan.
At about 10:15 a.m. on September 11, the WFO Command Center was notified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that another airliner, United AirlinesFlight #93, was hijacked after taking off from Newark, NJ, and was flying on acourse from western Pennsylvania toward the Washington Metropolitan Area. The FAA estimated it would reach Washington, DC, in 20 minutes. The Command Center relayed the information to Special Agent Combs at the ACFDICP who alerted Chief Schwartz. Special Agent Combs located a Washington Metropolitan Airports Authority (WMAA) firefighter equipped with a radio and confirmed the information about Flight #93. Chief Schwartz ordered a complete area evacuation, directing the response force to relative safety beneath nearby highway overpasses. Special Agent Combs stayed at Chief Schwartz’ side, giving him updates as the FAA tracked the course of Flight #93. The last update came when the airliner was 4 minutes away from the Pentagon. Five minutes later, Special Agent Combs reported to Chief Schwartz that Flight #93 had crashed into Camp David in Maryland. In fact, it crashed in a field near Shanksville, PA. Chief Schwartz sounded the all clear.

The PEOC situation

The latter report (hereafter referred to as AAAR) is most important because

- it confirms the CBS report that Washington FBI was the source for the Camp David crash info (after being informed by the FAA);

- it is the missing link between the Camp David crash and the Commission's "phantom Flight 93", matching its time, distance, direction, and flight number (p. 41):

At 10:02, the communicators in the shelter began receiving reports from the Secret Service of an inbound aircraft-presumably hijacked-heading toward Washington. That aircraft was United 93.The Secret Service was getting this information directly from the FAA. The FAA may have been tracking the progress of United 93 on a display that showed its projected path to Washington, not its actual radar return. Thus, the Secret Service was relying on projections and was not aware the plane was already down in Pennsylvania.

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

It should be noted that the Secret Service was directly linked to FAA radar data and thus able to track "Flight 93" on his own display. This is confirmed by Richard Clarke ("Against all enemies") and, more clearly than in the final report, in the Commission's "
Staff Statement No.17":

At 10:02, the communicators in the shelter began receiving reports from the Secret Service of an inbound aircraft—presumably hijacked—heading toward Washington. That aircraft was United 93. The Secret Service was getting this information directly from the FAA, through its links to that agency. The Service’s operations center and their FAA contact were tracking the progress of the aircraft on a display that showed its projected path, not its actual radar return.

So the Secret Service was able to track the path of "phantom Flight 93" just like the FAA and the FBI. This means that he knew of the crash rumor, and of course he forwarded the message to Cheney and the PEOC crew. Furthermore, Colin Powell had spoken with Condoleezza Rice, who was in the PEOC, and they certainly exchanged the crash information. And Mineta himself was on an open line to the FAA, the primary source of the message. This is sufficient evidence that Mineta was not only witnessing the inbound "phantom Flight 93" in the PEOC, but its alleged subsequent crash at Camp David, too.

But with the exception of Powell, no government official lost a word about the Camp David crash. Note that this prevalent silence was not due to the rumor character of the information; none of the officials shied away from mentioning the rumored car bomb at the State Department despite the fact that it was quickly discounted. But the Camp David rumor was never mentioned by Cheney, Mineta, Clarke, or Rice.

We are now in a position to relive Mineta's perception of the PEOC occurrences.

The Secret Service and the "young man" repeatedly update the politicians about the incoming Flight 93. A very scary situation. At about 10:12, Cheney orders the military to engage the plane, and the order is repeated and confirmed a few minutes later. Then, some minutes later again, a plane crash at Camp David is reported. Mineta must believe that the plane has been shot down there by the air force (there were indeed reports circulating that the plane was "forced down" by fighters). He soon realizes that this shootdown is not meant to become public, so he keeps his mouth shut in his congressional testimony on September 20, but weeks later he can't resist to tell Woodward interesting insider stories about a scary hijacked plane on its way to Washington. The existence of the plane is not part of the official story, however, so he projects his experiences onto Flight 77, not realizing that this distortion of the truth generates plenty of contradictions.

This sequence of events is not meant as proven fact, rather to present a plausible explanation why Mineta was not honest. And it is certainly less speculative than the theory that Cheney issued a "standdown" order to allow Flight 77 attacking the Pentagon because it's not based on the questionable premise that Mineta and Cheney were in the PEOC before the Pentagon strike.

Now is the time for "phantom flight 93" and the Camp David crash to undergo a reality check. Was "phantom flight 93" only a radar blip without corresponding physical existence, or was it a real plane?

Evidence for the existence of "phantom flight 93"

The 9/11 Commission presents a stunning solution for the phantom flight: the FAA didn't submit position data of a real plane, but the "projected path" of Flight 93, i.e they were guessing its position. This means that Cheney's shootdown order was meant for a not existent flight, and that the evacuation of the Pentagon area, disrupting the efforts of so many firefighters, was based on a false alarm.

But you might ask: how can a phantom flight - i.e. a pure radar blip - go "under radar coverage", as reported in the AAAR? And how does it look like when a phantom flight crashes, also reported by the AAAR? And how is it possible that the FAA conveys false position data of a hijacked airliner to the FBI and the Secret Service in the most threatening situation one can imagine?

The Commission's explanation implies that the responsible FAA controllers were complete failures, i.e., they propose the well-known "incompetence" theory. Here's an alternative and better founded answer: the "phantom Flight 93" was no phantom; it was a real plane flying towards Washington. If it was indeed Flight 93 is of secondary interest at the moment. But there is indeed strong confirmation that a plane called "Flight 93" was observed after the Shanksville crash:

In contrast, controllers at the Washington Air Route Traffic Control Center had much more warning that something was wrong. Those controllers, who handled American Airlines Flight 77, which dived into the Pentagon, knew about the hijacking of the first plane to crash, even before it hit the World Trade Center, those involved said. That was more than an hour before they watched another hijacked plane, United Flight 93, cross their radar screen on its way to the Pentagon. (
New York Times, 9/13/2001; )

This is confirmed by Leslie Filson, who has spoken with many military members for his book "Air War over America", p. 79:

Everything was happening at once, says wing safety officer Lt. Col. Phil Thompson, who was now the acting SOF. "We were taking calls from the Secret Service and Washington Center", he recalls. " We have a special relationship with the Secret Service and know these guys by name and face...They were worried about Flight 93."

Neither Filson nor the New York Times nor the AAAR mention a "projected fligh path" or a "phantom flight". Their sources talk about a real airplane named "Flight 93" inside Washington Center airspace. The problem here is that according to the official story, Flight 93 was never in or near the airspace of Washington Center, but crashed at Shanksville which is covered by the adjacent Cleveland Center.

Conclusion: the Commission's fishy claim that the radar signal tracked by the FAA and the Secret Service was just a phantom is contradicted by Filson, the New York Times, and the AAAR. Their sources don't mention a "projected flight path" or a "phantom flight". They talk about a real airplane named "Flight 93", which is not identical to the plane that crashed at Shanksville, however.

The Camp David crash - just a rumor

At Camp David, there were indeed rumors going around that a plane had crashed near Thurmont, which is 3 miles away:

Early reports that an airliner had crashed on or near Camp David, the presidential retreat in Western Maryland's Catoctin Mountains, proved unfounded.

Theresa Hahn, manager of banquet and catering services for Thurmont's Cozy Restaurant, the Camp David haunt of the presidential media retinue, said at mid-morning yesterday that she heard that a plane went down about three miles from Thurmont, in the Catoctin Mountain National Park.
Thurmont is located about three miles east south east of Camp David.

"Lots of fire trucks were on the road and no one can get up there," Hahn said, adding that she had not been able to get through by telephone to an aunt who lives closer to Camp David on the other side of the state park. ( )

While Mrs. Hahn has observed strange activities ("lots of fire trucks"), her account about a plane crash is only hearsay. J. Mel Poole, Catoctin Mountain Park superintendent, denied a crash at Camp David or Catoctin Mountain Park. An official report of the
National Park Service gives no hints either. Lacking any witness accounts of smoke, noise, etc. this means there is no evidence that any accident happened there.

Interestingly, after the crash rumor had popped up in the news, Camp David appeared in the news for a second time, but in a different context:

Rep. James Moran, D-Va., said after a Marine Corps briefing in Washington that Flight 93 was apparently intended for Camp David, the presidential retreat in the mountains of Maryland.

Unfortunately, we don't learn why Flight 93 was so "apparently" intended for Camp David. Given the 100 miles distance between Shanksville and Camp David, this assumption doesn't make sense and was apparently supposed to "blur the picture" and cover up the crash information that was leaked shortly before. Now the news was not "a plane crashed near Camp David", but "the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania was headed for Camp David". An obvious attempt to sweep the "phantom Flight 93" and its alleged crash under the carpet.

Conclusion: the "phantom flight 93" existed, but it didn't crash; this means it's still unaccounted for. The inventor of the Camp David crash rumor wanted to make the plane - whose existence had been leaked to the media already - vanish from the news as quickly as possible. Its existence was not meant to come to light. And Norman Mineta was not willing to bring it to light. Colin Powell's remark was a singular unplanned mishap.

The Camp David crash rumor seems to be the origin of the "shootdown myth" - a carefully planted limited hangout to make people believe that the government covered up the shootdown of Flight 93. Additionally, it served as a cover-up for the secret and rarely reported landing of a mysterious plane at Cleveland airport...



The Cleveland Airport situation


So what happened to "phantom Flight 93" if it didn't crash, the interested reader might ask. Interestingly, an airliner whose identity is still not clarified made an emergency landing at Cleveland airport at 10:45. The Akron Beacon Journal reports:

Cleveland Mayor Michael White said at a news conference this morning that a Boeing 767 out of Boston made an emergency landing at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport because of fears a bomb was aboard.He reported that air traffic controllers could hear screaming aboard the plane.The 200 passengers were reportedly released from the plane at 11:15 a.m., though White said the pilot was still concerned that a bomb remained.

And according to someone who was at Cleveland Airport on 9/11, this airliner was the same one that was reported headed towards Camp David somewhat earlier:

I'm sure there was a fifth plane involved that was headed toward Camp David; however, that plane was forced (yes forced, militarily) to land in Cleveland. I thought the target could also have be NASA's Glen/Lewis Research Center that is right next to the Cleveland Airport. The news reported that the plane landed because of a suspected bomb on board but they haven't released anyone that was on that plane. The closed NASA and transported everyone that was on the plane there for questioning.

"Phantom Flight 93" was 60 miles out of Washington at about 10:15. If it was intercepted by fighters - and I will present evidence that it indeed was in the next blog entry - and diverted to Cleveland, it would well have arrived there around 10:45, which is the arrival time of the mysterious Cleveland airliner. This is no proof that it is the same plane - but a strong hint.

The next blog entry will deal with the interesting story of Cheney's so-called "shootdown order" and its (non)-execution.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The four lies of Norman Mineta

The first lie of Mineta is that Cheney was in the PEOC as early as 9:25. Evidence against:

- White House transcript
- White House notes
- White House record, PEOC Shelter Log, Sept. 11, 2001
- USSS report, "Executive Summary: U.S. Secret Service Timeline of Events" Oct. 3, 2001
- USSS memo, OVP 9/11 Timeline, Nov. 17, 2001
- Statement of Dick Cheney
- Statement of Lynne Cheney

More here:

The second lie of Mineta is that he himself was in the PEOC at 9:20 already. Evidence against:

- The implausible narrow timeline for his actions between 9:03 and 9:20
- His phone call out of his car to Richard Clarke, which occurred at about the same time he allegedly entered the PEOC
- His own statement that he arrived at the White House when people were running out of it as well as the Old Executive Office Building, an incident that happened at 9:40~9:45, according to all sources (CNN, Richard Clarke, Bob Woodward)

More here:

The third lie of Mineta is that the FAA - which he had an open line to during his time in the PEOC - was tracking Flight 77 since 9:25. Evidence against: There is not one single person, neither in the FAA nor somewhere else, who knew Flight 77's position at 9:25.

- The controllers of Washington Center didn't know where it was at 9:25 - here's a dialogue between a FAA controller from Washington Center and a NEADS technician:

WASHINGTON CENTER: Now, let me tell you this. I—I'll—we've been looking. We're—also lost American 77—
WATSON: American 77?
DOOLEY: American 77's lost—
WATSON: Where was it proposed to head, sir?
WASHINGTON CENTER: Okay, he was going to L.A. also—
WATSON: From where, sir?
WASHINGTON CENTER: I think he was from Boston also. Now let me tell you this story here. Indianapolis Center was working this guy—
WATSON: What guy?
WASHINGTON CENTER: American 77, at flight level 3-5-0 [35,000 feet]. However, they lost radar with him. They lost contact with him. They lost everything. And they don't have any idea where he is or what happened.

- FAA headquarters didn't know where it was at 9:25:

The center also contacted the West Virginia State Police and asked whether any reports of a downed aircraft had been received. At 9:09, it reported the loss of contact ((to Flight 77)) to the FAA regional center, which passed this information to FAA headquarters at 9:24.
Source: 911 Commission Report.

- Nobody else in the FAA knew where it was at 9:25:

We have reviewed all FAA documents, transcripts, and tape recordings related to American 77 and have found no evidence that FAA headquarters issued a directive to surrounding centers to search for primary radar targets. Review of the same materials also indicates that no one within FAA located American 77 until the aircraft was identified by Dulles controllers at 9:32.
Source: 911 Commission Report.

- The Secret Service, who was directly linked to the FAA radar data with an own display, didn't know where it was at 9:25. They learned about an incoming plane the first time at 9:33 - after being alarmed by Dulles TRACON controllers - causing them to order an immediate and quick evacuation of the White House.
Sources: 911 Commission Report, Richard Clarke "Against all Enemies"

The fourth lie of Mineta is that he issued the general order to all planes to land at the nearest airport while he was in the PEOC. Evidence against: The order was submitted to the pilots at 9:45. According to Don Phillips, a Washington Post reporter, aviation specialist and FAA insider, the order was given by FAA hadquarters, very probably Monte Belger, because they couldn't reach Mineta to ask him for authorization.

According to insiders, that honor belongs to Monte Belger, at the time the No. 2 official at the FAA. A precise, diligent career bureaucrat known among colleagues as "the Forrest Gump of the FAA," Belger was on a phone bridge with controllers at the David J. Hurley Air Traffic Control System Command Center in Herndon, Va., and ordered flights grounded 15 minutes before Mineta was even notified of the attacks. So, when the secretary issued his blunt order—"Monte, bring all the planes down!"—Monte had already done so.

FAA officials and beat reporters have known this for months. "Any clued-in transportation reporter knows what went on that day," says one. But Mineta apparently does not. After he gave his congressional testimony, FAA officials, including Belger, who is a consummate team player, kept quiet in deference to their boss. Though beat reporters knew the truth as long ago as November, none came forward for fear of being frozen out.

Until last Tuesday, when, at the end of a speech before the Aero Club of Washington, D.C., the Washington Post's veteran transportation reporter Don Phillips let the cat out of the bag. Phillips told his audience he felt it necessary to make a "historical correction," although FAA officials had begged him to maintain the fiction. Phillips proposed, charitably, that Mineta's order was a simple misunderstanding; that the secretary was unaware that "[f]or at least 15 minutes before Mineta's conversation with the FAA, controllers were bringing the planes down ... at the nearest airport." Phillips continued:

I'm told by very high sources that it happened this way: First, the decision was made on a regional basis by some gutsy local FAA officials, and the FAA command center and headquarters officials agreed that it should be spread to the whole country. First, [the FAA] acted. Then they sought permission. A top FAA official ... then called Mineta, finding him in a bunker with the vice president and other officials. He explained the plan, and Mineta agreed.

Then there was a pause in the conversation. You know what many of us do when there is a pause in the conversation. We try to fill the dead time. The FAA official, unfortunately said something like, "Of course we could have let them go on to their destinations, or ..." Big mistake. Norm heard that throwaway line as saying the FAA was still considering letting them go on to destination. He then fired off his now-famous order.

So it took the FAA more than 15 minutes before they detected him in the PEOC and informed him about the order. But according to Mineta, while he was in the PEOC, he was in contact with Belger since 9:25 (if not earlier). Why did Belger not ask him for authorization at 9:45, why did he have to search for him?

The last article - "The Mineta Myth" - suggests that Mineta liked to swagger a little bit about his role in the attacks. But the similarity of his testimonial account and the incidents inside the PEOC as described in the 911 Commission Report (Chapter I.3, Section "United 93 and the Shootdown Order") is striking and show that he didn't fabricate a story out of the blue. Only his times and the identity of the plane were false.

The next blog entry will deal with the real identity of the plane that Mineta was talking about.