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For The Record  

FTR #459 Flying the Friendly Skies

Recorded May 10, 2004
REALAUDIO

NB: This stream contains both FTR #s 459 and 460 in sequence. Each is a 30 minute broadcast.

This program analyzes aspects of air U.S. traffic with regard to the 9/11 attacks, shedding light on some of the anomalies in the Bush administration’s official version of events of that tragic day. Beginning with discussion of exercises designed to counter attacks very much like those of 9/11, the program reveals that the administration appears to have known more than they have admitted to knowing, raising questions about the integrity of their actions on that day. The program concludes with an interesting contrast between George H.W. Bush’s presence on two fateful days in American history—11/22/63 and 9/11/2001.

Program Highlights Include: The Bush administration’s failure to warn airlines of intelligence reports that there was a strong possibility of hijackings on 9/11/2001; questions concerning the apparent delay in the launching of fighter aircraft to intercept the American Airlines flight that crashed into the Pentagon; the destruction of a tape made by air traffic controllers who had been in touch with the hijacked flights; Attorney General John Ashcroft’s decision in late July of 2001 to begin flying in chartered government planes rather than taking commercial flights; the elder George Bush’s flight out of Washington D.C. on 9/11/2001; the elder Bush’s presence in the air over Dallas on 11/22/63.

1. Indicating that, contrary to what Bush administration officials had maintained, some elements of government had anticipated attacks of the type that occurred on September 11, the program begins with discussion of government exercises designed to defend against terrorist attacks with hijacked airliners being used as weapons. (For more about warnings of the possibility of attacks of the 9/11 type, see—among other programs–FTR#454.) “In the two years before the Sept. 11 attacks, the North American Aerospace Defense Command conducted exercises simulating what the White House says was unimaginable at the time: hijacked airliners used as weapons to crash into targets and cause mass casualties. One of the imagined targets was the World Trade Center. In another exercise, jets performed a mock shootdown over the Atlantic Ocean of a jet supposedly laden with chemical poisons headed toward a target in the United States. In a third scenario, the target was the Pentagon—but that drill was not run after Defense officials said it was unrealistic, NORAD and Defense officials say.”
(“NORAD Had Drills Eerily Like Sept. 11” by Steven Komarow and Tom Squitieri; USA Today; 4/19/2004; p. 1A.)

2. “NORAD, in a written statement, confirmed that such hijacking exercises occurred. It said the scenarios outlined were regional drills, not regularly scheduled continent-wide exercises. ‘Numerous types of civilian and military aircraft were used as mock hijacked aircraft,’ the statement said. ‘These exercises tested track detection and identification; scramble and interception; hijack procedures; internal and external agency coordination and operational security and communications security procedures.’” (Idem.)

3. “A White House spokesman said Sunday that the Bush administration was not aware of the NORAD exercises. But the exercises using real aircraft show that at least one part of the government thought the possibility of such attacks, though unlikely, merited scrutiny. On April 8, the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks heard testimony from national security adviser Condoleezza Rice that the White House didn’t anticipate hijacked planes being used as weapons. . . .” (Idem.)

4. Next, the program focuses on the delay in launching fighter aircraft to intercept the plane that flew into the Pentagon. “The commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks is expected to offer sharp criticism of the Pentagon’s domestic air-defense command in the panel’s final report and will suggest that quicker military action on that morning might have prevented a hijacked passenger jet from crashing into the Pentagon, according to commission officials. The performance of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, and its failure to protect Washington and New York City from attack on Sept. 11 will be a focus of the remaining public hearings of the 10-member commission, which is in the final weeks of its investigation.”
(“9-11 Panel Likely to Say Pentagon Attack Was Preventable” by Philip Shenon [New York Times]; The Salt Lake Tribune; 4/25/2004.)

5. “Commission officials said interim reports that were expected to be released at the hearings would suggest that NORAD had time on Sept. 11 to launch jet fighters that could have intercepted and possibly shot down American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m., more than 50 minutes after the first hijacked plane struck the World Trade Center in New York. A total of 184 people died in the Pentagon attack, including 59 aboard the hijacked plane. The commission is trying to establish a detailed timeline of how and when military pilots reporting to NORAD were informed on Sept. 11 that President Bush had given the extraordinary order allowing them to shoot down passenger planes. NORAD officers have said previously that they didn’t learn of the order until about 10:10 a.m., a few minutes after the last of the four hijacked jets crashed into a field in rural Pennsylvania. But White House officials have suggested that the order was made earlier in the morning and should have been communicated immediately to pilots.” (Idem.)

6. Despite what the administration has claimed, it appears that it did not do everything possible to alert airlines about the threat of hijackings. The administration did have warnings that such attacks were possible. “Although Bush administration officials say they did everything possible to warn airlines about the threat of hijacking prior to Sept. 11, 2001, a persistent pattern of testimony before the Sept. 11 commission suggests the White House could have done more. The Federal Aviation Administration issued 15 information circulars regarding the threat of terrorist attacks on commercial airliners before the attacks that felled the World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon, according to summaries of the circulars provided to The Chronicle by the FAA.”
(“9/11 Testimony Shows Flaws in Alerting Airlines” by David Armstrong; San Francisco Chronicle; 4/20/2004; p, A1.)

7. “But those information circulars were just general backgrounders—not security directives, which are higher alerts that direct airlines to take specific measures to protect themselves, A

ir Transport Association of American President James May has told the commission. The association is the airline industry’s leading trade organization and lobbying arm in Washington, D.C. . . .” (Idem.)

8. Next, the discussion highlights the destruction of a tape made by six air traffic controllers who had dealt with the hijacked airplanes. The destruction of the tape was not necessarily an indication of conspiratorial process. Nonetheless, it is possible that the information on the tape might have contained important information that would have shed light on the events of that day. Now we will never know. “At least six air traffic controllers who dealt with two of the hijacked airliners on Sept. 11, 2001, made a tape recording that day describing the events, but the tape was destroyed by a supervisor without anyone making a transcript or even listening to it, the Transportation Department said today. The taping began before noon on Sept. 11 at the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center, in Ronkonkoma, on Long Island, but it was later destroyed by an F.A.A. quality-assurance manager, who crushed the cassette in his hand, cut the tape into little pieces and dropped them in different trash cans around the building, according to a report made public today by the inspector general of the Transportation Department. The inspector general, Kenneth M. Mead, had been asked by Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, to look into how well the Federal Aviation Administration had cooperated with the 9/11 Commission.”
(“F.A.A. Official Scrapped Tape of 9/11 Controllers’ Statements” by Matthew L. Wald [New York Times]; 5/6/2004.)

9. “The quality-assurance manager told investigators that he had destroyed the tape because he thought making it was contrary to F.A.A. policy, which calls for written statements, and because he felt that the controllers ‘were not in the correct frame of mind to have properly consented to the taping’ because of the stress of the day, Mr. Mead reported. Another official, the center’s manager, asked the controllers to make the tape because ‘he wanted a contemporaneous recordation of controller accounts to be immediately available for law enforcement,’ according to the Mead report, and was concerned that the controllers would take a leave of absence immediately, which is standard procedure after a crash.” (Idem.)

10. “On the tape, the controllers, some of whom had spoken by radio to people on the planes and some who had tracked the aircraft on radar, gave statements of 5 to 10 minutes each, according to the Mead report. The center manager had agreed with the president of the local union chapter that the tapes would be destroyed once the standard written statements were obtained, Mr. Mead reported. Neither the center manager nor the quality-assurance manager disclosed the tape’s existence to their superiors at the F.A.A. region that covers New York, or to the agency’s Washington headquarters, according to the report. None of the officials or controllers were identified in the inspector general’s report. . . .” (Idem.)

11. One of the most damning pieces of information in the broadcast concerns Attorney General John Ashcroft’s decision to begin flying in chartered government planes in late July of 2001. Previously, he had flown on regular commercial flights. Why did he change at that point in time? “Like most of the Bush cabinet, Attorney General John Ashcroft took commercial jets when he traveled. But on July 24, 2001, he changed that practice and began flying in chartered government jets. Asked by CBS News at the time about the change, the Justice Department cited a ‘threat assessment’ by the FBI and said Ashcroft had been advised to travel only by private jet for the remainder of his term. ‘There was a threat assessment, and there are guidelines. He is acting under the guidelines,’ an FBI spokesman said. But as CBS went on to report, ‘Neither the FBI nor the Justice Department, however, would identify what the threat was, when it was detected, or who made it.’ A ‘senior official’ at the CIA said he wasn’t aware of specific threats against any cabinet member, and Ashcroft himself declared, ‘I don’t do threat assessments myself, and I rely on those whose responsibility it is in the law enforcement community, particularly the FBI. And I try to stay within the guidelines that they’ve suggested I should stay within for those purposes.’ When asked if he knew details of the threat or who might have made it, Ashcroft said, ‘Frankly, I don’t. That’s the answer.’”
(“Fear of Flying” by James Ridgeway; The Village Voice; 4/13/2004.)

12. The program concludes with a look at the elder George Bush and some of the interesting times at which he was “flying the friendly skies.” On 9/11/2001, George H.W. Bush was in Washington D.C. at the annual investor conference of the Carlyle Group. (For more about that subject, see FTR#347.) George H.W. Bush was winging his way OUT of Washington D.C. on that fateful day, while the plane that hit the Pentagon was winging its way IN. “That same morning, in the plush setting of the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Washington D.C., the Carlyle Group was holding its annual international investor conference. Frank Carlucci, James Baker III, David Rubenstein, William Conway, and Dan d’Aniello were together, along with a host of former world leaders, former defense experts. Wealthy Arabs from the Middle East, and major international investors as the terror played out on television. There with them, looking after the investments of his family was Shafiq bin Laden, Osama bin Laden’s estranged half-brother. George Bush, Sr. was also at the conference, but Carlyle’s spokesperson says the former president left before the terror attacks, and was on an airplane over the Midwest when flights across the country were grounded on the morning of September 11.”
(The Iron Triangle: Inside the Secret World of the Carlyle Group; by Dan Briody; John Wiley & Sons; ISBN 0-471-28105-5; pp. 139-140.)

13. Wrapping up with an excerpt from FTR#236 (from 7/16/2000), the program notes that on November 22, 1963, George H.W. Bush was in the air over Dallas Texas. He was winging his way INTO Dallas, and his landing was delayed to that President Kennedy’s body could be flown OUT!
(W—The Revenge of the Bush Dynasty; by Elizabeth Mitchell; Copyright 2000; published by Hyperion; ISBN 0-7868-6630-6; p. 63.)

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