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Sunday, May 6, 2012

911 - Did the U.S. Military Mistake the 9/11 Attacks for a Training Scenario?

On 9/11, the U.S. Military Was Preparing for a Simulated Nuclear War

Three B-52s from the 96th Bomb Squadron at Barksdale Air Force Base
While September 11, 2001 is well known as the day when the U.S. suffered its worst terrorist attack, what is little known is that it was also a day when large sections of the armed forces around the nation had been preparing to fight a simulated nuclear war, as part of major training exercises being conducted at the time. In their annual exercises "Vigilant Guardian" and "Global Guardian," the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and the United States Strategic Command (Stratcom) were scheduled to carry out what has been described as a "simulated air war," a "full-blown nuclear war" exercise, a "fictional nuclear war," and a "practice Armageddon."

No official attempts have been made to fully investigate these exercises and what effect they had on the military's response to the 9/11 attacks. But evidence indicates they caused at least some confusion over what was "real-world" and what was simulation, and they may also have been a factor behind the communication problems experienced by military personnel that day. Other evidence suggests that some actions that have been presented as reactions to the terrorist attacks may actually have been related to these exercises--actions such as raising the alert status of American armed services to Defcon 3 and closing the huge "blast doors" to NORAD's operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado. There is also evidence that other "practice Armageddon" exercises were being conducted at the time of the 9/11 attacks, but details of these are unknown.

AMERICA'S AIR DEFENDERS WERE SET TO FIGHT A 'SIMULATED AIR WAR' ON SEPTEMBER 11
Perhaps the most important exercise to consider is NORAD's exercise called "Vigilant Guardian." Close examination of this exercise is imperative due to the crucial role NORAD had to play in responding to the 9/11 attacks.

NORAD is the military organization responsible for monitoring and defending U.S. airspace. It was created during the Cold War, to protect North American airspace against nuclear attacks from the Soviet Union. Its Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC) in Colorado, where numerous staffers were involved in Vigilant Guardian, was described by the BBC as "the nerve centre of North America's air defense." [1] The center's role, according to the Toronto Star, was "to fuse every critical piece of information NORAD has into a concise and crystalline snapshot." [2] And NORAD's Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, New York, which was also participating in the exercise, was responsible for trying to coordinate the military's response to the hijackings on September 11. [3]

Vigilant Guardian, described as a "Cold War-style training exercise," was held annually by NORAD. It was reportedly scheduled to last two weeks and was several days underway on September 11. [4] All of NORAD, including its subordinate units, was participating in the exercise that day. [5] NORAD's CMOC was fully staffed for the exercise, with more than 50 members of staff in the Battle Management Center taking part. [6] According to Ken Merchant, NORAD's joint exercise design manager, the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon--which also played a key role in the military's response to the 9/11 attacks--regularly contributed to NORAD exercises. It was therefore presumably set to play a role in Vigilant Guardian on September 11. [7]

EXERCISE SIMULATED A 'FULL-BLOWN NUCLEAR WAR' AGAINST RUSSIA
Full details of Vigilant Guardian are unknown, but various accounts have given indications of what it involved. The 1st Air Force's book about the 9/11 attacks described Vigilant Guardian as a "simulated air war" and as "an air defense exercise simulating an attack on the United States." [8] It was a "transition to wartime operations command post exercise," according to an information page for exercise participants. [9] Ken Merchant called Vigilant Guardian a "full-blown nuclear war" exercise. [10] According to the Denver Post, it would involve "ever-escalating scenarios, from strained diplomacy to the outbreak of conventional warfare that headed inexorably toward nuclear conflict." [11]

Lieutenant Colonel William Glover, the commander of NORAD's Air Warning Center on September 11, said Vigilant Guardian involved NORAD "simulating war," with "attacks coming from the outside, Soviet-style bombers coming in, cruise-missile attacks, that type of thing." [12] The9/11 Commission Report said the exercise "postulated a bomber attack from the former Soviet Union." [13] According to Merchant, it included "bomber response and intercontinental ballistic missile response." [14]

The imagined enemy in Vigilant Guardian was Russia. [15] Merchant told the 9/11 Commission that "NORAD must use Russia in its exercises at the strategic level since no other country poses a great enough threat to NORAD's capabilities and responsibilities." [16]

EXERCISE INCLUDED A SIMULATED HIJACKING
Full details of what scenarios were scheduled for September 11 are unknown, but some information has been revealed. Vanity Fair reported that Vigilant Guardian had been "designed to run a range of scenarios" that day, "including a 'traditional' simulated hijack in which politically motivated perpetrators commandeer an aircraft, land on a Cuba-like island, and seek asylum." [17] Jeff Ford, an Air Force lieutenant colonel who was working in the CMOC on September 11, recalled that it involved "air exercise events and then some scripted inputs that we were reacting to ... whether it be unknown aircraft that we scramble aircraft for to intercept, or whatever." According to Ford, "The big event that day was supposed to be a B-1 bomber that was flying out of Fairchild Air Force Base [in Washington State] and going out over the Pacific." [18]

'GLOBAL GUARDIAN' EXERCISE TESTED STRATCOM'S ABILITY TO FIGHT A NUCLEAR WAR
The other major exercise simulating a nuclear war that is known to have been taking place on September 11 was Global Guardian. This annual exercise was run by Stratcom, which is "the single U.S. military command responsible for the day-to-day readiness of nuclear forces." [19] Like Vigilant Guardian, Global Guardian was scheduled to last about two weeks and had already been running for several days by September 11. [20]

Global Guardian was in fact held "in cooperation with" a number of other military exercises, including Vigilant Guardian. [21] Ken Merchant told the 9/11 Commission that it "was coordinated with Vigilant Guardian so the combined Stratcom offensive abilities and the NORAD defensive abilities could be exercised." [22]

Global Guardian, according to an official after-action report on the exercise, was designed to exercise Stratcom "and supporting forces during a simulated crisis, validate war-fighting procedures, and verify command relationships." [23] Military analyst William Arkin described it as an "all-out game involving multiple regional conflicts that lead to a global nuclear war." [24]

The goal of the exercise, according to the Omaha World-Herald, was to test Stratcom's "ability to fight a nuclear war." [25] One reporter said it would involve America fighting "a fictional nuclear war," and would test the "response to a fictional attack from another nation." [26] The adversary preparing this nuclear attack on the United States was a fictional rogue nation called "Slumonia," a small nuclear power in northeast Asia. [27]

SUBMARINES, BOMBERS, AND HUNDREDS OF PERSONNEL PARTICIPATED IN GLOBAL GUARDIAN
Numerous military units were participating in Global Guardian in September 2001. [28] Around the U.S. and off its shores, bombers, missile crews, and submarines were taking part, following orders from Stratcom's command bunker at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. [29] As well as Offutt, other Air Force bases around the U.S. that were involved in the exercise included Barksdale, Minot, and Whiteman Air Force bases, where "dozens of aircraft and hundreds of personnel" were participating. [30]

"Other support" for the exercise was provided by personnel at the Pentagon, Camp H. M. Smith in Hawaii, Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, and NORAD's Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center. [31] According to William Arkin, several senior civilian and military leaders participated in Global Guardian exercises, including individuals from the offices of the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, so presumably this was the case in the September 2001 Global Guardian. [32]

STRATCOM WAS AT INCREASED STATE OF ALERT, AIRCRAFT WERE 'SIMULATING THEIR WARTIME ROLES'
Admiral Richard Mies, at that time the commander in chief of Stratcom, has described how Global Guardian was proceeding when the 9/11 attacks took place. He said Stratcom had been "ready to respond to a potential attack from a hypothetical adversary. ... We had intelligence indicating that they were preparing to attack us." Stratcom was positioning its forces "to be ready to offer the president the ability to respond in a wide variety of ways. A lot of our command and control systems that, in peacetime, are normally not on alert were at a much, much higher state of alert and we had a number of aircraft, manned control aircraft that were airborne that were simulating their wartime roles." Preparations underway in the exercise included "elevating our readiness status to a heightened state of readiness," "preparing bombers to potentially launch, if required," and "getting submarines that were in port ready to go to sea."

Mies added that Global Guardian involved "a lot of the elements of what ultimately would be the nuclear command and control system in support of a national emergency." It included "an exercise secretary of defense" and "an exercise president." [33] Among the exercise's objectives were disseminating "presidential nuclear decisions ... to the forces," and preparing and issuing National Command Authority directives, so presumably the participants acting as the president and the secretary of defense were involved in these activities. [34] (The National Command Authority refers collectively to the president and the secretary of defense.)

CREWS LOADED LIVE NUCLEAR WEAPONS ONTO BOMBERS
At Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, according to journalists Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, air crews taking part in the exercise were "pulling nuclear bombs and missiles out of their heavily guarded storage sites and loading them aboard B-52s" on the morning of September 11. Real, live nuclear weapons were being used, but "their triggers were not armed." [35]

American History magazine described the scene at the base: "Even though it was only a drill, the command center was tense, everyone proceeding as if the planes would soon take off on bombing runs, instead of just idling at the end of the runway." Then, at precisely 9:00 a.m. (Eastern time), "an alarm sounded across the base and the crews raced to their planes." After news was received about the terrorist attacks in New York, the base's command staff "ended the drill, but left the fueled and armed planes where they were." [36]

Also as part of Global Guardian, three E-4B National Airborne Operations Center planes that were based at Offutt Air Force Base were airborne on September 11. The E-4B, nicknamed the "Doomsday" plane during the Cold War, is a militarized version of a Boeing 747-200. It is equipped with advanced communications equipment, and in times of national emergency can act as an alternative command post from which top government officials can direct forces, execute war orders, and coordinate actions by civil authorities. Even after Global Guardian was terminated, the three E-4Bs remained in the air. [37]

AIR FORCE COMMANDER THOUGHT FIRST ATTACK WAS EXERCISE SIMULATION
That these training exercises were being conducted on the morning of September 11 raises important questions. As the Omaha World-Heraldnoted, the fact that Global Guardian was "in full swing" when the United States came under attack was "at least an odd coincidence." [38]

We need to investigate how much confusion military personnel experienced because they were preparing for a simulated attack on America at the time an actual attack on America took place. We already know of some instances of confusion caused by the exercises. For example, when Lieutenant General Thomas Keck, the commander of the 8th Air Force at Barksdale Air Force Base, who had been monitoring the Global Guardian exercise, was told a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center, he initially thought this was a simulated scenario. He therefore told the junior officer who had brought him the news: "That's not the way you interject a situation into a training exercise! When you have a scenario injection, you say, 'Sir, this is an exercise input,' and then you give me the information."

Additionally, some of the airmen at Barksdale who had been participating in the exercise appear to have been only vaguely aware of the real-world crisis. American History noted that after Global Guardian was called off, the crews in the B-52 bombers knew only "that something very serious was happening and they were not being ordered to stand down." Even by early afternoon, they had only heard "the most basic reports about the attacks on New York and the Pentagon." [39]

EXERCISE INCLUDED SIMULATED COMMUNICATION OUTAGES
We also need to consider whether actions incorporated into the training exercises affected lines of communication that would have been critical for enabling a swift response to the terrorist attacks. Some evidence indicates this may have been the case. For example, one of the listed objectives of the September 2001 Global Guardian was to "simulate outages between NC2 [nuclear command and control] nodes requiring alternate routes to maintain connectivity." Another objective was for participants to "determine operational impacts and work-arounds to simulated C4I [command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence] outages." The official after-action report on the exercise did not elaborate on what these "simulated C4I outages" involved. [40]

Certainly, those in NORAD's CMOC, who had been participating in Vigilant Guardian, appear to have experienced significant communication problems. William Glover recalled that the time of the 9/11 attacks was his "first time, you know, thinking about the fog of war, because we didn't know what was going on." [41] Major General Rick Findley, NORAD's director of operations, commented, "I wouldn't call it flat-footed, but we were a little bit behind the power curve most of that morning as we were trying to figure out exactly what transpired." [42] And Lieutenant Colonel Steven Armstrong, NORAD's chief of plans and forces, has complained that he and his colleagues "were out there in an information void, just looking for anything that we could find." He said, "All the information we were getting at the time was really off the TV." [43]

The causes of this "information void" surely need to be investigated. Might it have been the result, at least partly, of an attack on military communications systems that was incorporated into one (or more) of the exercises that day?

Some actions carried out on September 11 have been reported as if they were responses to the terrorist attacks, but evidence suggests they may actually have been conducted as part of an exercise, or at least perceived within the military as being part of an exercise. Two such actions, described below, are the closing of the blast doors to NORAD's Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center and the order to raise the military's alert status to Defcon 3. If these actions were connected to the exercises taking place that day, it would raise further questions about how much confusion was caused by these exercises, and would indicate that the exercises continued even after it became obvious the U.S. was suffering a major terrorist attack.

NORAD CLOSED DOORS PROTECTING OPERATIONS CENTER FROM A NUCLEAR ATTACK
On the morning of September 11, the thick steel doors to NORAD's operations center in Cheyenne Mountain were closed for the first time in a real-world crisis since the CMOC opened in 1966. [44] The two doors are three feet thick and each weighs 25 tons. [45] They were designed to seal the operations center, to protect it from a nuclear blast. [46]

The time the blast doors were closed at is unknown, although a BBC documentary placed the event at 10:15 a.m. [47] The reason they were shut is also unclear. A number of reports suggested they were closed in response to information the CMOC received about an aircraft that was incorrectly thought to have been hijacked and targeting Cheyenne Mountain. [48] However, as the Regina Leader-Post pointed out, "Protected by 2,600 feet of granite, the NORAD command center and hundreds of personnel in their green flight suits were actually in the safest place in North America." [49] The CMOC was therefore already safe against an aircraft crashing into the mountain.

Furthermore, the blast doors are located at the end of a tunnel, about a third of a mile into the mountain. [50] Closing them would therefore have been a needless action as protection against a threatening aircraft, as a plane could hardly have made it all the way along the tunnel to the entrance to the CMOC! Brigadier General Jim Hunter, the vice commander of the CMOC on September 11, commented on the lack of danger, saying, "They could have driven airliners into that mountain all day." [51]

BLAST DOORS WERE CLOSED DURING EXERCISES
It is worth considering if there was a different reason why the blast doors were shut. Might they have been closed as part of one of the exercises? Vigilant Guardian and Global Guardian both involved simulating a nuclear war. And since the doors were designed to protect the CMOC from a nuclear strike, it would seem logical that they might be closed during an exercise simulating a nuclear attack on the United States.

Furthermore, while the doors had never been closed in a real-world crisis before September 11, they had been closed during exercises. Air Force officer William Astore wrote that when he worked inside Cheyenne Mountain between 1985 and 1988, the blast doors were kept open, "except, of course, during 'exercises,' when the mountain 'buttoned up' its self-contained world." [52]

MILITARY'S ALERT STATUS WAS RAISED TO DEFCON 3
Another event on September 11 that has yet to be properly explained is the order to raise the defense readiness condition from Defcon 5, the lowest possible level, to Defcon 3, the highest alert level for 28 years. [53]

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld issued the order to go to Defcon 3 at around 10:45 a.m. after conferring with General Richard Myers, the acting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Rumsfeld also discussed the issue with Vice President Dick Cheney over the air threat conference call, and later briefed President Bush on his actions and was given the president's approval for what he had done. [54]

DEFCON 3 WAS INTENDED 'TO RESPOND TO A NUCLEAR THREAT'
However, some have questioned the appropriateness of this increased state of readiness to the situation on September 11. John Farmer, the senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission, pointed out that Defcon 3 is "a Cold War-era designation, devised to respond to a nuclear threat." [55] Farmer and other 9/11 Commission staffers have written that it was "suited more to a Cold War conflict than to al-Qaeda's attack." [56] And General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD on September 11, told the 9/11 Commission that Defcon 3 is "not intended for [events like] the attacks of 9/11 and thus could have complicated the response to the attacks." He said he did not think that raising the defense readiness condition would have "done anything for us" within the continental United States. [57]

Myers told the 9/11 Commission that the reason for going to Defcon 3 was "to improve our readiness and protection of our forces worldwide." [58] But evidence suggests that the order might have had some connection to the exercises taking place that day.

DEFCON CHANGES WERE SIMULATED DURING EXERCISES
While it was apparently inappropriate as a response to the 9/11 attacks, raising the defense readiness condition is something that was incorporated into military exercises at that time. Staff Sergeant Brent Lanier, who was in NORAD's Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center on September 11 and was tasked with sending out a message about the increased alert status, has commented that while he'd never sent out an "actual Defcon change message" before then, he had "sent out false Defcon messages during exercises." [59]

It is also worth noting that details of the increased alert level were sent out in an "emergency action message" (EAM) issued at 10:52 a.m. on September 11. [60] EAMs appear to have been more suited to Cold War-type scenarios--like, perhaps, the practice nuclear wars being conducted by NORAD and Stratcom--than to a terrorist attack. For example, they have been defined by the U.S. military as "highly structured, authenticated messages primarily used in the command and control of nuclear forces." [61]

Furthermore, the EAM put out on September 11 appears to have been issued by the NMCC at the Pentagon. [62] And according to Ken Merchant, during NORAD exercises (like Vigilant Guardian), "More often than not, the NMCC ran conferences and interjected emergency action messages for NORAD." [63] The issuing of EAMs also appears to have been part of Stratcom exercises. One of the listed objectives for the September 2001 Global Guardian was for participants to "exercise first emergency action message via alternate means." [64]

Might the EAM on September 11 therefore have been issued in relation to Vigilant Guardian and/or Global Guardian, rather than in response to the real-world attacks? Or could there have been confusion within the military that this might have been the case?

WERE THERE OTHER 'PRACTICE ARMAGEDDON' EXERCISES ON SEPTEMBER 11? 
Another question to address is whether there were other military exercises taking place at the time of the 9/11 attacks, in addition to Vigilant Guardian and Global Guardian, that simulated a nuclear war. William Arkin wrote in 1997 that Global Guardian was "merely one of many practice Armageddons the military continues to stage." He then named other "practice Armageddon" exercises. For example, the "Air Combat Command, which flies B-1, B-2, and B-52 bombers," conducted an exercise called "Crown Vigilance," and the U.S. Space Command, "which operates land-based missiles," ran an exercise called "Apollo Guardian." [65] Furthermore, a 1997 Department of Defense report listed a number of exercises that Global Guardian "links with," indicating that these exercises might run concurrently with Global Guardian. The list included Vigilant Guardian, which is known to have taken place around the same time as Global Guardian in 2001, and also Crown Vigilance, Apollo Guardian, and a NORAD exercise called "Amalgam Warrior." [66]

Ken Merchant in fact told the 9/11 Commission that Apollo Guardian had been "running on September 11, 2001." [67] Whether Crown Vigilance and Amalgam Warrior were also being conducted that day is unknown. And no details have been revealed about these exercises, such as what they involved, what simulations they included, who exactly participated in them, and--if they were taking place on September 11--what effect they had on the military's ability to respond to the real-world crisis.

OFFICIAL INVESTIGATIONS OVERLOOKED THE 9/11 EXERCISES
Considering the nature of these simulated nuclear war exercises and the fact that they were "in full swing" at the time of the 9/11 attacks, it is remarkable that so little attention has been paid to them. The 9/11 Commission Report devoted only a few sentences to Vigilant Guardian in its notes section and made no mention of Global Guardian. [68]

Recently, an interviewer questioned Donald Rumsfeld about Global Guardian. The interviewer pointed out that because of this exercise, there had been "places like Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana where there were literally rows of B-52s loaded with live nuclear weapons," and noted, "With so much unknown about who was attacking in those early hours, there had to have been some urgency to deal with that much live weaponry out and about." He went on to ask Rumsfeld, "Were there concerns about having these live nuclear weapons out in aircraft in places like Barksdale that day?" Rumsfeld's answer was, "I don't know." The most he could say was to add, "Clearly, there's always concern." [69]

NOTES
[1] Clear the Skies. BBC, September 1, 2002.
[2] Scott Simmie, "The Scene at NORAD on Sept. 11: Playing Russian War Games ... and Then Someone Shouted to Look at the Monitor." Toronto Star, December 9, 2001.
[3] Michael Bronner, "9/11 Live: The NORAD Tapes." Vanity Fair, August 2006; Philip Shenon, The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation. New York: Twelve, 2008, p. 203.
[4] William M. Arkin, Code Names: Deciphering U.S. Military Plans, Programs, and Operations in the 9/11 World. Hanover, NH: Steerforth Press, 2005, p. 545; "NORAD." The Early Edition, CBC, September 8, 2011;Tom Roeder, "Inside the Mountain: Rumor of a Threatening Jet Fed Tension." Colorado Springs Gazette, September 10, 2011.
[5] "Vigilant Guardian 01-2." Northeast Air Defense Sector, August 23, 2001"NORAD."
[6] Jason Tudor, "Inner Space." Airman, March 2002"NORAD."
[7] "Memorandum for the Record: Interview With Major Paul Goddard (Canadian Forces) and Ken Merchant." 9/11 Commission, March 4, 2004.
[8] Leslie Filson, Air War Over America: Sept. 11 Alters Face of Air Defense Mission. Tyndall Air Force Base, FL: 1st Air Force, 2003, pp. 55, 122.
[9] Neil A. Cleveland, "Special Instructions (Spins) Vigilant Guardian 01-2." Northeast Air Defense Sector, August 23, 2001.
[10] "Memorandum for the Record: Interview With Major Paul Goddard (Canadian Forces) and Ken Merchant."
[11] Kevin Simpson, "Rearmed Forces: 9/11 Changed Military Life in Colorado." Denver Post, August 28, 2011.
[12] "NORAD."
[13] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2004, p. 458.
[14] "Memorandum for the Record: Interview With Major Paul Goddard (Canadian Forces) and Ken Merchant."
[15] Kevin Simpson, "Rearmed Forces."
[16] "Memorandum for the Record: Interview With Major Paul Goddard (Canadian Forces) and Ken Merchant."
[17] Michael Bronner, "9/11 Live."
[18] Thomas Doscher, "In Their Own Words--NORAD Members Recall September 11: Jeff Ford." Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System, September 8, 2011.
[19] Rita Clark, Vincent A. Giroux Jr., and Todd White, History of the United States Strategic Command, June 1, 1992 - October 1, 2002. Offutt Air Force Base, NE: Command Historian's Office, United States Strategic Command, January 2004, p. 50; William M. Arkin, Code Names, p. 59;"Global Guardian." GlobalSecurity.org, May 7, 2011.
[20] Joe Dejka, "When Bush Arrived, Offutt Sensed History in the Making." Omaha World-Herald, September 8, 2002Bill Kelly, "Military Insiders Tell of Bush 9/11 Visit for the First Time." NET Radio, September 1, 2011.
[21] Nuclear Weapon Systems Sustainment Programs. Washington, DC: Office of the Secretary of Defense, May 1997; William M. Arkin, Code Names, p. 378.
[22] "Memorandum for the Record: Interview With Major Paul Goddard (Canadian Forces) and Ken Merchant."
[23] Exercise Global Guardian 2001-2 Joint After-Action Report. United States Strategic Command, December 4, 2001, p. A1.
[24] William M. Arkin, "The Beat Goes On." Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November 1, 1997.
[25] Joe Dejka, "Inside Stratcom on Sept. 11 Offutt Exercise Took Real-Life Twist." Omaha World-Herald, February 27, 2002.
[26] Bill Kelly, "Rumsfeld Reflects on Offutt Air Force Base Role on 9/11." NET Radio, August 30, 2011Bill Kelly, "Military Insiders Recall Bush's 9/11 Stop at Stratcom." NET News, September 7, 2011.
[27] Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, Counterstrike: The Untold Story of America's Secret Campaign Against Al-Qaeda. New York: Times Books, 2011Bill Kelly, "Military Insiders Tell of Bush 9/11 Visit for the First Time."
[28] Exercise Global Guardian 2001-2 Joint After-Action Report, pp. A6-A7.
[29] Stephen Buttry, "Final Words, Final Hours Before All Changed."Omaha World-Herald, September 10, 2002.
[30] Mario Villafuerte, "Practice Becomes Reality Within Minutes." New Orleans Times-Picayune, September 8, 2002; J. J. Green, "Confusion in the Air, Terror on the Ground." WTOP, September 6, 2011.
[31] Exercise Global Guardian 2001-2 Joint After-Action Report, p. A2.
[32] William M. Arkin, Code Names, p. 379.
[33] Bill Kelly, "Military Insiders Tell of Bush 9/11 Visit for the First Time."
[34] Exercise Global Guardian 2001-2 Joint After-Action Report, p. A4.
[35] Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, CounterstrikeBill Kelly, "Military Insiders Tell of Bush 9/11 Visit for the First Time."
[36] Gregory A. Freeman, "Code Alpha: The President is Coming!"American History, October 2006.
[37] Stephen I. Schwartz (Editor), Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1998, p. 210"E-4B National Airborne Operations Center." Federation of American Scientists, April 23, 2000Joe Dejka, "Inside Stratcom on Sept. 11 Offutt Exercise Took Real-Life Twist."
[38] Joe Dejka, "Inside Stratcom on Sept. 11 Offutt Exercise Took Real-Life Twist."
[39] Gregory A. Freeman, "Code Alpha."
[40] Exercise Global Guardian 2001-2 Joint After-Action Report, p. A4.
[41] "NORAD."
[42] Steve Mertl, "Canadian General Who Led NORAD on 9/11 Praises its Performance, Considering." Canadian Press, September 10, 2006.
[43] "In Their Own Words--NORAD Members Recall September 11, Part 3: Steve Armstrong." North American Aerospace Defense Command, September 9, 2011.
[44] Scott Simmie, "The Scene at NORAD on Sept. 11"William B. Scott, "Exercise Jump-Starts Response to Attacks." Aviation Week & Space Technology, June 3, 2002Pam Zubeck, "NORAD Chief Will Testify at 9/11 Hearing." Colorado Springs Gazette, June 14, 2004; "In Their Own Words--NORAD Members Recall September 11, Part 3: Steve Armstrong."
[45] Pat McKenna, "The Border Guards." Airman, January 1996"Facts About Unusual Aspects of NORAD." Colorado Springs Gazette, May 10, 2008.
[46] Scott Simmie, "The Scene at NORAD on Sept. 11"William J. Astore, "Leaving Cheyenne Mountain." The Nation, May 5, 2008.
[47] Clear the Skies.
[48] Ibid.; Pam Zubeck, "NORAD Chief Will Testify at 9/11 Hearing"T. R. Reid, "Military to Idle NORAD Compound." Washington Post, July 29, 2006.
[49] Will Chabun, "Regina Airport Authority's CEO Recalls NORAD on 9/11." Regina Leader-Post, September 12, 2011.
[50] Pat McKenna, "The Border Guards""NORAD to Patrol Skies Over NYC During Convention, Anticipates Attack on U.S. Before Election." Reuters, August 25, 2004John Hazlehurst, "Opening Cheyenne Mountain Could be Tourism Boom." Colorado Springs Business Journal, February 2, 2007.
[51] Will Chabun, "Regina Airport Authority's CEO Recalls NORAD on 9/11."
[52] William J. Astore, "Leaving Cheyenne Mountain."
[53] Dan Balz and Bob Woodward, "A Day to Speak of Anger and Grief."Washington Post, January 30, 2002; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 326; Alfred Goldberg et al., Pentagon 9/11. Washington, DC: Defense Department, Office of the Secretary, Historical Office, 2007, p. 131.
[54] Air Threat Conference Call, Transcript. U.S. Department of Defense, September 11, 2001"Testimony of U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld Prepared for Delivery to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States." 9/11 Commission, March 23, 2004; 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, pp. 326, 554; George W. Bush,Decision Points. New York: Crown, 2010, p. 133.
[55] John Farmer, The Ground Truth: The Untold Story of America Under Attack on 9/11. New York: Riverhead Books, 2009, p. 235.
[56] John Farmer et al., "A New Type of War: The Story of the FAA and NORAD Response to the September 11, 2001 Attacks." Rutgers Law Review, September 7, 2011.
[57] "Memorandum for the Record: Interview With CINC NORAD (Commander in Chief NORAD), General Edward 'Ed' Eberhart." 9/11 Commission, March 1, 2004.
[58] "Statement of General Richard Myers, USAF, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, Before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States." 9/11 Commission, June 17, 2004.
[59] Jason Tudor, "Inner Space."
[60] Air Threat Conference Call, Transcript"UA93 and Andrews Timeline." 9/11 Commission, n.d.
[61] "JITC EAM OT&E Support." Joint Interoperability Test Command, October 24, 2002"CJCSI 5721.01E: The Defense Message System and Associated Legacy Message Processing Systems." Joint Chiefs of Staff, August 13, 2010.
[62] Air Threat Conference Call, Transcript.
[63] "Memorandum for the Record: Interview With Major Paul Goddard (Canadian Forces) and Ken Merchant."
[64] Exercise Global Guardian 2001-2 Joint After-Action Report, p. A4.
[65] William M. Arkin, "The Beat Goes On."
[66] Nuclear Weapon Systems Sustainment Programs.
[67] "Memorandum for the Record: Interview With Major Paul Goddard (Canadian Forces) and Ken Merchant."
[68] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 458.
[69] Bill Kelly, "Rumsfeld Reflects on Offutt Air Force Base Role on 9/11."
-------------------------------------------------------

'Real-World or Exercise': Did the U.S. Military Mistake the 9/11 Attacks for a Training Scenario?


NORAD exercise Amalagam Virgo 01 concept proposal
"I've never seen so much real-world stuff happen during an exercise."
- Major James Fox, Northeast Air Defense Sector, September 11, 2001

Key military personnel who were responsible for protecting the U.S. against the 9/11 attacks may have been seriously hindered in their ability to respond because of a large-scale air defense exercise they were participating in when the attacks occurred. Evidence indicates that the personnel, whose responsibilities included ordering fighter jets into the air to intercept the hijacked planes, were unclear about what was "real-world" and what was "exercise." They may have been led to believe that the terrorist attacks were just simulated scenarios.

These individuals worked at the Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, New York. Audio recordings of the operations floor at NEADS reveal staffers suggesting that the catastrophic events of September 11, 2001 could have been part of the exercise. They sometimes even made jokes and laughed about what was taking place, further indicating that they were mistaking actual events for exercise simulations. Even senior commanding officers have admitted wondering if the terrorist attacks were part of the exercise.

And while staffers sometimes apparently made clear that an event was unconnected to the exercise by referring to it as being "real-world," there is evidence that the term "real-world" may in fact be a way to describe live events played out within an exercise, perhaps involving real aircraft getting airborne, rather than just hypothetical scenarios.

Furthermore, NEADS personnel previously participated in exercises that included scenarios resembling the 9/11 attacks, such as plane hijackings and aircraft being crashed into skyscrapers in New York, and this could have increased the likelihood that they would mistake the events of September 11 for exercise simulations.

Although much remains speculative, the available evidence raises serious questions about whether the exercise at NEADS on September 11 was a deliberate tactic used to hinder skilled and dedicated professionals, thereby preventing them from stopping the terrorist attacks.

NORAD'S 'SIMULATED AIR WAR' ON SEPTEMBER 11
A key agency responsible for protecting the U.S. from an airborne attack, like what happened on September 11, is NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command. NORAD is the military organization responsible for monitoring and defending the airspace over the United States and Canada. Within the U.S., it is divided into three sectors. The 9/11 attacks took place in the airspace monitored by its Northeast Air Defense Sector, NEADS. It was therefore personnel at NEADS who were responsible for trying to coordinate the U.S. military's response to the hijackings. These individuals, however, were in the middle of a major training exercise when the attacks began.

"Vigilant Guardian" was an annual exercise conducted by NORAD that was several days underway on September 11. All of NORAD took part in it. [1] Vigilant Guardian has been described as a "simulated air war" and as "an air defense exercise simulating an attack on the United States." [2] Remarkably, it was scheduled to include a simulated hijacking at around 9:40 a.m. on September 11. The exercise "was designed to run a range of scenarios" that day, according to Vanity Fair, "including a 'traditional' simulated hijack in which politically motivated perpetrators commandeer an aircraft, land on a Cuba-like island, and seek asylum." [3]

It has been claimed that Vigilant Guardian was terminated shortly after United Airlines Flight 175 became the second plane to crash into the World Trade Center, at 9:03 a.m. on September 11. [4] However, evidence indicates it may have continued long after that time. It has also been claimed that the participation of military staffers in the exercise had little effect on their ability to protect America against the attacks, and that Vigilant Guardian may even have had beneficial effects. For example, in its final report, the 9/11 Commission claimed that the response to the attacks "was, if anything, expedited by the increased number of staff at the sectors and at NORAD because of the scheduled exercise." [5] However, a significant amount of evidence casts doubt upon this claim.

NEADS STAFFERS THOUGHT ATTACKS WERE PART OF THE EXERCISE
From the outset, personnel at NEADS wondered if reports they received about the 9/11 attacks were part of the exercise. Their first notification of the crisis came just before 8:38 a.m. on September 11, when Joseph Cooper, an air traffic controller at the FAA's Boston Center, called NEADS and reported, "We have a hijacked aircraft headed towards New York, and ... we need someone to scramble some F-16s or something up there, help us out." The response of Technical Sergeant Jeremy Powell, who answered the call, was to ask, "Is this real-world or exercise?" Cooper replied, "No, this is not an exercise, not a test." [6] According to Vanity Fair, "Powell, like almost everyone in the room, first assumes the phone call is from the simulations team on hand to send 'inputs'--simulated scenarios--into play for the day's training exercise." [7]

However, despite Cooper's statement that the hijacking was "not an exercise, not a test," NEADS personnel continued to question whether information they received about the attacks was real or just simulation. For example, at 9:03 a.m., NEADS received a phone call informing it that a second aircraft had been hijacked, and personnel also saw the live television coverage of the second plane, Flight 175, crashing into the World Trade Center. A minute or two later, recordings of the operations floor reveal, several members of staff discussed these developments among themselves. One of them asked, "Is this explosion part of that that we're looking at now on TV?" Someone replied: "Yes. And there's a possible second hijack also--a United Airlines." Another person then commented, "I think this is a damn input, to be honest." An "input" is a simulations input, as part of a training exercise. Someone else said, "Then this is a damned messed-up input." [8]

It is unclear whether, on this occasion, when the NEADS personnel mentioned an "input," they were suggesting that the second hijacking was simulated, or they thought it possible that the television coverage of the attack on the WTC was simulated video footage, intended to make the exercise more realistic. What is remarkable, either way, is that at a time when it should have been obvious to them that the U.S. was in the middle of a major terrorist attack, these key personnel were uncertain whether what was happening was real or simulated.

NEADS PERSONNEL THOUGHT THE EXERCISE WAS CONTINUING, WELL AFTER THE ATTACKS BEGAN
Although it has been claimed that Vigilant Guardian was terminated shortly after Flight 175 hit the WTC, evidence shows that NEADS personnel thought it was continuing after that time, and wondered whether subsequent events were part of the exercise.

At 9:09 a.m., one of the NEADS ID technicians complained, "I hope they cancel the exercise, because this is ridiculous." [9] Then at 9:15 a.m., an off-duty member of staff called in and asked someone in the ID section about the exercise. They said, "I've been watching [the news] for about 10 minutes, and I said, 'I wonder if they're, did they suspend the exercise?'" The person at NEADS answered, "Not at this time, no, but I think they're going to." He then laughed and added, "I don't know." [10]

If the exercise was still being conducted at 9:15 a.m., as this call indicated, the question arises as to why it had not been canceled. If NORAD and/or NEADS personnel were clear that the terrorist attacks were real, rather than simulated, surely those in command should have called off the exercise well before this time. If, alternatively, the exercise had already been terminated, why were those on the NEADS operations floor allowed to think it was still taking place?

The confusion continued. At around 9:20 a.m., one of the ID technicians commented, "This was pre-planned, I bet you, for 9 o'clock." A colleague of hers replied, "Oh, I bet you it was." [11] It is unclear exactly what these staffers were talking about. But it seems possible they were referring to actual events that they mistakenly thought were simulated. They thought these events had been "pre-planned" by those who designed the exercise.

Remarkably, there was uncertainty over whether the exercise was still taking place more than 45 minutes later. At 10:08 a.m., Master Sergeant Joe McCain, the mission crew commander technician, responded to Master Sergeant Maureen Dooley, the leader of the ID section, after she provided details of a bomb that was being reported on United Airlines Flight 93, the fourth hijacked plane, which supposedly crashed in Pennsylvania that morning. McCain commented, "If this is an exercise input, this is a good one." [12] (As previously mentioned, an "input" is a scenario simulated for the exercise.) In other words, several minutes after Flight 93 crashed, and the terrorist attacks were effectively over, someone at NEADS still considered it possible that information about the attacks was part of the exercise.

COMMANDERS THOUGHT HIJACKING WAS PART OF THE EXERCISE
Even some of the most senior officers at NORAD and NEADS have admitted mistaking actual events for part of Vigilant Guardian. Colonel Robert Marr, the battle commander at NEADS on September 11, has recalled that when he saw personnel on the operations floor huddled together after they learned of the first hijacking, he assumed it was related to the exercise. Presumably based on an interview with Marr, author Lynn Spencer described that moment, writing: "Marr has participated in enough training missions to know this is something out of the ordinary. Clearly, he thinks, the simex [simulated exercise] is kicking off with a lively, unexpected twist. ... His bet is that his simulations team has started off the exercise by throwing out a 'heart attack card' to see how the troops respond to a first-aid call from a fellow soldier, testing their first responder training." [13]

Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region on September 11, has recalled that when he was informed of the first hijacking, the first thing he thought was: "Is this part of the exercise? Is this some kind of a screw-up?" [14] He explained, "Because quite honestly, and frankly, we do do hijacking scenarios as we go through these exercises from time to time." [15]

According to Spencer, Arnold was "not privy to everything concerning the exercise." Vigilant Guardian was "meant to test commanders also, to make sure that their war machine is operating as it should." [16] Marr has similarly commented that despite his senior position at NEADS, "You just never knew really what was going to happen in those exercises." [17]

OFFICER WHO HELPED DESIGN EXERCISE MISTOOK ATTACKS FOR SIMULATION
Another officer who, despite his senior position, apparently mistook the 9/11 attacks for an exercise simulation was Major Kevin Nasypany. Nasypany was the mission crew commander at NEADS on September 11, and in that role, according to Marr, was "basically in charge of the entire operations floor." Nasypany, Marr said, was "the most senior guy on the floor." [18] Furthermore, Nasypany had helped design the exercise taking place that day.

And yet, Nasypany has said, "When they told me there was a hijack, my first reaction was, 'Somebody started the exercise early.'" Nasypany knew that the exercise was scheduled to include a simulated hijacking, and so, he recalled, he "actually said out loud, 'The hijack's not supposed to be for another hour.'" [19]

Additionally, audio recordings reveal that at around 9:00 a.m. on September 11, Nasypany joked with his colleagues about what happened when NEADS was alerted to the first hijacking, of American Airlines Flight 11. He said: "And where was I? I was on the shitter!" He continued, "When I heard, it was like, 'Oh my God!'" He added, "I knew that was an exercise." [20]

If Nasypany--"the most senior guy on the floor"--was openly suggesting that actual events were part of the exercise, then surely members of staff under his command could have mistakenly thought they were dealing with simulated scenarios.

NEADS PERSONNEL JOKED ABOUT THE ATTACKS
Further evidence that NEADS personnel mistook actual events for simulation, as part of the exercise, is the inappropriate emotions some of them exhibited in response to the hijackings and other aspects of the terrorist attacks. Staffers sometimes reacted in a light-hearted manner, and even joked openly about the catastrophic events taking place.

For example, recordings of the operations floor reveal that at 8:57 a.m., around 20 minutes after NEADS was alerted to the first hijacking, Kevin Nasypany was discussing the first plane hitting the World Trade Center with a colleague. He then joked, "Think we put the exercise on a hold, what do you think?" and laughed heartily. [21]

A number of staffers joked about the day's events just after NEADS was informed that a second plane had been hijacked, at 9:03 a.m. One staff member announced to his colleagues: "Okay guys, listen up. Possibly a second hijack." One of them responded, "Bring it on." The person that announced the possible hijacking then added that the hijacked plane was "United Air." In response, a colleague said: "That's it. I'm not flying with United or American [Airlines] anymore."

The men then started joking among themselves. One of them commented: "I'll say they're all supposed to be on the same plane. They just got mixed up." (Presumably he was talking about the hijackers.) In response, another of the men laughed and said, "Half of them got on one plane, the other half ..." One man commented, "I never thought I would have wished for ValuJet to come back," and another laughed and replied, "I'm still not wishing for ValuJet." A couple of minutes later, one of the men said, "I'm glad I'm not flying today," and then laughed. One of his colleagues replied: "Don't worry, Jim. We'll carjack you on the way home." [22]

Such jovial conversation would have been extraordinary if these men realized that the U.S. was in the middle of the worst terrorist attack in its history. Their behavior would, however, be more understandable if they mistakenly thought the information they had been given about hijackings and planes crashing into the World Trade Center was part of the exercise.

One more such incident occurred at 9:47 a.m., after Jeremy Powell called a military unit to inform it of the possible hijacking of another aircraft, Delta Airlines Flight 1989, and said that NEADS needed "somebody airborne." (The suspicion that this flight had been hijacked turned out to be mistaken.) After he ended the call, Powell or someone else at NEADS, presumably referring to the suspected hijacking, joked, "Are you sure this isn't an exercise?" and then laughed. [23]

NEADS PERSONNEL INDICATED THAT 'REAL-WORLD' REFERRED TO LIVE-FLY EXERCISE EVENTS
Often, recordings reveal, NEADS personnel appeared to make clear that an event was unrelated to the exercise by referring to it as being "real-world" or "live-world." However, there is evidence that their use of the term "real-world" meant something different.

We know that when NORAD holds what is called a "live-fly" exercise, this will involve actual civilian planes and military fighters getting airborne, instead of just being simulated. [24] For example, a NORAD exercise called "Amalgam Virgo 02" that was held in June 2002 involved a Delta Airlines Boeing 757 and a Navy C-9 taking to the air to act as hijacked planes. Furthermore, FBI agents and members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police played the parts of the hijackers on the planes, and military personnel acted as the civilian passengers. [25]

Some evidence indicates that when NEADS personnel used the term "real-world" on September 11, they were referring to a particular event being part of the exercise. But they meant that they thought it was being played out live, like the hijackings in Amalgam Virgo 02, rather than just simulated.

Lieutenant Colonel Dawne Deskins, the aircraft control and warning officer at NEADS on September 11, supported this possibility when she was interviewed by the 9/11 Commission in October 2003. She said that, before 9/11, when NEADS held exercises that included simulated plane hijackings, it "would not do these hijack exercises real-world." Instead, it "had a cell that would play the FAA in the exercise." Deskins commented that "there really were not the assets to do a large-scale real-world exercise to practice hijack response." [26]

Major James Fox, the leader of the NEADS weapons team on September 11, similarly told the 9/11 Commission that he did "not recall any real-world, actual flying exercises coordinated with FAA to practice hijack procedures." He added, "Any live exercises would happen over the off-coast airspaces." [27] Both Fox and Deskins, therefore, appear to have taken the term "real-world" to be a way of describing an exercise that includes live-fly activities.

NEADS OFFICER HAD 'NEVER SEEN SO MUCH REAL-WORLD STUFF HAPPEN DURING AN EXERCISE'
Recordings of the NEADS operations floor show personnel apparently taking the term "real-world" to be a reference to live-fly exercise events while the 9/11 attacks were taking place. For example, in the ID section, technicians Stacia Rountree, Shelley Watson, and Maureen Dooley overheard Jeremy Powell on the phone with the FAA's Boston Center, being notified of the first hijacking. Rountree reacted to the news by saying, "Is that real-world?" Dooley answered, "Real-world hijack." Watson then reacted as if she were pleased at this news, exclaiming, "Cool!" [28]

In a recent documentary, Dooley gave an explanation for her colleague's apparently inappropriate reaction. She claimed that Watson said "Cool!" because a hijacking "was usually not something that was very devastating." [29] However, might the reason for Watson's reaction have been that she thought the hijacking was part of the exercise, but, as it was a "real-world hijack," she thought it involved a real plane playing the hijacked aircraft, which meant NEADS had the opportunity to launch real fighter jets in response to it? Watson was therefore looking forward to dealing with a live-fly exercise event.

Minutes after this incident, at 8:43 a.m., while NEADS personnel were busy responding to the reported hijacking of Flight 11, James Fox commented, "I've never seen so much real-world stuff happen during an exercise." [30] Here again it seems that the term "real-world" was being used as a reference to live events within an exercise, rather than to actual, non-exercise events.

Robert Marr, too, appears to have understood "real-world" to be a term that is used to describe a live-fly exercise event. When he saw personnel on the operations floor gathered around a radar scope after they learned of the first hijacking, Marr sent Dawne Deskins to find out what was happening. [31] After Deskins then learned about the hijacking, she returned to the NEADS battle cab and reportedly told Marr: "It's a hijacking, and this is real life, not part of the exercise." According to the account of Lynn Spencer, which was presumably based on an interview with Marr, Marr then thought: "This is an interesting start to the exercise. This 'real-world' mixed in with today's simex will keep them on their toes." [32]

EXERCISE RESEMBLED 9/11 IN DAYS BEFORE ATTACKS
Some aspects of Vigilant Guardian that NEADS personnel had been dealing with in the days just before September 11 bore a remarkable resemblance to the situation these personnel were faced with when the 9/11 attacks occurred. This similarity could surely have increased the likelihood that the events of September 11 would be mistaken for exercise simulations.

For example, on September 9 Vigilant Guardian included a scenario in which terrorists hijacked a large commercial jet plane and threatened to use it for an attack on New York. In the scenario, members of a terrorist group armed with explosives were on a regular United Airlines flight from London, England, to New York, with the intention of detonating their explosives over New York. After the fictitious terrorists realized their plane had been diverted and was nowhere near New York, they detonated their explosives, leaving no survivors. [33] Considering the similarity between this scenario and the 9/11 attacks (terrorists on a commercial jet plane, planning an airborne attack on New York), might NEADS personnel have mistakenly thought the attacks on September 11 were a follow-up to this simulation?

MOCK AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER IN EXERCISE USED NAME OF KEY CONTROLLER WHO RESPONDED TO 9/11 ATTACKS
Another remarkable aspect of Vigilant Guardian is that in the days just before September 11, the actor playing the air traffic controller who gave NEADS information about the simulated events said their name was "Colin Scoggins," even though it was unusual for a mock controller to give their name during an exercise. And then, on September 11, the real Colin Scoggins--an employee at the FAA's Boston Center--happened to be the key person calling NEADS with information about the actual attacks, even though it was not his usual role to perform such a duty. This curious apparent coincidence could surely have made it more likely that NEADS personnel would mistake the 9/11 attacks for part of the exercise.

Colin Scoggins was the Boston Center's military operations specialist. [34] He was responsible for managing operating agreements between the Boston Center and the military, and consequently had personal relationships with most military units in the region. [35]

In the two days before 9/11, an actor playing Scoggins in the exercise made calls to NEADS, giving it information about the simulated events. Recordings from the operations floor reveal, for example, that shortly before 10:00 a.m. on September 9, NEADS was called by the actor, who said his name was "Colin Scoggins." The actor said a group called the "Palan Resistance Movement" had two of its members on United Airlines Flight 558, a flight out of London, who intended to detonate a bomb over New York City.

The real Colin Scoggins has confirmed that the voice of the person calling himself "Colin Scoggins" on this occasion was not his. Scoggins suggested that the NEADS simulation cell used his name in the exercise probably because he was a known contact at the Boston Center. Scoggins also said it was unusual for NEADS to use a specific name like this in an exercise, and added that the actor should have just referred to himself as being from the Boston Center. [36]

CONTROLLER WAS 'THE ONLY ONE' GIVING NEADS INFORMATION DURING 9/11 ATTACKS
While an actor calling himself "Colin Scoggins" gave NEADS information about simulated exercise events in the two days before 9/11, apparently by coincidence, the real Colin Scoggins served as a key liaison between the Boston Center and NEADS on September 11. Scoggins has said he made "about 40" phone calls to NEADS that day. [37] Robert Marr said Scoggins was in fact "about the only one that was feeding us information [during the attacks]. I don't know exactly where he got it. But he was feeding us information as much as he could." [38] According to Lynn Spencer, other than the calls from Scoggins, NEADS's only source of information on the hijacked planes was "the coverage on CNN." [39]

And yet Scoggins would not normally have been performing the role of keeping NEADS updated with relevant information, as he did on September 11. Daniel Bueno, the traffic management supervisor at the Boston Center, told the 9/11 Commission that as a military operations specialist, Scoggins was "usually not on the [air traffic control] floor." [40] Scoggins has said that he didn't "normally sit at that position"--manning the military desk at the Boston Center--"but I write all the procedures for it. So I understand the position probably better than anybody else who works the position." [41]

After arriving at the Boston Center at around 8:25 a.m. and being told by a colleague that a plane had been hijacked, Scoggins in fact first headed to the center's in-house credit union rather than to the operational floor, because, he has said, "when hijacks do occur, sometimes too many people try to get involved but instead they just get in the way." [42] However, shortly after he arrived, Scoggins has recalled that Bueno "asked me to come downstairs and sit at the military desk if I could." [43]

Therefore the unlikely and unusual situation arose that during the exercise on September 9 and September 10, and also during the attacks on September 11, NEADS was given key information by someone calling himself Colin Scoggins. The question arises as to whether this created any confusion during the 9/11 attacks, causing some NEADS personnel to think information coming from the real Colin Scoggins was part of the exercise. While the person answering calls from Scoggins on September 11 may have recognized that the caller had a different voice to the actor playing Scoggins on the previous days, other NEADS personnel could have been unaware of the different voices, and only have heard from their colleagues that a particular piece of information came from "Colin Scoggins."

PREVIOUS EXERCISES INCLUDED SCENARIOS SIMILAR TO 9/11 ATTACKS
It was not just exercise events during the previous few days that may have resulted in confusion at NEADS on September 11. What could also have increased the likelihood that NEADS personnel would mistake the 9/11 attacks for part of the exercise is the fact that during the previous two years, these personnel had participated in other exercises based around scenarios closely resembling what happened on September 11.

For example, the previous Vigilant Guardian, held in October 2000, included a scenario in which a pilot planned to deliberately crash an aircraft into a skyscraper in New York. The simulation involved an individual stealing a Federal Express plane with the intention of using it for a suicide attack on the 39-story United Nations headquarters building. [44]

Another exercise NEADS took part in, called "Falcon Indian" and held in June 2000, was based on the possibility of a "Communist Party faction" hijacking an aircraft bound from the western to the eastern United States. The fictitious hijackers intended to crash the plane into the Statue of Liberty, located close to the Twin Towers, in New York Harbor. [45]

Remarkably, one NORAD exercise, held at an unspecified time in the two years prior to 9/11, was based on the possibility of a hijacked aircraft being used as a weapon and deliberately crashed into the World Trade Center. [46] Furthermore, NORAD has stated that most of the four major exercises it held each year before 9/11 "included a hijack scenario." [47] So, although most of the personnel on the NEADS operations floor were unaware beforehand what the exercise was going to entail on September 11, they might surely have wondered if the plane hijackings and the attacks in New York that day were simulated, since these events so closely resembled scenarios played out in previous exercises.

EXERCISES INCLUDED MOCK TV NEWS REPORTS
One might think that television coverage of the 9/11 attacks would have convinced those at NEADS that they were dealing with actual terrorist attacks rather than simulated ones. However, there is evidence that casts doubt on this assertion.

It is known that simulated television news reports had been used in training exercises before 9/11. For example, a two-day exercise was held at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, in June 2001, called "Dark Winter," based on the scenario of a smallpox attack on the United States. This exercise, according to New York magazine, included "simulated news clips from an imaginary cable news network called NCN." [48] Whether NORAD exercises prior to 9/11 included simulated television footage is unknown. But this possibility should certainly be investigated.

The possibility should also be investigated that NEADS personnel mistakenly thought television news reports of the 9/11 attacks were video created to make their exercise seem more realistic. Unlikely as it might seem, evidence shows this scenario is plausible.

It has been reported that volunteers taking part in another military exercise on the morning of September 11 did incorrectly think that television coverage of the attacks in New York was video footage created for their exercise. That exercise, called "Timely Alert II," was held at Fort Monmouth, an Army base about 50 miles south of New York City, and was based around a simulated biochemical terrorist attack at the base. Exercise participants later recalled that "when they first saw live footage of the events unfolding at the World Trade Center, they thought it was some elaborate training video to accompany the exercise." One training officer was told by a participant, "You really outdid yourself this time." [49] If workers at Fort Monmouth could make this error, surely those at NEADS could have done so too.

WAS CONFUSION CAUSED BY THE EXERCISE INTENDED TO PARALYZE THE MILITARY?
Officials have claimed that the U.S. military was unaffected in its ability to respond to the 9/11 attacks by the Vigilant Guardian exercise. During one of the 9/11 Commission's public hearings, commissioner Timothy Roemer asked whether the exercise delayed the military. He suggested that, in response to reports of the attacks, personnel might have thought, "No, there's no possibility that this is real-world; we're engaged in an exercise." But General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD on September 11, replied that "it became painfully clear ... that this was not an exercise." He said the situation Roemer referred to "at most cost us 30 seconds." [50]

The evidence described above, however, suggests that Vigilant Guardian could have seriously impaired the military. It may have caused significant confusion, because those at NEADS were unclear whether the events of September 11 were real or part of the exercise. There is therefore a need for a close examination of this exercise, as well as other exercises that took place on September 11 and in the years before then.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT VIGILANT GUARDIAN
As part of a new investigation of 9/11, those who served at NEADS on September 11 need to be given the opportunity to talk openly about their experiences that day. Evidence already available raises many questions. For example, which events on September 11 did NEADS personnel think might be part of the exercise? And at what time did these personnel know for certain that the exercise had been terminated?

We need to know which individuals were responsible for designing the Vigilant Guardian exercise that was taking place in September 2001, and who designed the earlier exercises that included scenarios resembling the 9/11 attacks. We also need to know who was responsible for running Vigilant Guardian on September 11, along with full details of the simulations planned for that day.

The fact that some previous NORAD exercises closely resembled the 9/11 attacks, and the fact that the Vigilant Guardian exercise taking place in September 2001 included scenarios similar to the 9/11 attacks, should be of serious concern. Such facts suggest the possibility that training exercises were used to deliberately paralyze the military on September 11, thereby ensuring that the attacks in New York and at the Pentagon were successful.

NOTES
[1] "Vigilant Guardian 01-2." Northeast Air Defense Sector, August 23, 2001; William M. Arkin, Code Names: Deciphering U.S. Military Plans, Programs, and Operations in the 9/11 World. Hanover, NH: Steerforth Press, 2005, p. 545; "Vigilant Guardian." GlobalSecurity.org, May 7, 2011.
[2] Leslie Filson, Air War Over America: Sept. 11 Alters Face of Air Defense Mission. Tyndall Air Force Base, FL: 1st Air Force, 2003, pp. 55, 122.
[3] Michael Bronner, "9/11 Live: The NORAD Tapes." Vanity Fair, August 2006.
[4] Jason Tudor, "Inner Space." Airman, March 2002; Leslie Filson, Air War Over America, p. 59.
[5] 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2004, p. 458.
[6] Ibid. p. 20; Lynn Spencer, Touching History: The Untold Story of the Drama That Unfolded in the Skies Over America on 9/11. New York: Free Press, 2008, p. 25.
[7] Michael Bronner, "9/11 Live."
[8] Ibid.; Lynn Spencer, Touching History, pp. 82, 84.
[9] NEADS Audio File, Identification Technician Position, Channel 4. North American Aerospace Defense Command, September 11, 2001"The Hunt for American Air Eleven After WTC 1 is Hit." 9/11 Commission, n.d.
[10] NEADS Audio File, Identification Technician Position, Channel 7. North American Aerospace Defense Command, September 11, 2001Miles Kara, "Exercise not a Detractor; the Definitive Story." 9/11 Revisited, September 1, 2011.
[11] NEADS Audio File, Identification Technician Position, Channel 4;"Transcripts From Voice Recorder, 11 September 2001 1227Z-1417Z, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Rome, NY." North American Aerospace Defense Command, September 11, 2001.
[12] NEADS Audio File, Mission Crew Commander Position, Channel 3. North American Aerospace Defense Command, September 11, 2001Miles Kara, "Exercise not a Detractor; the Definitive Story."
[13] Lynn Spencer, Touching History, p. 26.
[14] "9/11: Interviews by Peter Jennings." ABC News, September 11, 2002.
[15] National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States: Public Hearing. 9/11 Commission, May 23, 2003.
[16] Lynn Spencer, Touching History, p. 38.
[17] The 9/11 Tapes: Chaos in the Sky. Discovery Channel, February 12, 2012.
[18] Ibid.
[19] Michael Bronner, "9/11 Live."
[20] NEADS Audio File, Mission Crew Commander Position, Channel 2. North American Aerospace Defense Command, September 11, 2001Miles Kara, "NEADS Mission Crew Commander; a Valiant Effort, Ultimately Futile, Part I." 9/11 Revisited, June 4, 2011.
[21] NEADS Audio File, Mission Crew Commander Position, Channel 2;Michael Bronner, "9/11 Live"Miles Kara, "Exercise not a Detractor; the Definitive Story."
[22] NEADS Audio File, Air Surveillance Technician Position, Channel 15. North American Aerospace Defense Command, September 11, 2001.
[23] Miles Kara, "Exercise not a Detractor; the Definitive Story."
[24] Gail Braymen, "NORAD Personnel Hone Response Skills in Amalgam Arrow Exercises." North American Aerospace Defense Command, February 22, 2007.
[25] Nick Wadhams, "Joint U.S., Canadian Hijacking Drill Takes off With Whidbey Flight." Associated Press, June 4, 2002"Airborne Anti-Terrorist Operation Getting Underway." Live Today, CNN, June 4, 2002;"Memorandum for the Record: Interview With Major Paul Goddard (Canadian Forces) and Ken Merchant." 9/11 Commission, March 4, 2004.
[26] "Memorandum for the Record: Interview With Lt. Col. Dawne Deskins." 9/11 Commission, October 30, 2003.
[27] "Memorandum for the Record: Interview With Major James Fox." 9/11 Commission, October 29, 2003.
[28] Michael Bronner, "9/11 Live""NEADS CDs." 9/11 Commission, n.d.
[29] The 9/11 Tapes.
[30] NEADS Audio File, Mission Crew Commander Position, Channel 2;NEADS Audio File, Mission Crew Commander Position, Channel 3;Michael Bronner, "9/11 Live."
[31] Leslie Filson, Air War Over America, p. 55.
[32] Lynn Spencer, Touching History, p. 26.
[33] "Event: Terrorist on Board a Regular Flight From London to JFK." North American Aerospace Defense Command, n.d., p. 74"NORAD Exercises: Hijack Summary." 9/11 Commission, n.d.
[34] "Memorandum for the Record: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Boston Center Field Site Interview With Colin Scoggins, Military Operations Specialist." 9/11 Commission, September 22, 2003.
[35] Lynn Spencer, Touching History, p. 33.
[36] Miles Kara, "NEADS; Exercise Vigilant Guardian in Perspective, Sep. 9." 9/11 Revisited, January 19, 2011Miles Kara, "Exercise Vigilant Guardian; Sep. 10." 9/11 Revisited, February 11, 2011.
[37] "Q&A With Boston Center Air Traffic Controller." 9/11 Guide, October 28, 2007.
[38] Chasing Planes: Witnesses to 9/11. Directed by Michael Bronner. London: Working Title Films, 2006.
[39] Lynn Spencer, Touching History, p. 82.
[40] "Memorandum for the Record: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Boston Center Field Site Interview 1 With Daniel D. Bueno, Traffic Management Supervisor, Boston Center." 9/11 Commission, September 22, 2003.
[41] Aviation Officials Remember September 11, 2001. C-SPAN, September 11, 2010.
[42] "Chronology of Events at Mission Coordinator Position." Federal Aviation Administration, September 20, 2001Albert McKeon, "Nashua FAA Controller Played Role in Tracking Flight 11." Nashua Telegraph, September 8, 2011.
[43] Aviation Officials Remember September 11, 2001.
[44] Senate Committee on Armed Services, Implications for the Department of Defense and Military Operations of Proposals to Reorganize the United States Intelligence Community. 108th Cong., 2nd sess., August 17, 2004"NORAD Exercise a Year Before 9/11 Simulated a Pilot Trying to Crash a Plane Into a New York Skyscraper--The United Nations Headquarters." Shoestring 9/11, July 27, 2010.
[45] Ibid.
[46] Steven Komarow and Tom Squitieri, "NORAD Had Drills of Jets as Weapons." USA Today, April 18, 2004.
[47] Barbara Starr, "NORAD Exercise Had Jet Crashing Into Building." CNN, April 19, 2004.
[48] "Dark Winter: Exercise Overview." Center for Biosecurity, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, 2001Tucker Carlson, "Pox Americana." New York, October 8, 2001.
[49] Debbie Sheehan, "Force Protection Plan a 'Timely Alert.'" Monmouth Message, September 21, 2001Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans, U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command,A Concise History of the Communications-Electronics Command and Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. Fort Monmouth, NJ: Fort Monmouth, 2003, p. 71.
[50] National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States: Twelfth Public Hearing. 9/11 Commission, June 17, 2004.

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