Evidence: The Military Response on 9/11/01

On 9/11/01, not one of the four hijacked jetliners was intercepted or shot down by the nation's air defense system, according to all official accounts. The failure to counter the attack is considered by many evidence of insider foreknowledge of or involvement in the attack, based on the following observations:

  • Protection of domestic airspace is provided by a sophisticated network of Air Force and Air National Guard fighter aircraft and command and control systems providing real-time surveillance and policing of the skies.
  • The attack unfolded over a period of more than an hour.
  • The attack targeted the World Trade Center and Pentagon -- two American icons that were openly acknowledged as targets of terrorist attacks.

To explain the failure to repel the attack, officials have put forth a series of explanations which are mutually contradictory.


Three Versions of the Official Story

Version 1: No Scrambles

In his confirmation hearing two days after the attack, General Myers, acting head of the Joint Cheifs of Staff on the day of the attack, said he thought that no interceptors were scrambled until after the Pentagon was attacked.

LEVIN: Was the Defense Department contacted by the FAA or the FBI or any other agency after the first two hijacked aircraft crashed into the World Trade Center, prior to the time that the Pentagon was hit?

MYERS: Sir, I don't know the answer to that question. I can get that for you, for the record.

LEVIN: Thank you. Did the Defense Department take -- or was the Defense Department asked to take action against any specific aircraft?

MYERS: Sir, we were . . .

LEVIN: And did you take action against -- for instance, there has been statements that the aircraft that crashed in Pennsylvania was shot down. Those stories continue to exist.

MYERS: Mr. Chairman, the armed forces did not shoot down any aircraft. When it became clear what the threat was, we did scramble fighter aircraft, AWACS, radar aircraft and tanker aircraft to begin to establish orbits in case other aircraft showed up in the FAA system that were hijacked. But we never actually had to use force.

LEVIN: Was that order that you just described given before or after the Pentagon was struck? Do you know?

MYERS: That order, to the best of my knowledge, was after the Pentagon was struck.

General Myers Confirmation Hearing 9/13/01

Version 2: NORAD's Timeline

On September 18, 2001 NORAD issued a press release containing a timeline which listed scramble times for fighters stationed at Otis and Langley bases.

The document, NORAD'S Response Times 9/18/01, contains the following description of times of events:

Flight 11
Flight 175
Flight 77
Flight 93
FAA notification of NEADS 08:40 08:43 09:24 N/A
Fighter Scramble Order 08:46 09:24 --
Fighters Airborne 08:52 09:30 --
Originating Base Otis ANGB
Falmouth, MA
Langley AFB
Hampton, VA
Fighter Distance /
Time to Impact Location
not airborne
153 miles
8 min /
71 miles
12 min /
105 miles
11 min /
100 miles

Version 3: The 9/11 Commission Report

Flight 11
Flight 175
Flight 11*
Flight 77
Flight 93
Notification of NEADS 08:38 09:15 -- 09:34 10:07
Fighters Scrambled 08:46 09:24
Fighters Airborne 08:53
Originating Base Otis, MA Langley, VA

*Phantom Flight 11 refers to the Commission's assertion that the F-16s scrambled from Langley were sent up, not to intercept Flight 77, but to look for Flight 11, under the erroneous belief that it had bypassed New York City and was headed for the capital.

Military Exercises Coinciding With 9/11/01

Multiple US military exercises were in play on the day of September 11, 2001, some of which included elements of the attack itself.

Testimony Indicating Stand-Down Orders

In testimony fo the 9/11 Commission on May 23, 2003, then Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta recalled an exchange between Vice President Cheney and a young man concerned about a jet approaching the Pentagon.

MR. MINETA: No, I was not. I was made aware of it during the time that the airplane [was] coming into the Pentagon. There was a young man who had come in and said to the vice president, "The plane is 50 miles out. The plane is 30 miles out." And when it got down to, "The plane is 10 miles out," the young man also said to the vice president, "Do the orders still stand?" And the vice president turned and whipped his neck around and said, "Of course the orders still stand. Have you heard anything to the contrary?" Well, at the time I didn't know what all that meant. And --

Perhaps the most thorough analysis of the testimony is provided by Michael Green.

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