New York City activist

December 14, 2007

“Stand down” feasibility, etc. – Reply to “9/11 Guide,” part 2 (to ref1)

Continuing my review of ref1’s site 9/11 Guide, I’ll now look at some of the items on the Documents & Interviews page.

First on the page is Q&A With 9/11 Boston Center Air Traffic Controller. Unfortunately this interview is anonymous, with the air traffic controller referred to only as “Cheap Shot,” so this interview can’t really be used as evidence. But, for what it’s worth, it is very interesting.

Apparently this interview is included on ref1’s website for the purpose of showing that a “stand down” could not have happened. In fact, as I’ll explain below, it shows several ways in which a de facto stand down could have been implemented, via deliberately-induced confusion and other sources of delay, without the knowing complicity of more than a few people. This doesn’t prove that the latter happened, of course, but does show that it’s a possibility.

Near the beginning of the interview, “Cheap Shot” talks about his working relationship with NEADS, which is part of NORAD:

As the military specialist I am responsible for all military procedures between Boston Center and the military units in my airspace, and any visiting military units that participate in any of our Special Use Airspace (SUA). Through the years I have developed a pretty good working relationship with those units. One of the main units I deal with is the Northeastern Air Defense Sector (NEADS). They schedule the majority of SUA in Boston Center Airspace.

He says he “assumed the Military Liaison or Military Specialist Position along with my Airspace Duties” in 1995. On 9/11/2001:

When I walked through the door that morning 8:25 someone approached me and said they had a hijack on the floor, and I might want to go there and check it out. The last time we had one I believe was a Lufthansa back in 1995. It was very non-eventful…. I went up stairs to my office, and the Credit Union was on the way so I stopped in for a minute to just say hi to the girls, and I mentioned to them that there was a hijack. They asked what we do and I told them we basically send fighters up to escort them just in case they try to do something they shouldn’t, like crash their plane into a building.

So, to the extent that this anonymous interview can be taken as evidence of anything at all, one thing it shows is that the possibility of hijacked planes crashing into buildings wasn’t something nobody had thought of before 9/11. Some of the “war games” prove this too, if they prove nothing else.

He mentioned that someone there named Joe Cooper had called NEADS. Soon thereafter, “Cheap Shot” himself called NEADS too:

I asked Joe Cooper, if he had passed all of the information on AAL11, such as location and heading, and he said he didn’t. That is when I called Jeremy Powell, I didn’t know who I would reach, but I knew the numbers I needed to call. Everyone on the floor uses the Hotline to NEADS; I knew all of the DSN numbers so that is why I used the DSN ….

So it would seem that there is plenty of routine contact between the Boston FAA Center and NEADS. Unfortunately, one question the interviewer did not ask is how often they do intercepts for various purposes (other than hijackings, which have been relatively rare since the 1970’s).

“Cheap shot” also says:

My reason for calling NEADS was two fold, first I wanted to get the fighters up ASAP, and the other was I wanted to get the aircraft identified so we could possibly get an altitude readout on the Primary Target (Primary in FAA terms is a target without a transponder return, the word primary has a different meaning from the military side.)

Though the military and the FAA share a majority of the Long Range Radar Sites, the FAA is tied off from receiving the altitude triangulation feed that the military get. I knew the aircraft was heading south, the last known altitude was FL290, and the controller had issued FL350. We didn’t know the altitude, and the aircraft was heading into probably the busiest corridor in the world. If I could get an altitude from NEADS it would have been additional information we could have used.

Elsewhere (e.g. the Popular Mechanics article) I’ve seen claims that NORAD lacked radar coverage within the continental U.S.A., and that all their radar coverage was directed outwards. The above would seem to contradict that claim. Perhaps NORAD lacked some specific kind of radar coverage within the continental U.S.A., but certainly not radar coverage in general. On the contrary, according to the above, apparently NORAD even had one specific kind of radar coverage that the FAA lacked, at least in the vicinity of Boston.

Further down on the page, “Cheap shot” speaks of some technical problems that hampered communication between the FAA and NEADS:

The military and the FAA share the same radar sources in most places. The FAA takes this radar and filters out most of the ground clutter. The military has to do the opposite, they increase this amount of ground clutter, they have to be able to see everything. They normally wouldn’t have much difficulty in finding targets because the perceived threat on 9-11 was from over water. There isn’t much ground clutter over water so they have a high chance of success on picking up a threat. On 9-11 this evidently backfired because they could never find the targets. I am not an expert on their equipment, so I don’t know if they can manually filter out ground clutter, my guess is they couldn’t or they probably could have found AAL11. I called them numerous times. The first few calls were regarding AAL11 location by common reference points, such as VORs or TACANs. About 8 years prior to 9-11 the military had begun dropping some of the common reference points so there were not as many. By 9-11 they were not using common reference points any longer but they were using Latitude/Longitudes. We didn’t know this on 9-11. Realizing this after about 5 minutes a fruitlessness, I had Joe Cooper sit directly at the radar and slew over AAL11 exactly when I asked for it to give them and exact lat/long. This was when the aircraft was about 30 Nm north of JFK. Joe gave me the Lat/Longs and I read them directly to NEADS. They still couldn’t find the aircraft. This was very frustrating on our part. The fighters wouldn’t launch without an identified target. On the FAA side of the house in order to get a lat/long, is a three step process, so what method worked best for the military didn’t work well for us. This is still a common problem today and has not been rectified. Though the military has new equipment we sometimes still speak apples and oranges.

It would be very interesting to find out exactly when the military stopped “using common reference points,” and why. Apparently not very long before 9/11/2001, given “Cheap Shot’s” surprise. The earlier (“about 8 years prior to 9-11”) dropping of just some of the common reference points could perhaps be attributed to the budget cuts recommended in the 1994 United States General Accounting Office report on continental air defense. But why a sudden change in NORAD’s overall radar technology, just shortly before 9/11, to make it utterly incompatible with the FAA’s radar? Admittedly, the military-industrial complex is notorious for producing stuff that doesn’t work quite right, so I suppose it’s possible that whoever designed NORAD’s new radar system simply forgot about the need for NORAD to be able to communicate with air traffic controllers. Nevertheless, it sure seems an odd coincidence. What’s even scarier is “Cheap Shot’s” statement that the problem still (as of the date of the interview, which is not given) has not been rectified. To me the latter seems like criminal negligence, at the very least, and perhaps worse. One would think that, especially in the post-9/11 world, it ought to be a high priority to fix anything that would hamper the FAA’s ability to communicate with NORAD.

What I’m suggesting here is the possibility that backward compatibility with the FAA’s radar system may have been deliberately neglected. Perhaps the incompatibility may have originally been an honest mistake, which someone then deliberately decided not to fix, perhaps with a plausible-sounding excuse like alleged “budgetary priorities,” or something. Of course, to determine whether this is really possible, one would need to know the history of NORAD’s radar system and who was responsible for making decisions about it.

Ditto for the “ground clutter” problem. Why didn’t NORAD’s radar system include an option which would allow the removal of “ground clutter”? Surely this problem would have been noticed during the various known drills, before 9/11, that involved simulation of hijacked planes crashing into buildings? Why wasn’t it fixed?

In any case, “Cheap Shot” isn’t sure that the NEADS scopes had no option to remove ground clutter. So perhaps their confusion might have been exacerbated by something else? As we’ll see later, “Cheap Shot” confirms the “false blip” possibility (on military scopes only, not the FAA’s).

Looking back further up on the page:

Q: What was the standard operational protocol prior to 9/11 in case there was a hijacking?

Cheap Shot: The protocol was that the controller would tell his supervisor; his supervisor would call the Operational manager in Charge (OMIC). The OMIC would call the Regional Operational Center (ROC), the ROC would call the Hijack Coordinator in Washington, the Hijack Coordinator would call the military. As far as controllers are concerned they probably only knew the first two or three steps, they didn’t need to know any further.

In June 2001 a new order or instruction had come out from the Joint Chiefs, the CJCSI 3610.01A. Some skeptics think that controllers or lower level management people should have been aware of this instruction. The FAA will take an instruction like this and eventually incorporate this into the document. I didn’t know about this instruction until I was actually interviewed by the Justice Department.

About CJCSI 3610.01A, see also The ‘Stand-Down Order’ on Jim Hoffman’s 9-11 Review site.

Anyhow, “Cheap Shot” goes on to say:

The Hijack coordinator was supposed to notify the National Military Command Center (NMCC), I believe they are located at the Pentagon. The NMCC would notify NORAD, NORAD would notify one of three Air Defense Control Facilities (ADCF’s), in our case Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS). The ADCF would call the alert site, in our case Otis ANGB (FMH).

What I knew on 9-11 was that I could call NEADS and get them to launch fighters right away. The ADCF’s had authority to launch interceptors, with coordination to or from NORAD. They didn’t necessarily have to wait for a clearance from NORAD. They could launch on their own and then tell NORAD hey we are launching fighters for an escort mission of a hijacked aircraft. Why they waited for the okay from NORAD I don’t know it could have been a change on their end. But on 9-11 I believe they could have been launched without NORADS blessing. Of course that’s my interpretation of FAAO 7610.4J. Appendix 16.

The Justice department questioned me pretty thoroughly on this as well. They asked me why the protocol wasn’t followed. I said it had from our facilities standpoint. The controller told the Sup., the sup. Told the OMIC, the OMIC told the ROC, and as far as I was concerned we had done our job. Anything else we did that day was gravy. I found out later that the Hijack Coordinator position at FAA HQ wasn’t always staffed, the main guy was on leave that day, I don’t know if they had someone assigned to that position or not, but that is where the breakdown occurred. They were lucky we circumvented the protocol or the military would have never known anything was going on.

“Cheap Shot” does give a fairly convincing explanation of how “Phantom Flight 11” could have resulted from a telephone miscommunication, part of the problem being a lack of confirmation from American Airlines about what had happened to the real Flight 11. Still I wonder about some of those other false alarms.

On page 2 of the interview, “Cheap Shot” talks about various false alarms and other distractions that occurred before Flight 77 hit the Pentagon:

By the time this incident had occurred I believe we had already received information on three other aircraft that were possible hijacks. An Iberian from over seas, and a Continental 56 from over seas, I’m not sure if the DAL1989 thing had started yet or not. In addition to that we had a fast moving unidentified aircraft 70 Nm southeast of Nantucket at about 25,000 feet. We had Martha’s Vineyard Tower calling us telling us they had a large unknown white aircraft. We also had a Phantom AAL11 that we were trying to find, and it was getting very hectic. Locally there was a Tractor Trailer truck broken down outside on Rte 3 the highway, that our Facility Manager had called the state police to get it away from the building. A bomb scare had been called into the Day Care Center located at the corner of the Boston Center property, (this is not confirmed). The FBI was in the building.

He gives explanations for some of these. Further down on the page, he has this to say about a false alarm that caused an evacuation of the Boston Center:

The other issue was that we found out three months later at a lessons learned meeting, that we were evacuated for the Coast Guard aircraft southeast of Nantucket that we had already identified, that someone at the ROC had drawn a line from 170 NM and determined that this aircraft could be heading for the center. I was pissed, I remember speaking up at the Lessons Learned meeting, and stating something to the fact, that this was Bull Shit. We were forced to leave the building when we could have possibly spent another twenty minutes trying to help the situation, instead were outside of the building doing nothing. As far as I was concerned I would have stayed in the building until that aircraft was 5 NM out, then I would haul ass.

“Cheap Shot” also says the following about Flight 77 and how it managed to disappear from radar. According to “Cheap Shot,” the problem here was a lack of “primary” radar coverage by the FAA, not NORAD, as others have alleged.

Q: What can you tell about flight 77? The flight went missing from the radars for a long while, and was located only moments before it hit the Pentagon.

Cheap Shot: These other flights even though I was involved in them it was more indirectly; I have only recently started to read more facts about them. For instance I was dumfounded that controllers at Indy Center would let this aircraft disappear from the scopes and not go to their primary radar immediately once the transponder disappeared. I knew they were on a high altitude sector so their primary radar would not be selected. But as soon as you see the target disappear the first thing you do is select your primary. Of course I am hearing now that they didn’t have primary at that sector. Well my first thought then as a controller would have been it must have crashed. I don’t know whether it was a place where primary radar ever existed or whether the primary was just down for maintenance or broken. Either way it still seems that some precious time was missing where they could have looked for this aircraft sooner. It still appears to me that someone dropped the ball there or somewhere that this aircraft was missing.

Nevertheless, in great contrast to the purported extreme incompetence of the FAA as portrayed in the 9/11 Commission Report, he says:

Amongst all of my regrets about 9-11, was I never got a chance to watch my colleagues do the impossible by landing all of these planes under the duress that an aircraft was heading our way, and it was believed to be a B-757. I was so busy at the military position at TMU. As each controller landed all of their aircraft they were told to evacuate the building. There was no request for volunteers to stay; everyone just did, until they finished their task. I don’t know how long it took them to clear the skies, but they were amazing.

On page 3:

Q: Some theorists claim false radar blips created extra confusion. What is your response to those claims?

Cheap Shot: The military has the ability to put simulated targets on their scopes. We can’t do that at the center. We could do it in our DYSIM, which are our training scopes, but that system is tied off from live traffic.

Thus he concedes that there could have been false blips on the military scopes, though not on the FAA’s scopes. Of course this doesn’t prove that there were false blips on NEADS’s scopes on 9/11/2001, but it remains a possibility. If indeed there were false blips on NEADS’s radar screens, then perhaps the people looking at those screens might have blamed the false blips on “ground clutter,” or some other source of natural noise, once it was determined that they were not real airplanes.

Q: What do you have to say for those claiming a stand-down and inside job?

Cheap Shot: Flat out wrong. First I have worked with the military for years, I was in the military for 4 years. There was just too much crap to cover up if there was a stand down or an inside job. We at Boston reacted that day and improvised, our men and women in the military would do the same thing. So even if there was some conspiracy at the top it would have to reach pretty far down to actually get a stand down to work, the same goes for any type of inside job. Ten people couldn’t pull this off, a hundred people couldn’t pull it off, it would have to be thousands, and you can’t shut thousands of people up.

Actually, his earlier statements have suggested three possible ways that a de facto stand-down could have been pulled off in a non-obvious way, without very many people needing to know about it, using NORAD’s radar system to create deliberate confusion via (1) deliberate non-fixing of incompatibility with FAA radar, (2) deliberate non-fixing of an inability to remove “ground clutter,” and (3) false blips.

Other possible aspects of a de facto stand-down, not ruled out in this interview, include:

  • That hijacking protocol, which, if “Cheap Shot” had followed only it rather than calling NEADS directly, would have caused even more delay.
  • The decision not to have scramble-ready planes at Andrews Air Force Base, of all places. I’d sure like to know who made that incredibly stupid (or worse) decision.

Of course, I haven’t proven that a de facto stand down actually happened. That would require quite a bit more research on my part. However, “Cheap Shot” certainly has not disproven it as a possibility.

To determine whether a de facto stand-down is likely to have occurred, one would need to know, among other things, the history of past intercepts. As I’ve already shown in previous posts, the claim of many official-story defenders that there was only one intercept outside an ADIZ during 1991-2001 is most likely false.

I’ll now comment briefly on two other items on the “9/11 Guide” site’s “Documents & Interviews” page:

Next is Chief of Department FDNY (ret.) Daniel Nigro Addresses Conspiracy Theories. In it, he explains the reasons why he feared that WTC 7 would collapse “to clear a collapse zone surrounding the building and to stop all activity within that zone” three hours before it collapse.

As noted in other posts about WTC 7, including Straight-down collapse of WTC 7 – what do “debunkers” say?, what seems strangest to me about WTC7 is not the mere fact that it collapsed, but the way it collapsed. Anyhow, I agree that there’s no reason to accuse Nigro, personally, of criminal foreknowledge.

Next is George Papcun, Creator of Voice Morphing Technology, Speaks Against Conspiracy Theories. This starts off with a brief summary of the extreme MIHOP view, involving “no hijackers.” He then says:

However, a major problem for their allegation, given that they claim there were no hijackers, is that the passengers on United Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania called home with desperate messages to loved ones, in which they said there were hijackers. Accordingly, the conspiracy theory purveyors have needed to claim that someone (namely, me) created the voices of the passengers in those phone calls.

Actually, even if one believes that voice-morphing was involved, this need not imply that George Papcun himself personally was involved. Surely he’s not the only person in the world capable of using the technology he invented?

Anyhow, he explains:

Practical considerations preclude making counterfeit telephone calls in this situation. For example, it is necessary to have samples of the voices of the people to be imitated. In situations like this, where the goal is to participate in an unconstrained conversation, the voice sample must be extensive. I cannot imagine how I might have obtained extensive samples of the voices of the passengers on Flight 93, especially not knowing which of them would call home. Additionally, in this situation it would be necessary to know what someone would say to his or her loved ones under such circumstances. What pet names would be used? What references would be made to children and other loved ones? Do believers actually suppose that the government (or I) listens in to everyone’s pillow talk?

Indeed, for precisely the above reasons plus the absence of any family members voicing doubts about the authenticity of the calls, as far as I am ware the idea of “fake phone calls” has never seemed plausible to me. This is one of the reasons why I don’t favor a no-hijackers view.

However, at some point I should investigate the claim, by some people, that real phone calls from those passengers would have been even less feasible than fake phone calls. This is a matter on which I’ve seen lots of conflicting claims, but I haven’t yet studied it independently myself.

Anyhow, this page contains a link to a fascinating Washington Post article, When Seeing and Hearing Isn’t Believing By William M. Arkin, Monday, Feb. 1, 1999. Although it doesn’t seem likely to me that phone calls from the passengers were faked, I see no similar reason to rule out the possibility of, say, a fake Osama bin Laden videotape.

I’ll comment on other items on the “Documents & Interviews” page at some later time.

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1 Comment »

  1. “Apparently this interview is included on ref1’s website for the purpose of showing that a “stand down” could not have happened”

    No. It’s included on my website, because Cheap Shot’s story needs to be told. He is a true hero. And he has a lot of info about the events of that day. I don’t even care who thinks this can be used as evidence and who thinks it can’t. I know he’s the real deal, I have confirmed his identity. And how on earth could someone make all that up? This interview has a lot of info, but it’s not made solely for debunking purposes, although it can serve that purpose as well. It’s made because this man has a story to tell. And I agree 100% with him. There was no stand-down.

    But I’m glad you have gone through his interview this well, no matter what your beliefs are.

    I’m glad you do not accuse Chief Nigro of anything. I’m also glad you do not endorse the voice-morphing nonsense.

    Comment by ref1 — December 14, 2007 @ 10:18 pm | Reply


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