In the Heart of Darkness of 9/11

P.S.: According to this change of rules a few months before 9/11 Rumsfeld personally would have to give approval before any fighter jet could intercept in case of a hijacking. But Rumsfeld somehow disappeared from the chain of command right in the crucial hour. Therefore, many 9/11 researchers see this as a possible reason for the failure of the air defense – and as a smoking gun pointing to the role of the Secretary of Defense.

But interestingly, the first fighter jets taking off on the morning of the attack didn’t need approval from Rumsfeld to start. The highest ranking officer giving approval was Major General Larry Arnold, commander of NORAD Continental United States, who was two ranks below Rumsfeld in the chain of command. Therefore, I doubt the practical significance of this rule change. But nonetheless, assuming 9/11 was an inside job, the rule change might have been one more safety step for the conspirators.

L.S.: Even though there was a series of war games going on that involved primarily the US Air Force, do you have any doubt that there would have been still enough fighter jets available to intercept the hijacked airplanes? And if so, why didn’t it take place then?

P.S.: That’s the real question. If you study this thoroughly you see that there were indeed enough fighter jets available. They had Andrews Air Force Base, 10 miles out of Washington, with fighter jets to protect the capital. But Andrews did nothing at all. The first armed takeoff was allegedly no sooner than 10.38 a.m., an hour after the Pentagon crash. Then they had two jets on alert in Otis Air Force Base, alarmed at 8.38 a.m., 25 minutes before the second tower was hit. And they had two on alert in Langley Air Force Base, alarmed at 9.09 a.m., 28 minutes before the Pentagon was hit.

In both cases the combined takeoff- and flying-time to target would have been about 20 minutes. So technically they could have intercepted both planes. But strangely in both of these cases the fighter jets were flying unexplained loops and detours that delayed their arrival significantly. In effect the fighters from Otis and Langley didn’t need 20 minutes to reach their respective targets but unbelievable 50 minutes. Then who was responsible for those loops and detours? Who gave those orders to the fighter pilots? That’s still an open question. All we know is that the tape recordings of the communication with the pilots got lost somehow.

L.S.: Two men had their first day of work on 9/11 that are of interest related to the topic of our interview. Who were they, and why is this of interest indeed?

P.S.: First there was Ben Sliney, national operations manager of the civilian air traffic control. For him 9/11 was his very first day on the job. And then there was Captain Charles Leidig, deputy director of the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center, NMCC. The NMCC is the focal point of decision making in the Pentagon during an urgent crisis. The acting boss of the NMCC, General Montague Winfield, had asked his deputy, Captain Leidig, right the day before to take control of the NMCC on the morning of 9/11, more precisely from 8.30 a.m. on, meaning right at the start of the attack to come.

One more so-called coincidence. Because Captain Leidig was inexperienced. He had qualified for the complex job of managing the command center only one month before. For unknown reasons he failed to establish a phone conference with civilian air traffic control, while General Winfield, who should have taken command, had simply disappeared. Only after 10 a.m., when the attacks were over and the last plane had crashed, Winfield returned to his desk at the NMCC. The episode of his well-timed absence is also unexplained so far.

L.S: What happened to General Winfield after 9/11?

P.S: Actually he was promoted soon thereafter. And by the way, now in 2012 he even became Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense. Captain Leidig was also promoted after 9/11.

L.S.: A strange role on 9/11 played a man by the name of Robert Marr. Why should people know exactly what he did that day?

P.S.: Actually there were only few people managing the immediate reaction to the attack. Basically these were the just mentioned Ben Sliney at the civilian air traffic control, Captain Leidig at the Pentagon, and Colonel Robert Marr at the military air defense. On 9/11 Marr was commander of NEADS, the north east sector of the NORAD air defense system. Because all four hijackings took place in the north east sector, Marr was responsible for sending fighter jets in all these cases. He scrambled the F-15s from Otis and the F-16s from Langley.

But both of them started with unexplained delays. The Otis jets took off 3 to 4 minutes later than they could have, the Langley jets even 15 minutes later. These were the fighter jets that missed the second World Trade Center crash and the Pentagon crash. In 2011 I made a video presentation (6) about these delays and the role of Colonel Marr and got a response to this from Miles Kara, former staff member of the 9/11 Commission, who made much of the official research regarding the failure of the air defense.

Kara says that I’m wrong with my allegations about Marr and that one could only have done better with hindsight and that Marr acted totally reasonable on 9/11. I can’t prove the opposite. I have to admit that it’s possible that Marr’s behavior has innocent explanations. But considering the lack of transparency on the whole issue you have to question that. So much was covered up regarding NEADS and their communication that day. For instance, the lost tapes I mentioned. And it’s really inconceivable that we still don’t know who diverted the fighter pilots from Otis and Langley to their strange detours. Maybe Marr didn’t know what was going on. However, there were people who gave those confusing orders to the pilots.

9/11 hijacked flight routes

L.S.: Where was then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld when the U.S. was under attack?

P.S.: Good question. Where was he? Why didn’t he walk over to the National Military Command Center inside the Pentagon immediately after the second tower had been hit? Rumsfeld stayed away from the Command Center just between 9 and 10 a.m., exactly when his leadership was needed most. A parallel with the earlier mentioned General Montague Winfield.

Also people from the inner military circle ask this question today. We have a witness from the Presidential Emergency Operations Center in the White House. Lieutenant Colonel Robert Darling was there on duty on the morning of 9/11. In 2010 he wrote in his memoir: “The real questions still remain; why did Secretary Rumsfeld abandon his post that day by not responding to the National Military Command Center the moment the attack on our country was realized?” (7)

L.S.: Do you think it is of central importance what happened in the Presidential Emergency Operation Center (PEOC) of the White House related to Richard Cheney?

P.S.: It is. And the 9/11 Commission Report is misleading, to say the least, about Vice President Cheney’s actions in the PEOC, which is the bunker beneath the White House. It starts with the disputed time of his arrival there. Officially this was as late as 9.58 a.m., five minutes before the last plane crash. But according to the statement of then Secretary of Transportation, Norman Mineta, that’s in doubt. Mineta asserted that he arrived at 9.20 a.m. in the bunker and saw Cheney already there.

He even witnessed Cheney’s military aide coming in and saying: “The plane is 50 miles out – do the orders still stand?” With Cheney answering: “Of course, have you heard anything to the contrary?” Mineta says, the time of this conversation was about 9.25 a.m., meaning 12 minutes before Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. And if you look at the radar reconstruction of that flight, as released by the National Transportation Safety Board, you see that it was 50 miles out of Washington at 9.27 a.m., indeed.

So Mineta’s statement is corroborated by officially accepted radar data. Now, we still don’t know what those orders were, Cheney’s aide was asking about. But clearly they had something to do with that flight approaching the Pentagon.

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Lars Schall

Lars Schall
Lars Schall is an independent financial journalist. 

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