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Day of 911

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Bush on 9/11
Flight AA 11
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Complete 911 Timeline


Project: Complete 911 Timeline

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Showing 1-100 of 404 events (use filters to narrow search):    next 100

September 11, 2001 (N)

       A few hours after the attacks, German intelligence intercepts a phone conversation between followers of bin Laden that leads the FBI to search frantically for two more teams of suicide hijackers, according to US and German officials. The Germans overhear the terrorists refer to “the 30 people traveling for the operation.” The FBI scours flight manifests and any other clues for more conspirators still at large. [New York Times, 9/29/01] Two days later, authorities claim to have identified teams that total as many as 50 infiltrators who supported or carried out the strikes. About forty are accounted for as dead or in custody; ten are missing. They also believe a total of 27 suspected terrorists received some form of pilot training. This corresponds with many analyses that the attacks would have needed a large support network. [Los Angeles Times, 9/13/01] Even 50 may be a gross underestimate (see September 19, 2001). Yet so far, only one person, Moussaoui, has been identified and charged as an accomplice, and a report in October suggests no one else arrested has been connected to the 9/11 attacks (see October 20, 2001). What happened to the rest of the 40 or 50?

September 11-16, 2001

       ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed, extending his Washington visit because of the 9/11 attacks (see September 4-11, 2001 and September 11, 2001 (H)) [Japan Economic Newswire, 9/17/01], meets with US officials and negotiates Pakistan's cooperation with the US against al-Qaeda. It is rumored that later in the day on 9/11 and again the next day, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage visits Mahmood and offers him the choice: “Help us and breathe in the 21st century along with the international community or be prepared to live in the Stone Age.” [Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 9/12, LA Weekly, 11/9/01] Secretary of State Powell presents Mahmood seven demands as an ultimatum and Pakistan supposedly agrees to all seven. [Washington Post, 1/29/02] Mahmood also has meetings with Senator Joseph Biden (D), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Secretary of State Powell, regarding Pakistan's position. [Miami Herald, 9/16/01, , Reuters, 9/13/01, Associated Press, 9/13/01] On September 13, the airport in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, is shut down for the day. A government official later says the airport had been closed because of threats made against Pakistan's “strategic assets,” but doesn't elaborate. The next day, Pakistan declares “unstinting” support for the US, and the airport is reopened. It is later suggested that Israel and India threatened to attack Pakistan and take control of its nuclear weapons if Pakistan didn't side with the US (see also September 14, 2001 (approx.)). [LA Weekly, 11/9/01] Was war with Pakistan narrowly averted? It is later reported that Mahmood's presence in Washington was a lucky blessing; one Western diplomat saying it “must have helped in a crisis situation when the US was clearly very, very angry.” [Financial Times, 9/18/01] Was it luck he was there, or did Mahmood—later reported to have ordered $100,000 wired to the 9/11 hijackers (see Early August 2001 (D) and October 7, 2001) - know when the 9/11 attack would happen?

September 11, 2001 (U)

       Later in the day, weapons are found planted on board three other US airplanes. A US official says of the hijackings: “These look like inside jobs.” “Sources tell Time that US officials are investigating whether the hijackers had accomplices deep inside the airports' ‘secure’areas.” [Time, 9/22/01] Penetrating security doesn't appear to have been that difficult: Argenbright, the company in charge of security at all the airports used by the 9/11 hijackers, had virtually no security check on any of their employees, and even hired criminals and illegal immigrants. Security appears to have particularly abysmal at Boston's Logan Airport, even after 9/11. [CNN, 10/12/01, Boston Globe, 10/1/01] Could the reason that no footage of the hijackers boarding the planes they would hijack has been released be that the hijackers entered the airplanes via back doors with the help of accomplices?

September 11, 2001 (G)

September 11, 2001: The World Trade Center, Pentagon, and Flight 93 crash.
The 9/11 attack: four planes are hijacked, two crash into the WTC, one into the Pentagon, and one crashes into the Pennsylvania countryside. At least 3,000 people are killed. A more detailed timeline focusing on the hours of this attack appears on a separate page. According to officials, the entire US is defended by only 14 fighters (two planes each in seven military bases). [Dallas Morning News, 9/16/01] And “they no longer included any bases close to two obvious terrorist targets—Washington, DC, and New York City.” A defense official says: “I don't think any of us envisioned an internal air threat by big aircraft. I don't know of anybody that ever thought through that.” [Newsday 9/23/01]

September 11, 2001 (E)

       Data recovery experts later looking at 32 hard drives salvaged from the 9/11 attacks discover a surge in credit card transactions from the WTC in the hours before and during the attacks. Unusually large sums of money were rushed through computers even as the disaster unfolded. Investigators say, “There is a suspicion that some people had advance knowledge of the approximate time of the plane crashes in order to move out amounts exceeding $100 million. They thought that the records of their transactions could not be traced after the main frames were destroyed.” [Reuters 12/19/01]

September 11, 2001 (J)

       Zacarias Moussaoui watches the 9/11 attack on TV inside a prison, where he is being held on immigration charges. He cheers the attacks. [BBC, 12/12/01] Within an hour of the attacks, the Minnesota FBI uses a memo written to FBI headquarters shortly after Moussaoui's arrest to ask permission from a judge for the search warrant they have been desperately seeking. Even after the attacks, FBI headquarters is still attempting to block the search of Moussaoui's computer, characterizing the WTC attacks as a mere coincidence with suspicions about Moussaoui (the person still trying to block the search is later promoted). [Time, 5/21/02] However, a federal judge approves the warrant that afternoon. [New Yorker, 9/30/02] Minnesota FBI agent Coleen Rowley notes that this very memo was previously deemed insufficient by FBI headquarters to get a search warrant, and the fact that they are immediately granted one when finally allowed to ask shows “the missing piece of probable cause was only the [FBI headquarters'] failure to appreciate that such an event could occur.” [Time 5/21/02] The search uncovers information suggesting Moussaoui may have been planning an attack using crop dusters, but it doesn't turn up any direct connection to the 9/11 hijackers. However, they find some German telephone numbers and the name “Ahad Sabet.” The numbers allow them to determine the name is an alias for Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Atta's former roommate, and they find he wired Moussaoui money. They also find a document connecting Moussaoui with the Malaysian Yazid Sufaat, a lead that could have led to hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi (see September-October 2000). [New Yorker, 9/30/02, MSNBC, 12/11/01] Rowley later suggests that if they would had received the search warrant sooner, “There is at least some chance that … may have limited the Sept. 11th attacks and resulting loss of life.” [Time 5/27/02]

September 11, 2001 (O)

       A National Public Radio correspondent states: “I spoke with Congressman Ike Skelton—a Democrat from Missouri and a member of the Armed Services Committee—who said that just recently the director of the CIA warned that there could be an attack—an imminent attack— on the United States of this nature. So this is not entirely unexpected.” [NPR 9/11/01] This dramatically contradicts what CIA Director Tenet has told the American public.

September 11, 2001 (Y)

       Some White House personnel, including Vice President Cheney's staff, are given Cipro, the anti-anthrax drug, and told to take it regularly on the evening after the attacks. [AP 10/24/01] Judicial Watch later sues the Bush Administration to release documents showing who knew what and when, and why Presidential staff were protected while Senators, Congresspeople and others were not. [AP, 6/9/02] [FTW]

September 11, 2001 (S)

       Two of Atta's bags from an early flight from Portland are not loaded onto Flight 11 and are discovered. They contain a handheld electronic flight computer, a simulator procedures manual for Boeing 757 and 767 aircraft, two videotapes relating to “air tours” of the Boeing 757 and 747 aircraft, a slide-rule flight calculator, a copy of the Koran, Atta's passport, his international driver's license, a religious cassette tape, airline uniforms, a letter of recommendation, “education related documentation”, a note to other hijackers on how to mentally prepare for the hijacking, and Atta's will (written in 1996). [AP, 10/5/01, Sydney Morning Herald, 9/15/01, Boston Globe, 9/18/01, Independent, 9/29/01, (see also an FBI affidavit that omits certain items, like the uniforms and the how-to note)] A New Yorker reporter later writes, “many of the investigators believe that some of the initial clues that were uncovered about the terrorists' identities and preparations, such as flight manuals, were meant to be found. A former high-level intelligence official told me, ‘Whatever trail was left was left deliberately—for the FBI to chase.’ ” [New Yorker, 10/1/01] Why would Atta have brought his will onto a plane he knew would be destroyed? Why would the airline uniforms be where they couldn't be used in the hijacking? In fact, why bring anything at all unless it is to leave it behind and send a message? Atta checked his bags through to his final destination while at Portland, so how could he have known they would be left behind to be found?

September 11, 2001 (R)

       Explosives expert Van Romero says: “My opinion is, based on the videotapes, that after the airplanes hit the World Trade Center there were some explosive devices inside the buildings that caused the towers to collapse.” The collapse of the buildings appears “too methodical” to be a chance result of airplanes colliding with the structures. [Albuquerque Journal 9/11/01] However, Romero, who says he was on his way to the Pentagon to seek Pentagon research funding when the attack hit, reverses his stance 10 days later. [Albuquerque Journal, 9/21/01] Might his need for government funding have played a role in his change of heart?

September 11, 2001

       Warren Buffett, possibly the second richest man on Earth [Salon, 8/31/99], schedules a morning charity event inside Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. A number of CEOs who would otherwise have been in the WTC attend. Attendees had just arrived when the first WTC attack occurs. This base is the center of the nation's military defenses, and the same base that Bush will fly to later in the day. The timing, probable attendance, and location of the meeting is curious, to say the least, as is the total lack of any mention of the meeting anywhere, except for one aside by a business leader (Anne Tatlock, CEO and President of Fiduciary and Franklin)explaining why she survived the WTC attack. [San Francisco Business Times 2/1/02]

September 11, 2001 (M)

       It is later revealed that only hours after the 9/11 attacks, a US “shadow government” is formed. Initially deployed “on the fly”, executive directives on government continuity in the face of a crisis dating back to the Reagan administration are put into effect. Approximately 100 midlevel officials are moved to underground bunkers and stay there 24 hours a day. Officials rotate in and out on a 90-day cycle. When its existence is revealed, some controversy arises because of the exclusion of any Democrats from it. In fact, top Congressional Democrats had never even heard of it until journalists broke the story months later. [Washington Post 3/1/02; CBS 3/2/02]

Before September 11, 2001

       In a story seemingly unreported anywhere else, the New York Post later claims that a series of hoax anthrax letters is sent out from Indianapolis, Indiana, at some point not long before 9/11. The FBI allowed the Post to see copies of these letters, which had handwriting and other features remarkably similar to the later letters containing real anthrax. [New York Post 11/1/01]

September 11, 2001 (AA)

       An unnamed, young, Middle Eastern man flying from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Detroit is arrested after his plane is diverted to Toronto, Canada. He is apparently found to be carrying a flight jacket, Palestinian Authority travel documents, and a picture of himself in a flight crew uniform in front of a fake backdrop of the WTC. [Toronto Star, 9/15/01 (B), Toronto Sun, 9/15/01, Ottawa Citizen, 9/17/01 (B)] Apparently the man, who identifies himself as an aircraft maintenance engineer in Gaza, Palestine, was supposed to have arrived in the US a few days before but was delayed for unknown reasons. [CBS, 9/14/01 (B)] A second man was arrested a few days earlier while trying to enter Canada carrying a similar photo. He also possessed maps and directions to the WTC. Both men are soon handed to the US. [Toronto Star, 9/15/01 (B)] A similar picture of suspected Egyptian al-Qaeda terrorist Mohammad Zeki Majoub, arrested in Canada in June 2000, in front of a fake WTC backdrop was found in the luggage of one of the US hijackers. [AP, 3/1/01, Toronto Sun, 9/15/01] Canadian officials “believe the photos could be calling cards used by the terrorists to identify those involved in plotting the attacks.” [Toronto Sun, 9/15/01] It is not known what has happened to these men since.

September 11, 2001 (V)

       Hours after the 9/11 attacks, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is given information that three of the names on the airplane passenger manifests are suspected al-Qaeda operatives. The notes he composes at the time are leaked nearly a year later. Rumsfeld writes he wants the “best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] at same time. Not only UBL. [Usama bin Laden] Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.” [CBS, 9/4/02] He presents the idea to Bush the next day (see ). It is later revealed that shortly after 9/11, Rumsfeld sets up “a small team of defense officials outside regular intelligence channels to focus on unearthing details about Iraqi ties with al-Qaeda and other terrorist networks.” It has continued to sift “through much of the same databases available to government intelligence analysts but with the aim of spotlighting information the spy agencies have either overlooked or played down.” [Washington Post, 10/25/02] Time will report in May 2002 that Defense Secretary “Rumsfeld has been so determined to find a rationale for an attack that on 10 separate occasions he asked the CIA to find evidence linking Iraq to the terror attacks of Sept. 11. The intelligence agency repeatedly came back empty-handed.” [Time, 5/6/02 (B)] But while the CIA hasn't been helpful to Rumsfeld, one former senior official later says, “If it became known that [Rumsfeld] wanted [the Defense Intelligence Agency] to link the government of Tonga to 9/11, within a few months they would come up with sources who'd do it.” [New Yorker, 12/16/02] Since the plan to defeat Iraq is planned despite a complete lack of evidence showing Iraqi involvement in 9/11 (see also September 17, 2001 (B)), how can any later evidence pointing to Iraq's complicity in 9/11 be trusted?

September 11, 2001 (L)

       Within hours of the attacks, Florida governor and the President's brother Jeb Bush signs an executive order: “I hereby declare that a state of emergency exists in the State of Florida.” This order is declared faster than any other state, even New York or Washington, DC, and carries much greater powers. [Jeb Bush Executive Order, 9/11/01] Did someone have an inkling of the many connections between the hijackers and Florida? (Note that the fact that Jeb Bush signed another emergency power order on September 7 isn't that damning, because orders similar to it are made regularly, since Florida is so hurricane prone.) [Jeb Bush Executive Order 9/7/01]

September 11, 2001 (BB)

       Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, when asked what the 9/11 attacks mean for relations between the US and Israel, replies, “It's very good.” Then he edited himself: “Well, not very good, but it will generate immediate sympathy.” [New York Times, 9/12/01 (C)] A week later, the Village Voice states, “From national networks to small-town newspapers, the view that America's terrible taste of terrorism will finally do away with even modest calls for the restraint of Israel's military attacks on Palestinian towns has become an instant, unshakable axiom. … Now, support for Israel in America is officially absolute, and Palestinians are cast once again as players in a global terrorist conspiracy.” [Village Voice 9/19/01]

September 11, 2001 (T)

       TV news coverage on 9/11 repeatedly shows images of Palestinians rejoicing over the 9/11 attack. According to Mark Crispin Miller, a Professor of Media Studies at New York University who investigated the issue, the footage was filmed during the funeral of nine people killed the day before by Israeli authorities. He said “to show it without explaining the background, and to show it over and over again is to make propaganda for the war machine and is irresponsible.” [AFP 9/18/01; Australian 9/27/01]

September 11 , 2001 (X)

       An FAA memo written on the evening of 9/11 suggests a man on Flight 11 was shot and killed by a gun before the plane crashed into the WTC. [See the leaked FAA memo , originally posted at ] The “Executive Summary,” based on information relayed by a flight attendant to the American Airlines Operation Center, stated “that a passenger located in seat 10B shot and killed a passenger in seat 9B at 9:20 A.M”[since Flight 11 crashed at 8:46, the time must be a typo, probably meaning 8:20]. The passenger killed was Daniel Lewin, shot by passenger Satam Al Suqami. The FAA claims that the document is a “first draft” and declines to release the final draft, calling it “protected information.” A report in Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz on September 17 identifies Lewin as a former member of the Israel Defense Force Sayeret Matkal, Israel's most successful special-operations unit [UPI, 3/6/02]. Sayeret Matkal is a deep-penetration unit that has been involved in assassinations, the theft of foreign signals-intelligence materials, and the theft and destruction of foreign nuclear weaponry. Sayeret Matkal is best known for the 1976 rescue of 106 passengers at Entebbe Airport in Uganda. [New Yorker 10/29/01] Officials later deny the gun story and suggest that Lewin was probably stabbed to death instead (which would still be very interesting). [UPI, 3/6/02, Washington Post, 3/2/02 (B)] Note that Lewin founded Akamai, a successful computer company, and his connections to Sayeret Mat'kal remained hidden until the gun story came to light. [Guardian, 9/15/01] Perhaps Lewin just happened to be there, and, with his past training, tried to be a hero and stop the hijack? What are the odds that an Israeli counter-terrorist expert would not only be on this hijacked flight, but also have terrorists sitting in the seats directly in front and behind him?

September 11, 2001 (B)

Abdulaziz Alomari, right, and Mohamed Atta, left, passing through security in Portland, Maine at 5:45 AM to board a flight to Boston. No photographs of them or any other hijackers in the airports where they would hijack their flights have been released.
A small Florida newspaper will later report an extremely curious story. Around 6:00 a.m., a van occupied by men of Middle Eastern arrives at the hotel Bush is staying at. The men tell security guards they are reporters scheduled to conduct a poolside interview with Bush (who is getting ready to go on his morning jog). They ask for a Secret Service agent by name. Another Secret Service agent says that he doesn't know of that agent or the poolside interview, and the men are turned away. An FBI agent later calls the whole incident “very strange.” [Longboat Observer 9/26/01] Two days earlier in Afghanistan, Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud was assassinated by two terrorists posing as reporters. When their TV camera turned on, it blew up, killing Massoud and the two terrorists. [BBC, 9/10/01 (B)] Was this an attempt to kill Bush using the same method? Did the men think they had a Secret Service agent on the inside? Doesn't this make the fact that Bush continued to read a goat story after being told about the second WTC plane attack instead of being taken to a secure location seem even stranger?

September 11, 2001 (K)

Mohammed Azmath, left, and Shah/Khan, right.
Two men, Syed Gul Mohammad Shah (using the alias Ayub Ali Khan) and Mohammed Jaweed Azmath, are arrested on a train near Fort Worth, Texas, during a random drug check. They are found with $20,000 in cash, hair dye, and box cutters similar to those used in the 9/11 attacks. They also both had flight training. They had boarded Flight 679 in Newark, New Jersey, at 6:10 a.m., bound for San Antonio. [Washington Post, 9/20/01, Village Voice, 9/25/02] The flight was diverted to St. Louis after the WTC was hit. Shah and Azmath then took an Amtrak train headed to San Antonio. The FBI says no one else on the flight manifest is believed to be a potential hijacker. It is speculated that they were planning to meet Dr. al-Badr Alhazmi, who lived in San Antonio and was also arrested that day. [Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01, Washington Post, 9/29/01] It is also known that a $64,000 wire transfer by the two men to Pakistan in 1999 “has aroused authorities' suspicion.” [Washington Post, 10/7/01] They appeared to be some of the most significant terrorists caught after 9/11. But on September 12, 2002, after nearly a year in solitary confinement, Azmath pleads guilty to one count of credit card fraud, and was released with time served. Shah is given a longer sentence for credit card fraud. [Village Voice, 9/25/02] Both are deported back to India around the end of 2002. [New York Times 12/31/02; AP 1/25/03] Both also claim to have been tortured, threatened, denied access to lawyers, and kept in solitary confinement for months (see also June 12, 2001, October 20, 2001). [AP 1/25/03] Dr. Alhazmi is released after only two weeks. [San Antonio Express News, 10/1/01] Are they innocent, or has the government failed to prove their guilt?

September 11, 2001 (C)

Odigo's logo.
Two employees of Odigo, Inc., in Israel, receive warnings of an imminent attack in New York City around two hours before the first plane hits the WTC. Odigo, one of the world's largest instant messaging companies, has its headquarters two blocks from the WTC. The Odigo Research and Development offices where the warnings were received are located in Herzliyya, a suburb of Tel Aviv. Israeli security and the FBI were notified immediately after the 9/11 attacks began. The two employees claim not to know who sent the warnings. “Odigo service includes a feature called People Finder that allows users to seek out and contact others based on certain interests or demographics. [Alex] Diamandis [Odigo vice president of sales and marketing] said it was possible that the attack warning was broadcast to other Odigo members, but the company has not received reports of other recipients of the message.” [Ha'aretz, 9/26/01, Washington Post, 9/27/01 (C)] FTW Odigo claims the warning did not specifically mention the WTC, but the company won't say what was specified, claiming, “Providing more details would only lead to more conjecture.” [Washington Post 9/28/01] Odigo gave the FBI the internet address of the message's sender so the name of the sender could be found. [Deutsche Presse-Agentur 9/26/01] Two months later it is reported that the FBI is still investigating the matter, but there have been no reports since. [Courier Mail 11/20/01] Could the message have been a mass e-mail sent to a large group? Could this be related to the “art student spy ring”? Did the original senders directly inform the FBI as well, and if not, why not?

September 11, 2001 (H)

       At the time of the attacks, ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed is at a breakfast meeting at the Capitol with the chairmen of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, Senator Bob Graham (D) and Representative Porter Goss (R) (Goss is a 10-year veteran of the CIA's clandestine operations wing). The meeting is said to last at least until the second plane hits the WTC. [Washington Post, 5/18/02] Graham and Goss later co-head the joint House-Senate investigation into the 9/11 attacks, which has made headlines for saying there was no “smoking gun” of Bush knowledge before 9/11. [Washington Post, 7/11/02] Note Senator Graham should have been aware of a report made to his staff the previous month that one of Mahmood's subordinates had told a US undercover agent that the WTC would be destroyed (see Early August 2001). Evidence suggests Mahmood ordered that $100,000 be sent to hijacker Mohamed Atta (see Early August 2001 (D)). Also present at the meeting were Senator John Kyl (R) and the Pakistani ambassador to the US, Maleeha Lodhi (all or virtually all of the people in this meeting also met in Pakistan a few weeks earlier (see August 28-30, 2001)). Senator Graham says of the meeting: “We were talking about terrorism, specifically terrorism generated from Afghanistan.” The New York Times mentions bin Laden specifically was being discussed. [Vero Beach Press Journal, 9/12/01, Salon, 9/14/01, New York Times, 6/3/02] The fact that these people are meeting at the time of the attacks is a strange coincidence at the very least. Was the topic of conversation just more coincidence? [FTW]

September 11, 2001 (Z)

       The Carlyle Group is a company closely associated with officials of the Bush and Reagan administrations, and has considerable ties to Saudi oil money, including ties to the bin Laden family (see September 27, 2001). Those ties are well illustrated by the fact that on this day the Carlyle Group is hosting a conference at a Washington hotel. Among the guests of honor is investor Shafig bin Laden, brother to Osama. [Observer 6/16/02]

September 11, 2001 (DD)

       National Security Advisor Rice is scheduled to deliver a speech claiming to address “the threats and problems of today and the day after, not the world of yesterday.” The speech is never given due to the 9/11 attacks earlier in the day, but the text is later leaked to the media. The Washington Post calls the speech “telling insight into the administration's thinking” because it promotes missile defense and contains no mention of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or Islamic extremist groups. The only mention of terrorism is in the context of the danger of rogue nations such as Iraq. In fact, there are almost no public mentions of bin Laden or al-Qaeda by Bush or other top Bush administrations before 9/11, and the focus instead is on missile defense. [Washington Post 4/1/04; Washington Post 4/1/04 (D)]

September 11-16, 2001 (B)

       Andrews Air Force Base is 10 miles from Washington, DC, and Langley Air Force Base in 130 miles away. The official story is that there were no fighters at Andrews so none took off from there to intercept the hijacked planes, but it takes a few days for the media to come around to that point of view:
  1. A few minutes after the Pentagon was hit, “fighter jets scrambled from Andrews Air Force Base… ” [Denver Post, 9/11/01]
  2. “It was after the attack on the Pentagon that the Air Force then decided to scramble F-16's out of the DC National Guard Andrews Air Force Base… ” [NBC Nightly News, 9/11/01]
  3. “Air defense around Washington is provided mainly by fighter planes from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland near the District of Columbia border. The D.C. Air National Guard is also based there and equipped with F-16 fighter planes, a National Guard spokesman said. But the fighters took to the skies over Washington only after the devastating attack on the Pentagon… ” [San Diego Union Tribune, 9/12/01]
  4. “Within minutes of the attack American forces around the world were put on one of their highest states of alert—Defcon 3, just two notches short of all-out war—and F-16's from Andrews Air Force Base were in the air over Washington DC.” [Telegraph, 9/16/01]
  5. “Andrews Air Force Base, home to Air Force One, is only 15 miles away from the Pentagon, but it had no fighters assigned to it.” [USA Today, 9/16/01]
  6. “The District of Columbia National Guard maintained fighter planes at Andrews Air Force Base, only about 15 miles from the Pentagon, but those planes were not on alert and not deployed.” [USA Today, 9/16/01]
  7. “ … As part of its dual mission, the 113th provides capable and ready response forces for the District of Columbia in the event of a natural disaster or civil emergency.” “In the best tradition of the Marine Corps, a ‘few good men and women’ support two combat-ready reserve units at Andrews AFB.” [DC Military website]
  8. The District of Columbia Air National Guard website is changed shortly after 9/11. Previously its mission was “to provide combat units in the highest possible state of readiness.” Afterwards, it was changed to read that the Guard has a “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 (before and after the change)]
The official story is that fighters from Langley didn't arrive over Washington until 12 minutes after the Pentagon was struck, but witnesses see fighters well before then. [Newsday, 9/23/01, Denver Post, 9/11/01] One year later, a new article writes about Andrews extensively: “Within minutes of American Airlines Flight 77 hitting the Pentagon on Sept. 11, Air National Guard F-16's took off from [Andrews].” However, the article also claims that the Andrews fighters were not on alert, and so, of the first two to take off, one was partially armed and the other was unarmed. [Aviation Week and Space Technology 9/9/02]


September 11, 2001 (Q)

       Shortly after the suicide attacks, a source with intelligence connections tells Newsweek that US intelligence picks up communications among bin Laden associates relaying the message: “We've hit the targets.”Its not clear if this was the same intercept Senator Hatch speaks of (see September 11, 2001 (P)), or an additional one. [Newsweek 9/13/01]

September 11, 2001 (G)

September 11, 2001: The World Trade Center, Pentagon, and Flight 93 crash.
The 9/11 attack: four planes are hijacked, two crash into the WTC, one into the Pentagon, and one crashes into the Pennsylvania countryside. At least 3,000 people are killed. A more detailed timeline focusing on the hours of this attack appears on a separate page. According to officials, the entire US is defended by only 14 fighters (two planes each in seven military bases). [Dallas Morning News, 9/16/01] And “they no longer included any bases close to two obvious terrorist targets—Washington, DC, and New York City.” A defense official says: “I don't think any of us envisioned an internal air threat by big aircraft. I don't know of anybody that ever thought through that.” [Newsday 9/23/01]

Before September 11, 2001 (E)

       The position of Assistant Secretary for Special Operations and Low-intensity Conflict, the Defense Department post traditionally dealing the most with counterterrorism, still has not been filled since being vacated in January 2001 when Bush became president. Aides to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld later tell the 9/11 Commission that “the new [Defense Department] team was focused on other issues” and not counterterrorism. [Newsweek 3/24/04]

Before September 11, 2001 (B)

       A number of the hijackers appeared to drink alcohol heavily in bars and watch strip shows—strange behavior for Muslim radicals. On September 10, three terrorists spend $200 to $300 apiece on lap dances and drinks in the Pink Pony, a Daytona Beach, Florida strip club. While the hijackers had left Florida by this time, Atta is reported to have visited the same strip club, and these men appear to have had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks (see September 10, 2001 (P)). [Boston Herald, 10/10/01] FBI agents have also reportedly questioned the owners of Nardone's Go-Go Bar in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Several of the terrorists spent time in nearby Paterson and Newark and reportedly patronized the club, even on the weekend before 9/11. [Boston Herald, 10/10/01, Wall Street Journal, 10/16/01] Majed Moqed visits a porn shop and rents a porn video. The major of Paterson, New Jersey says of the six hijackers who stayed there: “Nobody ever saw them at mosques, but they liked the go-go clubs.” [Newsweek, 10/15/01] Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar often frequented Cheetah's, a nude bar in San Diego. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02] Hamza Alghamdi watched a porn video on September 10. [Wall Street Journal, 10/16/01] University of Florida religion professor Richard Foltz states, “It is incomprehensible that a person could drink and go to a strip bar one night, then kill themselves the next day in the name of Islam… People who would kill themselves for their faith would come from very strict Islamic ideology. Something here does not add up.” [Sun-Sentinel 9/16/01]

September 11-13, 2001

A white Mitsubishi is towed from Logan Airport, Boston, on September 12. Inside is an Arabic-language flight manual.
Investigators find a remarkable number of possessions left behind by the hijackers:
  1. As previously mentioned (see September 11, 2001 (S)), two of Mohamed Atta's bags are found on 9/11 containing a handheld electronic flight computer, a simulator procedures manual for Boeing 757 and 767 aircraft, two videotapes relating to “air tours” of the Boeing 757 and 747 aircraft, a slide-rule flight calculator, a copy of the Koran, Atta's passport, his will, his international driver's license, a religious cassette tape, airline uniforms, a letter of recommendation, “education related documentation” and a note to other hijackers on how to mentally prepare for the hijacking.
  2. As previously mentioned (see September 11, 2001 (F)), Marwan Alshehhi's rental car is discovered at Boston's Logan airport containing an Arabic language flight manual, a pass giving access to restricted areas at the airport, documents containing a name on the passenger list of one of the flights, and the names of other suspects. Huffman Aviation, the name of the flight school where Atta and Alshehhi studied, is also found in the car. [Los Angeles Times, 9/13/01]
  3. A car registered to Nawaf Alhazmi is found in Washington's Dulles Airport on September 12. Inside is a copy of Atta's letter to the other hijackers, a cashier's check made out to a flight school in Phoenix, four drawings of the cockpit of a 757 jet, a box cutter-type knife, maps of Washington and New York, and a page with notes and phone numbers. [Arizona Daily Star, 9/28/01, Cox News, 10/21/01, Die Zeit, 10/1/02]
  4. A rental car is found in a airport parking lot in Portland, Maine. Investigators are able to collect fingerprints and hair samples for DNA analysis. [Portland Press Herald, 10/14/01]
  5. A Boston hotel room contains airplane and train schedules. [Sydney Morning Herald, 9/15/01]
  6. FBI agents carry out numerous garbage bags of evidence from a Florida apartment where Saeed Alghamdi lived. [CNN, 9/17/01 (B)]
  7. Two days before 9/11, a hotel owner in Deerfield Beach, Florida, finds a box cutter left in a hotel room used by Marwan Alshehhi and two unidentified men. The owner checks the nearby trash and finds a duffel bag containing Boeing 757 manuals, three illustrated martial arts books, an 8-inch stack of East Coast flight maps, a three-ring binder full of handwritten notes, an English-German dictionary, an airplane fuel tester, and a protractor. All the items are seized by the FBI when they are notified on September 12 (except the binder of notes, which the owner apparently threw away). [, AP, 9/16/01 (B)]
  8. In an apartment rented by Ziad Jarrah and Ahmed Alhaznawi, the FBI finds a notebook, videotape, and photocopies of their passports. [Miami Herald, 9/15/01]
  9. In a bar the night before 9/11, after making predictions of a terrorist attack on America the next day (see September 10, 2001 (P)), terrorists leave a business card and a copy of the Koran at the bar. The FBI also recovers the credit card receipts from when they paid for their drinks and lap dances. [AP, 9/14/01]
  10. A September 13 security sweep of Boston airport's parking garage uncovers items left behind by the hijackers: a box cutter, a pamphlet written in Arabic and a credit card. [Washington Post, 9/16/01]
  11. A few hours after the attacks, suicide notes that some of the hijackers wrote to their parents are found in New York. Credit card receipts showing that some of the hijackers paid for flight training in the US are also found. [Los Angeles Times, 9/13/01]
  12. A FedEx bill is found in a trash can at the Comfort Inn in Portland, Maine, where Atta stayed the night before 9/11. The bill leads to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, allowing investigators to determine most of the funding for 9/11 (see September 24, 2001-December 26, 2002). [Newsweek, 11/11/01, London Times, 12/1/01]
Their whereabouts can even be tracked by their pizza purchases. An expert points out: “Most people pay cash for pizza. These [hijackers] paid with a credit card. That was an odd thing.” [San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/3/02] “In the end, they left a curiously obvious trail—from martial arts manuals, maps, a Koran, Internet and credit card fingerprints. Maybe they were sloppy, maybe they didn't care, maybe it was a gesture of contempt of a culture they considered weak and corrupt.” [Miami Herald, 9/22/01] After having stealthily lived “under the radar” in the US for years, why would the hijackers suddenly fail to take the most elementary precautions and risk exposing the plot? Maybe the trail was deliberate, to establish a misleading trail and false identities?Note the New Yorker's quote of a former high-level intelligence official: “Whatever trail was left was left deliberately—for the FBI to chase.” [New Yorker 10/1/01]


September 11, 2001 (F)

       The hijackers have an argument with a stranger right next to Marwan Alshehri's rental car parked in Boston's Logan Airport. Not long after the 9/11 attacks, the stranger reports this to authorities and the FBI discovers the car. [AP, 9/12/01 (C)] Inside is an Arabic language flight manual and other documents that contain a name on the passenger list of one of the flights, and the names of other suspects. The car also contains a pass giving access to restricted areas at the airport. [New York Times, 9/13/01 (C), New York Times, 9/13/01 (D), Sydney Morning Herald, 9/15/01] Were the hijackers drawing attention to themselves to make sure evidence in the car would be found?

September 11, 2001 (I)

       At about 9:00 a.m., a strange incident occurs aboard United Airlines Flight 23, scheduled to fly from New York to Los Angeles. After boarding, the crew tells the passengers that the flight had been canceled. Three Middle Eastern men on board refuse to get off the plane. They argue with a member of the flight crew. Security is called, but before security arrives, the men escape. [CBS, 9/14/01 (B)] In June 2002, a Canadian general who is also deputy commander of NORAD refers to Flight 23 and states, “From our perception, we think our reaction on that day was sufficiently quick that we may well have precluded at least one other hijacking. We may not have. We don't know for sure.” [Globe and Mail, 6/13/02] It may not be the only aborted hijacking that day (see September 19, 2001).

September 11, 2001-January 2002

       After probably completing last-minute financial transactions with some 9/11 hijackers, Saeed Sheikh flies to Pakistan (see September 8-11, 2001 (B)). [Knight Ridder, 10/7/01] He meets with bin Laden in Afghanistan a few days later. [Washington Post, 2/18/02, London Times, 2/25/02, Guardian, 7/16/02] The US government claims Saeed fights for the Taliban in Afghanistan in September and October 2001. [CNN, 3/14/02] Some believe that after the defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Saeed acts as a go-between for the hiding bin Laden and the ISI. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/3/02] He also helps produce a video of a bin Laden interview. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/3/02] Sometime in October 2001 [Guardian, 7/16/02], he moves back to his home in Lahore, Pakistan, and lives there openly. He is frequently seen at local parties hosted by government leaders. In January 2002, he hosts a party to celebrate the birth of his newborn baby. [USA Today, 2/25/02, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/3/02] He stays in his well-known Lahore house with his new wife and baby until January 19, 2002—four days before reporter Daniel Pearl is kidnapped (see January 23, 2002). [BBC, 7/16/02] He is also actively involved in numerous other terrorist acts (see October 1, 2001 (D), December 13, 2001 (C) and January 22, 2002).

September 11, 2001 (W)

The white van used by five Israeli agents as they were leaving New York on 9/11.
Five Israelis are arrested for “puzzling behavior” related to the WTC attacks.They are arrested around 4:30 P.M. after having filmed the burning WTC from the roof of their company's building near Liberty State Park, then shouting in what was interpreted as cries of joy and mockery. They were spotted by a neighbor who called the police and the FBI. The police tracked them down in a van with the words “Urban Moving Systems” written on the side. [Bergen Record, 9/12/01, Ha'aretz, 9/17/01] One man was found with $4,700 in cash hidden in his sock, another had two passports on him, and a box cutter was found in the van. [ABC News 6/21/02] Investigators say that “There are maps of the city in the car with certain places highlighted… It looked like they're hooked in with this. It looked like they knew what was going to happen.” [Bergen Record, 9/12/01] One of these Israelis later says, “Our purpose was to document the event.” [ABC News 6/21/02] The FBI later concludes at least two are Mossad agents and that all were on a Mossad surveillance mission. The FBI interrogates them for weeks. [Forward, 3/15/02] They are held on immigration violation charges and released 71 days later. [ABC News, 6/21/02] Their names are later identified as Sivan and Paul Kurzberg, Oded Ellner, Omer Marmari, and Yaron Shmuel. [Forward 3/15/02]

Before September 11, 2001 (D)

       Just prior to 9/11, the CIA and FBI don't have enough staff working on al-Qaeda. 17-19 people are working in the FBI's special unit focusing on bin Laden and al-Qaeda. [Senate Intelligence Committee 9/18/02] The FBI has a $4.3 billion anti-terrorism budget, but of its 27,000 employees, just 153 are devoted to terrorism analysis. [Sydney Morning Herald, 6/8/02] The FBI's “analytic expertise had been ‘gutted’ by transfers to operational units” and only one strategic analyst is assigned full time to al-Qaeda. The FBI office in New York is very aware of the threat from bin Laden, but many branch offices remain largely unaware. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02] A senior FBI official later tells Congress that there are fewer FBI agents assigned to counterterrorism on this day than in August 1998, when the US embassy bombings in Africa made bin Laden a household name. [New York Times, 9/22/02]The CIA has about 35-40 people assigned to their special Bin Laden unit. It has five strategic analysts working full time on al-Qaeda. [Senate Intelligence Committee 9/18/02] The CIA and FBI later say some of these figures are misleading. [New York Times 9/18/02] “Individuals in both the CIA and FBI units…reported being seriously overwhelmed by the volume of information and workload prior to September 11, 2001.” Despite numerous warnings that planes could be used as weapons, such a possibility was never studied, and a Congressional report later blames lack of staff as a major reason for this. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02] Senator Patrick Leahy (D) also notes: “Between the Department of Justice and the FBI, they had a whole task force working on finding a couple of houses of prostitution in New Orleans. They had one on al-Qaeda.” [CBS 9/25/02]

September 11, 2001 (D)

       An advertisement for a “homeland security” event in 2002 will mention the following curious sentence: “On the morning of September 11th 2001, Mr. [John] Fulton and his team at the CIA were running a pre-planned simulation to explore the emergency response issues that would be created if a plane were to strike a building. Little did they know that the scenario would come true in a dramatic way that day.” [National Law Enforcement Security Institute, 8/02] Fulton's team is part of the National Reconnaissance Office, which “operates many of the nation's spy satellites. It draws its personnel from the military and the CIA.” The simulation was to start at 9:00 a.m., four miles from where one of the real hijacked planes took off. The government calls the simulation just a “bizarre coincidence.” [AP 8/21/02] The government has repeatedly claimed that no one imagined a plane deliberately crashing into a building (see May 16, 2002 (B)).

Before September 11, 2001 (C)

       Though the NSA specializes in intercepting communications, the CIA and FBI intercept as well. After 9/11, CIA and FBI officials discover messages with phrases like, “There is a big thing coming,” “They're going to pay the price” and “We're ready to go.” Supposedly, most or all of these intercepted messages were not analyzed until after 9/11. [Newsweek, 9/24/01] Does this mean that some of the hijackers or their assistants were under FBI or CIA surveillance before 9/11?

Points to keep in mind regarding entries of the day of 9/11

People flee the WTC smoke and debris.
The scrambling (sending into the air) of fighter aircraft at the first sign of trouble is a routine phenomenon. During the year 2000, there are 425 “unknowns” —pilots who didn't file or diverted from flight plans or used the wrong frequency. Fighters are scrambled in response 129 times in cases where problems are not immediately resolved. After 9/11, such scrambles go from about twice a week to three or four times a day. [Calgary Herald, 10/13/01] Between September 2000 and June 2001, fighters are scrambled 67 times. [AP, 8/13/02] General Ralph E. Eberhart, NORAD Commander in Chief, says that before 9/11, “Normally, our units fly 4-6 sorties a month in support of the NORAD air defense mission.” [FNS, 10/25/01] Statistics on how many minutes fighters take to scramble before 9/11 apparently are not released.

“Consider that an aircraft emergency exists…when: …There is unexpected loss of radar contact and radio communications with any... aircraft.” [FAA regulations]

“If…you are in doubt that a situation constitutes an emergency or potential emergency, handle it as though it were an emergency.” [FAA regulations]

“Pilots are supposed to hit each fix with pinpoint accuracy. If a plane deviates by 15 degrees, or two miles from that course, the flight controllers will hit the panic button. They'll call the plane, saying ‘American 11, you're deviating from course.’ It's considered a real emergency, like a police car screeching down a highway at 100 miles an hour. When golfer Payne Stewart's incapacitated Learjet missed a turn at a fix, heading north instead of west to Texas, F-16 interceptors were quickly dispatched.”[MSNBC, 9/12/01]

“A NORAD spokesman says its fighters routinely intercept aircraft. When planes are intercepted, they typically are handled with a graduated response. The approaching fighter may rock its wingtips to attract the pilot's attention, or make a pass in front of the aircraft. Eventually, it can fire tracer rounds in the airplane's path, or, under certain circumstances, down it with a missile.” [Boston Globe, 9/15/01]

“In October [2002], Gen. Eberhart told Congress that ‘now it takes about one minute’from the time that the FAA senses something is amiss before it notifies NORAD. And around the same time, a NORAD spokesofficer told the Associated Press that the military can now scramble fighters ‘within a matter of minutes to anywhere in the United States.’ ” [Slate, 1/16/02]

The commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Force, Anatoli Kornukov, says the day after 9/11: “Generally it is impossible to carry out an act of terror on the scenario which was used in the USA yesterday…. As soon as something like that happens here, I am reported about that right away and in a minute we are all up.” [Pravda, 9/12/01]

Supposedly, on 9/11, there are only four fighters on ready status in the Northeastern US, and only 14 fighters on permanent ready status in the entire US. [BBC, 8/29/02] However, any number of additional fighters could be in the air or ready to fly at the time the 9/11 attacks begin, but exact numbers are not known.

Additionally, the Air Traffic Services Cell (ATSC), an office designed to facilitate communications between the FAA and the military, had just been given a secure Internet (Siprnet) terminal and other hardware six weeks earlier, “greatly enhancing the movement of vital information.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology 6/10/02]


September 11, 2001 (P)

       Senator Orrin Hatch (R) tells the Associated Press that the US government was monitoring bin Laden's communications electronically, and overheard two bin Laden aides celebrating the successful terrorist attack: “They have an intercept of some information that included people associated with bin Laden who acknowledged a couple of targets were hit.”[AP, 9/12/01, ABC News, 9/12/01] Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld publicly denounces the report, not as untrue, but as an unauthorized release of classified information. [Department of Defense news briefing 9/12/01] The head of the NSA explains the delay by saying bin Laden (living in a cave in Afghanistan) “has better technology”than the US ($30 billion annual intelligence budget). [Sunday Herald, 9/16/01] Why has the mainstream media not explored the implications that the CIA and FBI could monitor the private communications of al-Qaeda on the days up to and including 9/11?

September 11, 2001 (CC)

       Hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, already on a terrorist watch list only for international flights (see August 23, 2001 (C)), are able to fly domestically on their Flight 77 suicide mission without being stopped. However, they and seven other hijackers are selected for extra screening before boarding. Their bags are thoroughly screened for explosives, but their bodies are not searched. A computer program named CAPPS had selected them for suspicious behavior such as buying one way tickets or paying with cash. [Washington Post 1/28/04] The 9/11 9/11 Commission also later concludes that the passports of these two are “suspicious” and could have been linked to al-Qaeda upon inspection but it hasn't been explained why or how. Three other hijackers, Salem Alhazmi, Ahmed Alnami and Ahmad Alhaznawi, also have these same suspicious indicators on their passports. None of them are prevented from flying because of this. [Baltimore Sun 1/27/04]

12:05 p.m.

       CIA Director Tenet tells Defense Secretary Rumsfeld about an intercepted phone call from earlier in the day (see 9:53 a.m.). An al-Qaeda operative talked of a fourth target just before Flight 93 crashed. Rumsfeld wrote notes to himself at the time. According to CBS, “Rumsfeld felt it was ‘vague,’ that it ‘might not mean something,’ and that there was ‘no good basis for hanging hat.’ In other words, the evidence was not clear-cut enough to justify military action against bin Laden.” [CBS 9/4/02]

12:15 p.m.

       The US closes some border crossings with Canada and Mexico. [MSNBC 9/22/01]

12:16 p.m.

       US airspace is clear except for military and emergency flights. Only a few transoceanic flights were still landing in Canada. [USA Today, 8/12/02 (C)] At 12:30, the FAA reports about 50 flights still flying in US airspace, but none are reporting problems. [CNN 9/12/01; New York Times 9/12/01]

12:36 p.m.

       Bush gives a short speech that is taped and played by the networks at 1:04 p.m. [“Just after 12:30,” Salon, 9/12/01 (B), 12:36, Washington Times, 10/8/02] In a speech at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, President Bush announces that security measures are being taken and says: “Make no mistake, the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts.” [MSNBC, 9/22/01, CNN, 9/12/01, New York Times, 9/12/01] He also states, “Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward. And freedom will be defended.” [ABC News 9/11/02]

(12:58 p.m.)

       Bush spends most of his time at Barksdale Air Force base arguing on the phone with Cheney and others over where he should go next. “A few minutes before 1 p.m.,” he agrees to fly to Nebraska. As earlier (see 10:32 a.m.), there are rumors of a “credible terrorist threat” to Air Force One. [Telegraph 12/16/01]

(5:53 a.m.)

Abdulaziz Alomari and Mohamed Atta go through security in Portland. These are the only released images of any hijackers in airports on 9/11. Note the two different time stamps, one in the middle, one at the bottom.
Hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari board a Colgan Air flight from Portland, Maine, to Boston. They are filmed going through security in Portland. This is the only footage of the hijackers in airports on 9/11, and it's not even one of the suicide flights. [Time, 9/24/01] [New York Daily News 5/22/02; FBI 10/4/01; Miami Herald 9/22/01]

(6:00 a.m.)

       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. [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, New York Times, 9/16/01 (B), Telegraph, 12/16/01] A van occupied by men of Middle Eastern descent pull up to the Colony stating they have a “poolside” interview with the president. They are turned away for not having an appointment. [Longboat Observer, 9/26/01] Was this an assassination attempt modeled on the one used on Afghani leader Ahmed Massoud two days earlier? [Time 8/4/02 (B)]

(6:00 a.m.)

       Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari's flight from Portland, Maine to Boston takes off. [FBI, 10/4/01] Two passengers later say Atta and Alomari board separately from each other, keep quiet, and don't draw attention to themselves. [Washington Post 9/16/01; Chicago Sun-Times 9/16/01]

(6:30 a.m.)

       A man has an argument with five Middle Eastern men over a parking space in the parking lot of Boston's Logan Airport. Later in the day he reports the event, and the car is discovered to have been rented by Mohamed Atta. Inside, police find a ramp pass, allowing access to restricted airport areas. [“About 6.30,” News of the World, 9/16/01, time unknown, Miami Herald, 9/22/01] Was the argument a staged event to make sure the car would be found? Why would they leave such a pass in their car instead of using it to board the airplanes?

(6:30 a.m.)

       Lt. Col. Dawne Deskins and other NORAD employees at NEADS (NORAD's Northeast Air Defense Sector that covers the Washington and New York areas) are starting their work day. NORAD is unusually prepared on 9/11, because it is conducting a week-long semi-annual exercise called Vigilant Guardian. [Newhouse News, 1/25/02] Deskins is regional Mission Crew Chief for the Vigilant Guardian exercise. [ABC News, 9/11/02] The exercise poses “an imaginary crisis to North American Air Defense outposts nationwide.” [Newhouse News, 1/25/02] Accounts by participants vary on whether 9/11 was the second, third, or fourth day of the exercise. [Newhouse News, 1/25/02, Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/02, Code One Magazine, 1/02] NORAD is also running another fighter exercise named Operation Northern Vigilance (see (9:00 a.m.). NORAD is thus fully staffed and alert, and senior officers are manning stations throughout the US. The entire chain of command is in place and ready when the first hijacking is reported. An article later says, “In retrospect, the exercise would prove to be a serendipitous enabler of a rapid military response to terrorist attacks on Sept. 11.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02, Bergen Record, 12/5/03] ABC News later reports that because NORAD is “conducting training exercises [it] therefore [has] extra fighter planes on alert.” [ABC News, 9/14/02] Colonel Robert Marr, in charge of NEADS, says, “We had the fighters with a little more gas on board. A few more weapons on board.” [ABC News, 9/11/02] However, Deskins and other NORAD officials later are initially confused whether the 9/11 attacks are real or part of the exercise (see 8:31 a.m.) There is a National Reconnaissance Office exercise occurring as well, involving a scenario of an airplane as a flying weapon (see 9:00 a.m.)).

(6:31 a.m.)

The Colony Beach and Tennis Resort, where Bush stays the night before 9/11.
Bush goes for a four-mile jog around the golf course at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort. [Washington Post 1/27/02; MSNBC 10/27/02; Washington Times 10/7/02]

(6:45 a.m.)

       “Approximately two hours prior to the first attack”, at least two workers at the instant messaging company Odigo receive messages warning of the WTC attack. This Israeli owned company has its headquarters two blocks from the WTC. [Washington Post 9/28/01; Ha'aretz 9/26/01]

6:50 a.m.

       Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari's flight from Portland arrives on time at Boston's Logan Airport.

7:18 a.m.

       Apparently, according to a security video seen by the 9/11 Commission, Flight 77 hijackers Majed Moqed and Khalid Almihdhar pass through a security checkpoint at Dulles International Airport in Washington. While their carry-on bags fail to set off any alarms, both set off alarms when passing through the magnetometer. They are directed to a second magnetometer. Almihdhar passes, but Moqed fails again. He is subjected to a personal screening with a metal detection hand wand. This time he is cleared and he is permitted to pass through the checkpoint. [9/11 Commission 1/27/04]

7:35 a.m.

       According to the 9/11 Commission's review of airport security footage, the remaining three Flight 77 hijackers pass through a security checkpoint at Dulles International Airport in Washington. Hani Hanjour and his two carry-on bags fail to set off any alarms. One minute later, Nawaf Alhazmi and Salem Alhazmi enter the same checkpoint. Salem Alhazmi successfully clears the magnetometer and is permitted through the checkpoint. Nawaf Alhazmi sets off the alarms for both the first and second magnetometers. He is subsequently subjected to a personal screening with a metal detection hand wand. He finally passes. In addition, his shoulder strap carry-on bag is swiped by an explosive trace detector and returned without further inspection. [Independent Commission, 1/27/04] The video footage of the hijackers going through this security checkpoint has yet to be publicly released.

(7:45 a.m.)

       Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari board Flight 11. Atta's bags contain airline uniforms and many other remarkable things, but are checked through to his final destination, making them unusable for the attacks. The bags are not loaded onto the plane in time and are later found by investigators. [Boston Globe, 9/18/01] But at least two other hijackers on Flight 11 are able to use stolen uniforms and IDs to board the plane. [Sunday Herald, 9/16/01] There is speculation that the bags were meant to be left behind and found. [New Yorker, 10/1/01] How can Atta have been sure the bags would not be checked onto the plane unless a confederate working in the airport makes sure the bags are not loaded?

(Before 7:59 a.m.)

       Hijacker Mohamed Atta on Flight 11 calls hijacker Marwan Alshehhi in Flight 175 as both planes sit on the runway. They confirm the plot is on. [“Just before 8:00,” Time, 8/4/02 (B)] Do investigators know what was said in this call or are they just guessing, and if they do, what does that say about their data collection abilities?

(Before 7:59 a.m.)

       Supposedly, nine of the 19 hijackers are selected for special screening before they board their planes. None of their names are known [Washington Post, 3/2/02 (B)], but one article makes clear hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, already on a terrorist watch list for international flights, are not selected. [Cox News, 10/21/01] Six of the nine are chosen for extra scrutiny by a computerized screening system, prompting a sweep of their checked baggage for explosives or unauthorized weapons. Two of the nine are chosen because of irregularities in their identification documents, and one is chosen for traveling with someone having such documents. After screening, all are allowed to board. [Washington Post 3/2/02 (B)]

(7:59 a.m.)

Flight 11 takes off from Boston's Logan Airport, 14 minutes after scheduled departure. [Los Angeles Times 9/20/01; ABC News 7/18/02; CNN 9/17/01; Washington Post 9/12/01; Guardian 10/17/01; AP 8/19/02; Newsday 9/10/02; 9/11 Commission Report 6/17/04]

(8:00 a.m.)

       Bush sits down for his daily intelligence briefing. “The President's briefing appears to have included some reference to the heightened terrorist risk reported throughout the summer” but contained nothing serious enough to call National Security Adviser Rice. The briefing ends at about 8:20. [Telegraph 12/16/01]

8:01 a.m.

United Airlines Flight 93, a Boeing 757.
Flight 93 is delayed for 41 minutes on the runway in Newark, finally taking off at 8:42. The Boston Globe credits this delay as a major reason why this was the only one of the four flights not to succeed in its mission. [Boston Globe, 11/23/01] [Newsweek, 9/22/01, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01 (B)] Apparently Flight 93 has to wait in a line of about a dozen planes before it can take off. [USA Today 8/12/02]

(Between 8:13-8:21 a.m.)

Flight 11's manifest. Such details on other flights haven't been released. [Edited, from AP and Sydney Morning Herald]
Shortly after flight controllers ask Flight 11 to climb to 35,000 feet, the transponder stops transmitting. A transponder is an electronic device that identifies a jet on a controller's screen, which gives its exact location and altitude. Among other vital functions, it is also used to transmit a four-digit emergency hijack code. Air traffic manager Glenn Michael later says, “We considered it at that time to be a possible hijacking.” [8:13, “When given permission to climb to 35,000 feet,” AP, 8/12/02, 8:13, shortly after trying emergency frequencies, Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/01, 8:15, “Just moments” after radio contact is lost, MSNBC, 9/15/01] Initial stories after 9/11 suggest the transponder is turned off around 8:13, but one year after 9/11, Pete Zalewski, the flight controller handling the flight, says the transponder is turned off at 8:20. [MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B)] The 9/11 Commission later places it at 8:21. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Colonel Robert Marr, head of NORAD's Northeast Air Defense Sector, later claims the transponder is turned off some time after 8:30. [ABC News 9/11/02]

(8:13 a.m.)

       The last routine communication takes place between ground control and the pilots of Flight 11. Flight controller Pete Zalewski is handling the flight. The pilot responds when told to turn right, but immediately afterwards fails to respond to a command to climb. Zalewski repeatedly tries to reach the pilot, even using the emergency frequency, but still gets no response. [8:13, Boston Globe, 11/23/01, 8:13:31, New York Times, 10/16/01, 8:14, MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B), 8:13, 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Flight 11 is apparently hijacked around this time. One flight controller says the plane is hijacked over Gardner, Massachusetts, less than 50 miles west of Boston. [Nashua Telegraph, 9/13/01] The Boston Globe notes, “It appears that the hijackers' entry was surprising enough that the pilots did not have a chance to broadcast a traditional distress call.” It would only have taken a few seconds to press the right buttons. [Boston Globe, 11/23/01] Yet the storming of the cockpit doesn't appear to happen until about 8:20 (see (8:20 a.m.)).

(8:13 a.m.)

American Airlines Flight 11, a Boeing 767.
Flight 11 is hijacked around this time. One flight controller says the plane is hijacked over Gardner, Massachusetts, less than 50 miles west of Boston. [Nashua Telegraph, 9/13/01] Does the hijacking involve all of the hijackers from the beginning, or only one hijacker who is already in the cockpit when the hijacking begins, with the rest joining in later? The storming of the cockpit doesn't appear to happen until after 8:21, yet communication with ground control stops now. Fifteen minutes after takeoff, Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01, “A few minutes into the flight,” ABC News, 7/18/02] As the Boston Globe put it, “It appears that the hijackers' entry was surprising enough that the pilots did not have a chance to broadcast a traditional distress call,” a button that would have taken only a few seconds to press. [Boston Globe 11/23/01]

(After 8:14 a.m.)

       At some point after the hijacking begins, the pilot of Flight 11, John Ogonowski, activates the talk-back button, enabling Boston flight controllers to hear what is being said in the cockpit. A controller says, “The button was being pushed intermittently most of the way to New York.” An article later notes that “his ability to do so also indicates that he was in the driver's seat much of the way” to the WTC. Such transmissions continue until about 8:38. [Christian Science Monitor 9/13/01; MSNBC 9/15/01]

8:14 a.m.

Flight 175's intended and actual routes.
Flight 175 takes off from Boston's Logan Airport, 16 minutes after the scheduled departure time. [CNN 9/17/01; Washington Post 9/12/01; Guardian 10/17/01; AP 8/19/02; Newsday 9/10/02]

(8:15 a.m.)

       Two Boston flight controllers, Pete Zalewski and Lino Martins, discuss the fact that Flight 11 can't be contacted. Zalewski says to Martins, “He won't answer you. He's nordo [no radio] roger thanks.” [Guardian 10/17/01; New York Times 10/16/01 (C); CNN 9/17/01; MSNBC 9/11/02 (B)]

8:20 a.m.

       Flight 11 stops transmitting its IFF (identify friend or foe) beacon signal. [CNN 9/17/01]

(8:20 a.m.)

Flight attendants Amy Sweeney (left) and Betty Ong (right).
Flight 11 attendant Amy (Madeline) Sweeney borrows a calling card from flight attendant Sara Low and uses an Airfone to call Boston's Logan Airport. She speaks to Michael Woodward, an American Airlines flight service manager. He is friends with Sweeney and thus doesn't have to verify the call is not a hoax. The call is not recorded but Woodward takes detailed notes. [8:19, New York Observer, 2/11/04, “Over the next 25 minutes,” ABC News, 7/18/02] She calmly tells Woodward, “Listen, and listen to me very carefully. I'm on Flight 11. The airplane has been hijacked.” [ABC News, 7/18/02] She gives him the seat locations of three hijackers: 9D, 9G, and 10B. She says they are all of Middle Eastern descent, and one speaks English very well. [New York Observer, 2/11/04] Another account has her identifying four hijackers (but still not the five said to be on the plane) and says that not all the seats she gave matched up with the seats assigned to the hijackers on their tickets. [ABC News, 7/18/02, Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01 (C)] She says she cannot contact the cockpit, and doesn't believe the pilots are flying the plane any longer. [New York Observer, 2/11/04] As the Los Angeles Times records, “But even as she was relating details about the hijackers, the men were storming the front of the plane and ‘had just gained access to the cockpit.’ ” (Note that Sweeney witnesses the storming of the cockpit at least seven minutes after radio contact from Flight 11 stops and the hijacking apparently begins (8:13 a.m.).) [Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01 (C)] She says the hijackers have stabbed the two first-class flight attendants, Barbara Arestegui and Karen Martin. She adds, “A hijacker cut the throat of a business-class passenger, and he appears to be dead.” He is later identified as Daniel Lewin. She says the hijackers have brought a bomb into the cockpit. She's asked by Woodward, “How do you know it's a bomb?” She answers, “Because the hijackers showed me a bomb.” She describes its yellow and red wires. Sweeney continues talking with Woodward until Flight 11 crashes. [Boston Globe 11/23/01; New York Observer 2/11/04]

(8:20 a.m.)

       Flight 11 starts to veer dramatically off course. [8:20, [MSNBC 9/11/02 (B)]

(8:20 a.m.)

Flight 77's intended and actual routes. Note the strange loop off course about halfway along the route to the west. This loop doesn't show on most flight route maps.
Flight 77 departs Dulles International Airport near Washington, ten minutes after the scheduled departure time. [CNN 9/17/01; Washington Post 9/12/01; Guardian 10/17/01; 9/11 Commission Report 6/17/04; AP 8/19/02]

(8:20 a.m.)

       Boston flight control decides that Flight 11 has probably been hijacked, but apparently it doesn't notify other flight control centers for another five minutes, and don't notify NORAD for about another 20 minutes. [“About 8:20,” Newsday, 9/23/01, “about 8:20,” New York Times, 9/15/01 (C)] ABC News will later say, “There doesn't seem to have been alarm bells going off, traffic controllers getting on with law enforcement or the military. There's a gap there that will have to be investigated.” [ABC News 9/14/01]

(8:21 a.m.)

       Boston flight controller Pete Zalewski, handling Flight 11, sees that the flight is off course and has both transponder and radio off. Zalewski later claims he turns to his supervisor and says, “Would you please come over here? I think something is seriously wrong with this plane. I don't know what. It's either mechanical, electrical, I think, but I'm not sure.” When asked if he suspected a hijacking at this point, he replies, “Absolutely not. No way.” Another flight controller, Tom Roberts, has another nearby American Airlines flight try to contact Flight 11. There is still no response. The flight is now “drastically off course” but NORAD is still not notified. [MSNBC 9/11/02 (B); Independent Commission Report 6/17/04]

(8:21 a.m.)

       Flight 11 attendant Betty Ong calls Vanessa Minter, an American Airlines reservations agent in North Carolina, using a seatback GTE Airfone from the back of the plane. Ong speaks to Minter and an unidentified man for about two minutes. Then supervisor Nydia Gonzales is conferenced into the call as well. Ong says, “The cockpit's not answering. Somebody's stabbed in business class and … I think there's mace … that we can't breathe. I don't know, I think we're getting hijacked.” A minute later, she continues, “And the cockpit is not answering their phone. And there's somebody stabbed in business class. And there's … we can't breathe in business class. Somebody's got mace or something …. I'm sitting in the back. Somebody's coming back from business. If you can hold on for one second, they're coming back.” As this quote shows, other flight attendants relay information from the front of the airplane to Ong sitting in the back. She goes on, “I think the guys are up there [in the cockpit]. They might have gone there—jammed the way up there, or something. Nobody can call the cockpit. We can't even get inside.” The first four and a half minutes of the call is later played before the 9/11 Commission. Ong apparently continues speaking to Gonzales and Minter until the plane crashes (see (8:23 a.m.)). [New York Observer, 2/11/04, 9/11 Commission, 1/27/04] 9/11 Commissioner Bob Kerrey, who has heard more recordings than have been made public, says that her account is greeted skeptically by some officials on the ground: “They did not believe her. They said, ‘Are you sure?’ They asked her to confirm that it wasn't air-rage. Our people on the ground were not prepared for a hijacking.” [New York Times 4/18/04]

8:21 a.m.

       American Airlines flight service manager Michael Woodward, is listening to Flight 11 attendant Amy Sweeney (see (8:20 a.m.)), and he wants to pass on the information he is hearing from her. Since there is no tape recorder, he calls Nancy Wyatt, the supervisor of pursers at Logan Airport. Holding telephones in both hands, he repeats to Wyatt everything that Sweeney is saying to him. Wyatt in turn simultaneously transmits his account to the airline's Fort Worth, Texas headquarters. This conversation between Wyatt and managers at headquarters is recorded. All vital details from Sweeney's call reach American Airlines' top management almost instantly. However, according to victim's relatives who later hear this recording, the two managers at headquarters immediately begin discussing a cover-up of the hijacking details. They say: “Don't spread this around. Keep it close,” “Keep it quiet,” and “Let's keep this among ourselves. What else can we find out from our own sources about what's going on?” One former American Airlines employee who has also heard this recording recalls, “In Fort Worth, two managers in SOC [Systems Operations Control] were sitting beside each other and hearing it. They were both saying, ‘Do not pass this along. Let's keep it right here. Keep it among the five of us.’ ” Apparently they stop this early and clear evidence of a hijacking from being shared during the crisis. Gerard Arpey, American Airlines' executive vice president for operations, soon hears the details from flight attendant Betty Ong's phone call (see 8:30 a.m.), but apparently he doesn't hear about Sweeney's call until much later. The New York Observer quotes victims' relatives who ask if lives could have been saved if this information had been quickly shared with other airplanes. [New York Observer 6/17/04]

(Before 8:21 a.m.)

Daniel Lewin.
Four hijackers get up from their seats and stab or shoot passenger Daniel Lewin, who once belonged to the Israel Defense Force, Sayeret Matkal, a top-secret counter-terrorist unit. He was sitting in front of one of the three hijackers in business class. This could have happened even before 8:13, but logically seems to have come not much before 8:21. A very preliminary FAA memo says Lewin is shot by Satam Al Suqami at 9:20. Clearly the time is a typo; perhaps 8:20 is meant? [ABC News, 7/18/02, UPI, 3/6/02, Washington Post, 3/2/02 (B)] Perhaps Lewin just happened to be there, and, with his past training, tried to be a hero and stop the hijack? Did the hijackers have guns or is the FAA memo wrong?

(8:23 a.m.)

       Nydia Gonzalez, an American Airlines supervisor with expertise on security matters, is patched in to a call with flight attendant Betty Ong on Flight 11. [“approximately 23 minutes” before crash, Independent Commission, 1/27/04] At 8:27, Gonzalez calls manager Craig Marquis at American Airlines' headquarters. Gonzalez holds the phone to Ong to one ear, and the phone to Marquis to the other. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/01, New York Observer, 2/11/04] Gonzalez talks to Marquis continuously until Flight 11 crashes. The first four minutes of this call are later played before the 9/11 Commission. Marquis quickly says, “I'm assuming they've declared an emergency. Let me get ATC [air traffic control] on here. Stand by …. Okay, we're contacting the flight crew now and we're … we're also contacting ATC.” In the four recorded minutes, Gonzalez relays that Ong is saying the hijackers from seats 2A and 2B are in the cockpit with the pilots. There are no doctors on board. All the first class passengers have been moved to the coach section. The airplane is flying very erratically. [Independent Commission 1/27/04]

(8:24 a.m.)

Flight 11 pilot John Ogonowski.
The pilot of Flight 11, John Ogonowski, activates the talk-back button, enabling Boston flight controllers to hear a hijacker on Flight 11 say to the passengers: “We have some planes. Just stay quiet and you will be OK. We are returning to the airport.” Flight controller John Zalewski responds, “Who's trying to call me?” The hijacker continues, “Everything will be OK. If you try to make any moves you'll endanger yourself and the airplane. Just stay quiet.” [8:24:38, Guardian, 10/17/01, 8:24:38, New York Times, 10/16/01, 8:24:38, 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04, 8:24, Boston Globe, 11/23/01, after 8:24, MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B), 8:28, New York Times, 9/12/01, before 8:28, Channel 4 News, 9/13/01] Immediately after hearing this voice, Flight controller John Zalewski “knew right then that he was working a hijack” and calls for his supervisor. The frequency of Flight 11 is played on speakers so everyone in Boston flight control can hear. [MSNBC 9/11/02 (B); Village Voice 9/13/01]

(8:24 a.m.)

       Boston flight control radar sees Flight 11 making an unplanned 100-degree turn to the south (they're already way off-course). Flight controllers say they never lost sight of the flight, though they could no longer determine altitude once the transponder was turned off. [8:24, MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B), 8:28, Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/01] Before this turn, the FAA had tagged Flight 11's radar dot for easy visibility, and at American Airlines headquarters at least, “All eyes watched as the plane headed south. On the screen, the plane showed a squiggly line after its turn near Albany, then it straightened.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/01] “Boston Center could still track it on primary radar ….” [Newhouse News, 1/25/02] Boston flight controller Mark Hodgkins later says, “I watched the target of American 11 the whole way down.” [ABC, 9/6/02] Reports stating that Boston's controllers don't spot the plane's course until just before or just after it has crashed appear to be incorrect (for instance, Washington Post, 9/12/01 and Newsday, 9/10/02). But apparently NEADS has different radar, and even around 8:40 they cannot find Flight 11. Boston has to periodically update NEADS on Flight 11's position by telephone until NEADS finally finds it a few minutes before it crashes into the WTC. [Aviation Week and Space Technology 6/3/02; ABC News 9/11/02; Newhouse News 1/25/02]

8:25 a.m.

       The Guardian reports that Boston flight control “notifies several air traffic control centers that a hijack is taking place.” But supposedly they don't notify NORAD for another 6 to 15 minutes, depending on the account (see (8:37 a.m.)). [Guardian 10/17/01] However, the Indianapolis flight controller monitoring Flight 77 claims to not know about this or Flight 175's hijacking twenty minutes later (see 8:56 a.m.). Additionally, the flight controllers at New York City's La Guardia airport, at least, are never told about the hijacked planes and learn about them from watching the news (see 9:01 a.m. and 9:13 a.m.).

(Before 8:26 a.m.)

       Having been told by flight attendant Amy Sweeney the seat locations of three hijackers (see (8:20 a.m.)), American Airlines flight service manager Michael Woodward orders a colleague at Boston's Logan Airport to look up those seat locations on the reservations computer. The names, addresses, phone numbers, and credit cards of these hijackers are quickly discovered. Abdulaziz Alomari is in 9G, Mohamed Atta is in 9D, and Satam Al Suqami is in 10B. 9/11 Commissioner Bob Kerrey notes that from this information, American Airlines officials monitoring the call would probably have known or assumed right away that the hijacking was connected to al-Qaeda. [ABC News 7/18/02; New York Observer 2/11/04]

(Between 8:27 a.m.-8:30 a.m.)

       Craig Marquis, listening to information coming from flight attendant Betty Ong on Flight 11 (see (8:21 a.m.)), calls American Airlines' system operations control center in Fort Worth. He says, “She said two flight attendants had been stabbed, one was on oxygen. A passenger had his throat slashed and looked dead and they had gotten into the cockpit.” He relays that Ong said the four hijackers had come from first-class seats: 2A, 2B, 9A, and 9B. She said the wounded passenger was in seat 10B. [Boston Globe, 11/23/01] Note that this conflicts with the seats flight attendant Amy Sweeney gives for the hijackers at about the same time: 9D, 9G, and 10B (see (8:20 a.m.). By 8:27, this information is passed to Gerard Arpey, the effective head of American Airlines that morning (see 8:30 a.m.). By 9:59, it is given to counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke and other top officials (see (9:59 a.m.)).

(8:28 a.m.)

       American Airlines manager Craig Marquis is talking to Nydia Gonzalez, who in turn is talking to flight attendant Betty Ong on Flight 11. Towards the beginning of a four minute excerpt from the call that starts at 8:27 (see (8:23 a.m.)), Marquis says, “We contacted Air Traffic Control, they are going to handle this as a confirmed hijacking. So they're moving all the traffic out of this aircraft's way …. He turned his transponder off, so we don't have a definitive altitude for him. We're just going by … They seem to think that they have him on a primary radar. They seem to think that he is descending.” So Boston flight control is aware that Flight 11 has been hijacked by this time. [9/11 Commission 1/27/04]

8:28 a.m.

       Boston flight control center calls the FAA's Command Center in Herdon, Virginia, and tells them that it believes Flight 11 has been hijacked and is heading towards New York airspace. At 8:32, the Command Center passes to the Operations Center at FAA headquarters in Washington. Headquarters replies that they've just begun discussing the hijack situation with the main FAA New England office. The Command Center immediately establishes a teleconference between the Boston, New York, and Cleveland centers so that Boston can help the others understand what's happening. Even though by 8:24 Boston is certain Flight 11 is hijacked, NORAD is not yet contacted. [Independent Commission Report 6/17/04]

8:30 a.m.

       The FAA's Command Center in Herndon, Virginia begins their usual daily senior staff meeting. National Operations Manager Ben Sliney interrupts the meeting to report a possible hijacking in progress, as the Center has been told about the Flight 11 hijacking a few minutes earlier (see 8:28 a.m.). Later, a supervisor interrupts the meeting to report a flight attendant on the hijacked aircraft may have been stabbed (see (Between 8:27 a.m.-8:30 a.m.)). The meeting breaks up before the first WTC crash at 8:46. Apparently no one in the meeting contacts NORAD. [Aviation Week and Space Technology 12/17/01]

8:30 a.m.

       Gerard Arpey, American Airlines' executive vice president for operations, hears from manager Joe Burdepelly who says he has been trying to page him to tell him about a possible hijacking of Flight 11. Burdepelly tells Arpey that he's been told that another manager, Craig Marquis, is in contact with flight attendant Betty Ong on the hijacked flight (see (8:21 a.m.) and (Between 8:27 a.m.-8:30 a.m.)). Arpey learns that Ong has said two other attendants have been stabbed, that two or three passengers are in the cockpit, and more. Arpey is the effective head of American Airlines during the early phase of the crisis, because the company's president is still at home and out of contact. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/04] At some point before Flight 11 crashes, Arpey also hears about the “We have some planes” comment made by the hijackers. [USA Today 8/13/02]

(Around 8:30 a.m.)

Secretary of State Colin Powell leaves Lima, Peru after hearing the news.
Just prior to learning about the 9/11 attacks, many of the US's leaders are scattered across the US and overseas.
  1. President Bush is in Sarasota, Florida.
  2. Vice President Cheney and National Security Advisor Rice are at their offices in the White House.
  3. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is at his office in the Pentagon, meeting with a delegation from Capitol Hill.
  4. Secretary of State Powell is in Lima, Peru.
  5. CIA Director Tenet is at breakfast with his old friend and mentor, former Senator David Boren (D), at the St. Regis Hotel, three blocks from the White House.
  6. General Henry Shelton, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is flying across the Atlantic on the way to Europe.
  7. Attorney General Ashcroft is flying to Milwaukee. FBI Director Mueller is in his office at FBI headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue. [Washington Post, 1/27/02]
  8. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta is at his office at the Department of Transportation. [Senate Commerce Committee, 9/20/01]
  9. Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Joe Allbaugh is at a conference in Montana. [ABC, 9/14/02 (B)]
  10. George Bush Sr. is supposedly on a flight from Washington to St. Paul, Minnesota, and has his plane diverted to Milwaukee when the air ban begins. [Time, 9/24/01]
11) Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is at a conference in the Ronald Reagan Building three blocks from the White House.


8:30 a.m.

       Captain Charles Leidig, the Deputy for Command Center Operations at the National Military Command Center (NMCC) takes over temporarily from Brigadier General Montague Winfield and is effectively in charge of NMCC during the 9/11 crisis. Winfield had requested the previous day that Leidig stand in for him on September 11 starting at this time. Leidig had only started his role as Deputy for Command Center Operations two months previously and had only qualified to stand in for Winfield the previous month. Leidig remains in charge from a few minutes before the 9/11 crisis begins until about 10:30, after the last hijacked plane crashes. He presides over an important crisis response teleconference that has a very slow start (see 9:39 a.m.). [Independent Commission 6/17/04 (B)]

8:34 a.m.

       Boston flight controllers attempt to contact the military through the FAA's Cape Cod facility. Two fighters are on twenty-four hour alert at the Otis Air National Guard Base, at Cape Cod. Boston tries reaching this base so the fighters there can scramble after Flight 11. Apparently they do this before going through the usual NORAD channels. The 9/11 Commission leaves vague what the outcome of this call is. [Independent Commission Report, 6/17/04] However, the lead pilot at the Otis base, Lt. Col. Timothy Duffy (codenamed Duff), later claims he is given an advance warning to get ready to scramble before the official notification (see (8:46 a.m.)), thanks to a call from Boston flight control (see (8:40 a.m.)). [Aviation Week and Space Technology 6/3/02]

(8:34 a.m.)

       Flight controllers hear a hijacker on Flight 11 say to the passengers: “Nobody move, please, we are going back to the airport. Don't try to make any stupid moves.” [8:33, Boston Globe, 11/23/01, 8:33:59, Guardian, 10/17/01, 8:33:59, New York Times, 10/16/01, 8:34, 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Apparently, shortly after this, the transmission tapes that are automatically recorded are played back to hear the words spoken by the hijackers a few minutes before (see (8:24 a.m.)). Everyone in the Boston flight control center hears the hijackers say “We have some planes.” [MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B)] Ben Sliney, the FAA's National Operations Manager, soon gets word of the message “We have some planes” and later says the phrase haunts him all morning. [USA Today 8/13/02]

(8:34 a.m.)

       Around this time, Boston flight control attempts to contact an Atlantic City, New Jersey air base, to send fighters after Flight 11. For decades, the air base had two fighters on 24-hour alert status, but this changed in 1998 due to budget cutbacks. The flight controllers don't realize this, and apparently try in vain to reach anyone. It is known that at the time Flight 11 hits the WTC and possibly at this time, two F-16s from this base are practicing bombing runs over an empty stretch of the Pine Barrens near Atlantic City. They are only eight minutes away from New York City, but they aren't alerted to the emerging crisis. Shortly after the second WTC crash at 9:03, the two F-16s are ordered to land and are refitted with air-to-air missiles, then sent aloft. But they relaunch over an hour after the second crash. They're apparently sent to Washington and don't reach it until almost 11:00 (see 10:42 a.m.). After 9/11, one newspaper questions why NORAD “left what seems to be a yawning gap in the midsection of its air defenses on the East Coast—a gap with New York City at the center.” [Bergen Record, 12/5/03, Independent Commission Report, 6/17/04] Had these two fighters been notified at 8:37 or before, they could have reached New York City before Flight 11.

(8:35 a.m.)

Air National Guard troops at NORAD's Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) try to locate hijacked aircraft.
Bush's motorcade leaves for Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida. [8:30, Washington Post, 1/27/02, 8:30, BBC, 9/1/02, 8:35, Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/01, 8:39, Washington Times, 10/7/02] He said farewell to the management at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort at 8:20. [Telegraph, 12/16/01] Note that an early report that as Bush is leaving the resort, a reporter asks him, “Do you know what's going on in New York?” [ABC News, 9/11/01], appears to be mistaken.

(8:35 a.m.)

       Flight attendant Amy Sweeney continues to describe what's happening on board Flight 11 to Michael Woodward at Logan Airport (see (8:20 a.m.)). At some point prior to this, she explains that flight attendants are giving injured people oxygen. They've made an announcement over the PA system asking if there's a doctor or nurse on board. Sweeney is calling from the rear of the coach section, and explains that the passengers in coach, separated by curtains from the violence in first class, are calm and believe there is some type of medical emergency at the front of the plane. Then, at this time, the plane suddenly lurches, tilting all the way to one side, then becoming horizontal again. Then she says it begins a rapid descent. She tries to contact the cockpit again, but still gets no response. [ABC News 7/18/02; New York Observer 2/11/04]

(8:36 a.m.)

       On Flight 11, flight attendant Betty Ong reports that the plane tilts all the way on one side and then becomes horizontal again. Flight attendant Amy Sweeney then reports on her phone that the plane has begun a rapid descent. [ABC News 7/18/02]

8:37 a.m.

       Flight controllers ask the United Airlines Flight 175 pilots to look for a lost American Airlines plane 10 miles to the south— a reference to Flight 11. They respond that they can see it. They are told to keep away from it. [Guardian 10/17/01; Boston Globe 11/23/01; 9/11 Commission Report 6/17/04] Just prior to this, Flight 11 passes from Boston flight control airspace into New York flight control airspace. John Hartling, the New York flight controller put in charge of the hijacked flight, later recounts being told that Flight 11 was hijacked: “I didn't believe him. Because I didn't think that that stuff would happen anymore, especially in this country.” [MSNBC 9/11/02 (B)]

(After 8:37 a.m.)

       NORAD gives the command to scramble fighters after Flight 11 after being notified (see (8:37 a.m.)). Lt. Colonel Dawne Deskins at NEADS tells Colonel Robert Marr, head of NEADS, “I have FAA on the phone, the shout line, Boston Center. They said they have a hijacked aircraft.” Marr then calls Major General Larry Arnold at NORAD's command Center in Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, and says, “Boss, I need to scramble [fighters at] Otis [Air National Guard Base].” Arnold recalls, “I said go ahead and scramble them, and we'll get the authorities later.” Arnold then calls NORAD headquarters to report. [ABC News, 9/11/02, Independent Commission Report, 6/17/04] Then, seeing the proper authorization, NEADS calls Canadian Captain Mike Jellinek at NORAD's Colorado headquarters. Jellinek is sitting near Canadian Air Force Major General Rick Findley, director of combat operations there. Findley's staff is “already on high alert” because of a joint US-Canada exercise known as Vigilant Guardian (see (6:30 a.m.)), and another joint exercise known as Operation Northern Vigilance (see (9:00 a.m.)). Jellinek gets the thumbs up authorization from Findley to send fighters after Flight 11. Findley later states, “At that point all we thought was we've got an airplane hijacked and we were going to provide an escort as requested. We certainly didn't know it was going to play out as it did.” Findley remains in charge of NORAD headquarters while his staff feeds information to NORAD commander-in-chief Ralph Eberhart stationed in Florida. [CBC 11/27/01; Toronto Star 12/9/01; Ottawa Citizen 9/11/02; Aviation Week and Space Technology 6/3/02]

(8:37 a.m.)

NORAD commander Larry Arnold.
According to the 9/11 Commission, Boston flight control contacts NEADS (NORAD's Northeast Air Defense Sector) at this time. This is apparently the first successful notification of the military about the crisis that morning. Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Powell, a member of the Air National Guard at NEADS, initially takes the call from Boston Center. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02, Newhouse News, 1/25/02] Boston flight control says, “Hi. Boston Center TMU, we have a problem here. We have a hijacked aircraft headed towards New York, and we need you guys to, we need someone to scramble some F-16s or something up there, help us out.” Powell replies, “Is this real-world or exercise?” Boston answers, “No, this is not an exercise, not a test.” [8:37:52, 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04, BBC, 9/1/02] Powell gives the phone to Lt. Colonel Dawne Deskins, regional Mission Crew Chief for the Vigilant Guardian exercise (see (6:30 a.m.)). Deskins later says that initially she and “everybody” else at NEADS thinks the call is part of Vigilant Guardian. After the phone call she has to clarify to everyone that it is not a drill. [Newhouse News, 1/25/02] NORAD commander Major General Larry Arnold in Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, also says that when he hears of the hijacking at this time, “The first thing that went through my mind was, is this part of the exercise? Is this some kind of a screw-up?” [ABC News, 9/11/02] Deskins recalls, “I picked up the line and I identified myself to the Boston Center controller, and he said, we have a hijacked aircraft and I need to get you some sort of fighters out here to help us out.” However, the timing of this vital notification is in some dispute. Deskins herself claimed the call occurred at 8:31. [ABC News, 9/11/02] Another report later states, “Shortly after 8:30 a.m., behind the scenes, word of a possible hijacking [reaches] various stations of NORAD.” [ABC News, 9/14/02] FAA Administrator Jane Garvey testified in 2003 that the FAA notified NORAD at 8:34. [New York Times, 12/30/03] NORAD on the other hand, originally claimed they were first notified at 8:40, and this was widely reported in the media prior to the 9/11 Commission's report. [8:40, NORAD, 9/18/01, 8:40, AP, 8/19/02, 8:40, BBC, 9/1/02, 8:40, Newsday, 9/10/02] If the 8:37 time is accurate, this means flight controllers don't notify NORAD until 24 minutes after radio contact is lost (see (8:13 a.m.)), about 17 minutes after the transponder signal is lost and the flight goes far off course (see (Between 8:13- 8:21 a.m.)and(8:20 a.m.), and 13 minutes after voices of the hijackers in the cockpit remove any doubt the plane has been hijacked (see (8:24 a.m.)).

(8:38 a.m.)

       Flight 11 pilot John Ogonowski's periodic activation of the talk-back button, begun around 8:14, stops around this time. It is suggested that means this is when the hijackers replace him as pilot. [Christian Science Monitor 9/13/01; MSNBC 9/15/01]

(8:40 a.m.)

       Major Daniel Nash (codenamed Nasty) and Lt. Col. Timothy Duffy (codenamed Duff) are the two F-15 pilots who would scramble after Flight 11 and then Flight 175. Apparently they get several informal calls warning to get ready. Nash says that at this time, a colleague at the Otis Air National Guard Base tells him that a flight out of Boston has been hijacked, and to be on alert. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02] NEADS senior technician Jeremy Powell, told about the hijacking at 8:37 (see (8:37 a.m.)), says that he telephones Otis Air Base at some point after that and tells it to upgrade its “readiness posture.” [Newhouse News, 1/25/02] Robert Marr, head of NEADS, also says that after being told of the hijacking at 8:37, he says, “I'll call 1st Air Force [at Otis] and let them know we've got a potential incident.” [BBC, 9/1/02] Boston flight control tried calling the Otis base directly at 8:34, though the result of that call remains unclear (see 8:34 a.m.). Duffy recalls being warned: “I was just standing up by the ops desk and I was told I had a phone call. I asked who it was and they said the [Boston] Tower calling and something about a hijacking. It was Flight American 11, a 767, out of Boston going to California. At the time we ran in and got suited up.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02, BBC, 9/1/02, Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02] Duffy says, “Halfway to the jets, we got ‘battle stations’ … ” which means to get ready for action. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] The actual scramble order doesn't come until they're already waiting in the fighters: “We went out, we hopped in the jets and we were ready to go—standby for a scramble order if we were going to get one.” [BBC, 9/1/02] Duffy continues, “I briefed Nasty on the information I had about the American Airlines flight. About 4-5 minutes later, we got the scramble order and took off.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] However, the official notification to scramble these fighters doesn't come until 8:46. The six or more minute delay between unofficial and official notification has not been explained (see (8:46 a.m.)).
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