Military officials ignored Cheney’s 9/11 shoot-down order
By Stephen C. Webster
Newly published audio this week reveals that Vice President Dick Cheney’s infamous Sept. 11, 2001 order to shoot down rogue civilian aircraft was ignored by military officials, who instead ordered pilots to only identify suspect aircraft.
That revelation is one of many in newly released audio recordings compiled by investigators for the 9/11 Commission, published this week by The Rutgers Law Review. Featuring voices from employees at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and American Airlines, the newly released multimedia provides a glimpse at the chaos that emerged as the attack progressed.
Most striking of all is the revelation that an order by Vice President Dick Cheney was ignored by the military, which saw his order to shoot down aircraft as outside the chain of command. Instead of acknowledging the order to shoot down civilian aircraft and carrying it out, NORAD ordered fighters to confirm aircraft tail numbers first and report back for further instructions.
Cheney’s order was given at “about 10:15” a.m., according to the former VP’s memoirs, but the 9/11 Commission Report shows United flight 93 going down at 10:06 a.m. Had the military followed Cheney’s order, civilian aircraft scrambling to get out of the sky could have been shot down, exponentially amplifying the day’s tragedy.
Far from sending fighters to chase after the hijacked aircraft, as Bush administration officials have repeatedly said they did, the new audio tapes paint a picture of bedlam and unpreparedness.
The situation was so chaotic, military officials received the exact location of one of the aircraft that hit the World Trade Center towers just nine minutes before impact. It even took a military official calling the FAA some 30 minutes after American Airlines Flight 77 went off course before the nation’s defense apparatus began scrambling. Moments later the jet is said to have slammed into the Pentagon.
Despite these latest disclosures, the vast majority of materials gathered during the investigation of 9/11 remains a secret, even over the wishes of the 9/11 commissioners. Among that information is a 30-page summary of the commission’s interview with President George W. Bush and Vice President Cheney; black box data; minutes from a secret, high-level “continuity of government” meeting; and information on America’s overseas intelligence-gathering on al Qaeda.
Withheld from the audio released by Rutgers was a high-level meeting held by top administration officials, where they discussed continuity of government measures to be implemented if the president were to be killed or a mass casualty event were to occur. In Cheney’s memoir, he claims to have ordered a staffer to hang up on that meeting when a technical glitch caused a degradation in audio quality. Instead of going directly there to participate in discussions about how to sustain the government, Cheney decided to watch television news.
9/11 Commission Chairman Thomas Kean has said most of the investigation’s materials are classified for no apparent reason, and urged that the National Archives release the 9/11 files to the public as soon as possible. He’s also suggested that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) tried to impede the investigation when it turned towards al Qaeda intelligence gathering methods.
As many as 92 tapes of terror war captives being tortured by CIA operatives were later destroyed. Officials suggested these recordings depicted torture sessions with terrorism suspects Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Nashiri. Along with the tapes, detailed records of the CIA’s so-called “torture flights,” showing the planes, destinations and even the passengers, were also destroyed.
Attorney General Eric Holder announced in June that after a lengthy investigation, a probe of the CIA’s interrogations during the Bush-era would not proceed.
This video is from ABC News, broadcast Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011.
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Tim Russert, Dick Cheney, and 9/11