A couple of nights ago, I posted the thread FAA regs, in effect 9/11/2001, found on Internet Archive in the TruthAction forum, asking if anyone knows of any pre-9/11 examples of intercepts of passenger jets approaching major cities. Detailed knowledge of such cases would be helpful in establishing whether the performance of the FAA and/or NORAD on 9/11/2001 was, in fact, drastically below par for its era.
So far, no such specific cases have been brought to my attention. But some other very interesting information has been posted to the above thread, including the following excerpt from the Appendix on Air Defense on 9/11 in the 2004 Complaint & Petition to the NY Attorney General (Spitzer at the time) for a new criminal investigation into 9/11:
1. Even before it became clear that the September 11 flights had been hijacked, or that the intent was to use these aircraft in kamikaze attacks, their diversions from flight plan should have activated routine responses for dealing with errant planes. Civilian and military regulations and longstanding working procedures for commercial passenger planes and other aircraft under Instrument Flight Rules (“IFR”) call upon air traffic controllers under the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) to alert NORAD upon determining that a flight has veered significantly from the route assigned to it by controllers; has ceased responding to ground control; or is an “unknown.” NORAD’s role in that case is to issue “scramble orders” for interception of the errant flight by jet fighters from U.S. Air Force Bases (“AFBs”). Interception of an errant flight allows for visual reconnaissance of the situation and a graduated menu of possible further actions (these might include attempts at radio contact, looking into the cockpit of the errant aircraft, visual signals such as tipping wings, attempts to force a landing, etc.).
2. These standard procedures were activated on 67 occasions in the period from September 2000 to June 2001 (see, FAA news release, 8/9/02; AP, 8/13/02); and in 129 cases in the year 2000 (see, Calgary Herald, 10/13/01). These figures were released by FAA and NORAD officials to the press in 2002, but go completely unmentioned in The 9/11 Commission Report. The report does not indicate whether the Kean Commission requested comprehensive performance data on these prior interception orders from the military, or whether the military provided any such information. An analysis to determine the typical circumstances and response times for interception orders prior to 9/11 would require, in each case for which orders were issued, data on the times it took for air traffic control to determine that a flight was errant; for the FAA to alert NORAD; for NORAD to issue a scramble order and for the scrambled jet(s) to take to the air; and, subsequently, for the interception itself; as well as the location of the errant flight, and information on whether it was still broadcasting transponder data. (Transponder broadcasts from planes under IFR locate the craft and specify its altitude. When these are interrupted, craft can still be located by “skin paint” on primary radar, albeit without altitude data.) Also necessary would be data on cases of errant planes or unknowns in which no scramble orders were issued. Of special interest would be the prior performance within NORAD’s Northeastern Air Defense Sector (“NEADS”), which is headquartered at Rome, New York. Such a cumulative analysis–with special attention to cases when passenger planes deviated from course in the air-traffic control zones within which the 9/11 attacks occurred–would provide indispensable context for serious research into the subject of air defense response on September 11. This data is currently unavailable to the public, and there is no indication such an analysis was undertaken by the Kean Commission.
Indeed, the 9/11 Commission should have made, or at least attempted, a systematic investigation of how the already-existing standard operating procedures normally worked out in practice, so as to have a baseline for evaluating the performance of both the FAA and NORAD on 9/11. As was pointed out by Nicholas, the person who quoted the above on the TruthAction board, it is suspicious that the 9/11 Commission apparently did not attempt such an investigation.
Without such an investigation, we don’t yet have strong evidence for a “stand down.” But the absence of such an investigation is evidence of a coverup, given the many questions that have been raised, by many different people (not just in the 9/11 Truth movement) about why Flight 77 was allowed to hit the Pentagon.
Another question that should have been investigated, but apparently wasn’t as far as I am aware, is this one: If indeed there weren’t any scramble-ready planes at Andrews Air Force Base (the base nearest to Washington, D.C.), who made that decision and why?
Also in the above TruthAction thread, johndoraemi posted a quote from a 1994 United States General Accounting Office report on continental air defense, on the website of the Federation of American Scientists. It had the following to say about intercepts back in the early 1990′s:
Overall, during the past 4 years, NORAD’s alert fighters took off to intercept aircraft (referred to as scrambled) 1,518 times, or an average of 15 times per site per year. Of these incidents, the number of suspected drug smuggling aircraft averaged one per site, or less than 7 percent of all of the alert sites’ total activity.\3 The remaining activity generally involved visually inspecting unidentified aircraft and assisting aircraft in distress. Appendix I contains additional information on the scramble activity at each air defense unit and alert site and on the continental air defense and air sovereignty missions.
Admittedly this is the early 1990′s, not 2001, and the quote is from a report which recommended trimming down the force. But still it casts a lot of doubt on the Popular Mechanics claim that intercepts were a rare occurrence.
P.S., 11/6/2007: I’ve just now come across what may turn out to be be some of our strongest “stand down” evidence: 9/11 Family Member Patty Casazza: Government Knew Exact Date and Exact Targets, on George Washington’s Blog, Monday, November 05, 2007. But I guess we’ll have to wait until there’s a real investigation before we can hear it from the witnesses firsthand.