Thursday, 25 May 2017

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld 'Deserted His Post' While America Was Under Attack on 9/11


Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon on September 11

Donald Rumsfeld, the U.S. secretary of defense, proceeded as normal with his daily intelligence briefing at the Pentagon on the morning of September 11, 2001, despite learning that a second aircraft had hit the World Trade Center and America was clearly under attack. Even when the Pentagon was attacked, over 30 minutes later, he still did nothing to assist the military's response to the crisis and instead hurried outside to the crash site, simply to inspect the damage and help carry a stretcher. By the time that he became involved in defending his country, the terrorist attacks were over.

Rumsfeld, as secretary of defense, had important responsibilities that day. And yet he repeatedly ignored the appeals of colleagues when they tried to get him involved with the military's response to the attacks. Remarkably, he rejected the advice of two aides to abandon his usual activities because, he told them, if he did so, "the terrorists have won."

Some government and military officials, as well as journalists, have criticized Rumsfeld for effectively deserting his post at such a critical time, when he should have been focused on preventing possible further attacks. These commentators have made clear how unusual and unacceptable his actions were.

In light of what is known about the defense secretary's actions on September 11, we need to consider whether Rumsfeld's behavior while the 9/11 attacks were taking place was simply due to negligence and recklessness or the result of something more disturbing. Might Rumsfeld perhaps have known in advance what was going to happen on September 11?

If he had foreknowledge of 9/11, he would presumably have known he could get away with abandoning his responsibilities as secretary of defense while America was under attack. And if he knew what the targets would be, he would have known that the area of the building where his office was located would not be hit when the Pentagon was attacked, which meant it was safe for him to continue with his intelligence briefing. He would also have known there would be no second attack on the Pentagon and so he could safely go to the crash site after the building was hit.

Official investigations have failed to thoroughly probe Rumsfeld's actions on September 11 and the media have never inquired why the secretary of defense acted so inappropriately in response to the terrorist attacks. It is important, therefore, that we now closely examine what Rumsfeld did that day.

RUMSFELD THOUGHT THE FIRST CRASH WAS A 'TRAGIC ACCIDENT'
Donald Rumsfeld was hosting a breakfast meeting in his private dining room at the Pentagon, attended by several members of Congress, when the first hijacked plane--American Airlines Flight 11--crashed into the World Trade Center, at 8:46 a.m. on September 11. [1]

He learned of the crash shortly after it occurred when Larry Di Rita, his special assistant, sent him a note telling him what had happened. [2] Vice Admiral Edmund Giambastiani, his senior military assistant, received the note and passed the message on to him while he was in the meeting. He assumed the incident was a "tragic accident," he has recalled, and took no action in response to the news. His meeting apparently therefore continued until 9:00 a.m., when it was scheduled to end. [3]

He then went to his office for his intelligence briefing. [4] Giambastiani turned on the television and he then started watching the coverage of the burning World Trade Center. [5]

RUMSFELD WENT AHEAD WITH HIS INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING, DESPITE KNOWING AMERICA WAS UNDER ATTACK
Rumsfeld received a daily intelligence briefing, similar to the one provided to the president each morning. [6] The briefing on September 11 was scheduled to run from 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and was going to be delivered by DeNeige ("Denny") Watson, an analyst with the CIA. [7]

Watson learned of the first crash at the World Trade Center when she arrived at the Pentagon that morning and saw people watching the coverage of it on television. She learned of the second crash, and presumably realized that America was under attack, before she went in to brief Rumsfeld, seeing the incident live on television, at 9:03 a.m., in the anteroom of Rumsfeld's office. She immediately called the operations center at CIA headquarters and asked what people there knew about what was going on. She was told there were 50 airborne planes still unaccounted for.

In light of what was happening, Watson apparently expected Rumsfeld to cancel his schedule so he could focus on responding to the crisis. As she was about to go into his office, she "declined to even open her briefcase to pull out the PDB [President's Daily Brief], figuring it had been overtaken by events," author David Priess described. The secretary of defense, though, was determined to go ahead with the briefing.

Inside Rumsfeld's office, Watson relayed what she had been told by the CIA's operations center. And yet, while this information surely indicated that more attacks might be imminent, Rumsfeld just nodded his head and started flipping through the copy of the PDB she had brought with her. [8]

RUMSFELD WAS DETERMINED TO STICK TO HIS SCHEDULE
Around this time, while he was receiving the briefing, Rumsfeld was told about the second crash by Edmund Giambastiani. "Someone came in and said that another plane had hit a different tower of the World Trade Center," Rumsfeld recalled. [9] "I went in and informed the secretary [of the second crash]," Giambastiani said. [10] At that point, "it became clear that it was more than an accident," Rumsfeld commented. [11] "We knew there was a problem here," Giambastiani stated. [12] All the same, Rumsfeld continued with the briefing as if nothing unusual had happened.

Minutes after Watson entered the office, two of Rumsfeld's aides came in: Victoria Clarke, Rumsfeld's spokeswoman, and Larry Di Rita.

Clarke had been in her office at the Pentagon when she learned of the first crash from seeing the coverage of it on television. She'd called Di Rita to discuss the incident and, as the two were talking, they saw United Airlines Flight 175--the second hijacked plane--crashing into the World Trade Center live on their TVs. Realizing this was "clearly a terrorist attack of some kind," Clarke headed to Di Rita's office, down the hallway from Rumsfeld's office.

On the way, she made some notes about what needed to be done in response to the crisis, such as contacting the president, the vice president, and the director of the CIA. She and Di Rita then went together to Rumsfeld's office to discuss "the kinds of things [Rumsfeld] needed to do in response to this," Clarke recalled. [13] Upon entering the office, they told Rumsfeld what they knew about the terrorist attacks and that the crisis management process was starting up. [14]

Clarke and Di Rita wanted Rumsfeld to cancel his schedule, presumably so he could focus on responding to the attacks. "Sir, I think your entire schedule is going to be different today," Di Rita said. [15] But Rumsfeld refused to change his plans. [16]

He told them to go to the Pentagon's Executive Support Center (ESC), which was well equipped to deal with crisis, and said he would join them later. At that time, he "wanted to make a few phone calls," Clarke recalled. The two aides therefore left the office and headed to the ESC. [17] Rumsfeld, meanwhile, went back to skimming through the PDB. [18]

RUMSFELD WENT TO THE CRASH SITE AFTER THE PENTAGON WAS HIT
The secretary of defense was still in his office with Watson at 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon was attacked, and felt the building shake from the impact. "I knew that only something truly massive could have made hundreds of thousands of tons of concrete shudder," he recalled.

The attack on the Pentagon surely emphasized why he needed to get involved with responding to the crisis right away, as the extent of the emergency and the capability of the attackers became increasingly apparent. And yet he still did nothing to help the military react to the crisis. Instead, he rushed outside to the scene of the attack. [19] "I wanted to see what had happened; I wanted to see if people needed help," he has commented. [20]

Rumsfeld went to the site accompanied by Officers Aubrey Davis and Gilbert Oldach of the Defense Protective Service--the Pentagon's police force; Joseph Wassel, his communications officer; plus Rick Kisling and Kevin Brown, the director and deputy director of security for his office. [21]

Davis and Oldach had headed to Rumsfeld's office after Flight 175 hit the World Trade Center with the intention of moving the secretary of defense to a better-protected location. They'd encountered Rumsfeld outside his office just after the Pentagon was hit.

Rumsfeld hurried toward the scene of the attack based on information Davis was receiving over his radio. Davis called on Oldach to join him as he accompanied the secretary of defense to the crash site and motioned to Kisling, Wassel, and Brown, who were in the personnel security office, to do the same. Davis protested that Rumsfeld should head back, but the secretary of defense ignored his objections.

Rumsfeld and his entourage reached the crash site "by 9:40 at the latest," according to Davis. "It was not more than two or three minutes [after the building was hit] before we were actually on site," Davis said. [22]

COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER DETERMINED THAT RUMSFELD SHOULD RETURN TO THE PENTAGON
Upon reaching the scene of the attack, Rumsfeld inspected the area and helped carry a survivor on a stretcher to where they could get medical attention. [23] But after he had been at the site for some time, Wassel decided it was unnecessary for the secretary of defense to be there and told him, "I really need to get you on the phone with the president." Rumsfeld asked, "Where do we go?" Wassel apparently said they should return to the Pentagon. He recalled that he determined that "the hit seemed to be localized and we should have good communications inside the building." [24]

"At some moment, I decided I should be in [the Pentagon] figuring out what to do, because your brain begins to connect things," Rumsfeld has said. [25] He therefore announced, "Let's go" and led his group back inside.

Rumsfeld returned to the building at around 9:56 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., according to Davis. Accompanied by Davis, Wassel, Oldach, Brown, and Kisling, he initially went to his office and talked briefly with President George W. Bush on the phone. [26]

At around 10:10 a.m. to 10:15 a.m., he went to the ESC where a number of his colleagues had assembled. Those in the center included Stephen Cambone, a special assistant to Rumsfeld; William Haynes, the general counsel of the Department of Defense; Victoria Clarke; Larry Di Rita; and Edmund Giambastiani. [27]

In the well-equipped facility, Rumsfeld was finally in a location suitable for responding to the crisis. He was able to participate in the White House video teleconference while he was there. [28] But by the time he reached the ESC, the last of the four planes that were hijacked that morning--United Airlines Flight 93--had already crashed, reportedly going down in a field in Pennsylvania at 10:03 a.m., and so the attacks were over.

Rumsfeld then went to the Pentagon's National Military Command Center (NMCC), entering it at around 10:30 a.m. His "primary concern" once there was ensuring that the fighter pilots who had taken off to defend America's airspace "had a clear understanding of their rules of engagement," he told the 9/11 Commission. [29] He rapidly went to work on developing "some rules of engagement for what our military aircraft might do in the event another aircraft appeared to be heading into a large civilian structure or population," he said. [30]

In the NMCC, which was particularly well-equipped for dealing with the crisis, Rumsfeld was able to participate in the air threat conference call, which had been set up in response to the attacks. [31] But by the time he reached the center, it was too late for his actions to make a difference to the outcome of the attacks.

RUMSFELD THOUGHT THERE MIGHT BE ADDITIONAL ATTACKS
Donald Rumsfeld's failure to get involved with the military's response to the crisis until the terrorist attacks were over could have had serious consequences. However, according to retired Lieutenant Colonel Robert Darling, who was working for the White House Military Office on September 11, even if Rumsfeld had gone to the NMCC immediately after the second hijacked plane hit the World Trade Center, there is "no indication" that this action "would have changed the devastating outcome [of the attacks] for the better." [32]

Rumsfeld, though, ought to have been unaware of this at the time and should surely have assumed that he needed to get involved with responding to the crisis as quickly as possible. If 9/11 was a surprise, as has been officially claimed, no one would have known how many attacks were planned. Terrorists may have intended to hit numerous additional targets beyond the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Indeed, Victoria Clarke recalled, "Everybody was fixated for the first few hours on what could be next." [33]

Rumsfeld himself said he believed that additional attacks were possible. When asked, "Did you have a concern that the U.S. was about to be hit again in those early moments, those early hours?" he replied: "Sure. There's no question about it." Considering that three planes had crashed into buildings and other suspicious aircraft were still in the air, he explained, "you can't help but be very attentive to the possibility of another attack." [34]

If more attacks had been planned, Rumsfeld's failure to promptly get involved with the military's response to the crisis could have cost many lives. An unnamed senior White House official who was in the White House Situation Room that morning, trying to coordinate a response to the attacks, has angrily criticized Rumsfeld in this regard. "How long does it take for something bad to happen?" the official asked. "No one knew what was happening," they pointed out. "What if this had been the opening shot of a coordinated attack by a hostile power?" [35]

RUMSFELD WAS OUT OF COMMUNICATION WHILE HE VISITED THE CRASH SITE
A number of accounts have indicated that, regardless of its impact on the outcome of the attacks, Rumsfeld's decision to visit the scene of the Pentagon attack had a detrimental effect on the military's ability to respond to the crisis. It meant, for example, that in the 20 minutes between when Rumsfeld left his office and when he returned to the building, people who urgently needed to talk to him were unable to do so.

Aubrey Davis kept receiving frantic calls over his radio while he was with Rumsfeld at the crash site, saying: "Where's the secretary? Where's the secretary?" But he was unable to answer the inquiries. "I kept saying, 'We've got him,' but the system was overloaded," he recalled, "so I couldn't get through and they went on asking." [36] In that 20-minute period, Rumsfeld was "completely out of touch," journalist and author Andrew Cockburn concluded.

The situation was surely made worse because Rumsfeld failed to tell his command staff where he was going when he headed toward the crash site. [37] "He came out [of his office] and he didn't even talk to his staff," Joseph Wassel recalled. "His staff only found out where he was after the fact," Wassel said. [38]

Rumsfeld's colleagues therefore didn't know where the secretary of defense was at this critical time. Davis heard people over his radio saying, "Doctor Cambone wants to know where the secretary is; Admiral Giambastiani wants to know where the secretary is." [39] Several times in the half-hour after the Pentagon was attacked, Victoria Clarke heard people in the ESC asking where Rumsfeld was. [40] And for 30 minutes, personnel in the NMCC "couldn't find him," Brigadier General Montague Winfield said. [41]

Furthermore, because he went to the crash site, Rumsfeld was unable to join the Pentagon's air threat conference call when it commenced, at 9:37 a.m. Captain Charles Leidig, who ran the air threat conference, requested that the secretary of defense be brought into the conversation at the start of the call, but minutes later it was reported that Rumsfeld was nowhere to be found. [42] This meant that "the chain of command was broken," Cockburn concluded. [43] Rumsfeld only joined the conference call over 50 minutes after it began, once he arrived at the NMCC. [44]

THE ESC AND THE NMCC WERE EQUIPPED TO DEAL WITH THE ATTACKS
Analysis of Donald Rumsfeld's behavior at the time of the 9/11 attacks gives rise to many concerns. Rumsfeld appears to have acted in a way that was inconsistent with his responsibilities as secretary of defense and inappropriate in light of the crisis that needed his urgent attention.

He should surely have left his office right away after he learned a second plane had hit the World Trade Center and it became clear that America was under attack. To begin with, had he done so, he could have immediately gone to either the Executive Support Center or the National Military Command Center, where he would have been in a good position to respond to the attacks while they were still taking place.

The ESC and the NMCC, unlike Rumsfeld's office, were equipped to deal with a crisis like what happened that day. Additionally, numerous key officials responded to the terrorist attacks from these facilities. In either of them, therefore, Rumsfeld could have conferred with these officials about what to do in response to the attacks.

The ESC was a communications hub with a video teleconference facility, located on the third floor of the D ring--the second-outermost ring of the Pentagon. [45] It consisted of conference rooms that were secure against electronic eavesdropping. [46] People there had "instant access to satellite images and intelligence sources peering into every corner of the globe," Victoria Clarke described. [47] And "because it had so many communications in it," Joseph Wassel said, it could serve as a command center. [48]

Clarke called the ESC "the Pentagon's war room" and said it was "the place where the building's top leadership goes to coordinate military operations during national emergencies." [49] In it, therefore, Rumsfeld would have been well placed to respond to the attacks.

The NMCC, located in the Joint Staff area of the Pentagon, was a two-story complex of rooms that, Rumsfeld described, were "outfitted with televisions, computer terminals, and screens tracking military activities around the world." [50] It was equipped with numerous communications systems, including multiple screens for video conferences, and was staffed 24 hours a day by up to 200 employees. [51]

General Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on September 11, called it "a switchboard connecting the Pentagon, the civilian government, and the combatant commanders." [52] CNN called it the U.S. military's "worldwide nerve center." [53]

The NMCC had a key role to play during an event like what happened on September 11. It was "the operational center for any and every crisis, from nuclear war to hijacked airliners," Andrew Cockburn wrote. [54] "The job of the NMCC in such an emergency" as occurred on September 11, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, was "to gather the relevant parties and establish the chain of command between the National Command Authority--the president and the secretary of defense--and those who need to carry out their orders." [55]

The NMCC would presumably have been an ideal location for the secretary of defense to go to immediately when he learned that America was under attack. Indeed, after he finally entered it at around 10:30 a.m. on September 11, the communications network there "enabled him to keep in touch with key government officials and military commanders," according to the Department of Defense's book about the Pentagon attack. [56] Rumsfeld said he gained "situational awareness" of what was happening after he arrived at the center. [57]

Robert Darling, who spent much of September 11 responding to the crisis from the White House, wrote that he believed that "Rumsfeld's appointed place of duty" while the attacks were taking place "was at the helm in the NMCC." If the secretary of defense had gone to the NMCC earlier than he did, Darling wondered: "Could he have made a difference? What information would he have learned? What orders might he have given? Could there have been a better outcome?" [58]

THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE HAD SPECIFIC RESPONSIBILITIES DURING A CRISIS
Rumsfeld should also have canceled his schedule and left his office after he learned of the second attack because, as secretary of defense, he had a unique role to play during a crisis like what occurred on September 11. He therefore needed to get involved with the military's response to the attacks as quickly as possible in order to carry out his duties.

To begin with, he was part of the National Command Authority (NCA). The NCA consists of the president and the secretary of defense. [59] Directions for military operations originate from the NCA and, by law, no one else in the chain of command is permitted to authorize the execution of military action. [60] "No offensive, lethal military action will ever be taken by any component of the U.S. military without the direct consent of the president or the secretary of defense," Darling wrote. [61]

Cockburn called the NCA "the ultimate source of military orders, uniquely empowered, among other things, to order the use of nuclear weapons." In times of war, he wrote, the secretary of defense "was effectively the president's partner, the direct link to the fighting forces, and all orders had to go through him." [62]

As part of the NCA, Rumsfeld surely had a crucial role to play on September 11. But, Darling pointed out, "In the worst attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor, taking nearly 3,000 American lives, destroying billions of dollars' worth of property, sending Americans running in fear through our country's streets, and nearly crippling the world's largest financial system, no official National Command Authority response came until after the attacks had ended." [63]

THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE HAD A KEY ROLE IN THE RESPONSE TO HIJACKINGS
Rumsfeld's prompt involvement with the military's efforts to respond to the crisis was also surely important because the secretary of defense had a unique role to play when an aircraft hijacking occurred. The key role of the secretary of defense had been laid out in military instructions dating back as far as 1997, if not earlier. [64] The defense secretary was usually required to give his approval before the military could take action in response to a hijacking, according to the most recent of these instructions prior to 9/11.

The NMCC was the "focal point" within the Department of Defense for providing assistance in response to hijackings in U.S. airspace, the instruction stated. And upon being notified of a hijacking, the NMCC was, "with the exception of immediate responses," required "to forward requests for [Department of Defense] assistance to the secretary of defense for approval." [65]

Major General Larry Arnold, commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region on September 11, confirmed the crucial role of the secretary of defense when he described the procedure for responding to hijackings. "The FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] contacts the National Military Command Center whenever there is a problem," he said. "They, in turn, go to NORAD [the North American Aerospace Defense Command] to see if assets are available. Then the secretary of defense grants approval to intercept a hijacked airplane." [66]

Of course, the military should presumably have scrambled fighter jets in response to the four hijackings on September 11 even without Rumsfeld's approval simply due to factors such as the hijacked planes losing contact with air traffic control or deviating from their flight plans. The secretary of defense's permission was apparently unnecessary for responding to these kinds of emergencies. [67] All the same, in light of the defense secretary's unique responsibilities when a hijacking occurred, Rumsfeld should surely have become involved in the military's response to the crisis as soon as possible on September 11.

RUMSFELD PUT HIMSELF IN DANGER BY STAYING IN HIS OFFICE
Another reason why Rumsfeld should have left his office after he learned about the second crash at the World Trade Center is that, since by then it was clear that America was under attack and the Pentagon was a potential target, he should have been concerned for his own safety. Indeed, some officials who were in the Pentagon that day--including Stephen Cambone, Edmund Giambastiani, and William Haynes--have recalled wondering if the Pentagon would be attacked after they learned of the crashes at the World Trade Center. [68]

And yet Rumsfeld stayed in his office, simply for the sake of receiving a routine intelligence briefing, even though the office was in a vulnerable area of the Pentagon, on the third floor of its outer ring. He surely should have thought that he might be seriously injured or killed if terrorists attacked that part of the building by crashing an aircraft into it or by some other means, such as detonating a truck bomb outside of it.

Some of Rumsfeld's colleagues certainly seem to have believed he might be unsafe in his office. These include Cambone and Giambastiani. Following the second attack on the World Trade Center, Cambone went to Giambastiani's office and told Giambastiani they needed to get Rumsfeld out of the building. When Giambastiani asked why, Cambone mentioned the planes that had flown into the World Trade Center and said that "there was no telling what would happen next." The two men discussed "what the evacuation plan should be for the secretary," according to Giambastiani. [69]

Aubrey Davis and Gilbert Oldach also thought Rumsfeld might be in danger in his office. Davis recalled that after he saw Flight 175 crashing into the World Trade Center on television, at 9:03 a.m., he and his colleagues "looked at each other and knew that this was warning us to prepare to get Secretary Rumsfeld out of the building, and what measure we would utilize to transport Secretary Rumsfeld to a safe location." [70] Davis and Oldach then headed to Rumsfeld's office because they intended to take the secretary of defense to somewhere that was "better protected" than the office, according to Andrew Cockburn. They planned to take him "to some bunker somewhere." [71]

Their boss, John Jester, chief of the Defense Protective Service, seems to have shared their concern. At some point before they set off to take the secretary of defense to a safer location, he came into the room and said to them, "Let's get prepared to get Secretary Rumsfeld out of here." [72]

And Denny Watson appears to have recognized that Rumsfeld's office was in a vulnerable area of the Pentagon. After the building shook when it was attacked, Rumsfeld peered out of the window to look for signs of what had happened. Concerned at his action, Watson said, "Sir, everything in my training says you need to be back, away from those windows." [73]

Even if he was determined to stay in the Pentagon, Rumsfeld would surely have been safer if he had gone to the ESC or the NMCC after he learned about the second crash at the World Trade Center, rather than remaining in his office at that time. The ESC was "a secure facility" and had "a secure door with a screening process," William Haynes described. [74] And the NMCC was in an area that was presumably much less likely to be damaged than Rumsfeld's office was if the building was attacked. It was in "a very secure location," CNN reported, in the basement of the Pentagon. [75]

Although Rumsfeld did eventually leave his office, after the Pentagon was attacked, he then put himself in an even more vulnerable position by going to the crash site. He should surely have considered it possible that there would be additional attacks at the Pentagon, just like there had been a second attack at the World Trade Center. And if another attack occurred there, he would presumably have been most at risk of being killed or seriously injured outside the building, where there were no walls to protect him.

Those who accompanied him to the scene of the attack certainly seem to have thought so. While he was at the crash site, they "were really preaching [to him] that it is really dangerous," Oldach recalled. [76]

RUMSFELD'S VISIT TO THE CRASH SITE WAS BRIEF AND UNNECESSARY
Going to the scene of the attack, as well as putting the secretary of defense potentially in danger, was a pointless exercise. Although about 20 minutes passed between when Rumsfeld left his office to visit the crash site and when he returned to the building, the attack occurred on the opposite side of the Pentagon to his office. [77] Taking into account the time it would have taken to walk to and from the site, Rumsfeld could only have been at the crash scene for a few minutes. [78] This was presumably too little time for him to achieve anything meaningful while there.

Visiting the crash site--where all he did was inspect the area and help carry a stretcher--also meant Rumsfeld was unable to attend to the tasks he was responsible for at that time. Whereas any Pentagon employee could have gone to the site and reported back to Rumsfeld what they saw, and there were trained medical personnel whose job it was to assist the wounded, Rumsfeld was irreplaceable as the secretary of defense. "He was the secretary of defense; the country was under attack; he actually had a job to do," Andrew Cockburn commented. [79]

Rumsfeld offered a weak explanation for why he abandoned his responsibilities and went to the crash site, saying, "It was a funny thing for me to do, I suppose, and unusual, but I just felt I had to see what it was and what had happened, because no one knew." [80] Some of his colleagues, though, seem to have thought his actions were inappropriate. These include Stephen Cambone, who commented that Rumsfeld only stayed at the crash site for a short time because "his job was inside, not outside the building." [81]

And Joseph Wassell urged Rumsfeld to go back into the Pentagon because he recognized the unnecessity of the secretary of defense being at the scene of the attack. He recalled that after Rumsfeld and his entourage had been at the site for some time, he "decided that there was probably already a mechanism in place to take care of this recovery effort."

He therefore said to Rumsfeld, "Mr. Secretary, I know Doc Baxter [Colonel John Baxter, commander of the Air Force Flight Medicine Clinic] and I know that there is a mechanism." "This was going to be taken care of by the professionals," he has commented. He told Rumsfeld, "I really need to get you on the phone with the president." Rumsfeld agreed with his evaluation and subsequently headed back into the Pentagon. [82]

RUMSFELD IGNORED ATTEMPTS TO GET HIM INVOLVED WITH THE RESPONSE TO THE ATTACKS
The failure of Donald Rumsfeld to help deal with the crisis after the second crash at the World Trade Center occurred is particularly alarming considering that some of his colleagues apparently tried to get him involved with the military's response to the attacks at that time, but he rejected their advice. This indicates that he made a conscious decision to do nothing.

For example, when she entered his office to give him his intelligence briefing, Denny Watson told Rumsfeld: "Sir, you just need to cancel this [briefing]. You've got more important things to do." But he replied: "No, no. We're going to do this."

And when Victoria Clarke and Larry Di Rita came in and tried to get Rumsfeld to cancel his schedule, he refused to do so. They advised him to cancel his appointments for the rest of the day, presumably so he could focus on responding to the attacks. But, astonishingly, he told them: "No! If I cancel my day, the terrorists have won."

Even when Clarke and Di Rita pulled out a copy of his agenda, took him through it point by point, and showed him why each appointment could be canceled, Rumsfeld remained unmoved. His only response was to turn to the television on his desk and look at the coverage of the attacks in New York. After Clarke and Di Rita left the office, he just returned to skimming through the President's Daily Brief. [83]

Rumsfeld still failed to do anything meaningful when he returned to the building following his visit to the scene of the Pentagon attack. Although he talked on the phone with President Bush shortly after 10:00 a.m., the call apparently did little, if anything, to help deal with the attacks. According to a 9/11 Commission staff statement, "No one can recall any content [of the call] beyond a general request to alert forces." Rumsfeld and Bush "did not discuss the use of force against hijacked airliners," the statement added. [84] Rumsfeld's only recollection of the call in his memoir was of telling the president what he knew about the extent of the damage to the Pentagon. [85]

Then, after entering the ESC at around 10:10 a.m. to 10:15 a.m., rather than inquiring about the attacks or immediately issuing some orders, Rumsfeld "pulled out a yellow legal pad, took his seat at the head of a conference table, and wrote down three categories by which his thinking would be organized the rest of the day," according to Victoria Clarke. He wrote down "what we needed to do immediately, what would have to be underway quickly, and what the military response would be." [86]

Although the secretary of defense became more involved in the military's response to the attacks after he entered the NMCC, at around 10:30 a.m., his attempt at developing "rules of engagement" for the fighter pilots who were defending America's airspace was "an irrelevant exercise," according to Andrew Cockburn, since he did not complete and issue the rules until 1:00 p.m., "hours after the last hijacker had died." [87]

RUMSFELD CONTRIBUTED TO 'THE DYSFUNCTIONAL REACTION TO THE ATTACKS'
Donald Rumsfeld has been criticized by a number of officials and journalists for his blatant failure to help the military respond to the terrorist attacks on September 11 until it was too late to make a difference. These criticisms highlight the contrast between what Rumsfeld, as secretary of defense, should have done and what he actually did.

He "contributed materially to the whole dysfunctional reaction to the attacks," Cockburn said, explaining: "He was in the wrong place. ... He didn't do his duty and concerned himself with irrelevant matters." [88] He "essentially was a bystander that morning, with little or no input in the crisis," journalist James Ridgeway noted. [89]

Robert Darling expressed his concerns about Rumsfeld's actions, asking: "Why did Secretary Rumsfeld abandon his post that day by not responding to the National Military Command Center the moment the attack on our country was realized? Why didn't he attempt to contact the president sooner? Why was the National Command Authority so ineffective?" [90]

RUMSFELD'S DECISION TO GO TO THE CRASH SITE WAS 'UNBELIEVABLY SHOCKING'
Rumsfeld has faced particular criticism for his decision to visit the crash site immediately after the Pentagon was hit. "The country was under attack and yet the secretary of defense disappears for 20 minutes," Cockburn remarked. "He abandons his wider responsibilities to go look at the fire." [91]

"In the time that Rumsfeld had taken to go outside, he was out of the national command loop, out of touch with other high-level government officials who were trying frantically to figure out the nation's response," veteran Washington Post reporter Bradley Graham noted. He consequently "played no part in the urgent initial efforts to determine whether any additional air threats remained or in the decision to authorize military pilots to shoot down any menacing aircraft that refused to divert," Graham added. [92]

John Jester complained that since Rumsfeld was "in the National Command Authority," he "should not have gone to the scene" of the attack. "One of my officers tried to stop him and he just brushed him off," Jester said, adding, "I told his staff that he should not have done that." [93]

Darling criticized Rumsfeld's decision to leave the building and go to the crash site, saying: "His absence was unbelievably shocking. He should have been at his post in the national command structure organizing the defense of the country and instead he was outside helping the wounded." [94]

An unnamed senior White House official had particularly harsh words for Rumsfeld. He angrily commented: "What was Rumsfeld doing on 9/11? He deserted his post. He disappeared. The country was under attack. Where was the guy who controls America's defense? Out of touch!" The official said it was "outrageous" for Rumsfeld "to abandon [his] responsibilities and go off and do what you don't need to be doing, grandstanding." [95]

Rumsfeld, however, claimed his decision to visit the crash site was of little consequence. When asked if he thought his absence from the NMCC during the first minutes after the attack on the Pentagon had a detrimental effect, he replied: "I don't think so--who knows? My deputy was here. The chain of command was complete." [96]

DID RUMSFELD HAVE FOREKNOWLEDGE OF 9/11?
Donald Rumsfeld should surely have assumed, when he learned about the crashes at the World Trade Center on September 11, that his actions might make a difference to the outcome of the crisis and have got involved with the response to it as quickly as possible. Why, then, did he continue with a routine intelligence briefing and make a pointless visit to the scene of the Pentagon attack when his job was to protect his country? His actions effectively meant that for the entire time America was under attack, the nation was without a secretary of defense.

Furthermore, why was Rumsfeld apparently unconcerned for his own safety at the time of the attacks? If 9/11 was unforeseen, as has been officially claimed, he should surely have thought the Pentagon was a potential target after he learned what had happened at the World Trade Center.

Why, then, did he apparently place himself in danger by remaining in his office, on the outer ring of the building, at that time rather than going to somewhere less vulnerable? And why did he leave the relative safety of the building to visit the crash site after the Pentagon was hit, even though it was possible that the Pentagon would be attacked again?

It seems difficult to attribute Rumsfeld's actions to incompetence. Rumsfeld had been secretary of defense for eight months under President Bush when 9/11 occurred and previously served as defense secretary for 14 months during the presidency of Gerald Ford in the 1970s. [97] He should surely therefore have acquired a good understanding of his responsibilities in this important post and known what his duties were on September 11.

A possible, albeit sinister, explanation for Rumsfeld's actions while the 9/11 attacks were taking place is that Rumsfeld had foreknowledge of what was going to happen on September 11. If this was the case, he presumably would have known he could get away with taking no action in response to the attacks until it was too late to make a difference. And if he knew in advance what the targets of the attacks were going to be, he would have known he would be safe in his office while he received his intelligence briefing and at the scene of the attack after the Pentagon was hit.

VISITING THE CRASH SITE WAS 'VERY ASTUTE, POLITICALLY'
If Rumsfeld knew in advance what would happen on September 11, this could mean his decision to hurry to the scene of the Pentagon attack, where he was caught on video helping to carry a stretcher, may not have been spontaneous but could instead have been made beforehand, as a cynical way to exploit the catastrophe to improve his public image.

The decision to go to the crash site, while making it impossible for colleagues to communicate with him and apparently placing him in danger at the time, certainly benefited Rumsfeld later on. One Pentagon official said he thought the decision was "very astute, politically." Andrew Cockburn commented that Rumsfeld's "dash to the crash site could inspire loyalty and support" among the Pentagon workforce. [98]

Some people regarded Rumsfeld's "instinctive response" to the Pentagon attack as "a gutsy move that showed a basic humanity," according to Bradley Graham. Rumsfeld's "involvement, however brief, in the rescue efforts was a selfless act that won him a measure of appreciation and respect," Graham wrote. [99]

The defense secretary's actions, according to Cockburn, meant, "On a day when the president was intermittently visible, only Rumsfeld, along with New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, gave the country an image of decisive, courageous leadership." The few minutes he spent at the crash site "made Rumsfeld famous, changed him from a half-forgotten 20th-century political figure to America's 21st-century warlord." [100]

If Rumsfeld decided before September 11 that he would go to the scene of the attack immediately after the Pentagon was hit, this might explain why he was dressed ready to go to the crash site when the attack occurred. Normally, according to Cockburn, when he was in his office, Rumsfeld "would take off his suit jacket and put on a sort of like a vest, because he found it chilly in the office." And yet just 15 to 20 seconds after there was a loud "boom" when the Pentagon was hit, he was seen by Aubrey Davis walking out of his door, "looking composed and wearing the jacket he normally discarded while in his office." It appeared as if, in the space of under 20 seconds, Rumsfeld "had time to change his clothes, put on his going-outside jacket, [and] come out," Cockburn commented. [101]

If Rumsfeld indeed knew in advance what was going to happen on September 11, the question arises of how this came about. Did he know someone who had learned about the 9/11 attacks before they occurred or was involved in planning them and this person told him what was going to happen? Might Rumsfeld himself have been involved with planning the attacks, which would be falsely blamed on Islamic terrorists?

While these are serious and unsettling possibilities to suggest, they need to be investigated. As has been pointed out, Rumsfeld "deserted his post" while America was under attack. His decision to visit the crash site immediately after the Pentagon was hit instead of helping to defend his country was "unbelievably shocking." We therefore need to find out exactly why he neglected his duties at such a critical time, on what was surely the most important day of his professional life.

NOTES
[1] "National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States: Eighth Public Hearing." 9/11 Commission, March 23, 2004; Donna Miles, "Vice Chairman: 9/11 Underscored Importance of DoD Transformation." American Forces Press Service, September 8, 2006; Alfred Goldberg et al., Pentagon 9/11. Washington, DC: Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 2007, p. 130; Steve Vogel, The Pentagon: A History. New York: Random House, 2007, p. 428.
[2] "Secretary Rumsfeld Interview With Larry King, CNN." Larry King Live, CNN, December 5, 2001; Torie Clarke, Lipstick on a Pig: Winning in the No-Spin Era by Someone Who Knows the Game. New York: Free Press, 2006, p. 218; Donald Rumsfeld, Known and Unknown: A Memoir. New York: Sentinel, 2011, pp. 334-335.
[3] Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr., interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron, part I. Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, July 18, 2002; Donna Miles, "Vice Chairman: 9/11 Underscored Importance of DoD Transformation"; Donald Rumsfeld, Known and Unknown, pp. 334-335.
[4] "Secretary Rumsfeld Interview With John McWethy, ABC." U.S. Department of Defense, August 12, 2002; 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. 37; Steve Vogel, The Pentagon, p. 428.
[5] Donald Rumsfeld, Known and Unknown, p. 335.
[6] Ibid.
[7] "Secretary Rumsfeld Interview With John McWethy, ABC"; David Priess, The President's Book of Secrets: The Untold Story of Intelligence Briefings to America's Presidents From Kennedy to Obama. New York: PublicAffairs, 2016, pp. 243-244.
[8] David Priess, The President's Book of Secrets, p. 244.
[9] "Secretary Rumsfeld Interview With John McWethy, ABC."
[10] Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr., interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron, part I.
[11] Face the Nation. CBS, September 8, 2002.
[12] Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr., interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron, part I.
[13] Victoria Clarke, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron. Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, July 2, 2002; Bill Vidonic, "Area Native Recalls Events at Pentagon." Beaver County Times, September 9, 2002; Torie Clarke, Lipstick on a Pig, pp. 216-218.
[14] "Assistant Secretary Clarke Interview With WBZ Boston." WBZ, September 15, 2001; Victoria Clarke, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron.
[15] Torie Clarke, Lipstick on a Pig, p. 219.
[16] David Priess, The President's Book of Secrets, p. 244.
[17] "Assistant Secretary Clarke Interview With WBZ Boston"; Victoria Clarke, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron; Torie Clarke, Lipstick on a Pig, p. 219.
[18] David Priess, The President's Book of Secrets, p. 244.
[19] Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy. New York: Scribner, 2007, pp. 1-2; Donald Rumsfeld, Known and Unknown, pp. 335-336.
[20] "Secretary Rumsfeld Interview With Larry King, CNN."
[21] Joseph M. Wassel, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron. Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, April 9, 2003; Aubrey Davis and Gilbert Oldach, interview by Diane Putney. Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, July 20, 2006.
[22] Aubrey Davis and Gilbert Oldach, interview by Diane Putney; Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, pp. 1-2.
[23] Alfred Goldberg et al., Pentagon 9/11, p. 130; Toby Harnden, "Donald Rumsfeld on How He Survived the September 11 Pentagon Attack." Daily Telegraph, September 9, 2011.
[24] Joseph M. Wassel, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron.
[25] "Secretary Rumsfeld Interview With Parade Magazine." U.S. Department of Defense, October 12, 2001.
[26] Joseph M. Wassel, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron; "National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States: Eighth Public Hearing"; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 43; Aubrey Davis and Gilbert Oldach, interview by Diane Putney.
[27] Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr., interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron, part II. Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, August 1, 2002; Torie Clarke, Lipstick on a Pig, pp. 219-221; William Haynes and Lawrence Di Rita, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Welch. Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, May 16, 2006; Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, pp. 5-6.
[28] Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr., interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron, part II; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 43.
[29] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, pp. 43-44; Donald Rumsfeld, Known and Unknown, p. 337.
[30] "Secretary Rumsfeld Interview With John McWethy, ABC."
[31] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, pp. 37-38.
[32] Robert J. Darling, 24 Hours Inside the President's Bunker: 9/11/01 The White House. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2010, pp. 106-108.
[33] Victoria Clarke, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron.
[34] "Secretary Rumsfeld Interview With John McWethy, ABC."
[35] Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, pp. 3-4.
[36] Aubrey Davis and Gilbert Oldach, interview by Diane Putney; Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, p. 2; "Andrew Cockburn: Author, 'Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy.'" Q&A, C-SPAN, February 25, 2007.
[37] "Journalist and Author Andrew Cockburn on Donald Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy." Democracy Now! March 7, 2007.
[38] Joseph M. Wassel, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron.
[39] Aubrey Davis and Gilbert Oldach, interview by Diane Putney.
[40] Victoria Clarke, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron.
[41] "9/11: Interviews by Peter Jennings." ABC News, September 11, 2002.
[42] Air Threat Conference and DDO Conference, Transcript. U.S. Department of Defense, September 11, 2001; Air Threat Conference Call, Transcript. U.S. Department of Defense, September 11, 2001; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 38.
[43] Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, p. 5.
[44] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 38.
[45] Lawrence Di Rita, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Stuart Rochester. Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, June 27, 2002; Steve Vogel, The Pentagon, p. 440.
[46] Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, p. 5.
[47] Torie Clarke, Lipstick on a Pig, p. 219.
[48] Joseph M. Wassel, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron.
[49] Torie Clarke, Lipstick on a Pig, p. 219.
[50] Donald Rumsfeld, Known and Unknown, p. 337.
[51] Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, p. 5.
[52] Richard B. Myers and Malcolm McConnell, Eyes on the Horizon: Serving on the Front Lines of National Security. New York: Threshold Editions, 2009, p. 151.
[53] "'The Pentagon Goes to War': National Military Command Center." American Morning, CNN, September 4, 2002.
[54] Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, p. 5.
[55] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 37.
[56] Alfred Goldberg et al., Pentagon 9/11, p. 132.
[57] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 44.
[58] Robert J. Darling, 24 Hours Inside the President's Bunker, pp. 104, 108.
[59] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 17; Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, p. 4.
[60] Multiservice Procedures for Humanitarian Assistance Operations. Fort Monroe, VA: U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, 1994; Geoffrey S. Corn, Rachel E. VanLandingham, and Shane R. Reeves (Editors), U.S. Military Operations: Law, Policy, and Practice. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016, p. 8; "DoD 101: Overview of the Department of Defense." U.S. Department of Defense, n.d.
[61] Robert J. Darling, 24 Hours Inside the President's Bunker, p. 103.
[62] Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, p. 4.
[63] Robert J. Darling, 24 Hours Inside the President's Bunker, p. 103.
[64] See Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, CJCSI 3610.01: Aircraft Piracy (Hijacking) and Destruction of Derelict Airborne Objects. Washington, DC: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, July 31, 1997.
[65] Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, CJCSI 3610.01A: Aircraft Piracy (Hijacking) and Destruction of Derelict Airborne Objects. Washington, DC: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, June 1, 2001.
[66] "Conversation With Major General Larry Arnold, Commander, 1st Air Force, Tyndall AFB, Florida." Code One, January 2002.
[67] See Bob Arnot, "What Was Needed to Halt the Attacks?" MSNBC, September 12, 2001; "Statement of Robin Hordon, Former FAA Air Traffic Controller." Patriots Question 9/11, April 10, 2007.
[68] Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr., interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron, part I; William J. Haynes II, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron, part I. Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, April 8, 2003; Donna Miles, "Vice Chairman: 9/11 Underscored Importance of DoD Transformation."
[69] Stephen Cambone, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron. Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, July 8, 2002; Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr., interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron, part I; Donna Miles, "Vice Chairman: 9/11 Underscored Importance of DoD Transformation."
[70] Aubrey Davis and Gilbert Oldach, interview by Diane Putney.
[71] Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, p. 1; "Journalist and Author Andrew Cockburn on Donald Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy."
[72] Aubrey Davis and Gilbert Oldach, interview by Diane Putney.
[73] David Priess, The President's Book of Secrets, p. 245.
[74] William J. Haynes II, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron, part I.
[75] A Status Report to Congress: The Renovation of the Pentagon. Washington, DC: Office of the Secretary of Defense, March 1, 1997, p. 23; "'The Pentagon Goes to War': National Military Command Center."
[76] Aubrey Davis and Gilbert Oldach, interview by Diane Putney.
[77] Charles Aldinger, "Aircraft Crashes Into Pentagon, Triggering Chaos." Reuters, September 11, 2001.
[78] Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, p. 3.
[79] "Journalist and Author Andrew Cockburn on Donald Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy."
[80] Steve Vogel, The Pentagon, p. 439.
[81] Stephen Cambone, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron.
[82] Joseph M. Wassel, interview by Alfred Goldberg and Rebecca Cameron.
[83] David Priess, The President's Book of Secrets, p. 244.
[84] "Staff Statement No. 17: Improvising a Homeland Defense." 9/11 Commission, June 17, 2004.
[85] Donald Rumsfeld, Known and Unknown, p. 337.
[86] Torie Clarke, Lipstick on a Pig, p. 222.
[87] Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, p. 7.
[88] "Journalist and Author Andrew Cockburn on Donald Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy."
[89] James Ridgeway, "On 9/11, Rumsfeld Fiddled While Cheney Ran the Country." Mother Jones, February 9, 2011.
[90] Robert J. Darling, 24 Hours Inside the President's Bunker, p. 109.
[91] "Andrew Cockburn: Author, 'Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy.'"
[92] Bradley Graham, By His Own Rules: The Ambitions, Successes, and Ultimate Failures of Donald Rumsfeld. New York: PublicAffairs, 2009, pp. 282-283.
[93] John Jester, interview by Alfred Goldberg, Diane Putney, and Stuart Rochester. Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, October 19, 2001.
[94] Philip Sherwell, "How the Drama Unfolded Aboard Air Force One, Inside the White House Bunker and at the Pentagon." Daily Telegraph, September 10, 2011.
[95] Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, pp. 3-4.
[96] Steve Vogel, The Pentagon, p. 441.
[97] "Secretary of Defense-Designate Donald Rumsfeld." PBS, December 28, 2000; George M. Watson Jr., Secretaries and Chiefs of Staff of the United States Air Force: Biographical Sketches and Portraits. Washington, DC: Air Force History and Museums Program, U.S. Air Force, 2001, p. 202; "Timeline: The Life & Times of Donald Rumsfeld." PBS, October 26, 2004.
[98] Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, p. 3.
[99] Bradley Graham, By His Own Rules, p. 283.
[100] Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld, p. 3.
[101] Ibid. p. 1; "Andrew Cockburn: Author, 'Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy.'"

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Why Did the Secret Service Leave the President and a School Full of Children in Danger in the Middle of the 9/11 Attacks?


President Bush at the Booker Elementary School

President George W. Bush was allowed to continue with a routine visit to a school when the terrorist attacks occurred on September 11, 2001. Remarkably, members of the Secret Service and other personnel responsible for protecting the president failed to evacuate him from the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, after they learned that a second plane had crashed into the World Trade Center and it became clear that America was under attack.

As the nation's leader, Bush should have been considered a likely target for terrorists. Furthermore, his schedule had been publicized in advance and so terrorists could have found out where he would be on September 11.

And yet, after arriving there shortly before 9:00 a.m. on September 11, Bush was allowed to stay at the Booker Elementary School until around 9:35 a.m.--almost 50 minutes after the first hijacked plane crashed into the World Trade Center and over 30 minutes after the second hijacked plane hit the Trade Center. He left the school just two or three minutes before a third attack occurred, when the Pentagon was struck.

The Secret Service's failure to promptly evacuate Bush from the school is particularly baffling in light of the accounts of some key officials who were with the president that morning, in which these men recalled being worried that the school would be attacked. There were even concerns that terrorists might crash a plane into it. The failure to evacuate the school is also alarming in that it left hundreds of people there--not just the president--potentially in danger.

It would be wrong to attribute the inaction of the Secret Service to incompetence. Agents who were in Sarasota for Bush's visit to the city were highly skilled individuals. They arranged extensive security measures for the visit, and they acted with great urgency and professionalism as they protected Bush after he left the school. They appear to have only failed to adequately protect the president for a period of about 40 minutes in the middle of the 9/11 attacks, after he arrived at the school.

We need to consider, therefore, whether the inaction of the Secret Service at this critical time is evidence of something sinister. Could efforts have been made to somehow put the agents in Sarasota into a state of paralysis? They might, for example, have been tricked into thinking the reports they received about the terrorist attacks in New York were simulated, as part of a training exercise.

The inaction of the Secret Service could in fact be evidence that, in contradiction to the official narrative of 9/11, rogue individuals in the U.S. government were involved in planning and perpetrating the terrorist attacks on September 11.

NO ONE CALLED THE PRESIDENT ABOUT THE FIRST CRASH DURING THE DRIVE TO THE SCHOOL
On the morning of September 11, 2001, President Bush was scheduled to visit the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, where he planned to take part in a reading demonstration, and then talk to parents and teachers about his education policies. [1]

His motorcade left the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort on Longboat Key, where he'd spent the previous night, at around 8:39 a.m. on September 11 and headed to the school. At 8:46 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. [2] Numerous people in the motorcade, including White House officials, military officers, and journalists, learned about the crash as they were being driven to the school. [3] But no one called the president to tell him what had happened.

Bush was first informed about the crash at around 8:55 a.m., when he arrived at the school. Navy Captain Deborah Loewer, director of the White House Situation Room, ran up to him and said, "Mr. President, the Situation Room is reporting that one of the World Trade Center towers has been hit by a plane." "This is all we know," she added. [4]

Bush was told about the crash again by Karl Rove, his senior adviser, as he was shaking hands with members of the official greeting party outside the school. [5] He has recalled thinking at the time that the incident must have been "a terrible accident." [6]

He then talked on the phone with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who was at the White House. She told him the plane that struck the World Trade Center was a commercial jetliner, not a light aircraft. But Bush still thought the crash was an accident and went ahead with the scheduled event. [7] At 9:02 a.m., he entered the second-grade classroom of teacher Sandra Kay Daniels to listen to the students reading. [8]

BUSH CONTINUED WITH THE READING EVENT AFTER BEING TOLD, 'AMERICA IS UNDER ATTACK'
A minute later, United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Bush was alerted to what had happened at around 9:05 a.m. to 9:07 a.m., when Andrew Card, his chief of staff, approached him and whispered in his ear: "A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack." [9]

Despite receiving this devastating news, Bush carried on as if nothing was wrong. "In the middle of a modern-day Pearl Harbor," author James Bamford commented, "he simply turned back to the matter at hand: the day's photo op." [10] Significantly, author Philip Melanson pointed out, "no [Secret Service] agents were there to surround the president and remove him instantly." [11]

Bush listened to the children reading for five minutes, and then spent at least two minutes asking them questions and telling the school's principal about the second crash. [12] He left the classroom shortly before 9:15 a.m. [13] He was still sticking closely to his schedule, which specified that he would conclude his participation in the reading demonstration at 9:15 a.m. [14]

BUSH GAVE A SPEECH THAT WAS SHOWN LIVE ON TV
Even then, with the demonstration over, no effort was made to get the president away from the school. Instead, Bush spent the next 15 minutes in the "staff hold," a room adjacent to Daniels' classroom, where he talked on the phone with officials in Washington, DC, and worked on a statement he wanted to give before leaving the school. [15]

He entered the school library to deliver the statement at 9:30 a.m. This was the same time as he was originally set to address parents and teachers at the school. So, 44 minutes after the first attack on the World Trade Center and 27 minutes after the second, it was still apparently considered unnecessary to alter the president's schedule. The only change was that instead of discussing his education policies, Bush talked about the attacks in New York and announced that he would be heading back to Washington. [16]

The short speech was broadcast live on television and watched by millions of Americans. [17] If any terrorists had been unaware of the president's location before then, if they were watching TV, they knew now.

Bush only started to deviate from his schedule after he finished the speech. He was originally set to head out of the school at 9:55 a.m., with his limousine leaving there 10 minutes later and heading to the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. [18] But due to the extraordinary circumstances, his motorcade left the school and speeded toward the airport at around 9:35 a.m.

During the journey to the airport, Bush talked on the phone with Condoleezza Rice and she told him the Pentagon had been attacked. [19] (The attack on the Pentagon took place at 9:37 a.m.) The motorcade reached the airport sometime between 9:42 a.m. and 9:45 a.m. Air Force One, the president's plane, took off without a fixed destination at around 9:55 a.m. [20]

BUSH'S LOCATION WAS PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE
The fact that the president was allowed to stick to his schedule and stay at the Booker Elementary School for 40 minutes while America was under attack is particularly alarming since Bush's plans for September 11 were publicly announced four days in advance and had then been reported in the media. If terrorists had wanted to kill the president as part of the 9/11 attacks, therefore, they could have found out where he would be on September 11 and tried to attack him while he was there.

On September 7, 2001, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer revealed in a press briefing that on the morning of September 11, Bush was going to be in Sarasota, where he would "continue his focus on reading and education." A transcript of the briefing would presumably have been published promptly on the White House website. [21] The president's plan to visit Sarasota was reported that day in newspapers such as the Washington Post and the Florida Times-Union. [22]

The most informative reports, unsurprisingly, appeared in a newspaper for Sarasota, where the planned visit was "big news," according to journalist and author Mark Bowden. [23] The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported on September 7 that Bush would "probably speak at a local school" when he visited Sarasota on September 11. [24] The following day, the newspaper revealed where the president would go during his visit. He planned to deliver "an education speech Tuesday morning at Emma E. Booker Elementary School," it reported. [25]

Some people who were at the Booker Elementary School on September 11 recognized the danger that existed because Bush's plans for the day had been publicized in advance. "The fact that the president would be at Booker Elementary at this hour, on this day, had been public knowledge for days," Mike Morell, Bush's CIA briefer, wrote. [26] Therefore, he commented, "anyone could have known about it." [27]

Karl Rove similarly stated: "The president's whereabouts were obviously known. Everybody knew exactly where he was, if you wanted to know." [28] Colonel Steve Burns of the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office remarked, "The [president's] itinerary was known at least for several days prior to his visit to Sarasota, so it was a real concern that maybe there was additional targets, even being the school or something." [29]

MEMBERS OF BUSH'S ENTOURAGE WERE WORRIED THAT THE SCHOOL MIGHT BE ATTACKED
The failure of the Secret Service to promptly evacuate Bush from the Booker Elementary School in response to the attacks on the World Trade Center is also baffling considering that some members of his entourage believed at the time that the school might be attacked because of his presence there.

Members of Bush's Secret Service detail were worried that the president could be a target, according to Dave Wilkinson, assistant special agent in charge of the presidential protection division. They were asking each other, "Is there any direction of interest towards the president ... or is this just an attack on New York?" he recalled. [30]

Rove confirmed that the Secret Service thought the president could be a target while he was at the school. Bush's agents determined that the attacks "might be an effort to decapitate the government," he said. [31] This meant the terrorists wanted to "take all the leading officials and kill them." [32]

Mike Morell recalled "growing increasingly concerned about [the president's] safety" while Bush was in the staff hold, after the reading demonstration ended. [33] Among the president's staff there was a "fear of the unknown," according to Brian Montgomery, the White House's director of advance. "We didn't know if someone had put a biological agent or chemical agent at the school," he said. [34]

Some people were worried that terrorists would fly an aircraft into the school. Bush's Secret Service agents were concerned "that someone might fly an airplane into the Emma Booker Elementary School or there might be a ... suicide bomber nearby," Rove said. [35] Morell recalled that he was "really worried that someone was going to fly a plane into that school." [36] He contemplated telling Edward Marinzel, the head of Bush's Secret Service detail, about his concern, but decided not to after determining that Marinzel had probably already considered this scenario. [37]

Even some teachers, students, and parents recognized the potential danger to the school. There was "a fear by many parents that Booker Elementary was now a target by terrorists because of the president's visit," Clesha Henry, a fifth-grade teacher at the school, recalled. [38] Derek Jenkins, another teacher, stated that after Bush left the school, "One of my thoughts shifted to the fact that Emma E. Booker is located only a few miles from the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport and we could have very easily been a target as well." [39] Henry recalled a boy in her class saying: "I'm scared, Ms. Henry. Are we going to die?" [40]

SOME OFFICIALS WANTED TO EVACUATE BUSH AFTER THE SECOND ATTACK OCCURRED
Not only were some members of Bush's entourage concerned that the Booker Elementary School might be attacked, at least two key officials--Major Paul Montanus and Edward Marinzel--wanted the president to be evacuated from the place immediately after they learned of the second crash in New York.

Montanus, the military aide who accompanied Bush to the school, apparently called for an evacuation after seeing Flight 175 crashing into the World Trade Center on television, at 9:03 a.m. Just after 9:00 a.m., according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Sarasota County Sheriff Bill Balkwill was approached at the school by "a Marine responsible for carrying Bush's phone." This person was presumably Montanus, a Marine Corps officer. Montanus had heard that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center, but little else about the incident in New York. He asked Balkwill, "Can you get me to a television?"

The two men, along with a SWAT team member and three Secret Service agents, went to an office at the school where there was a TV. There, they saw the coverage of Flight 175 hitting the South Tower. Presumably realizing that America was under attack, Montanus exclaimed, "We're out of here!" and asked, "Can you get everyone ready?" according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. According to his own recollection, he said: "What in God's name? We gotta get out of here!" [41]

Montanus's words should presumably have led to the president and his entourage being evacuated from the school immediately. "While the Secret Service is charged with protecting the president's actual body," Marist magazine explained, "it is the president's military aide ... who directs any evacuation" and the White House Military Office, which oversees the president's military aides, "that executes [the president's] safe passage." [42] And yet no evacuation took place at this time.

Marinzel appears to have been equally determined to get Bush away from the school after he learned about the second attack on the World Trade Center. After he was told about the second crash, he recalled: "Right then and there, things completely changed. We needed to figure out what we were going to do with the president." [43] Marinzel "wanted to get the hell out of [the school] as fast as possible," Mike Morell said. [44] He "was eager to get the president out of the school, to Air Force One, and airborne," Karl Rove described, and "immediately began making arrangements to beef up the motorcade and get it ready to move." [45]

Even Bush appears to have realized that he needed to be evacuated from the school promptly. Describing the situation while he was in the staff hold after the reading demonstration ended, he commented, "One thing for certain: I needed to get out of where I was." [46] And yet, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, while the Secret Service was "anxious to move the president to a safer location" at this time, it "did not think it imperative for him to run out the door." [47]

SOME PEOPLE DELAYED BUSH'S DEPARTURE FROM THE SCHOOL
Why Bush was allowed to stay at the school after the second crash at the World Trade Center occurred, especially in light of the desire of Montanus and Marinzel to get him away from there, is unknown. A few accounts, though, describe people delaying his departure.

Andrew Card apparently persuaded Secret Service agents to put off getting Bush away from the school until after the president had given his 9:30 a.m. speech from the library, according to Dave Wilkinson. After Marinzel told Bush, "We need to get you to Air Force One and get you airborne," Wilkinson recalled, the president's Secret Service agents "ended up with a compromise." This was because Card had said, "We have a whole auditorium full, waiting for the next event [i.e. Bush's speech]" and "there was no imminent threat there in Sarasota." It was therefore agreed that Bush could give his speech before leaving the school. [48]

The president's departure from the school was delayed by Bush himself, according to Frank Brogan, lieutenant governor of Florida. Brogan recalled that when he was with Bush in the staff hold, after the reading demonstration, "The Secret Service tried to get the president to return to Air Force One immediately, but he refused, saying he was committed to staying on the ground long enough to write a statement about what was happening, read it to the nation, and lead a moment of silence for the victims." [49] Bush "was courageously insistent about remaining on the ground to make a statement to the people of America," Brogan commented. [50]

Mark Rosenker, director of the White House Military Office, who was with the president at the school, indicated that Bush may have been allowed to stay at the school for such a long time because some people actually thought he was safe there. When asked in an interview, "In those early moments, there isn't a sense that the president could be in danger, is there?" he replied, "Not initially, the way we perceived it." The White House Military Office is "very conservative with the Secret Service," he added. [51]

THE SECRET SERVICE'S MISSION WAS TO KEEP THE PRESIDENT SAFE
The Secret Service is responsible for the protection of the president. [52] Various accounts have indicated that this agency, more than any other, should have ensured that Bush was promptly evacuated from the Booker Elementary School when it became clear that the U.S. was under terrorist attack on September 11.

The Secret Service is "responsible for protection of high-visibility officials and facilities that terrorists might target," a report by the Office of Management and Budget pointed out. [53] And in a "state of emergency"--like when America came under attack on September 11--its plan is "to get every protectee to a secure site," according to a National Geographic Channel documentary about the agency. [54]

The agency should decide what actions to take to protect the president, regardless of the president's demands, according to Dave Wilkinson. "By federal law, the Secret Service has to protect the president," he said. "The wishes of that person that day are secondary to what the law expects of us. Theoretically it's not his call, it's our call." [55]

The Secret Service should have evacuated Bush from the school immediately after the second attack took place, according to Philip Melanson, an expert on the agency. "With an unfolding terrorist attack, the procedure should have been to get the president to the closest secure location as quickly as possible, which clearly is not a school," Melanson stated. Bush would have been "safer in that presidential limo, which is bombproof and blastproof and bulletproof," he added. [56]

Melanson contrasted the inaction of Bush's agents at the school to the procedure that would normally have been followed if the president was considered to be in danger. "When there is a threat or intrusion at the White House," he wrote, "agents rush into the Oval Office, the family quarters, or wherever the president is, and immediately surround him and shut down the comings or goings of anyone--thus 'crashing' the Oval Office or the entire West Wing." [57]

GREAT CARE WAS TAKEN WITH THE PREPARATIONS FOR BUSH'S TRIP
The inaction of the Secret Service while Bush was at the Booker Elementary School in the middle of the 9/11 attacks stands out when we contrast it to the care with which the agency prepared for the president's visit to the school.

Major Robert Darling, the White House airlift operations liaison officer who organized Bush's trip to Sarasota, described the preparations he initiated for the trip. He arranged to have "five hardened Secret Service cars, numerous pallets of communication gear, and more than 200 support personnel" flown to Sarasota "a full four days prior to the president's scheduled arrival."

Secret Service agents and White House Military Office personnel consequently had "plenty of time to rehearse every aspect of the event, to include traveling the primary and alternate motorcade routes, practice landing in and taking off from the predetermined helicopter landing zones, as well as knowing the locations of all the local hospitals and their level of trauma capability so that when the president arrived on Air Force One, everyone was fully trained and prepared to safely transport and protect him as he executed his political agenda." [58]

The Secret Service clearly prepared well for Bush's visit to the Booker Elementary School. Agents "took over" the school's campus five days before September 11, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. [59] There were "men in dark suits scurrying around and through our campus, commandeering rooms, erecting funny antennas, conducting briefs and meetings, and tapping our phones," teacher Derek Jenkins described. [60]

Care was even taken when deciding which room Bush would go to when he visited the school. The classroom of Sandra Kay Daniels was selected as the location for the reading demonstration because it was "situated next to the school's north door, making it easier to organize elaborate security," according to the Tampa Tribune. [61]

BUSH WAS WELL PROTECTED THE NIGHT BEFORE 9/11
Bush was certainly well protected the night before September 11, while he stayed at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort. Journalist and author Bill Sammon described: "Snipers kept watch over the president from the roofs of the Colony and adjacent structures. The Coast Guard and the Longboat Key Police Department manned boats that patrolled the surf in front of the resort all night. Security trucks with enough men and arms to stop a small army parked right on the beach. An Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) plane circled high overhead in the clear night sky." [62]

The high level of care that usually went into protecting the president was evident at the Booker Elementary School when Bush arrived there on the morning of September 11. "School buses were lined up in front of the school to form a barricade," the Sarasota Herald-Tribune described. "Agents on horseback patrolled the campus. ... Snipers were on the roof. All the phone lines were tapped and one was linked directly to the White House." [63]

The Secret Service, though, acted as if it was in a state of paralysis after the president arrived at the school. It allowed him to stay there for 40 minutes and stick to his schedule as if nothing unusual had happened in the middle of a major terrorist attack.

But then, at around 9:35 a.m., the behavior of the president's protective detail suddenly changed and Bush's agents finally acted with the kind of urgency we would reasonably expect under the circumstances. Their skill and professionalism were evident as Bush was taken from the school to the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, and onto Air Force One.

THE SECRET SERVICE ACTED WITH URGENCY AFTER BUSH LEFT THE SCHOOL
A Secret Service agent "ran out from the school and said, 'We're under terrorist attack, we have to go now,'" Officer Kevin Dowd of the Sarasota Police Department recalled. Bush's motorcade then traveled to the airport at about twice its normal speed. Whereas the vehicles were usually driven at around 40 to 45 miles per hour, they now moved at 80 to 85 miles per hour. Furthermore, during the journey, "the Secret Service agents all had weapon barrels that were visible and they were pointing up at the ready position in case they needed to be used," according to Dowd. [64]

Bush's limousine was surrounded by police cars, positioned about a foot away from it on all four sides. [65] This was because Edward Marinzel had arranged for the Sarasota Police Department to mobilize every available patrol car. [66] The Secret Service was concerned that a suicide bomber might try to ram the limousine with a truck bomb or a car bomb, Marinzel later explained, and so it had the vehicle surrounded in the hope that the patrol cars would block any attack. [67]

The Secret Service also "asked for double-motorcade blocks at the intersection, double and triple blocks," Dave Wilkinson recalled. This meant "not just motorcycle officers standing there with their arms up, but vehicles actually blocking the road." And for the entire journey to the airport, Wilkinson said, the Secret Service was "using the limos as a shell game, to keep the president safe." [68]

PASSENGERS WERE CAREFULLY CHECKED BEFORE GETTING ON THE PRESIDENT'S PLANE
After the motorcade arrived at the airport, journalists, White House staffers, and others were subjected to unusually rigorous security checks before being allowed onto Air Force One. Getting on the plane was "different than it ever had been," White House education adviser Sandy Kress commented. Much attention was paid to the credentials of those boarding the aircraft. "We had to show ID and our badge, not just the badge," Kress said. "And this even though the crew knew most of us." [69]

Secret Service agents and bomb-sniffing dogs checked every bag that was going onto the plane. [70] "Although everyone in the presidential motorcade had already been swept back at the school, the Secret Service was taking no chances," Bill Sammon described. "Even staffers who wore special lapel pins denoting their status as White House employees had their belongings checked by bomb-sniffing dogs," he wrote. [71] Agents even searched briefcases belonging to senior officials such as Andrew Card and Mike Morell. [72]

Agents also shoved people onto Air Force One as quickly as possible. [73] They yelled, "Move it, move it, move it!" as people made their way onto the aircraft. [74] A military aide standing at the foot of the rear entrance to the plane snapped, "We gotta hurry up and get out of here!" [75]

Air Force One took off at around 9:55 a.m., just 10 minutes after the motorcade reached the airport. [76] It took off unusually quickly. "I start hauling down the runway," Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot, described. "Pull back, went up at about 8,000 feet per minute, and just put the plane on its tail, rolled it off towards the Gulf of Mexico," he said. [77]

The plane took off "like a rocket," according to White House assistant press secretary Gordon Johndroe. [78] It "shot down the runway with a force I had never experienced," Karl Rove described. [79] "The objective," according to the 9/11 Commission Report, "was to get up in the air--as fast and as high as possible--and then decide where to go." [80]

The fact that the Secret Service was able to act with such care and skill in its preparations for Bush's visit to the Booker Elementary School, and in its efforts to protect the president after he left the school, rules out the possibility that its inaction while Bush was at the school was due to incompetence. Agents with the president for his visit to Sarasota were clearly highly capable professionals.

AGENTS WERE NOT IMMEDIATELY ALERTED TO THE CRASHES AT THE WORLD TRADE CENTER
Another thing to consider when examining the Secret Service's inadequate protection of the president on September 11 is the apparent failure of agents in Washington to alert their colleagues in Sarasota to the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Edward Marinzel, as head of Bush's Secret Service detail, should surely have been notified about the attacks as a matter of priority, so he could initiate actions to protect the president in response to them. And yet Secret Service agents in Washington apparently failed to contact him about both crashes at the World Trade Center.

Marinzel heard about the first crash when Karl Rove told Bush about it after the president's motorcade arrived at the Booker Elementary School, at around 8:55 a.m. "As we were walking in, Karl Rove actually mentioned to the president that a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers," he recalled. [81]

If this was the first time Marinzel heard about the crash, it means he only learned about the incident inadvertently, rather than being contacted about it by a colleague. And it means he learned about the crash at least nine minutes after it occurred and at least six minutes after it was first reported on television.

Certainly, evidence suggests that no one contacted him about the crash while he was being driven to the school. It appears that Marinzel would have been with the president in his limousine for the journey to the school, although this has not been stated explicitly: Rove recalled that Marinzel rode in Bush's limousine when it left the school, at 9:35 a.m., so presumably Marinzel accompanied Bush in his limousine as a matter of course during the visit to Florida. [82]

If Marinzel was alerted to the crash during the journey to the school, he therefore would surely have passed on the news to the president. But Bush was reportedly unaware of the crash when he arrived at the school, with the notification he received from Deborah Loewer being the first time he heard what had happened. It seems reasonable to assume, then, that no one contacted Marinzel and told him about the crash during the drive to the school.

LEAD AGENT LEARNED OF THE SECOND CRASH FROM BUSH'S CHIEF OF STAFF
Subsequently, instead of being immediately alerted to the second attack, Marinzel only learned about Flight 175 hitting the World Trade Center minutes after the crash occurred. And rather than being informed about the attack by his colleagues in Washington, as presumably should have happened, he learned about it from Andrew Card.

After Card walked across Sandra Kay Daniels' classroom and told Bush a second plane had hit the World Trade Center, Marinzel recalled, he "came over and whispered the same thing into my ear, and that was that we were under an attack." [83] Since Card told Bush about the second crash at around 9:05 a.m. to 9:07 a.m., Marinzel must have only heard about it several minutes after it happened.

Secret Service agents in Washington apparently also failed to promptly inform other agents in Sarasota, besides Marinzel, about the attacks. Kevin Kenney of the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office recalled that after he saw the "breaking news coverage" of the first crash at the World Trade Center on television, he "immediately made contact with detectives that were co-located with the Secret Service detail and informed them of the news coverage."

"Remarkably," Kenney continued, the detectives told him "that they were not aware of the incident at that point." [84] Members of the president's Secret Service detail would surely have immediately passed on the important news to the detectives with them if they had heard about the crash. The fact that they failed to do so presumably means they had not been contacted by their colleagues in Washington about it at the time when Kenney called the detectives.

It is unclear whether Secret Service agents in Washington failed to contact their colleagues in Sarasota, besides Marinzel, about the second crash after it occurred. Certainly, accounts that are currently available make no mention of such contact being made.

AGENT RESPONSIBLE FOR THE PRESIDENT'S SECURITY DID NOT CALL HIS COLLEAGUES IN SARASOTA
In light of the apparent failure of Secret Service agents in Washington to contact their colleagues in Sarasota about the attacks on the World Trade Center, it is worth examining in particular the actions of Carl Truscott, a key Secret Service official who was in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House, when the attacks occurred. As special agent in charge of the presidential protective division, Truscott was responsible for the overall security of the president. [85] And yet there is no evidence that he made any attempt to contact Bush's detail while the president was at the Booker Elementary School.

Truscott said in an interview shortly after 9/11 that he learned about the crisis on September 11 when he "observed the CNN broadcast of the aircraft crashing into the World Trade Center." (It is unclear from the report of the interview whether he was referring to the coverage of the first crash or the second crash.) But he made no mention of contacting Bush's detail in response to seeing the television coverage of the crashes.

The only thing Truscott described doing at the time was calling several senior Secret Service agents to his office for a meeting "to discuss security enhancements at the White House." The meeting began at around 9:18 a.m. and the safety of the president was apparently not talked about. After he left the meeting, Truscott went to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center below the White House. [86]

His first contact with Bush's detail that morning, according to currently available accounts, occurred sometime after 9:55 a.m., when Air Force One took off from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. At that time, according to a Secret Service document, one of Bush's agents was "successful in contacting" him and informed him of the president's situation. [87]

SCHOOL WAS NOT EVACUATED, DESPITE BEING A POTENTIAL TERRORIST TARGET
While it is alarming that the president was allowed to stay at the Booker Elementary School for 40 minutes while the U.S. was in the middle of a major terrorist attack, it is also chilling that no effort was made to evacuate anyone else from the school on September 11. If terrorists had attacked the place, hundreds of people there could have been killed or seriously injured.

Mike Morell certainly recognized the potential danger. On top of his concern for Bush, he recalled, he grew "increasingly concerned" about "the safety of others at the school," since "it had been public information for days that the president would be at Booker Elementary on 11 September." [88]

But even after Bush left, no attempt was made to get people safely away from the school. Instead, "after learning of the tragedies, teachers tried to initiate 'teachable moments,'" the Tampa Tribune reported. "They pulled down maps, discussed terrorism, and talked about fears [with the pupils]." The school's administration permitted parents to pick up their children early if they wanted to, but according to the Tribune, "very few did." [89]

Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Herman, a senior presidential communications officer, along with some Secret Service agents and a military aide, initially remained in Sarasota after Bush and his entourage left. [90] Surely one of these professionals should have recognized the possible danger and evacuated the school. And yet even White House personnel who stayed at the Booker Elementary School after the president was driven away were left vulnerable. These staffers were allowed to remain at the school for hours, and only headed back to the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort late that afternoon. [91]

It is also strange that no one else, besides those who had come to Sarasota from Washington for the president's visit, ordered that the Booker Elementary School be evacuated. Remarkably, Wilma Hamilton, the superintendent of Sarasota County schools, refused to evacuate the school after being advised to do so.

"Because the well-publicized event at the school assured Bush's location that day was no secret, the dense White House security urged school officials to send students home," the Arlington Heights Daily Herald reported. Hamilton, however, rejected the advice. "I couldn't see sending the children home," she recalled. "There'd be no one there. All they would have to look at were those images on television." [92]

THE SECRET SERVICE FAILED TO KEEP THE PRESIDENT SAFE
By allowing Bush to follow his schedule and attend the reading demonstration at the Booker Elementary School while America was under attack, the Secret Service left the president in potentially life-threatening danger. What went wrong? Why did agents perform so poorly in the middle of the worst attack on American soil since the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941? Evidence described in this article gives rise to important questions about the actions of the Secret Service on September 11 that need to be addressed.

Why, for example, did the president's protective detail wait for more than 30 minutes after the second crash at the World Trade Center occurred and it became clear that America was under attack before getting Bush away from the school? Why did the concerns of some personnel that the school might be attacked not lead to an immediate evacuation? And why did the Secret Service allow Bush to give a speech from the school that was broadcast live on television, thereby revealing his location to any terrorists who might be watching TV?

Questions about the actions of other agencies and individuals who were with Bush in Sarasota need to be addressed too. For example, could someone other than a member of the Secret Service have ordered the evacuation of the president from the Booker Elementary School? The president's military aide was the person who would direct any evacuation of the president and the White House Military Office would implement the president's "safe passage," according to Marist magazine. [93] Could Paul Montanus, Bush's military aide at the school, or a White House Military Office official such as Mark Rosenker therefore have ordered an evacuation? If they could, why did they apparently fail to do so after the second attack on the World Trade Center took place?

Also, who was responsible for evacuating the other people at the school, such as the students and teachers? Why didn't that person order an evacuation? Why, in particular, did Wilma Hamilton refuse to send the children at the school home after being urged by White House security personnel to do so?

Additionally, were any decisions made to evacuate the president that were overruled? No evacuation occurred after a U.S. Marine, presumably Paul Montanus, announced, "We're out of here" and asked, "Can you get everyone ready?" when he saw the second crash on television. Did someone overrule the Marine's apparent instruction to evacuate the president? If so, who was this person and why did they do so?

Events described in this article also give rise to questions about the actions of some Secret Service agents who were in Washington at the time of the 9/11 attacks. Why, for example, did agents in Washington apparently fail to contact their colleagues in Sarasota about the crashes at the World Trade Center, to let them know what had happened and discuss what to do in response? Why did Carl Truscott, in particular, as the agent responsible for the overall security of the president, apparently fail to contact members of Bush's detail? Why did he only communicate with them after Air Force One left Sarasota?

WAS THE SECRET SERVICE'S RESPONSE TO THE ATTACKS SABOTAGED?
The Secret Service agents with the president in Sarasota appear to have been exceptionally skilled professionals, based on descriptions of their actions before and after Bush was at the Booker Elementary School. We consequently need to consider whether their inaction during the 40 minutes that Bush was at the school on September 11 was caused by someone, or some people, sabotaging their ability to respond to the 9/11 attacks.

Might rogue individuals in the U.S. military and government have taken measures that prevented these agents from operating with the level of urgency they would usually exhibit in a situation where the president could be in danger? For example, could the agents have been tricked into mistakenly thinking that reports they received about the attacks on the World Trade Center were simulated, as part of a training exercise, and this was why they failed to react appropriately to them?

Or were there rogue Secret Service agents involved with protecting the president who knew in advance what was going to happen on September 11? These agents could have known that the president and the Booker Elementary School were not targets, and so it was unnecessary to hurry Bush away from the school once it became clear that America was under attack.

The failure of the Secret Service to adequately protect the president while he was in Sarasota could be strong evidence that rogue individuals in the military and government were involved in perpetrating the 9/11 attacks. Currently, though, only a limited amount of information is available about the actions of the Secret Service on September 11. Official investigations have failed to rigorously examine the suspicious behavior of agents in response to the terrorist attacks. This crucial aspect of 9/11 therefore needs to be thoroughly looked into as part of a new investigation of the attacks.

NOTES
[1] "Bush Presses Education Agenda in Florida." ABC News, September 10, 2001; James Bamford, Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency. New York: Anchor Books, 2002, p. 636; "The Visit of the President to Florida, Monday, September 10-Tuesday, September 11, 2001." President of the United States, n.d.
[2] Bill Sammon, "Suddenly, a Time to Lead." Washington Times, October 7, 2002; Susan Taylor Martin, "Of Fact, Fiction: Bush on 9/11." St. Petersburg Times, July 4, 2004.
[3] White House transcript, interview of Director of Communications Dan Bartlett by Howard Rosenberg of ABC. White House, August 12, 2002; Leslie Bates, "Securing the Nation." Marist, Fall 2002; Dave Lance, "Born to Lead." Dayton Daily News, August 17, 2003; Richard Keil, "With the President: A Reporter's Story of 9/11." Rochester Review, Fall 2004.
[4] "Springfield Native Told President of Terrorist Attacks." Associated Press, November 26, 2001; David Priess, The President's Book of Secrets: The Untold Story of Intelligence Briefings to America's Presidents From Kennedy to Obama. New York: PublicAffairs, 2016, p. 240.
[5] Ari Fleischer, Taking Heat: The President, the Press, and My Years in the White House. New York: HarperCollins, 2005, pp. 138-139.
[6] Bill Sammon, Fighting Back: The War on Terrorism--From Inside the Bush White House. Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2002, p. 42.
[7] 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. 35; George W. Bush, Decision Points. New York: Crown, 2010, pp. 126-127.
[8] Bill Sammon, Fighting Back, p. 43.
[9] Ibid. pp. 50-51, 83; Scot J. Paltrow, "Government Accounts of 9/11 Reveal Gaps, Inconsistencies." Wall Street Journal, March 22, 2004; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 38.
[10] James Bamford, Body of Secrets, p. 633.
[11] Philip H. Melanson, The Secret Service: The Hidden History of an Enigmatic Agency. 2nd ed. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2005, pp. 330-331.
[12] Bill Sammon, "Suddenly, a Time to Lead"; Scot J. Paltrow, "Government Accounts of 9/11 Reveal Gaps, Inconsistencies."
[13] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 39.
[14] "The Visit of the President to Florida, Monday, September 10-Tuesday, September 11, 2001."
[15] Bill Sammon, "Suddenly, a Time to Lead"; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 39.
[16] "The Visit of the President to Florida, Monday, September 10-Tuesday, September 11, 2001"; "Remarks by the President After Two Planes Crash Into World Trade Center." White House, September 11, 2001; James Bamford, Body of Secrets, p. 636.
[17] Michael K. Bohn, Presidents in Crisis: Tough Decisions Inside the White House From Truman to Obama. New York: Arcade Publishing, 2015, p. 215.
[18] "The Visit of the President to Florida, Monday, September 10-Tuesday, September 11, 2001."
[19] Bill Sammon, "'Right Decision.'" Washington Times, October 8, 2002; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 39; George W. Bush, Decision Points, p. 128.
[20] Dan Balz and Bob Woodward, "America's Chaotic Road to War." Washington Post, January 27, 2002; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 39.
[21] "Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer." White House, September 7, 2001.
[22] David DeCamp, "President Plans School Visit to Push Reading." Florida Times-Union, September 7, 2001; Mike Allen and Michael A. Fletcher, "Bush Campaign Aims to Put Education Plan on Fast Track." Washington Post, September 7, 2001.
[23] Mark Bowden, The Finish: The Killing of Osama bin Laden. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2012, p. 3.
[24] Chad Binette, "Bush Will Talk Schools in Local Stop." Sarasota Herald-Tribune, September 7, 2001.
[25] "The President's Visit." Sarasota Herald-Tribune, September 8, 2001.
[26] Michael Morell with Bill Harlow, The Great War of Our Time: The CIA's Fight Against Terrorism From al Qa'ida to ISIS. New York: Twelve, 2015, p. 49.
[27] Garrett M. Graff, "'We're the Only Plane in the Sky.'" Politico Magazine, September 9, 2016.
[28] "Air Force One Pilot Mark Tillman and Senior Advisor Karl Rove." At Issue, KFDI, December 11, 2012.
[29] John Rogers, "Sarasota County Played a Pivotal Role in 9/11." WFLA-TV, September 11, 2013.
[30] Garrett M. Graff, "'We're the Only Plane in the Sky.'"
[31] Ibid.
[32] "Air Force One Pilot Mark Tillman and Senior Advisor Karl Rove."
[33] Michael J. Morell, "11 September 2001: With the President." Studies in Intelligence 50, no. 3 (2006): 23-34.
[34] Garrett M. Graff, "'We're the Only Plane in the Sky.'"
[35] "A White House View of 9/11." LBJ Presidential Library, September 3, 2013.
[36] Garrett M. Graff, "'We're the Only Plane in the Sky.'"
[37] Michael J. Morell, "11 September 2001: With the President"; Michael Morell with Bill Harlow, The Great War of Our Time, p. 49.
[38] William Mansell, "Teacher Recounts Being at Booker With Bush on 9/11." Sarasota Patch, September 9, 2011.
[39] Derek Jenkins, "Derek Jenkins, EEB Classroom Teacher." Sarasota County Schools, n.d.
[40] William Mansell, "Teacher Recounts Being at Booker With Bush on 9/11."
[41] Tom Bayles, "The Day Before Everything Changed, President Bush Touched Locals' Lives." Sarasota Herald-Tribune, September 10, 2002; Dennis Dodd, "Navy Has a Higher Purpose Heading Into Notre Dame Game." CBS Sports, August 31, 2012.
[42] Leslie Bates, "Securing the Nation."
[43] "'We're Under Attack': Native Pittsburgher Escorted President on 9/11." WPXI-TV, September 7, 2011.
[44] Garrett M. Graff, "'We're the Only Plane in the Sky.'"
[45] Karl Rove, Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight. New York: Threshold Editions, 2010, p. 251.
[46] Bill Sammon, Fighting Back, p. 93.
[47] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 39.
[48] Garrett M. Graff, "'We're the Only Plane in the Sky.'"
[49] "737 Days After ..." University Press, September 17, 2003.
[50] "Frank Brogan Recounts His Moment in History With President Bush on Sept. 11, 2001." South Florida Sun Sentinel, September 11, 2011.
[51] White House transcript, interview of General Mark V. Rosenker, director of the White House Military Office, by CBS. White House, August 29, 2002.
[52] "Mission Statement." United States Secret Service, 2002.
[53] Office of Management and Budget, Annual Report to Congress on Combating Terrorism. Washington, DC: Office of Management and Budget, July 2001, p. 81.
[54] Inside the U.S. Secret Service. National Geographic Channel, October 24, 2004.
[55] Garrett M. Graff, "'We're the Only Plane in the Sky.'"
[56] Susan Taylor Martin, "Of Fact, Fiction."
[57] Philip H. Melanson, The Secret Service, pp. 330-331.
[58] Robert J. Darling, 24 Hours Inside the President's Bunker: 9/11/01 The White House. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2010, p. 35.
[59] Tom Bayles, "The Day Before Everything Changed, President Bush Touched Locals' Lives."
[60] Derek Jenkins, "Derek Jenkins, EEB Classroom Teacher."
[61] Jennifer Barrs, "From a Whisper to a Tear." Tampa Tribune, September 1, 2002.
[62] Bill Sammon, Fighting Back, p. 25.
[63] Tom Bayles, "The Day Before Everything Changed, President Bush Touched Locals' Lives."
[64] Clear the Skies. BBC, September 1, 2002; "Air Force One Pilot Mark Tillman and Senior Advisor Karl Rove"; "A White House View of 9/11."
[65] "Air Force One Pilot Mark Tillman and Senior Advisor Karl Rove"; "A White House View of 9/11."
[66] Karl Rove, Courage and Consequence, p. 251, Karl Rove, Speech at the Reagan Ranch Center, Santa Barbara, CA. Young America's Foundation, April 30, 2010.
[67] "Air Force One Pilot Mark Tillman and Senior Advisor Karl Rove"; "A White House View of 9/11."
[68] Garrett M. Graff, "'We're the Only Plane in the Sky.'"
[69] Ibid.
[70] Sonya Ross, "Flying With President Bush on a Day Terrorists Hit Hard." Associated Press, September 12, 2001; Michael J. Morell, "11 September 2001: With the President."
[71] Bill Sammon, Fighting Back, p. 99.
[72] Michael J. Morell, "11 September 2001: With the President"; Garrett M. Graff, "'We're the Only Plane in the Sky.'"
[73] Karl Rove, Courage and Consequence, p. 252.
[74] Clear the Skies.
[75] Bill Sammon, Fighting Back, p. 99.
[76] Dan Balz and Bob Woodward, "America's Chaotic Road to War"; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 39.
[77] Mark W. Tillman, "Air Force One: Zero Failure." Speech presented at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, Dayton, Ohio, February 29, 2012.
[78] Garrett M. Graff, "'We're the Only Plane in the Sky.'"
[79] Karl Rove, Courage and Consequence, p. 252.
[80] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 39.
[81] "'We're Under Attack': Native Pittsburgher Escorted President on 9/11."
[82] Karl Rove, Speech at the Reagan Ranch Center, Santa Barbara, CA.
[83] "'We're Under Attack': Native Pittsburgher Escorted President on 9/11."
[84] Kevin Kenney, "... I Could See Air Force One Accelerate Toward Me and ... Takeoff. ..." Sheriff, September/October 2011.
[85] "Assistant Director Carl J. Truscott Announces Plans to Retire From the U.S. Secret Service." United States Secret Service press release, Washington, DC, April 1, 2004.
[86] USSS memo, interview with SAIC Carl Truscott. United States Secret Service, October 1, 2001; "USSS Statements and Interview Reports." 9/11 Commission, July 28, 2003.
[87] Untitled document. United States Secret Service, n.d.
[88] Michael J. Morell, "11 September 2001: With the President."
[89] Jennifer Barrs, "From a Whisper to a Tear."
[90] Leslie Bates, "Securing the Nation."
[91] Scott McClellan, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception. New York: PublicAffairs, 2008, pp. 103-104.
[92] Mike Riopell, "Educator's History Lesson." Arlington Heights Daily Herald, September 11, 2006.
[93] Leslie Bates, "Securing the Nation."