Monday, 28 December 2015
United Airlines Held an Exercise So Realistic That Its Personnel Had to Be Reassured That the 9/11 Attacks Were 'Not a Drill'
United Airlines personnel were subjected to a surprise training exercise 12 days before 9/11 in which they were led to believe that one of their planes had crashed. The exercise was so realistic that some of them ended up in tears or became physically sick. Consequently, on September 11, 2001, when two United Airlines planes were hijacked and then crashed, the manager who organized the exercise apparently thought his employees had mistaken reports about the terrorist attacks for part of an exercise and therefore told them, "This is not a drill!"
Furthermore, United Airlines had previously conducted other exercises that were based around scenarios resembling aspects of the 9/11 attacks, which may have caused its employees to be confused on September 11 over whether the crisis that day was real or simulated. The scenarios included hijackings and planes crashing into buildings.
We need to consider whether these exercises hindered the ability of United Airlines personnel to respond to the attacks on September 11. If they did, was this intentional? Did people involved in planning the 9/11 attacks help organize exercises that would lead to confusion on September 11, so as to increase the likelihood that the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon would succeed?
'NO-NOTICE' EXERCISE INVOLVED A PILOT INDICATING THAT HIS PLANE HAD CRASHED
The exercise held 12 days before 9/11 was arranged by Andy Studdert, United Airlines' chief operating officer, who was based at the airline's headquarters, near Chicago. Studdert has claimed that the exercise came about because he had been concerned that United Airlines hadn't had to deal with a "real accident" in over 15 years and was therefore unprepared to respond adequately should one occur.
Around March 2001, he notified other managers at his airline that he intended to run a surprise exercise to address the problem. "One of these days, I'm gonna come in here and I'm gonna do a no-notice drill," he told them.  (A "no-notice" drill is an exercise that is conducted without its participants being given any formal advance notice of when it will occur. )
Studdert ran this no-notice drill on August 30, 2001.  Only two people, apart from him, knew about it in advance: a pilot and a colleague of Studdert's who Studdert has only referred to as his "safety guy." (This "safety guy" may well have been Ed Soliday, United Airlines' vice president of safety and security.)
After he arrived at work, Studdert told his "safety guy" to call the pilot of a United Airlines Boeing 747 that would be flying to Australia that day and tell him to simulate an emergency. Based on Studdert's instructions, the pilot was told to call in during his flight and say his plane had experienced an "uncontained number three engine failure, rapid descent, decompression." He was told that halfway through the word "decompression" he should stop talking and then remain silent. He was also told to turn off his plane's transponder around the time he stopped talking to ground personnel.  (A transponder is a device that sends an aircraft's identifying information, speed, and altitude to the radar screens of air traffic controllers. )
AIRLINE'S CRISIS CENTER WAS OPENED DURING THE EXERCISE
The exercise took place in the afternoon. At around 2:00 p.m., Studdert's secretary rushed into Studdert's office and said a Boeing 747 had lost contact while flying over the Pacific Ocean. In response to the news, Studdert ran to the United Airlines operations center.  The operations center, located in a building adjacent to the headquarters building, was a room about the size of a football field in which a few hundred people worked, tracking planes and pulling up information relating to the airline's flights. 
United Airlines' normal procedure when there was a crisis involving one of its planes was to isolate that aircraft and move the handling of it to the crisis center, so as to avoid disrupting operations in the rest of the system. Located just off the operations center, the crisis center was "a terraced, theater-like room that resembled NASA's Mission Control," according to journalist and author Jere Longman. On one of its walls, a large screen displayed the locations of United Airlines' flights. Other screens showed CNN and other television news channels. 
After reaching the operations center, Studdert opened the crisis center so his personnel could respond to the simulated emergency from there.  This was a major action. "Opening a crisis center in an airline is the single most significant thing you do," Studdert has commented. When the crisis center was opened, Studdert said, everyone at United Airlines had "a second job, and that second job is to either run ... the rest of the airline or act to support the crisis." It meant 3,000 employees were "put on an immediate activation."  Once the center had been opened, a representative from every division of the airline's corporate structure was required to report there and carry out specific predetermined duties. 
DEVASTATED EMPLOYEES THOUGHT THE SIMULATED EMERGENCY WAS REAL
Around the time Studdert opened the crisis center, employees in the operations center genuinely thought one of their planes had crashed. They presumably believed hundreds of people had died in the catastrophe. Some of them were extremely upset. "There [were] people throwing up in the hall; there [were] people crying; there [were] people just staring out the windows," Studdert recalled.
And yet, despite this disturbing response to the simulated crisis, Studdert let his employees believe one of their planes had crashed for 30 minutes. He then went on the crisis center's communications link, which, he described, "has got 170 stations and people all over the country, all over the world," and revealed that the apparent catastrophe was just simulated. "This has been a no-notice drill," he announced. "There is no event. Everything's fine." 
There was a furious response to what Studdert had done in the following days. The exercise was deemed inappropriately intense and emotionally damaging. "I had the board members calling; I had the unions demanding I be fired; I had people telling me I'm the most evil person in the world," Studdert recalled.  Some airline employees "wanted to kill me," he said. 
Studdert's exercise must surely have been unprecedented in how realistic and intense it was. It seems unlikely that the exercise would have elicited such a severe response if United Airlines had conducted anything like it before. How curious it seems that United Airlines personnel were subjected to such a dramatic simulated emergency less than two weeks before September 11, when they had to respond to a genuine emergency involving two of their aircraft.
EXERCISE HAD SIMILARITES TO INCIDENTS AIRLINE PERSONNEL DEALT WITH ON SEPTEMBER 11
Bearing in mind that Andy Studdert's exercise was very realistic, took place without participants knowing about it in advance, and involved United Airlines personnel having to respond to problems similar to those they faced on September 11, we should consider whether this exercise had a detrimental effect on United Airlines' response to the 9/11 attacks. Specifically, did it cause airline personnel to mistakenly think reports they received about the terrorist attacks on September 11 were part of an exercise?
Studdert claimed that the response of United Airlines personnel to the 9/11 attacks was improved due to his exercise. He said the exercise revealed weaknesses that were quickly addressed. For example, out-of-date phone numbers were updated.  He also claimed that, despite the initial outcry, some airline employees were grateful after 9/11 for what he had done. "It's amazing, after 9/11 ... how many people came up to me and thanked me [for running the exercise], because we were ready [on September 11]," he said. 
Some evidence, though, suggests that personnel who were in the United Airlines operations center on September 11 could have thought reports they received about the terrorist attacks that day were part of another no-notice exercise. If they indeed mistook events on September 11 for part of an exercise, their ability to respond to the attacks was presumably impeded as a result.
There were certainly notable similarities between incidents United Airlines employees had to deal with during the 9/11 attacks and the simulated crisis they had faced in the exercise on August 30, which make it seem a genuine possibility that these people mistook events on September 11 for an exercise scenario.
To begin with, in the exercise and on September 11, radio contact was lost with United Airlines planes. In the exercise, the plane involved was the Boeing 747 flying to Australia; on September 11, the planes involved were United Airlines Flight 175--the second aircraft to be hijacked that day--and United Airlines Flight 93--the fourth aircraft to be hijacked. 
On both occasions, United Airlines personnel had to deal with alterations to the transponder signal from their planes. In the cases of the Boeing 747 involved in the exercise and Flight 93, the transponder went off; in the case of Flight 175, the transponder remained on but its signal changed. 
On both occasions, airline personnel had to deal with plane crashes, albeit only a simulated crash in the exercise. And on both occasions, United Airlines' crisis center was activated. During the exercise, Studdert activated the crisis center after he arrived at the operations center.  On September 11, managers started activating the crisis center at around 9:00 a.m., after contact with Flight 175 was lost and operations center personnel were told by a supervisor at the United Airlines maintenance office in San Francisco that the plane had been reported as hijacked. 
MANAGER TOLD HIS EMPLOYEES, 'THIS IS NOT A DRILL'
Although it is unclear whether United Airlines employees mistook events on September 11 for part of an exercise, Andy Studdert certainly appears to have been concerned at the time that this was the case.
At 8:46 a.m. on September 11, when the first hijacked plane--American Airlines Flight 11--crashed into the World Trade Center, Studdert was in a meeting at United Airlines headquarters with Jim Goodwin, the airline's chairman and CEO, and several of his colleagues. Someone in the operations center called Studdert's secretary with the news about the crash and she interrupted Goodwin's meeting to pass on the information. Upon hearing what had happened, Studdert promptly headed across the United Airlines complex to the operations center.
When he arrived there and asked for confirmation that an American Airlines plane had crashed into the World Trade Center, Studdert was told that contact had been lost with a United Airlines plane, Flight 175.  (This plane was hijacked sometime between 8:42 a.m. and 8:46 a.m., according to The 9/11 Commission Report. ) Then, at around 9:00 a.m., he was told about the call from the supervisor at the airline's maintenance office in San Francisco, in which the supervisor said Flight 175 had been reported as hijacked. 
Aware now of the crisis that operations center personnel were facing, Studdert shouted out, "This is not a drill!"  Presumably his concern that employees might think the current situation was part of a drill was, to at least some degree, due to the fact that they had been confronted with such a dramatic and realistic simulated emergency in his exercise 12 days earlier.
Patti Carson, United Airlines' vice president of human resources, also seems to have been concerned that airline personnel might have mistaken real events for part of an exercise. Carson followed Studdert to the operations center after he learned about Flight 11 crashing into the World Trade Center. After she saw the live television coverage of Flight 175 hitting the World Trade Center, at 9:03 a.m., she went into the crisis center and started making phone calls to the human resources leaders of the airline's other crisis centers around the United States. She told these people that "there had been an aircraft accident, possibly multiple ones." Notably, she has recalled, she told them that "[t]his was not a drill."  Might Carson have been concerned because the people she called had been deceived into thinking an air disaster had occurred when Studdert held his exercise on August 30 and she was therefore worried they might think the current crisis was also simulated as part of an exercise?
Newspaper reports have been contradictory as to whether personnel at the United Airlines operations center thought the initial reports they received about the 9/11 attacks were genuine or part of an exercise. USA Today suggested that when Studdert announced that the crisis was "not a drill," operations center personnel already understood it was real. "[T]he staff already knows" this is not an exercise, it reported.  The Chicago Tribune, however, indicated that operations center staffers may indeed have thought the emergency they were learning about was part of an exercise. Studdert announced that the crisis was "not a drill" because he sensed "disbelief among his employees," it reported. 
OTHER UNITED AIRLINES EXERCISES HAD SIMILARITIES TO THE 9/11 ATTACKS
The possibility that United Airlines personnel mistakenly thought the crisis on September 11 was part of an exercise seems more likely when we consider that other exercises they may have participated in, on top of the one on August 30, involved simulated emergencies that resembled incidents the airline had to deal with during the 9/11 attacks.
United Airlines' crisis center held exercises four times a year before 9/11. These exercises included "security scenarios" and "hijacking scenarios," according to Ed Soliday.  Might their participation in exercises that involved hijacking scenarios have led United Airlines employees to mistakenly think the reported hijackings of their aircraft--Flight 175 and Flight 93--on September 11 were part of an exercise?
Other scenarios in the exercises included "two planes crashing into one another, planes crashing into buildings," and "two planes crashing in separate incidents within a few hours of one another," according to John Kiker, United Airlines' vice president of worldwide communications at the time of the 9/11 attacks.  Might their participation in exercises based around the scenario of planes crashing into buildings have caused United Airlines personnel to think reports they received about planes hitting the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11 were simulated, since they knew their company would include these kinds of events in its exercises?
Although we might assume that images of the World Trade Center on fire and other television coverage of the 9/11 attacks would have convinced United Airlines personnel that the crisis on September 11 was genuine and not part of an exercise, this may not necessarily have been the case, since United Airlines had previously used simulated television footage in its exercises, presumably to make them more realistic. For example, in October 1996, the airline held an exercise in which a group of its employees gathered in the crisis center to respond to the hypothetical crash of one of their airliners in Caracas, Venezuela. During the exercise, the employees saw simulated television coverage "of the burning airplane beamed onto a screen," according to the Wall Street Journal.  If United Airlines personnel were used to seeing simulated footage of air disasters during exercises, they could presumably have thought the television coverage they saw of the 9/11 attacks was also simulated, as part of an exercise.
Furthermore, the likelihood that the crisis center's quarterly exercises led United Airlines personnel to mistake the 9/11 attacks for part of an exercise may have been increased due to the fact that many of these exercises were apparently no-notice drills. They were held "usually without warning," Kiker said. Kiker indicated that he usually only found out one of these exercises had been held after it had taken place. "Typically, I get a call informing me that there is a crisis test and outlining what just happened," he said.  So if United Airlines personnel had regularly been confronted with simulated emergencies without being told beforehand that an exercise was going to be held, surely they could have thought the crisis on September 11 was part of another exercise that they had not been told about in advance.
DID UNITED AIRLINES PERSONNEL THINK THE 9/11 ATTACKS WERE PART OF AN EXERCISE?
Andy Studdert's exercise on August 30, 2001, and other exercises in which United Airlines employees faced simulated incidents that resembled real events they had to deal with on September 11 require closer scrutiny. Since two of the planes that were hijacked and crashed during the 9/11 attacks belonged to United Airlines, the ability of the airline's personnel to respond to the attacks is an important area of concern and anything that may have impaired it should be examined thoroughly.
Many questions need to be addressed. Certainly, personnel who were in the United Airlines operations center on August 30, 2001, need to be questioned about their experiences during the exercise that day. Furthermore, who was the pilot who gave the impression that his plane had crashed in the exercise? Why did this pilot agree to go along with such a repulsive plan? Did he consider the devastation the simulated crash might cause among his airline's employees? He only learned about the exercise and received instructions on what to do on the day the exercise was held, according to Studdert. So why did he agree to take part in such a dramatic and apparently unprecedented deception at such short notice?
Additionally, those who were working in the United Airlines operations center on September 11 need to be asked about their experiences that day. Did they ever think the crisis was part of a no-notice exercise? If they did, how long did it take before they realized the attacks were real?
Although Studdert announced that the crisis was "not a drill" when he arrived at the operations center, did those in the center believe him? Studdert had demonstrated how deceptive he could be when he let his employees mistakenly think one of their planes had crashed in the exercise 12 days earlier. Many of these employees may consequently have considered him untrustworthy and have thought the crisis on September 11 was simulated, despite his assurance that it was real.
And since United Airlines' crisis center had been activated during Studdert's exercise on August 30 and during other exercises, did airline personnel think the activation of the center on September 11 was again part of an exercise?
It would also be worth investigating whether United Airlines personnel who worked at locations other than the airline's operations center were deceived into thinking one of their planes had crashed when Studdert held his exercise. According to one report, most of United Airlines' "extensive global staff" believed the apparent crash on August 30 was real.  And Studdert indicated this was the case. He said that on August 30, he announced that the apparent catastrophe had been just "a no-notice drill" over the crisis center's communications link, which had "170 stations and people all over the country, all over the world."  Presumably it would only have been necessary to notify personnel around the United States and around the world that the apparent emergency was just part of an exercise if airline employees at locations other than the operations center had been led to believe one of their planes had crashed.
If United Airlines personnel at locations other than the operations center were indeed deceived during the exercise on August 30, did any of them consequently think, on September 11, that reports they received relating to the day's terrorist attacks were part of an exercise?
WAS THE EXERCISE DESIGNED TO HELP THE 9/11 ATTACKS SUCCEED?
It is certainly intriguing that such a dramatic and realistic exercise took place just 12 days before September 11, when, like during the exercise, United Airlines personnel had to deal with the loss of contact with their aircraft, changes to their planes' transponder signals, and plane crashes. Andy Studdert's exercise almost appears as if it was designed to impede United Airlines' response to the 9/11 attacks, by causing employees to be confused over whether the attacks were real or simulated.
Was the occurrence of this exercise so soon before 9/11 just a coincidence, then, or was the exercise conducted for malicious reasons? Could it have intentionally been held so as to cause confusion on September 11 and thereby increase the likelihood that the attacks that day would succeed? If this was the case, who exactly planned it? Was it Studdert on his own or were other people, whose roles have yet to be revealed, involved?
Although some information about the exercise on August 30, 2001, and other United Airlines exercises before 9/11 has come to light, there is still much that is unknown. And yet it is possible that these exercises played a significant role in ensuring the 9/11 attacks were successful. It is important, therefore, that they are examined thoroughly as part of a new investigation of 9/11.
 Center for Values-Driven Leadership, "Preparing Your Organization for a Crisis: Lessons From United Airlines Emergency Preparation, Pre-9/11." YouTube video, 3:55, March 15, 2012; Amber Johnson, "How to Prepare for a Crisis: Lessons From United's 9/11 Chief of Operations." Center for Values-Driven Leadership, April 26, 2012.
 "TOPOFF Exercise Activity Anticipated for Monday." United States Department of Justice, May 21, 2000; Thomas V. Inglesby, Rita Grossman, and Tara O'Toole, "A Plague on Your City: Observations From TOPOFF." Clinical Infectious Diseases 32, no. 3 (2001): 436-445; "Step 2: Develop Scope." Exercise Builder, n.d.
 Andy Studdert, "What Can Aerials Learn From Aviation?" Presentation, IPAF Asia Conference, Kowloon, Hong Kong, May 26, 2015.
 Center for Values-Driven Leadership, "Preparing Your Organization for a Crisis"; Stacey Becker, "In Dubuque, Ex-Airline Executive Recounts 9/11 Crisis." Dubuque Telegraph Herald, November 12, 2015.
 David Maraniss, "September 11, 2001; Steve Miller Ate a Scone, Sheila Moody Did Paperwork, Edmund Glazer Boarded a Plane: Portrait of a Day That Began in Routine and Ended in Ashes." Washington Post, September 16, 2001.
 Center for Values-Driven Leadership, "Preparing Your Organization for a Crisis."
 Jere Longman, Among the Heroes: United Flight 93 and the Passengers and Crew Who Fought Back. New York: HarperCollins, 2002, p. 77; Center for Values-Driven Leadership, "Leadership in the 9/11 Crisis Room." YouTube video, 6:10, April 23, 2012.
 Jere Longman, Among the Heroes, p. 77; Alan Levin, Marilyn Adams, and Blake Morrison, "Part I: Terror Attacks Brought Drastic Decision: Clear the Skies." USA Today, August 12, 2002; "Memorandum for the Record: Briefing on the United Airlines System Operations Control Center and Crisis Center." 9/11 Commission, November 20, 2003.
 Center for Values-Driven Leadership, "Preparing Your Organization for a Crisis."
 Center for Values-Driven Leadership, "Leadership in the 9/11 Crisis Room."
 "Memorandum for the Record: Briefing on the United Airlines System Operations Control Center and Crisis Center."
 Alan Levin, Marilyn Adams, and Blake Morrison, "Part I: Terror Attacks Brought Drastic Decision: Clear the Skies"; Center for Values-Driven Leadership, "Preparing Your Organization for a Crisis"; Stacey Becker, "In Dubuque, Ex-Airline Executive Recounts 9/11 Crisis."
 Center for Values-Driven Leadership, "Preparing Your Organization for a Crisis"; Amber Johnson, "How to Prepare for a Crisis."
 Stacey Becker, "In Dubuque, Ex-Airline Executive Recounts 9/11 Crisis."
 Center for Values-Driven Leadership, "Preparing Your Organization for a Crisis."
 Staff Report: The Four Flights. 9/11 Commission, August 26, 2004, pp. 20-21, 38-39; Stacey Becker, "In Dubuque, Ex-Airline Executive Recounts 9/11 Crisis."
 Staff Report: The Four Flights, pp. 21, 43; Stacey Becker, "In Dubuque, Ex-Airline Executive Recounts 9/11 Crisis."
 Center for Values-Driven Leadership, "Preparing Your Organization for a Crisis."
 Scott McCartney and Susan Carey, "American, United Watched and Worked in Horror as Sept. 11 Hijackings Unfolded." Wall Street Journal, October 15, 2001; "Memorandum for the Record: Interview With Rich Miles, UAL Manager of Station Operations Control." 9/11 Commission, November 21, 2003; "Statement of Andrew P. Studdert to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States." 9/11 Commission, January 27, 2004; Staff Report: The Four Flights, p. 22.
 Scott McCartney and Susan Carey, "American, United Watched and Worked in Horror as Sept. 11 Hijackings Unfolded"; "Bankruptcy Provides Time, No Guarantees." Chicago Tribune, July 16, 2003; Center for Values-Driven Leadership, "Leadership in the 9/11 Crisis Room."
 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, p. 7.
 "Memorandum for the Record: Interview With Andy Studdert, Chief Operating Officer of United Airlines." 9/11 Commission, November 20, 2003; Staff Report: The Four Flights, p. 22.
 Alan Levin, Marilyn Adams, and Blake Morrison, "Part I: Terror Attacks Brought Drastic Decision: Clear the Skies"; "Bankruptcy Provides Time, No Guarantees."
 "Reality HR with Patti Carson." HR.com, July 1, 2005.
 Alan Levin, Marilyn Adams, and Blake Morrison, "Part I: Terror Attacks Brought Drastic Decision: Clear the Skies."
 "Bankruptcy Provides Time, No Guarantees."
 "Memorandum for the Record: Briefing on the United Airlines System Operations Control Center and Crisis Center"; "Memorandum for the Record: Interview With Captain Ed Soliday, Former Vice President of Safety, Security and Quality Assurance for United Airlines (Part II)." 9/11 Commission, November 21, 2003.
 Paul Holmes, "For United Airlines, a Crisis Without Precedent." Holmes Report, October 3, 2001.
 Susan Carey, "Recent Drills Help United Cope With Airport Collision." Wall Street Journal, November 21, 1996.
 Paul Holmes, "For United Airlines, a Crisis Without Precedent."
 Amber Johnson, "How to Prepare for a Crisis."
 Center for Values-Driven Leadership, "Preparing Your Organization for a Crisis."
Thursday, 17 September 2015
Air Defense Exercise a Month Before 9/11 Was Based Around Osama Bin Laden Carrying Out an Aerial Attack on Washington
NORAD's Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) held a training exercise just over a month before September 11, 2001, which had some uncanny similarities to the 9/11 attacks. The exercise, called Fertile Rice, was based around the scenario of Osama bin Laden--the man who supposedly ordered the 9/11 attacks--organizing an aerial attack on a high-profile government building in Washington, DC--one of the cities attacked on September 11.
NEADS personnel were scheduled to take part in an exercise on September 11. We therefore need to consider whether the similarities between the scenario for the Fertile Rice exercise and some of the incidents they had to deal with on the morning of September 11 caused them to mistake real-world events for part of the day's exercise and thereby impaired their ability to respond to the 9/11 attacks.
EXERCISE INVOLVED BIN LADEN PLANNING TO ATTACK WASHINGTON WITH A DRONE AIRCRAFT
NEADS, based in Rome, New York, was responsible for monitoring and defending the airspace in which the hijackings occurred on September 11, and was consequently responsible for coordinating the U.S. military's response to the 9/11 attacks.  It ran an exercise called Fertile Rice each week.  On August 4, 2001--five and a half weeks before 9/11--Fertile Rice was based around the scenario of Osama bin Laden's operatives attacking a target in Washington. 
An information sheet on the exercise outlined the details. It stated that the scenario for the exercise involved an "Osama bin Laden threat to [the] U.S." Bin Laden had "reportedly acquired at least one and possibly two" unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The UAV he'd obtained was believed to be the Russian-developed "Colibri," which had been modified to be launched off a ship.
Bin Laden's operatives intended to carry out an attack in the next 24 to 36 hours. Although their exact target was unknown, it was believed that they intended to strike a "highly visible U.S. government target" that was probably in the Washington area.
The Colibri they would use to carry out the attack was a propeller-driven drone aircraft designed to perform various military and civilian missions. It was 4.25 meters long, had a wingspan of 5.9 meters, and its maximum speed was 155 miles per hour. It was fitted with sophisticated electronic jamming equipment, as well as equipment for monitoring electronic communications and radar.
The ship transporting the Colibri to the Washington area had left a port in the Middle East and was set to rendezvous with one of the terrorists off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia, on August 4. This person would provide the final targeting information that would be programmed into the Colibri. The ship was believed to be carrying additional military equipment, including shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, rocket-propelled grenades, automatic weapons, and plastic explosives.
The Colibri's "weapon payload" was "reportedly some type of fuel-air explosive" that would be "activated with an altimeter device."  Fuel-air explosives are highly destructive weapons. They spray an explosive mist and then ignite the vapor, thereby creating a blast far larger than a conventional weapon produces. 
The exact form that the Colibri's "weapon payload" would take in the scenario is unstated in the information sheet. It could perhaps have been a fuel-air bomb that the UAV would drop onto its target. Alternatively, the mock terrorists' intention may have been to fly the Colibri into its target such that the fuel-air explosive it carried would detonate on impact.
AUGUST 4 EXERCISE HAD SIMILARITIES TO THE 9/11 ATTACKS
It is worth considering whether the similarities between the scenario for the Fertile Rice exercise on August 4 and some of the incidents NEADS had to deal with on September 11 had a detrimental effect on how NEADS personnel responded to the 9/11 attacks.
NEADS personnel are known to have been in the middle of a major air defense exercise on September 11, called Vigilant Guardian, which simulated an attack on the United States.  Most of the staffers on the NEADS operations floor on the morning of September 11 had no idea what the exercise was going to involve that day, according to the Utica Observer-Dispatch.  They could presumably therefore have thought any suspicious reports they received were part of the exercise.
We can see that the August 4 exercise resembled the 9/11 attacks--or at least the official account of the attacks--in several ways. These similarities may have caused NEADS personnel to mistakenly think events on September 11 were part of that day's exercise, since these personnel might have thought they were being tested on a similar scenario.
The first similarity was that while Fertile Rice was based around a scenario in which Osama bin Laden's operatives attacked the United States, the attacks on the U.S. that occurred on September 11 were, according to the official account, ordered by bin Laden and carried out by members of his al-Qaeda terrorist network.
Secondly, the scenario for Fertile Rice and the 9/11 attacks both involved America being attacked from the air. In the exercise, the simulated attack was going to be carried out using an unmanned drone aircraft; on September 11, the attacks were carried out using commercial aircraft.
Thirdly, Fertile Rice and the 9/11 attacks both involved terrorists attacking prominent government buildings in the Washington area. In Fertile Rice, the exact target is unstated. However, the information sheet on the exercise specified that it was a "highly visible U.S. government target" that was likely in the Washington area.  This could well have been the Pentagon, the White House, or the Capitol building--three of the most "visible" government buildings in the Washington area.
On September 11, meanwhile, the Pentagon was one of the buildings that were attacked. At 9:37 a.m., according to the official account, American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into its west wall.  And it has been claimed that either the White House or the Capitol building was the most likely target for United Airlines Flight 93--the fourth and final plane to be hijacked, which failed to reach its target and supposedly crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. 
NEADS RECEIVED NUMEROUS REPORTS OF SUSPICIOUS AIRCRAFT IN THE WASHINGTON AREA ON SEPTEMBER 11
NEADS personnel were alerted to suspicious aircraft that were approaching or over Washington at least four times on the morning of September 11. Since these incidents presumably resembled the scenario they had encountered in Fertile Rice on August 4, we need to consider whether that exercise affected how they evaluated them. For example, did they think the reports of suspicious aircraft were simulated, as part of a scenario like the one they'd encountered in Fertile Rice?
Some, or perhaps all, of the reports NEADS received of suspicious aircraft over or approaching Washington on September 11 might even have been part of the exercise taking place that day. Close analysis of these reports reveals many oddities, which indicate they may indeed have been related to the exercise, rather than to actual events.
FLIGHT 11 WAS REPORTED AS FLYING TOWARD WASHINGTON LONG AFTER IT CRASHED
The first one of these reports came at around 9:21 a.m.--18 minutes after a second plane crashed into the World Trade Center and 16 minutes before the Pentagon was attacked.
Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA's Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, incorrectly told NEADS that American Airlines Flight 11--which crashed into the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m.--was still airborne and was flying south toward Washington. "It was evidently another aircraft that hit the tower," he said. 
Scoggins, however, had no solid evidence that Flight 11 was heading for the capital. Air traffic controllers "were never tracking an actual plane on the radar after losing American 11 near Manhattan," Vanity Fair magazine reported. But, "The plane's course, had it continued south past New York in the direction it was flying before it dipped below radar coverage, would have had it headed on a straight course toward DC." 
The 9/11 Commission stated that it had "been unable to identify the source of this mistaken FAA information."  But according to Vanity Fair, "Colin Scoggins ... made the mistaken call." Scoggins told the magazine he had been monitoring a conference call between FAA centers "when the word came across--from whom or where isn't clear--that American 11 was thought to be headed for Washington." 
NEADS WAS ALERTED TO AN AIRCRAFT FLYING AWAY FROM THE WHITE HOUSE
NEADS personnel were alerted to a suspicious aircraft flying over or toward Washington for a second time just before 9:36 a.m., about two minutes before the Pentagon was hit. Again, the source of the information was Colin Scoggins.
Scoggins initially told ID technician Stacia Rountree that the "latest report" was of an aircraft "six miles southeast of the White House" that was "moving away" from the White House. But, seconds later, he said the aircraft was in fact six miles southwest of the White House and "deviating away." Asked if he knew the identity of the aircraft, he replied: "Nothing. ... I have no clue." He suggested that NEADS contact the FAA's Washington Center for more information.
Rountree promptly called the Washington Center and asked about the suspicious aircraft, but the person who answered the call told her: "We don't know anything about that. ... It's probably just a rumor." They were surprised that Scoggins had alerted NEADS to the aircraft, since, they said, Boston Center's "airspace doesn't even come close to [Washington]." "I don't know how they got that information," they added.
Scoggins had told Rountree that Boston Center controllers didn't even have a blip for the suspicious aircraft on their radar screens. Boston Center personnel had just heard about the aircraft over a teleconference and wanted to pass on the information to NEADS, he'd said. 
The aircraft was later determined to have been Flight 77--the plane that supposedly crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. 
NEADS WAS ALERTED TO AN AIRCRAFT FLYING OUT OF CANADA
The third report of a suspicious aircraft approaching or over Washington came at around 10:00 a.m., when a NORAD unit in Canada contacted NEADS and told it an aircraft was heading south from Canada into the United States. 
A member of staff at NEADS relayed the details to their colleagues. The aircraft, from an "unknown departure airport," was "heading towards Washington," they said, but nothing else was known about it.  Another member of staff at NEADS called the Canadian NORAD unit, seeking more information, but an officer at the unit could provide few details. He said he had seen "something on the chat." (He was presumably referring to NORAD's computer chat system.) The information he'd seen was that his unit's intelligence officers were "assessing that there's a possible aircraft." 
The report turned out to be a false alarm. At around 10:10 a.m., the officer at the Canadian NORAD unit called NEADS and said his unit's intelligence officers were "not assessing that there is an actual aircraft problem." It was simply the case that "there could be problems from our area." "There's no actual aircraft that we suspect as being a danger," he added. 
A SUSPICIOUS AIRCRAFT WAS REPORTEDLY FLYING OVER THE WHITE HOUSE
The fourth report alerted NEADS personnel to a suspicious aircraft that was supposedly flying over the White House. This report was received at 10:07 a.m.--four minutes after Flight 93, the final aircraft to be hijacked that day, supposedly crashed in Pennsylvania. So by then the terrorist attacks were already over.
A pilot in one of three fighter jets that had taken off from Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, and were flying a combat air patrol over Washington called NEADS. He said a controller at the FAA's Washington Center was "saying something about an aircraft over the White House" and asked if NEADS had any instructions for him. NEADS immediately ordered him to intercept the aircraft and divert it away from the White House.
While the fighters from Langley Air Force Base were heading toward the White House, a member of staff at NEADS suggested to his colleagues that the suspicious aircraft, which was flying "very low," was "probably a helicopter." But a few minutes later, NEADS personnel concluded that the aircraft was in fact one of the fighters from Langley Air Force Base, which the controller at the Washington Center had mistakenly reported because they were unaware fighters had been launched to protect the airspace over Washington. "It was our guys they saw, [Washington] Center saw," a member of staff at NEADS commented. 
The evidence that these four reports were part of the exercise NEADS was participating in on September 11--and were presumably related to simulated attacks on Washington--is, of course, inconclusive. The 9:36 a.m. report, for example, may have related to real-world events, when an aircraft involved in the actual attacks was near Washington.
Regardless of the reasons for the reports, though, the fact that Fertile Rice on August 4 included a simulated aerial attack on Washington would surely have increased the likelihood that NEADS personnel would think any reports of suspicious aircraft over or approaching Washington that they received on September 11 were part of the day's exercise.
NEADS PERSONNEL SUGGESTED BIN LADEN WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE 9/11 ATTACKS BEFORE ANY BLAME HAD BEEN ATTRIBUTED
Some evidence suggests the Fertile Rice exercise on August 4 did indeed influence the reactions of NEADS personnel to the crisis on September 11. Specifically, the fact that its scenario involved an attack that would be perpetrated by Osama bin Laden and his operatives may have led NEADS personnel to attribute the events of September 11 to bin Laden and Arab terrorists before any official allocation of blame was made.
Even while the terrorist attacks were taking place on the morning of September 11, at least one person at NEADS appears to have concluded that bin Laden was to blame for what was happening. At 9:28 a.m., Sergeant Steve Bianchi told his colleagues, "I think it's time we lost Osama bin Laden."  Later on, at 11:11 a.m., someone at NEADS told a colleague, "I think we're getting to the point we ought to start shooting all the ragheads."  ("Ragheads" is an offensive term for Muslims, Arabs, or Middle Easterners.)
And yet at these times, NEADS personnel had apparently received no information indicating that bin Laden and his terrorist organization were responsible for the attacks. Transcripts of tape recordings of the NEADS operations floor from the morning of September 11 show no examples of personnel inquiring about who was behind the events they were dealing with or being told who was thought to be responsible for the attacks. 
Furthermore, the first report on television firmly indicating that bin Laden and al-Qaeda were responsible appears to have only occurred just after 11:30 a.m. At that time, former NATO commander General Wesley Clark told CNN, "There is only one group that has ever indicated that it has this kind of ability [to carry out such a large-scale coordinated attack] and that's Osama bin Laden's."  A clear statement of blame appears to have first been made late that afternoon. At around 4:00 p.m., CNN correspondent David Ensor reported, "U.S. officials are saying that they now have new and specific information ... that people with links to Osama bin Laden may have been responsible for these attacks." 
In light of this information, it is worth considering whether NEADS personnel indicated that they thought bin Laden and "the ragheads" were behind the terrorist attacks so early on September 11 because they remembered that bin Laden and his operatives were behind the simulated attack in the Fertile Rice exercise on August 4.
It might also be worth considering whether the exercise NEADS was participating in on September 11 included a scenario, which, like the one in the August 4 exercise, involved an attack on the U.S. perpetrated by bin Laden and his terrorist organization. Even if it didn't, NEADS personnel may have mistakenly thought it did, based on their experiences in the August 4 exercise, in which bin Laden's operatives planned to attack "a highly visible U.S. government target" in the Washington area. The comments "I think it's time we lost Osama bin Laden" and "I think we're getting to the point we ought to start shooting all the ragheads" could therefore have reflected the fact that NEADS personnel thought the incidents they were dealing with on September 11 were part of an exercise scenario based around bin Laden launching an attack in the U.S.
DID THE AUGUST 4 EXERCISE AFFECT HOW NEADS PERSONNEL RESPONDED TO THE EVENTS OF SEPTEMBER 11?
The similarities between the Fertile Rice exercise that NEADS personnel participated in on August 4, 2001, and the 9/11 attacks, five and a half weeks later, give rise to important questions.
For example, were the similarities just a coincidence or were they the result of something more sinister? Might the exercise have been intended to, in some way, impair the ability of NEADS personnel to stop the 9/11 attacks? If so, this would indicate that rogue individuals in the U.S. military were involved with planning the 9/11 attacks and designed the August 4 exercise to increase the likelihood of the attacks being successfully carried out.
We can certainly see several goals the exercise may have achieved toward facilitating the 9/11 attacks. To begin with, since it involved a hostile aircraft aiming for a target in Washington, Fertile Rice could have increased the likelihood that NEADS personnel would think any reports they received of suspicious aircraft approaching Washington or in the Washington area on September 11 were part of that day's exercise, rather than being attempts to alert them to real events. And if they thought any of the incidents they had to deal with on September 11 were simulated, NEADS personnel may have responded to them differently than if they knew they were real. They may, for example, have reacted with less urgency.
Secondly, the exercise could have helped convince NEADS personnel that Osama bin Laden and his terrorist organization were capable of carrying out sophisticated attacks in the United States. Fertile Rice involved bin Laden organizing an elaborate and audacious aerial attack on a government building in Washington--an area that should have been particularly well protected. This may have led NEADS personnel to believe it had been determined that bin Laden was capable of carrying out highly sophisticated attacks in the U.S.
If they believed this, they would presumably have been more likely to accept the official explanation of who was behind the 9/11 attacks and less likely to raise questions about the validity of this explanation. They would therefore have been less likely to wonder if a rogue group within the U.S. military and other government agencies was responsible for the attacks.
NEADS personnel received a briefing in July 2001 that may have been intended to fulfill the same purpose--convincing them that bin Laden was capable of carrying out an aerial attack in the U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Mark Stuart, an intelligence officer at NEADS, told the 9/11 Commission that "the last Osama bin Laden [Continental United States NORAD Region] threat briefing" before 9/11 was on July 14, "as part of the increased threat warning during summer 2001." The increased threat level "was briefed at NEADS," he said.  Since the briefing was given to personnel whose job was to defend the airspace over North America, it presumably warned about the possibility of bin Laden specifically carrying out an aerial attack in the U.S.
DID OTHER EXERCISES HAVE SIMILARITIES WITH THE 9/11 ATTACKS?
The details that are available about the Fertile Rice exercise held at NEADS on August 4, 2001, give rise to many questions. For example, did the similarities between the scenario around which Fertile Rice was based and some of the incidents they encountered on September 11 lead NEADS personnel to think these incidents were part of the Vigilant Guardian exercise taking place that day? Also, who came up with the scenario for the August 4 exercise and who was responsible for preparing the exercise?
Fertile Rice exercises were held weekly at NEADS, so numerous scenarios must have been included in them in the months leading up to 9/11 besides the one in the August 4 exercise. What were these scenarios and did any of them resemble the 9/11 attacks? Master Sergeant Joe McCain, the mission crew commander technician at NEADS, indicated that Fertile Rice exercises prior to September 11 had at least some similarities to the 9/11 attacks. He said they included simulated hijackings, although only one plane would be hijacked in the scenarios. Occasionally, he said, the aircraft hijacked in the simulation had taken off from within the United States--like the four planes that were hijacked on September 11.  So did their participation in these exercises lead NEADS personnel to think the hijackings on September 11 were part of that day's exercise?
Additionally, did NEADS conduct any other exercises in the months leading up to September 11, besides its Fertile Rice exercises, that were based around scenarios resembling the 9/11 attacks? It regularly held exercises called Fertile Spade, Fertile Angel, and Fertile Gain.  What scenarios did these exercises involve in the months before 9/11? If any of the scenarios resembled the 9/11 attacks, did this cause NEADS personnel to mistake events on September 11 for part of an exercise?
Furthermore, were any of the reports of suspicious aircraft approaching or over Washington that NEADS received on September 11 part of an exercise, such as Vigilant Guardian? If so, this would mean the exercise was allowed to continue after the second hijacked plane crashed into the World Trade Center--at 9:03 a.m.--and it became obvious that the U.S. was under attack. The exercise may in fact have still been going on at 10:07 a.m., when NEADS was alerted to a supposedly suspicious aircraft flying over the White House. If the exercise did indeed continue even though the U.S. was clearly under attack, why was this? Whose job should it have been to cancel it?
A new investigation of 9/11 is necessary to address questions like these. Investigators would need to have access to all relevant documents, and individuals who worked at NEADS on September 11 and in the months before then would need to be able to speak freely about their experiences. Examination of military training exercises and their possible connections to what happened on September 11 may reveal a lot of important information about the 9/11 attacks and who was responsible for them.
 James Bamford, A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies. New York: Doubleday, 2004, pp. 3-4; Michael Bronner, "9/11 Live: The NORAD Tapes." Vanity Fair, August 2006; Philip Shenon, The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation. New York: Twelve, 2008, p. 203.
 Interview with Master Sergeant Joe McCain, written notes. 9/11 Commission, October 28, 2003; "Memorandum for the Record: Interview With MSgt. Joe McCain." 9/11 Commission, October 28, 2003.
 "Exercise Fertile Rice: Startex Intel Summary." Northeast Air Defense Sector, August 4, 2001; Interview with Col. Mark E. Stuart, written notes. 9/11 Commission, October 30, 2003; "Memorandum for the Record: Interview With Lt. Col. Mark E. Stuart, USAF, Intelligence Officer, Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS)." 9/11 Commission, October 30, 2003.
 "Exercise Fertile Rice"; "Intelligence Update: Exercise: Fertile Rice." Northeast Air Defense Sector, August 5, 2001.
 Tom Fiedler and Mark Thompson, "Despite Iraq's Offer, Gulf War Rages." Philadelphia Inquirer, February 16, 1991.
 Leslie Filson, Air War Over America: Sept. 11 Alters Face of Air Defense Mission. Tyndall Air Force Base, FL: 1st Air Force, 2003, p. 122; 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, p. 458; James Bamford, A Pretext for War, p. 4; 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.
 Elizabeth Cooper, "NEADS on 9/11: Professionalism and Helplessness." Utica Observer-Dispatch, August 5, 2004.
 "Exercise Fertile Rice."
 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 314.
 Rachel Clarke, "The Ambassadors of Flight 93." BBC News, September 5, 2003; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 14; Guy Trebay, "A Moment in Time Captured in Pieces." New York Times, August 13, 2014; Lauren Raab and James Queally, "No Indication of Arson Found at Flight 93 Memorial." Los Angeles Times, October 5, 2014.
 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 26; Priscilla D. Jones, The First 109 Minutes: 9/11 and the U.S. Air Force. Washington, DC: Air Force History and Museums Program, 2011, p. 37.
 Michael Bronner, "9/11 Live."
 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 26.
 Michael Bronner, "9/11 Live."
 NEADS Audio File, Identification Technician Position, Channel 7. North American Aerospace Defense Command, September 11, 2001; Michael Bronner, "9/11 Live."
 Priscilla D. Jones, The First 109 Minutes, p. 39.
 "Transcripts From Voice Recorder, 11 September 2001 1227Z-1417Z, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Rome, NY." North American Aerospace Defense Command, September 11, 2001; Priscilla D. Jones, The First 109 Minutes, p. 44.
 NEADS Audio File, Mission Crew Commander Position, Channel 2. North American Aerospace Defense Command, September 11, 2001.
 NEADS Audio File, Identification Technician Position, Channel 4. North American Aerospace Defense Command, September 11, 2001.
 NEADS Audio File, Identification Technician Position, Channel 5. North American Aerospace Defense Command, September 11, 2001.
 NEADS Audio File, Weapons Director Position, Channel 3. North American Aerospace Defense Command, September 11, 2001;
 NEADS Audio File, Identification Technician Position, Channel 4.
 NEADS Audio File, Tracking Technician Position, Channel 21. North American Aerospace Defense Command, September 11, 2001.
 Transcripts available at the 9/11 Document Archive.
 "10:53 a.m.-11:34 a.m." CNN, September 11, 2001; "Gen. Wesley Clark Discusses Ongoing Terrorist Situation." Breaking News, CNN, September 11, 2001; "Timeline of Chaos." Ottawa Citizen, September 11, 2001.
 "3:45 p.m.-4:26 p.m." CNN, September 11, 2001; "Karen Hughes Delivers Remarks on Terrorist Attacks." Breaking News, CNN, September 11, 2001; "September 11: Chronology of Terror." CNN, September 12, 2001.
 Interview with Col. Mark E. Stuart, written notes; "Memorandum for the Record: Interview With Lt. Col. Mark E. Stuart, USAF, Intelligence Officer, Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS)."
 Interview with Master Sergeant Joe McCain, written notes; "Memorandum for the Record: Interview With MSgt. Joe McCain."
 "Memorandum: Fertile Spade 97-26." Northeast Air Defense Sector, June 18, 1997; "Memorandum: No-Notice Air Defense Exercise, Fertile Angel 99-01 and Fertile Spade 99-07." Northeast Air Defense Sector, November 30, 1998; "Memorandum: Fertile Gain 99-05 After-Action Report." Northeast Air Defense Sector, September 21, 1999.
Friday, 17 July 2015
A number of senior officials in the United States government and military gave warnings in the week before September 11, 2001, or early on the morning of September 11, that seem to have predicted the 9/11 attacks with chilling accuracy.
These men--as is described below--voiced concerns that Osama bin Laden would carry out an attack in the U.S. in the near future; warned that an al-Qaeda attack that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Americans could happen "at any time"; expressed concern that terrorists would attack the World Trade Center; warned about a "seminal event" occurring in the U.S. in which "hundreds, if not thousands" of Americans would be killed; said that "someone [is] going to attack us in a fashion we did not anticipate"; warned that "something big" was about to happen; and suggested the possibility of an attack taking place that would be equivalent to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, in which over 2,400 Americans died.
The six officials who issued these warnings were Charles Nemfakos, deputy under secretary of the Navy; Tommy Franks, head of the U.S. Central Command; John O'Neill, head of security at the World Trade Center who had previously been a senior FBI agent; Richard Clarke, the White House counterterrorism chief; Kirk Lippold, commander of the USS Cole when it was attacked by terrorists in October 2000; and Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense.
The accuracy of these men's warnings and the fact that the warnings were given so soon before 9/11 certainly appears suspicious. We need to consider, therefore, if the content and timing of the warnings, in relation to the 9/11 attacks, was just a coincidence or the result of something more sinister. Were the men who gave the warnings perhaps just very perceptive? Or did at least some of them know that a major attack was about to take place?
If any of these officials knew in advance that a terrorist attack was going to take place in the U.S. on September 11, the imminent catastrophe would surely have been on their minds in the days leading up to it. They may therefore have been inclined to--perhaps inadvertently--make indirect references to what they knew was about to happen and this could be why they gave warnings that appear to have been prescient of the 9/11 attacks.
NAVY OFFICIAL TALKED ABOUT THE NEED FOR 'AN EVENT EQUIVALENT TO PEARL HARBOR'
The day before 9/11, Charles Nemfakos, deputy under secretary of the Navy, said that before it addressed the weaknesses in its defense policy, the United States would need to suffer an attack equivalent to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1941 that led America to enter World War II.
On September 10, 2001, Nemfakos--the "number three official in the Navy," according to Defense Week magazine--gave a briefing to a group of civilian employees of the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) in Crane, Indiana. The NSWC employees had come to Washington, DC, to interact with some of the Navy's top officials and complete a program for a certificate in public management.
During the briefing, one of the NSWC employees has recalled, someone asked Nemfakos "what it would take for America's defense policy to be clear and concise in the 21st century." In response, Nemfakos said that "he felt an event equivalent to Pearl Harbor, either terrorist or military, would be the only event that would awaken the United States from the complacency and security they have had since the end of the Vietnam [War] era." 
The fact that Nemfakos made this comment on September 10 is quite chilling, since the attack on the U.S. the following day was immediately likened to the attack on Pearl Harbor. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were, for example, described as "another Pearl Harbor," "the second Pearl Harbor," "the Pearl Harbor of American terrorism," and an event that "rivals if not exceeds the attack on Pearl Harbor."  An Internet search by the San Francisco Chronicle two days after 9/11 found "747 stories in newspapers and other publications mentioning both the World Trade Center and Pearl Harbor."  Among the similarities between the two events, the death tolls were relatively close. In the attack on Pearl Harbor, 2,403 Americans and 64 Japanese died.  In the 9/11 attacks, 2,996 people died. 
NAVY OFFICIAL ATTENDED WAR GAMES AT THE WORLD TRADE CENTER
Nemfakos was a powerful man. He "exerted more day-to-day influence than anyone else in the Navy during the latter half of the 1990s," Defense Week reported. Betty Welch, then-deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for civilian personnel and equal employment opportunity, said in 2000, "It's Charlie Nemfakos who controls the Navy probably more than anybody else." 
Interestingly, in the 12 months before September 11, Nemfakos attended some "high-powered war games" that took place at the World Trade Center and seem to have helped prepare the American financial and national security communities for the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. The war games were part of an initiative called the "New Rule Sets Project."
The New Rule Sets Project was a research partnership between Wall Street bond firm Cantor Fitzgerald and the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.  It brought together "divergent groups of experts" in order to "assess global issues that will affect U.S. national security in coming decades," Defense News reported.  Thomas Barnett, the project's director, said it "explored the future of globalization and what could threaten globalization, and what would be new definitions of international instability and crisis."
The project involved the running of a number of sophisticated war game workshops. Three of these were held at Windows on the World, the restaurant on the 107th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center.  Each workshop was attended by about 30 participants, including "Wall Street CEOs, subject matter experts from academia and think tanks, and national security heavyweights from the White House and from the Pentagon," according to Barnett. Nemfakos was listed as a participant at the second and third of the workshops at Windows on the World, held in October 2000 and June 2001 respectively. 
The New Rule Sets Project apparently served as good preparation for the challenges of the post-9/11 world. Barnett has commented that the shock of the 9/11 attacks effectively told the U.S. political system and national security community, "Hey, here's a new way of thinking about crisis and instability and threats in the world, and we have got to have new rules for dealing with this."  He said that after 9/11, his research with the New Rule Sets Project "immediately shifted from grand theory to grand strategy." 
ARMY GENERAL TALKED ABOUT HIS FEAR OF TERRORISTS ATTACKING THE WORLD TRADE CENTER
Three days before Charles Nemfakos talked about the need for "an event equivalent to Pearl Harbor," Army General Tommy Franks, commander in chief of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), made equally prophetic remarks. Specifically, he said his biggest fear was that there would be a terrorist attack against the World Trade Center.
On September 7, 2001, Franks talked to his intelligence staff at CENTCOM headquarters in Tampa, Florida, about what he considered to be the major threats facing America throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. After he finished his presentation, a young sergeant asked him, "General, what keeps you up at night?"
Franks replied, "The thought of one tower of the World Trade Center collapsing into the other tower, killing thousands of people," according to Computerworld magazine. In his memoir, Franks described giving a slightly different answer. He wrote that he replied, "A terrorist attack against the World Trade Center in New York."  As Canada's Globe and Mail noted, "Four days later, that's exactly what happened." 
What is more, Franks had made other remarks that were apparently prescient of 9/11 a few months earlier. In a speech to the Operations Security Professionals Society in late June 2001, he warned, "The asymmetric threat is serious, and deserves our focused thought and preparation." ("Asymmetric warfare threats," according to the Washington Times, "include efforts by weaker powers to defeat stronger ones using attacks that can include weapons of mass destruction, the use of computer-based information warfare, and terrorism.") Franks continued, "The point is to avoid another Pearl Harbor-like event by recognizing the threat and preparing to meet this growing challenge." 
Less than three months after Franks made these comments, the U.S. suffered an attack that, according to the official account, was an example of "asymmetric warfare" and was immediately compared to the attack on Pearl Harbor. On the evening of September 11, according to his own recollections, Franks actually thought to himself, "Today is like Pearl Harbor." 
After 9/11, Franks became "one of three men running the Bush administration's military campaign against Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda organization," ABC News reported.  He led the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 and the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. 
FORMER SENIOR FBI AGENT WARNED THAT BIN LADEN WOULD ATTACK THE WORLD TRADE CENTER
One man, John O'Neill, gave two separate warnings on the day before 9/11 that were chillingly prophetic of what happened on September 11.
O'Neill had, since August 23, 2001, been director of security at the World Trade Center. Prior to that, he spent 25 years as an FBI agent and, from January 1997, had been special agent in charge of the national security division of the FBI's New York office. While at the FBI, according to the New Yorker, he "became the bureau's most committed tracker of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network of terrorists." He was at the World Trade Center on September 11 and, unfortunately, was killed when the Twin Towers collapsed. 
On the morning of September 10, 2001, O'Neill met Raymond Powers, the director of security at the Rockefeller Center, to discuss various security issues. The two men's conversation eventually turned to the subject of Osama bin Laden. According to journalist and author Murray Weiss, O'Neill told Powers that "he was sure bin Laden would attack on American soil and expected him to target the Twin Towers again." "It's going to happen," he said. "And it looks like something big is brewing." 
O'Neill again expressed his fear of an imminent al-Qaeda attack that evening, when he went out with a couple of his friends: Robert Tucker, a security company executive, and Jerome Hauer, the former director of New York's Office of Emergency Management.
At one point in the evening, the three men talked about bin Laden. According to Hauer, O'Neill said: "We're due. And we're due for something big." He added: "Some things have happened in Afghanistan. I don't like the way things are lining up in Afghanistan." He then said, "I sense a shift and I think things are going to happen." Asked when they would happen, he replied, "I don't know, but soon." 
O'Neill had made similar predictions on earlier occasions. In October 2000, for example, while he was in Yemen, he talked several times with FBI agent Pat Patterson about what bin Laden's next target might be. He said he believed the World Trade Center--which was bombed by terrorists in 1993--would be attacked again. "John was convinced of it," Patterson has recalled. He'd said, "They definitely want to bring that building down." 
O'Neill voiced his concerns again around August 2001, when he talked with his friend Chris Isham. When O'Neill said he had just got the job as head of security at the World Trade Center, Isham joked: "That will be an easy job. They're not going to bomb that place again." But O'Neill retorted: "Actually, they've always wanted to finish that job. I think they're going to try again." 
FBI AGENT DISMISSED CONCERNS ABOUT THREATS TO AVIATION
Strangely, despite his apparent concern about al-Qaeda carrying out an attack in the United States, O'Neill told Congressional staffers there was no threat to aviation. Cathal Flynn recalled that at some unstated time between 1993 and 2000, when he was head of security for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Senate Intelligence Committee asked the FAA, the FBI, and the director of central intelligence about threats to civil aviation. O'Neill went to the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, DC, to respond on behalf of the FBI. But when Senate Intelligence Committee staffers asked, "What are the threats to aviation?" according to Flynn, "John O'Neill said there are none."
Flynn was surprised at O'Neill's answer, because there had been a "few indications the FBI had received," such as information about a suspicious individual who had tried to get "a job with airport access" at Los Angeles International Airport. Flynn wrote O'Neill a note asking about this incident. But, Flynn recalled, O'Neill "looked at the note" and "still didn't say anything, didn't change what he had said." As the two men left the meeting, Flynn again asked O'Neill about the incident and O'Neill told him there was "nothing to it." 
Bruce Butterworth, the FAA's director of civil aviation security operations from 1995 to 2000, has described the same event. He said he remembered O'Neill's "testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee wherein he was unwilling to corroborate FAA claims about credible threats to civil aviation." 
COUNTERTERRORISM CHIEF WARNED OF AN AL-QAEDA ATTACK THAT WOULD CAUSE THE DEATHS OF 'HUNDREDS OF AMERICANS'
Richard Clarke, the White House counterterrorism chief, warned that a major terrorist attack could take place in the United States in a memo he sent to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice a week before 9/11.
On September 4, 2001, the National Security Council's principals committee--a group of senior officials who advise the president on issues of national security policy--met to discuss al-Qaeda. That day, before the meeting took place, Clarke sent Rice a memo in which he expressed his frustrations with U.S. counterterrorism efforts.
The "real question" the principals committee needed to address, Clarke wrote in the memo, was, "[A]re we serious about dealing with the al-Qaeda threat?" He suggested, "Decision makers should imagine themselves on a future day when the [White House Counterterrorism Security Group] has not succeeded in stopping al-Qaeda attacks and hundreds of Americans lay dead in several countries, including the U.S." "That future day could happen at any time," he added. Clarke warned that without more funding for dealing with al-Qaeda, "You are left waiting for the big attack, with lots of casualties, after which some major U.S. retaliation will be in order." 
A week after Clarke's memo was sent, a "big attack, with lots of casualties," did indeed occur and this was followed by "major U.S. retaliation," in the form of the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001.
Clarke had issued warnings on previous occasions, which, like the warning he gave in his memo to Rice on September 4, seem to have been prescient of the 9/11 attacks. He gave one such warning on July 5, 2001, during a meeting at the White House. At the meeting, which was attended by officials from a dozen government agencies, including the FAA, the FBI, and the Secret Service, a senior CIA counterterrorism expert said the CIA believed that al-Qaeda was planning "something spectacular," which would probably take place in Israel or Saudi Arabia.
Clarke, according to his own recollections, then told the meeting's participants he agreed that al-Qaeda was planning a major attack. But, he said: "Maybe [the attack] will be here [in the U.S.]. Just because there is no evidence that says that it will be here, does not mean it will be overseas." He added that al-Qaeda "may try to hit us at home. You have to assume that is what they are going to try to do." He said, "Something really spectacular is going to happen here and it's going to happen soon," according to two officials who attended the meeting. 
A number of steps that agencies should take to address the threat posed by al-Qaeda were agreed upon at the meeting. An e-mail Clarke sent to Rice the day after the meeting stated that several agencies, including the FBI, the CIA, and the Department of Defense, had been directed to develop "detailed response plans in the event of three to five simultaneous attacks."  This was presumably quite fortuitous, since, just over two months later--on September 11--these agencies had to respond to four near-simultaneous attacks.
NAVY COMMANDER TALKED ABOUT A POSSIBLE 'SEMINAL EVENT' CAUSED BY BIN LADEN
Navy Commander Kirk Lippold voiced his concerns about a major terrorist attack taking place in the United States just minutes before the first hijacked plane crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11.
Lippold was the commanding officer of the USS Cole when, in October 2000, suicide bombers attacked the ship while it was refueling at a port in Yemen, killing 17 members of the crew. Investigators attributed the attack to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. 
On the morning of September 11, Lippold went to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, to meet Charles Allen, the CIA's assistant director for collection; John Russack, Allen's deputy; and Donald Kerr, the CIA's deputy director for science and technology. During the meeting, Allen briefed Lippold on what the CIA knew about bin Laden and al-Qaeda.
As the meeting was coming to an end, at around 8:30 a.m., Lippold said to Allen: "It means an awful lot for me to understand what our country is doing to try to catch [bin Laden]. But I don't think America understands." According to his own recollections, Lippold then said, "I believe it is going to take a seminal event, probably in this country, where hundreds, if not thousands, are going to have to die, before Americans realize that we're at war with this guy."
Lippold and Russack left Allen's office and went to talk to some of Russack's colleagues. The two men noticed the coverage of the first crash at the World Trade Center--which happened at 8:46 a.m.--on a television at CIA headquarters and, at 9:03 a.m., saw the second hijacked plane crashing into the World Trade Center as it happened.
Allen then called them back to his office. When they arrived there, according to Lippold, he said, "Kirk, I can't believe you said what you did this morning." George Tenet, then-director of the CIA, has written that Allen told Lippold, "The seminal event just happened." 
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE SAID THE U.S. WAS GOING TO BE ATTACKED 'IN A FASHION WE DID NOT ANTICIPATE'
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, like Lippold, warned about the possibility of a catastrophic event taking place minutes before the first hijacked plane crashed into the World Trade Center. He said a surprise event--such as a terrorist attack--would occur in the near future.
On the morning of September 11, Rumsfeld hosted a breakfast meeting in his private dining room at the Pentagon that was attended by 11 members of Congress and a number of key Department of Defense officials.  The meeting was intended to discuss the Quadrennial Defense Review. 
Representative Christopher Cox recalled that Rumsfeld said at the meeting that the United States needed to "focus on the real threat facing us in the 21st century: terrorism, and the unexpected." He said Congress had to give the president "the tools he needs to move forward with a defense of America against ballistic missiles--the ultimate terrorist weapons."
But he cautioned, "If we remain vulnerable to missile attack, a terrorist group or rogue state that demonstrates the capacity to strike the U.S. or its allies from long range could have the power to hold our entire country hostage to nuclear or other blackmail.'' He then warned: "Let me tell you, I've been around the block a few times. There will be another event." For emphasis, he repeated, "There will be another event." 
David Chu, under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, described Rumsfeld giving this warning. In response to a question from one of the members of Congress at the meeting, Chu recalled, Rumsfeld "said something to the effect that someone was going to attack us in a fashion we did not anticipate and we would wish we had done something about it." He "leaned across the table and lectured [the member of Congress] in his most decisive manner that we would in some future date look back and weep that we hadn't taken action." 
According to Representative John Mica, Rumsfeld "was interested in ... what we were going to do about a situation if we had another--the word used was 'incident.'" He "was trying to make certain that we were prepared for something that we might not expect." 
Rumsfeld has recalled saying at the meeting that "sometime in the next two, four, six, eight, 10, 12 months there would be an event that would occur in the world that would be sufficiently shocking that it would remind people again how important it is to have a strong, healthy Defense Department that ... underpins peace and stability in our world." 
Cox has noted that "within minutes" of Rumsfeld giving his warning, the secretary of defense's words "proved tragically prophetic."  As the meeting was coming to an end, someone handed Rumsfeld a note, informing him that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.  "Little did we know that within a few minutes of the end of our conversation ... our world would change and that incident that we talked about would be happening," Mica has commented. 
DID U.S. OFFICIALS HAVE FOREKNOWLEDGE OF 9/11?
The evidence above, while suspicious, does not in itself prove that any of the men who gave these remarkably accurate warnings in the week before 9/11 had foreknowledge of the impending terrorist attacks. The possibility that some or all of them did indeed know in advance about the attacks should, however, be investigated.
If any of these men knew beforehand what was going to happen on September 11, we need to discover how they came across this information. Furthermore, if any of them had foreknowledge of 9/11, we need to find out why the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon weren't prevented. Could these powerful officials have used their influence to stop the attacks? If they could have but didn't, why was this?
It is possible that other officials, besides the six mentioned in this article, gave warnings that were apparently prescient of the 9/11 attacks shortly before September 11, but their comments have not yet been reported, or have not been widely reported and so are little known. This possibility is something that could be looked into as well.
The fact that 14 years after the event, key questions--such as those regarding the possibility of senior U.S. officials having foreknowledge of the attacks--remain unaddressed, shows why it is so important that we have a new investigation of 9/11.
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