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Profile: Secret Service

 
  

Positions that Secret Service has held:



 

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Secret Service actively participated in the following events:

 
  

January 20, 1997: Clinton Re-inaugurated; Atlanta Rules Applied at This and Other Events      Complete 911 Timeline

       Bill Clinton is re-inaugurated as president. An extensive set of security measures to prevent airplanes as weapons crashing into the inauguration is used. These measures, first used in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and thus referred to as the “Atlanta Rules,” include the closing of nearby airspace, the use of intercept helicopters, the basing of armed fighters nearby, and more. This plan will later be used for the 1999 North Atlantic Treaty Organization's 50th anniversary celebration in Washington, the 2000 Republican convention in Philadelphia, the 2000 Democratic convention in New York, and the George W. Bush inauguration in 2001. [Wall Street Journal, 4/1/04; Clarke, 2004, pp 110-11] At some point near the end of the Clinton administration, the Secret Service and Customs Service agree to create a permanent air defense unit to protect Washington. However, these agencies are part of the Treasury Department, and the leadership there refuses to fund the idea. The permanent unit is not created until after 9/11. [Wall Street Journal, 4/1/04]
People and organizations involved: William Jefferson ("Bill") Clinton, Clinton administration, Secret Service, George W. Bush
          

1998: Training Exercise Held at the White House, Based Around Militants Using a Plane as a Weapon      Complete 911 Timeline

       Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke chairs a tabletop exercise at the White House, involving a scenario where anti-American militants fill a Learjet with explosives, and then fly it on a suicide mission toward a target in Washington, DC. Officials from the Pentagon, Secret Service, and FAA attend, and are asked how they would stop such a threat. Pentagon officials say they could launch fighters from Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, but would need authorization from the president to shoot the plane down, and currently there is no system to do this. The 9/11 Commission later states: “There was no clear resolution of the problem at the exercise.” [Slate, 7/22/04; 9/11 Commission Final Report, 7/24/04, pp. 345 & 457-458]
People and organizations involved: Federal Aviation Administration, US Department of Defense, Secret Service, Richard A. Clarke, Langley Air Force Base
          

June 29, 2001: Surveillance Indicates Al-Qaeda Will Attack Genoa Summit With More Than One Plane      Complete 911 Timeline

      
Abu Hamza al-Masri.
The Italian Secret Service SISDE records a meeting in the Finsbury Park mosque, in northern London, Britain. Sheikh Abu Hamza al-Masri (an Afghanistan war veteran heading a radical Islamic group), Mustapha Melki (linked to al-Qaeda member Abu Doha), and a man only known as Omar talk to each other. Notes of the meeting state, “Abu Hamza proposed an ambitious but unlikely plot which involved attacks carried by planes.” This is apparently a reference to an attack on the upcoming G8 summit in Genoa scheduled in several weeks. But unlike other reports of an al-Qaeda attack on that summit, this refers to an attack using more than one plane. The notes of the meeting conclude, “The belief that Osama bin Laden is plotting an attack is spreading among the radical Islamic groups.” [Discovery News, 9/13/01]
People and organizations involved: Abu Doha, Khalid el-Masri, al-Qaeda, Mustapha Melki, Secret Service, Osama bin Laden, Italian Secret Service
          

July 6, 2001: Clarke Briefs Senior Security Officials on al-Qaeda Threat      Complete 911 Timeline

       One day after heading a meeting on al-Qaeda with the Counterterrorism and Security Group, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke heads a similar meeting at the White House with senior security officials at the FAA, Immigration, Secret Service, Coast Guard, Customs, and other agencies. The CIA and FBI give briefings on the growing al-Qaeda threat. The CIA says al-Qaeda members “believe the upcoming attack will be ‘spectacular,’ qualitatively different from anything they have done to date.” [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)] Then Clarke says, “You've just heard that CIA thinks al-Qaeda is planning a major attack on us. So do I. You heard CIA say it would probably be in Israel or Saudi Arabia. Maybe. But maybe it will be here. Just because there is no evidence that says that it will be here, does not mean it will be overseas. They may try to hit us at home. You have to assume that is what they are going to do. Cancel summer vacations, schedule overtime, have your terrorist reaction teams on alert to move fast. Tell me, tell each other, about anything unusual.” [Clarke, 2004, pp 236] Despite this and other warnings to the FBI, the FBI continues to inform state and local agencies that the chances of a terrorist attack is low (see Summer 2001).
People and organizations involved: Federal Aviation Administration, Secret Service, Counterterrorism and Security Group, al-Qaeda, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, US Coast Guard, Richard A. Clarke, Immigration and Naturalization Service, US Customs Service
          

August 21, 2001: Local FBI Pleads with Headquarters to Warn Secret Service About Moussaoui      Complete 911 Timeline

       The Minnesota FBI office e-mails FBI headquarters on this day, saying it is “imperative” that the Secret Service be warned of the danger that a plot involving Zacarias Moussaoui might pose to the president's safety. However, no such warning is ever sent. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 10/17/02; New York Times, 10/18/02]
People and organizations involved: FBI Minnesota field office, George W. Bush, Zacarias Moussaoui, FBI Headquarters, Secret Service
          

Early September 2001: Unusually High Volume Trade of US Treasury Note Purchases      Complete 911 Timeline

       After 9/11, both the SEC and the Secret Service announce probes into an unusually high volume trade of five-year US Treasury note purchases around this time. These transactions include a single $5 billion trade. The Wall Street Journal explains: “Five-year Treasury notes are among the best investments in the event of a world crisis, especially one that hits the US. The notes are prized for their safety and their backing by the US government, and usually rally when investors flee riskier investments, such as stocks.” The value of these notes has risen sharply since the events of September 11. The article also points out that with these notes, “tracks would be hard to spot.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/2/01]
People and organizations involved: Securities and Exchange Commission, Secret Service
          

September 5-8, 2001: Raid on Arab Web Hosting Company Precedes 9/11 Attacks      Complete 911 Timeline

      
Infocom logo.
The Joint Terrorism Task Force conducts a three-day raid of the offices of InfoCom Corporation, a Texas-based company that hosts about 500 mostly Arab websites, including Al Jazeera, the Arab world's leading news channel. [Web Host Industry Review, 9/10/01; Guardian, 9/10/01] The task force includes agents from the FBI, Secret Service, and Diplomatic Security, as well as tax inspectors, immigration officials, customs officials, department of commerce officials, and computer experts. [Guardian, 9/10/01] The FBI declines to give a reason for the raid [NewsFactor Network, 9/7/01] , but a spokeswoman said it is not aimed at InfoCom's clients. [BBC, 9/7/01] The reasons for the raid “may never be known, because a judge ordered the warrant to be sealed.” [Web Host Industry Review, 9/10/01] Three days after the initial raid, the task force is “still busy inside the building, reportedly copying every hard disc they could find.” [Guardian, 9/10/01] InfoCom's offices are located in Richardson, a suburb of Dallas. Two charities in Richardson, The Global Relief Foundation Inc. and The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, have been investigated for possible ties to Palestinian militant organizations. [Boston Herald, 12/11/01] Five or six years earlier, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke had wanted to raid the Holy Land offices, but was prevented from doing so by the FBI and Treasury Department. [Clarke, 2004, pp 98] Not only are InfoCom and Holy Land across the road from each other, they are intimately connected through two brothers: Ghassan and Bayan Elashi. [Guardian, 9/10/01] Ghassan Elashi is both the vice president of InfoCom and chairman of Holy Land. [New York Times, 12/20/02] These two and others are later arrested on a variety of serious charges. Approximately one week before 9/11, Bank One closes Holy Land's checking accounts totaling about $13 million, possibly because of an investigation begun by the New York State Attorney General. [Dallas Business Journal, 9/7/01] The US freezes Holy Land's assets two months later (see December 4, 2001) for suspected terrorist associations. Holy Land is represented by Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, a Washington, D.C., law firm with unusually close ties to the Bush White House. [Washington Post, 12/17/01] In the Garland suburb adjoining Richardson, a fifth-grade boy apparently has foreknowledge of 9/11 (see September 10, 2001). [Houston Chronicle, 9/19/01]
People and organizations involved: Al Jazeera, Richard A. Clarke, Global Relief Foundation, Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, Bayan Elashi, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ghassan Elashi, Joint Terrorism Task Force, InfoCom Corporation, Secret Service
          

(6:00 a.m.): Bush Interview or Assassination Attempt?      Complete 911 Timeline

       President Bush has just spent the night at Colony Beach and Tennis Resort on Longboat Key, Florida. Surface-to-air missiles have been placed on the roof of the resort (it is not known if this was typical of presidential security before 9/11, or if this was related to increased terror warnings). [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/02] Bush wakes up around 6:00 a.m. and is preparing for his morning jog. [MSNBC, 10/27/02; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/01; New York Times, 9/16/01 (B)] A van occupied by men of Middle Eastern descent arrives at the Colony Beach Resort, stating they have a “poolside” interview with the president. They do not have an appointment and they are turned away. [Longboat Observer, 9/26/01] Some question whether this was an assassination attempt modeled on the one used on Afghan leader Ahmed Massoud two days earlier (see September 9, 2001). [Time, 8/4/02 (B)] Longboat Key Fire Marshal Carroll Mooneyhan was reported to have overheard the conversation between the men and the Secret Service, but he later denies the report. The newspaper that reported this, the Longboat Observer stands by its story. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/04] Witnesses recall seeing Mohamed Atta in the Longboat Key Holiday Inn a short distance from where Bush was staying as recently as September 7, the day Bush's Sarasota appearance was publicly announced. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/04; Longboat Observer, 11/21/01]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, Carroll Mooneyhan, Mohamed Atta, NBC, Secret Service
          

(After 8:46 a.m.): FAA Establishes Open Telephone Line with the Secret Service      Complete 911 Timeline

       Shortly after the WTC is hit, the FAA opens a telephone line with the Secret Service to keep the White House informed of all events. [Sources: Richard ("Dick") Cheney] A few days later, Vice President Cheney will state, “The Secret Service has an arrangement with the FAA. They had open lines after the World Trade Center was ...” (He stopped himself before finishing the sentence.) [MSNBC, 9/16/01]
People and organizations involved: Federal Aviation Administration, Secret Service
          

(After 9:03 a.m.): Secret Service Wants Fighters Scrambled from Andrews; None Are Ready to Fly      Complete 911 Timeline

       A few minutes after 9:03 a.m., a squadron pilot at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland (just ten miles from Washington), hears that two planes have crashed into the WTC. He calls a friend in the Secret Service to see what's going on. The Secret Service calls back, and asks whether Andrews can scramble fighters. According to weapons officer, Major Dan Caine, who takes this call, the Secret Service agent then tells them “to stand by and that somebody else [will] call.” Apparently anticipating the need, one commander has already started preparing weapons for the fighters. However, the weapons are located in a bunker on the other side of The Base, and the process takes time. The fighters don't take off for about another hour and a half (see (10:42 a.m.)). Apparently anticipating the need to launch fighters, one commander has already started preparing weapons for the fighters. However, the weapons are located in a bunker on the other side of the base, and the process takes time. Senior Master Sergeant David Bowman, 113th Wing munitions supervisor, says, “We were doing it as fast as we could, because for all we knew the terrorists were getting ready to hit us.” It normally takes three hours to get weapons from the storage sheds and load them onto the fighters. However, on this occasion, it is later claimed, it only takes 45 minutes. The fighters don't take off though for about another hour and a half (10:42 a.m.). Whilst the crew at Andrews are unloading missiles onto a flatbed trailer, Dan Caine answers another phone call from someone in the White House, requesting armed fighters over Washington. Caine says: “I could hear plain as day the vice president talking in the background. That's basically where we got the execute order. It was ‘VFR (Visual Flight Rules) direct.’” Meanwhile, there are also three unarmed F-16 fighters assigned to the Andrews base on a training mission 207 miles to the south in North Carolina. These are not recalled until much later, and don't reach Washington until 10:45 a.m. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/02; Air War Over America, by Leslie Filson, 1/04, pp 78,84] NORAD commander Major General Larry Arnold has said, “We [didn't] have any aircraft on alert at Andrews.” [MSNBC, 9/23/01 (C)] However, prior to 9/11, the District of Columbia Air National Guard [DCANG] based at Andrews had a publicly stated mission “to provide combat units in the highest possible state of readiness.” Prior to 9/11, the mission statement was posted on the D.C. National Guard's public website. Shortly after 9/11, this mission statement is removed and replaced by a DCANG “vision” to “provide peacetime command and control and administrative mission oversight to support customers, DCANG units, and NGB in achieving the highest levels of readiness.” [DCANG Home Page]
People and organizations involved: District of Columbia Air National Guard, Larry Arnold, Andrews Air Force Base, Secret Service
          

(9:05 a.m.): Clarke, Cheney, and Rice Talk, Clarke's Recommendation to Evacuate White House Is Ignored      Complete 911 Timeline

       Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is driving up to a gate outside the White House when an aide calls and tells him, “The other tower was just hit.” He responds, “Well, now we know who we're dealing with. I want the highest level person in Washington from each agency on-screen now, especially the FAA.” He has already ordered this aide to set up a secure video conference, about five minutes earlier. A few minutes later, he finds Vice President Cheney and National Security Adviser Rice in Vice President Cheney's White House office. Cheney tells Clarke, “It's an al-Qaeda attack and they like simultaneous attacks. This may not be over.” Rice asks Clarke for recommendations, and he says, “We're putting together a secure teleconference to manage the crisis.” He also recommends evacuating the White House (However, evacuation does not begin until 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.)), after a critical 40 minutes has passed). Rice notes the Secret Service wants them to go to the bomb shelter below the White House, and as Clarke leaves the other two, he sees Rice and Cheney gathering papers and preparing to evacuate. [Clarke, 2004, pp 1-2; Australian, 3/27/04]
People and organizations involved: Secret Service, Condoleezza Rice, al-Qaeda, Richard A. Clarke, Richard ("Dick") Cheney, Federal Aviation Administration
          

(9:06 a.m.): Bush Told WTC Hit Again and America's Under Attack; He Continues Photo-Op      Complete 911 Timeline

      
Andrew Card speaks to President Bush and tells him of the second World Trade Center crash.
President Bush is in a Booker Elementary School second-grader classroom. His chief of staff, Andrew Card, enters the room and whispers into his ear, “A second plane hit the other tower, and America's under attack.” [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/01; Albuquerque Tribune, 9/10/02; Washington Times, 10/8/02; New York Times, 9/16/01 (B); ABC News, 9/11/02] Intelligence expert James Bamford describes Bush's reaction: “Immediately [after Card speaks to Bush] an expression of befuddlement passe[s] across the president's face. Then, having just been told that the country was under attack, the commander in chief appear[s] uninterested in further details. He never ask[s] if there had been any additional threats, where the attacks were coming from, how to best protect the country from further attacks. ... Instead, in the middle of a modern-day Pearl Harbor, he simply turn[s] back to the matter at hand: the day's photo-op.” [Bamford, 2002, pp 633] Bush begins listening to a story about a goat. But despite the pause and change in children's exercises, as one newspaper put it, “For some reason, Secret Service agents [do] not bustle him away.” [Globe and Mail, 9/12/01] Bush later says of the experience, “I am very aware of the cameras. I'm trying to absorb that knowledge. I have nobody to talk to. I'm sitting in the midst of a classroom with little kids, listening to a children's story and I realize I'm the commander in chief and the country has just come under attack.” [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/01] Bush listens to the goat story for about ten more minutes. The reason given is that, “Without all the facts at hand, George Bush ha[s] no intention of upsetting the schoolchildren who had come to read for him.” [MSNBC, 10/29/02] Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport is only three and a half miles away. In fact, the elementary school was chosen for the photo-op partly because of its closeness to the airport. [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/12/02] Why the Secret Service does not move Bush away from his publicized location that morning remains unclear.
People and organizations involved: Secret Service, James Bamford, Andrew Card, George W. Bush
          

(9:10 a.m.): Rice and Cheney Apparently Go to White House Bunker; Other Accounts Have Cheney Moving Locations Later      Complete 911 Timeline

       According to counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke and others, Vice President Cheney goes from his White House office to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), a bunker in the East Wing of the White House, at about this time. National Security Adviser Rice, after initiating a video conference with Richard Clarke in the West Wing, goes to the PEOC to be with Cheney. There is no video link between response centers in the East and West Wings, but a secure telephone line is used instead. [Clarke, 2004, pp 3-4; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/01; ABC News, 9/14/02 (B); New York Times, 9/16/01 (B)] One eyewitness account, David Bohrer, a White House photographer, says Cheney leaves for the PEOC just after 9:00 a.m. [ABC News, 9/14/02 (B)] However, there is a second account claiming that Cheney doesn't leave until sometime after 9:30 a.m. In this account, Secret Service agents burst into Cheney's White House office. They carry him under his arms—nearly lifting him off the ground—and propel him down the steps into the White House basement and through a long tunnel toward an underground bunker. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04; MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B); New York Times, 10/16/01; Washington Post, 1/27/02; BBC, 9/1/02; Newsweek, 12/31/01] At about the same time, National Security Adviser Rice is told to go to the bunker as well. [ABC News, 9/11/02] In addition to the eyewitness accounts of Clarke and Bohrer, ABC News claims that Cheney is in the bunker when he is told Flight 77 is 50 miles away from Washington at 9:27 a.m., suggesting that accounts of Cheney entering the bunker after 9:27 a.m. are likely incorrect.
People and organizations involved: David Bohrer, Secret Service, Condoleezza Rice, Richard A. Clarke, Richard ("Dick") Cheney
          

(9:30 a.m.): Clarke Asks Cheney's Bunker for Air Force One Fighter Escort and Shootdown Authorization; Neither Happen for Some Time      Complete 911 Timeline

       As President Bush begins a speech in Florida, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke orders all US embassies overseas closed and orders all military bases to an alert level named Combat Threatcon. Over the next few minutes, Clarke discusses with aides where Bush should go from Sarasota, Florida. He telephones PEOC, the command bunker containing Vice President Cheney and National Security Adviser Rice, and says, “Somebody has to tell the president he can't come right back here [to Washington]. Cheney, Condi, somebody, Secret Service concurs. We do not want them saying where they are going when they take off. Second, when they take off, they should have fighter escort. Three, we need to authorize the Air Force to shoot down any aircraft—including a hijacked passenger flight—that looks like it is threatening to attack and cause large-scale death on the ground. Got it?” [Clarke, 2004, pp 5-7] However, when Bush departs on Air Force One about half an hour later, there are no fighter escorts, and none appear for an hour or so. In addition, if Clarke requests authorization for a shootdown order at this time, it is apparently ignored; neither President Bush nor Vice President Cheney give shootdown authorization for at least another 30 minutes (see (Between 10:00-10:15 a.m.)).
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, Richard A. Clarke, Richard ("Dick") Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Secret Service
          

9:32 a.m.: Cheney Is Notified That Flight 77 Is Headed To Washington      Complete 911 Timeline

      
Vice President Cheney pointing a finger inside the Presidential Emergency Operations Center. Footage of the World Trade Center plays on the televisions in the background (exact time is unknown).
According to the 9/11 Commission, the Dulles Airport terminal control facility in Washington has been looking for unidentified primary radar blips since 9:21 a.m. (see 9:21 a.m.) and now finds one. Several Dulles flight controllers “observed a primary radar target tracking eastbound at a high rate of speed” and notify Reagan Airport. FAA personnel at both Reagan and Dulles airports notify the Secret Service. The identity or aircraft type is unknown. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] However, other accounts place the discovery of this plane by Dulles around 9:24 a.m. (see (9:24 a.m.)) or 9:30 a.m. (see (9:30 a.m.)), and Vice President Cheney is told radar is tracking Flight 77 at 9:27 a.m. (see (9:27 a.m.)).
People and organizations involved: Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Richard ("Dick") Cheney, Secret Service, Washington Dulles International Airport, Federal Aviation Administration
          

(9:33-9:37 a.m.): Eyewitness Reports Indicate There Was No Loss of Control on Flight 77      Complete 911 Timeline

       Radar data shows Flight 77 crossing the Capitol Beltway and headed toward the Pentagon. However, the plane, flying more than 400 mph, is too high when it nears the Pentagon at 9:35 a.m., crossing the Pentagon at about 7,000 feet up. [Boston Globe, 11/23/01; CBS News, 9/21/01] The plane then makes a difficult high-speed descending turn. It makes a “downward spiral, turning almost a complete circle and dropping the last 7,000 feet in two-and-a-half minutes. The steep turn is so smooth, the sources say, it's clear there [is] no fight for control going on.” [CBS News, 9/21/01] It gets very near the White House during this turn. “Sources say the hijacked jet ... [flies] several miles south of the restricted airspace around the White House.” [CBS News, 9/21/01] The Daily Telegraph later writes, “If the airliner had approached much nearer to the White House it might have been shot down by the Secret Service, who are believed to have a battery of ground-to-air Stinger missiles ready to defend the president's home. The Pentagon is not similarly defended.” [Daily Telegraph, 9/16/01] White House spokesman Ari Fleischer suggests the plane goes even closer to the White House, saying, “That is not the radar data that we have seen. The plane was headed toward the White House.” [CBS News, 9/21/01 Sources: Ari Fleischer]
People and organizations involved: Pentagon, Secret Service
          

(9:34 a.m.): Bush Leaves Booker Elementary School for Sarasota Airport; Possible Threat En Route      Complete 911 Timeline

      
Bush speaks on a cell phone while sitting next to Andrew Card as his motorcade travels to the Sarasota airport.
President Bush's motorcade leaves Booker Elementary School and heads toward Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/01; Washington Times, 10/8/02; Wall Street Journal, 3/22/04] A few days after 9/11, Sarasota's main newspaper reports, “Sarasota barely skirted its own disaster. As it turns out, terrorists targeted the president and Air Force One on Tuesday, maybe even while they were on the ground in Sarasota and certainly not long after. The Secret Service learned of the threat just minutes after Bush left Booker Elementary.” [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/16/01] Kevin Down, a Sarasota police officer at the scene, recalls, “I thought they were actually anticipating a terrorist attack on the president while we were en route.” [BBC, 8/30/02] ABC News reporter Ann Compton, who is part of the motorcade, recalls, “It was a mad-dash motorcade out to the airport.” [BBC, 9/1/02] A year later, Chief of Staff Andrew Card says, “As we were heading to Air Force One, we did hear about the Pentagon attack, and we also learned, what turned out to be a mistake, but we learned that the Air Force One package could in fact be a target.” [MSNBC, 9/9/02]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, Andrew Card, Kevin Down, Ann Compton, Secret Service
          

(Before 9:37 a.m.): Sheer Coincidence Brings Emergency Rescue and Secret Service Near to Pentagon      Complete 911 Timeline

       In response to an emergency 9-1-1 telephone call, the Arlington County Emergency Communications Center dispatches several units to deal with an apartment fire in Rosslyn, Virginia—within the vicinity of the Pentagon. Because this fire is in a high-rise building, nine different fire and medical service units are dispatched. However, the first engine crew to arrive radios to the other units that the fire has gone out. Consequently, by “sheer coincidence,” at the time when the Pentagon is hit, there are a significant number of available fire and medical service units already on the road nearby. [Arlington County After-Action Report, 7/02; Fire Engineering, 11/02] Additionally, Secret Service personnel are concentrated around the heliport a short distance from where Flight 77 will hit: “President Bush was scheduled to fly from Florida that afternoon, and his helicopter, Marine One, would carry him to the Pentagon. That meant Secret Service everywhere and their cars blocking the driveway.” [Scripps Howard News Service, 8/1/02]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, Pentagon, Secret Service
          

(9:45 a.m.): Bush Aides Debate Where to Fly Air Force Once      Complete 911 Timeline

       According to the 9/11 Commission, Chief of Staff Andrew Card, the lead Secret Service agent, the president's military aide, and Air Force One pilot Colonel Mark Tillman, confer on a possible destination for Air Force One around this time. According to witnesses, some support President Bush's desire to return to Washington, but the others advise against it. The issue is still not decided when Air Force One takes off around 9:55 a.m. (see (9:56 a.m.)). [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, Mark Tillman, Secret Service, Andrew Card
          

(9:52 a.m.): Lynne Cheney Joins Husband in White House Bunker; Vice President Repeatedly Hangs up Clarke Telephone      Complete 911 Timeline

      
Lynne Cheney.
According to the 9/11 Commission, Lynne Cheney joins her husband, Vice President Cheney, in the PEOC (Presidential Emergency Operations Center) bunker below the White House. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] She had been at a downtown office around 9:00 a.m. when she was escorted by the Secret Service to the White House. [Newsweek, 12/31/01] Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke describes the people in the PEOC as “decidedly more political” than those in his bunker below the other wing of the White House. In addition to Cheney and his wife, most of the day the PEOC contains National Security Adviser Rice, political adviser Mary Matalin, Cheney's Chief of Staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Deputy White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, and White House Communications Director Karen Hughes. Clarke is told later in the day by someone else in the PEOC, “I can't hear the crisis conference [led by Clarke] because Mrs. Cheney keeps turning down the volume on you so she can hear CNN ... and the vice president keeps hanging up the open line to you.” Clarke notes that the “right-wing ideologue” Lynne Cheney frequently offers her advice and opinions during the crisis. [Clarke, 2004, pp 18]
People and organizations involved: Karen Hughes, Richard ("Dick") Cheney, Lynne Cheney, Secret Service, Mary Matalin, Joshua Bolten, Lewis ("Scooter") Libby, Richard A. Clarke, Condoleezza Rice
          

(After 9:55 a.m.): Langley Fighters Receive Vague Order to Protect White House      Complete 911 Timeline

       The Langley F-16s headed to Washington are told that all planes in the US have been ordered to land (that command was given at 9:45 a.m.). According to the New York Times, at some point after this, someone from the Secret Service gets on the radio and tells the pilots, “I want you to protect the White House at all costs.” [New York Times, 10/16/01] F-16 pilot Honey (who is apparently Captain Craig Borgstrom) gives a similar, though less dramatic, account. At some point after the F-16s had set up a defensive perimeter over Washington, the lead pilot (again, Borgstrom) receives a garbled message about Flight 93 that isn't heard by the other two pilots. “The message seemed to convey that the White House was an important asset to protect.” Honey says he is later told the message is, “Something like, ‘Be aware of where it is, and it could be a target.’ ” Another pilot, codenamed Lou, says Honey tells him, “I think the Secret Service told me this.” [Longman, 2002, pp 76] Both Lou and Honey state they are never given clear and direct orders to shoot down any plane that day. [Longman, 2002, pp 222]
People and organizations involved: Secret Service, Craig Borgstrom
          

(9:56-10:40 a.m.): Air Force One Takes Off, Then Flies in Circles While Bush and Cheney Argue      Complete 911 Timeline

       Air Force One takes off and quickly gains altitude. One passenger later says, “It was like a rocket. For a good ten minutes, the plane was going almost straight up.” [CBS News, 9/11/02 (B)] Once the plane reaches cruising altitude, it flies in circles. Journalists on board sense this because the television reception for a local station generally remains good. “Apparently Bush, Cheney, and the Secret Service argue over the safety of Bush coming back to Washington.” [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/01; Salon, 9/12/01 (B)] For much of the day Bush is plagued by connectivity problems in trying to call Cheney and others. He is forced to use an ordinary cell phone instead of his secure phone. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]
People and organizations involved: Richard ("Dick") Cheney, George W. Bush, Secret Service
          

10:02 a.m.: Secret Service Warns Cheney Hijackers Are Headed Toward Washington      Complete 911 Timeline

       Vice President Cheney and other leaders now in the White House bunker begin receiving reports from the Secret Service of a presumably hijacked aircraft heading toward Washington. The Secret Service is getting this information about Flight 93 through links to the FAA. However, they are looking at a projected path, not an actual radar return, so they do not realize that the plane crashes minutes later. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]
People and organizations involved: Richard ("Dick") Cheney, Secret Service, Federal Aviation Administration
          

10:03 a.m.: NMCC Learns of Flight 93 Hijacking, NORAD Still Not Told      Complete 911 Timeline

       According to the 9/11 Commission, the NMCC learns about the Flight 93 hijacking at this time. Since the FAA has not yet been patched in to the NMCC's conference call, the news comes from the White House. The White House learned about it from the Secret Service, and the Secret Service learned about it from the FAA. NORAD apparently is still unaware. Four minutes later, a NORAD representative on the conference call states, “NORAD has no indication of a hijack heading to Washington, D.C., at this time.” [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]
People and organizations involved: Federal Aviation Administration, National Military Command Center, Secret Service
          

(After 10:06 a.m.): Clarke Updated on Fighter Situation, Told Flight 93 Still Headed Toward Washington      Complete 911 Timeline

       Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is told by an aide, “Secret Service reports a hostile aircraft ten minutes out.” Two minutes later, he is given an update: “Hostile aircraft eight minutes out.” In actual fact, when Flight 93 crashes at 10:06 a.m., it's still about 15 minutes away from Washington. Clarke is also told that there are 3,900 aircraft still in the air over the Continental US (which is roughly accurate); four of those aircraft are believed to be piloted by terrorists (which is inaccurate by this time). Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Richard Myers then reports, “We have three F-16s from Langley over the Pentagon. Andrews is launching fighters from the D.C. Air National Guard. We have fighters aloft from the Michigan Air National Guard, moving east toward a potential hostile over Pennsylvania. Six fighters from Tyndall and Ellington are en route to rendezvous with Air Force One over Florida. They will escort it to Barksdale.” [NORAD, 9/18/01; Clarke, 2004, pp 8-9] However, fighters do not meet up with Air Force One until about an hour later. Franklin Miller, a senior national security official who worked alongside Clarke on 9/11, and another official there, later fail to recall hearing any aide warning that a plane could be only minutes away. [New York Times, 3/30/04 (B)] The time of this incident is not given, but the Michigan fighters are not diverted until after 10:06 a.m. (see (After 10:06 a.m.)). If this takes place after 10:06 a.m., it would parallel similar warnings about Flight 93 after it has already crashed provided to Vice President Cheney elsewhere in the White House.
People and organizations involved: Richard B. Myers, Secret Service, Franklin Miller, Richard A. Clarke
          

(Between 10:10-10:15 a.m.): Cheney, Told That Flight 93 Is Still Heading to Washington, Orders It Shot Down      Complete 911 Timeline

       The Secret Service, viewing projected path information about Flight 93, rather than actual radar returns, does not realize that Flight 93 has already crashed. Based on this erroneous information, a military aide tells Vice President Cheney and others in the White House bunker that the plane is 80 miles away from Washington. Cheney is asked for authority to engage the plane, and he quickly provides authorization. The aide returns a few minutes later and says the plane is 60 miles out. Cheney again gives authorization to engage. A few minutes later and presumably after the flight has crashed or been shot down, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten suggests Cheney contact President Bush to confirm the engage order. Bolten later tells the 9/11 Commission that he had not heard any prior discussion on the topic with Bush, and wanted to make sure Bush knew. Apparently, Cheney calls Bush and obtains confirmation. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] However, there is controversy over whether Bush approved a shootdown before this incident or whether Cheney gave himself the authority to make the decision on the spot. As Newsweek notes, it is moot point in one sense, since the decision was made on false data and there is no plane to shoot down. [Newsweek, 6/20/04]
People and organizations involved: Joshua Bolten, Richard ("Dick") Cheney, George W. Bush, Secret Service
          

(Before 10:36 a.m.): Andrews Fighters Ordered to Shoot Down Threatening Planes Over Washington      Complete 911 Timeline

      
David Wherley.
A Secret Service agent again contacts Andrews Air Force Base and commands, “Get in the air now!” It's not clear if this is treated as an official scramble order, or how quickly fighters respond to it. According to fighter pilot Lieutenant Colonel Marc Sasseville, almost simultaneously, a call from someone else in the White House declares the Washington area “a free-fire zone. That meant we were given authority to use force, if the situation required it, in defense of the nation's capital, its property, and people.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/02] Apparently, this second call is made to General David Wherley, flight commander of the Air National Guard at Andrews, who has made several phone calls this morning, seeking airborne authorization for his fighters. Wherley had contacted the Secret Service after hearing reports that it wanted fighters airborne. One Secret Service agent, using two telephones at once, relays instructions to Wherley from another Secret Service agent in the White House who has been given the instructions from Vice President Cheney. Wherley's fighters are to protect the White House and shoot down any planes that threaten Washington. Wherley gives Lieutenant Colonel Marc Sasseville, lead pilot, the authority to decide whether to execute a shootdown. According to a different account, during this call Wherley is speaking with a woman in the Secret Service's command and control center at the White House. Wherley says, “She was standing next to the vice president (Dick Cheney) and she said, ‘They want you to put a CAP up.’ Basically what they told me, and this is another one of those things that's clear in my mind � ‘We want you to intercept any airplane that attempts to fly closer than 20 miles around any airport around the Washington area. � Attempt to turn them away, do whatever you can to turn them away and if they won't turn away use whatever force is necessary � to keep them from hitting a building downtown.’” President Bush and Vice President Cheney later claim they were not aware that any fighters had scrambled from Andrews at the request of the Secret Service. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04; Air War Over America, by Leslie Filson, 1/04, pp 79] Sasseville and the pilot code-named Lucky will take off at 10:42 a.m. (see (10:42 a.m.))
People and organizations involved: Richard ("Dick") Cheney, Marc Sasseville, David Wherley, Andrews Air Force Base, George W. Bush, Secret Service
          

(Between 10:55-11:41 a.m.): Fighter Escort Finally Reaches Air Force One? Reports Conflict      Complete 911 Timeline

      
President Bush (center, bending) and others look out the windows of Air Force One as their fighter escort arrives.
No fighters escort President Bush's Air Force One until around this time, but accounts conflict. At 10:32 a.m., Vice President Cheney said it would take until about 11:10 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. to get a fighter escort to Air Force One. [Washington Post, 1/27/02] However, according to one account, around 10:00 a.m., Air Force One “is joined by an escort of F-16 fighters from a base near Jacksonville, Florida.” [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/01] Another report states, “At 10:41 [am.] ... Air Force One headed toward Jacksonville to meet jets scrambled to give the presidential jet its own air cover.” [New York Times, 9/16/01 (B)] But apparently, when Air Force One takes evasive action around 10:55 a.m., there is still no fighter escort. NORAD commander Major General Larry Arnold later says, “We scrambled available airplanes from Tyndall [near Tallahassee and not near Jacksonville, Florida] and then from Ellington in Houston, Texas,” but he does not say when this occurs. [Code One Magazine, 1/02 Sources: Larry Arnold] In yet another account, two F16s eventually arrive, piloted by Shane Brotherton and Randy Roberts, from Ellington, not from any Florida base. [CBS News, 9/11/02] The St. Petersburg Times, after interviewing people on Air Force One, estimate the first fighters, from Texas, arrive between 11:00 and 11:20. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/04] By 11:30 a.m., there are six fighters protecting Air Force One. [Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/01] The BBC, however, reports that the Ellington, Texas, fighters are scrambled at 11:30 a.m., and quotes ABC reporter Ann Compton, inside Air Force One, saying fighters appear out the windows at 11:41 a.m. [BBC, 9/1/02] Given that two of the seven bases said to have fighters on alert on 9/11 are in Florida (Homestead Air Station, 185 miles from Sarasota; and Tyndall Air Station, 235 miles from Sarasota), why a fighter escort does not reach Air Force One earlier remains unclear. Philip Melanson, author of a book on the Secret Service, comments, “I can't imagine by what glitch the protection was not provided to Air Force One as soon as it took off. I would have thought there'd be something in place whereby one phone call from the head of the security would get the fighters in the air immediately.” [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/04]
People and organizations involved: Randy Roberts, Ann Compton, Shane Brotherton, Secret Service, George W. Bush
          

October 7, 2001: Stolen 9/11 Documents Appear in Mysterious Circumstances      Complete 911 Timeline

       On this day, Zeljko E., a Kosovar Serb, enters a Hamburg, Germany, police station and says he wants to turn himself in. He tells the police that he has robbed a business and stolen piles of paper written in Arabic, with the hopes of selling them. A friend of his told him that they relate to the 9/11 attacks. The 44 pounds of papers are translated and they prove to be a “treasure trove.” The documents come from Mamoun Darkazanli's files, which were not in Darkazanli's apartment when police raided it two days after 9/11. “It makes for a great story. A petty thief pilfers files containing critical information about the largest terrorist attack in history and dutifully turns them over to the police. [But German] agents do not buy this story for a minute; they suspect that some other Secret Service was trying to find a way of getting evidence into [their] hands. The question is, whose Secret Service?” Some German investigators later suggest that the CIA was responsible; there are also reports that the FBI illegally monitored Darkazanli after 9/11. [Der Spiegel, 10/27/01; Der Spiegel, 2002, pp 166-67; Chicago Tribune, 11/17/02]
People and organizations involved: Der Spiegel, Germany, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Secret Service, Central Intelligence Agency
          

November 25, 2002: Bush Creates Department of Homeland Security      Complete 911 Timeline

      
This Homeland Security department logo of an eye peeking through a keyhole was copyrighted but apparently not used.
President Bush signs legislation creating the Department of Homeland Security. Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge is promoted to Secretary of Homeland Security. The Department will consolidate nearly 170,000 workers from 22 agencies, including the Coast Guard, the Secret Service, the federal security guards in airports, and the Customs Service. [New York Times, 11/26/02 (C); Los Angeles Times, 11/26/02] However, the FBI and CIA, the two most prominent anti-terrorism agencies, will not be part of Homeland Security. [New York Times, 11/20/02] The department wants to be active by March 1, 2003, but “it's going to take years to integrate all these different entities into an efficient and effective organization.” [New York Times, 11/20/02; Los Angeles Times, 11/26/02] Some 9/11 victims' relatives are angry over sections inserted into the legislation at the last minute. Airport screening companies will be protected from lawsuits filed by family members of 9/11 victims. Kristen Breitweiser, whose husband died in the WTC, says, “We were down there lobbying last week and trying to make the case that this will hurt us, but they did it anyway. It's just a slap in the face to the victims.” [New York Times, 11/26/02 (B)]
People and organizations involved: Tom Ridge, Department of Homeland Security, Secret Service, US Coast Guard, George W. Bush, US Customs Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Kristen Breitweiser, Relatives of September 11 Victims, Central Intelligence Agency
          

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