I really was NOT expecting to find this. An explicit stand down order would be too obvious, one would think. But, lo and behold, here it is – although, as we shall see, it not yet clear what relevance, if any, it may actually have as evidence, given the alleged timing and the alleged context. I found it in, of all places, the NORAD tapes, as quoted in the August 2006 Vanity Fair article 9/11 Live: The NORAD Tapes by Michael Bronner.
If the timestamps on the tapes are to be believed, an explicit no-shoot order was given after Flight 93 had crashed, but while it was still believed that there might be other attacking planes in the air. As we shall see later, there is reason to question the timestamp. Perhaps the no-shoot order might actually have been given earlier, at a time when it could actually have caused harm? But for now I’ll assume that the timestamp is accurate.
Even so, I was startled to come across the no-shoot order, because I’ve seen plenty of references to Michael Bronner’s Vanity Fair article before, but, in the sources I’ve seen that referred to it, never a mention that it contained an explicit stand-down order, albeit a belated one. Anyway, here it is, on page 9:
At what feels on the tapes like the moment of truth, what comes back down the chain of command, instead of clearance to fire, is a resounding sense of caution. Despite the fact that NEADS believes there may be as many as five suspected hijacked aircraft still in the air at this point — one from Canada, the new one bearing down fast on Washington, the phantom American 11, Delta 1989, and United 93 — the answer to Nasypany’s question about rules of engagement comes back in no uncertain terms, as you hear him relay to the ops floor.
NASYPANY (to floor): Negative. Negative clearance to shoot.… Goddammit!…
FOX: I’m not really worried about code words at this point.
NASYPANY: Fuck the code words. That’s perishable information. Negative clearance to fire. ID. Type. Tail.
The orders from higher headquarters are to identify by aircraft type and tail number, and nothing more. Those orders — and the fact that the pilots have no clearance to shoot — are reiterated by NEADS controllers as a dramatic chase towards the White House continues. Two more problems emerge: the controllers can’t find the White House on their dated equipment, and they have trouble communicating with the Langley fighters (which are referred to by their call signs, Quit 2-5 and Quit 2-6).
FOX: Negative clearance to fire.
CITINO: O.K. I told ’em mission is ID and that was it.
FOX: Do whatever you need to divert. They are not cleared to fire.
The timestamp is probably the reason why we haven’t heard more about this order. Obviously, what matters a whole lot more is what did or didn’t happen before the Pentagon was struck at 9:38 AM.
Judging by the Vanity Fair article, the military never did receive clearance, earlier, to shoot down any of the hijacked planes either. Not that this mattered, because none of the hijacked planes were ever even intercepted.
Based on both the timestamp and the apparent context, one could easily argue that the “negative clearance to fire” order was perfectly innocuous. For example, as the Vanity Fair article itself says, on page 10:
As it turns out, it’s just as well the pilots are not cleared to shoot. Delta 1989 and the Canadian scare turn out to be false alarms. American 11 and United 93 are already down. And the fast-moving target near the White House that the armed fighters are racing to intercept turns out to be a friendly—a mistake by a civilian controller who was unaware of the military’s scrambles, as weapons techs Huckabone and Citino, and their senior director, Fox, suddenly realize.
Admittedly too, what I’ve found here doesn’t, in and of itself, prove that the pilots would not have been given clearance to shoot after ID’ing a plane, if only they had succeeded in intercepting one of the hijacked planes.
But the above conversation, together with the lack of any earlier clearance to shoot, does seem to confirm both Jim Hoffman’s and David Ray Griffin’s speculation that Cheney’s “orders,” spoken of in Mineta’s testimony, were orders not to fire, not orders to fire, as Mineta had assumed. This would seem to be the case regardless of the time at which Cheney issued these orders.
There’s still the even more important question of why none of the hijacked planes were even intercepted. Could fighter jets have succeeded in intercepting any of the hijacked planes? If not, why not? Was the confusion portrayed in the NORAD tapes purely “natural,” as official-story defenders assume?
The tapes include examples of confusion related to training exercises. Questions like “Is this real world or exercise?” come up on a number of occasions, as do remarks like “I’ve never seen so much real-world stuff happen during an exercise.” Also, on page 4 of the Vanity Fair article:
—Is this explosion part of that that we’re lookin’ at now on TV?
—And there’s a possible second hijack also — a United Airlines …
—Get the fuck out …
—I think this is a damn input, to be honest.
The last line — “I think this is a damn input” — is a reference to the exercise, meaning a simulations input.
The Vanity Fair article interprets the remark as follows: “It’s either gallows humor or wishful thinking. From the tape, it’s hard to tell.”
Later, on page 7, we have another, even clearer example of confusion between “real world” and “exercise.” In this case the confusion actually – and severely – hampered the military response. After fighter jets were scrambled from Langley Air Force Base to be sent to Washington, D.C.:
The Langley fighters were headed the wrong way — due east, straight out to sea into a military-training airspace called Whiskey 386, rather than toward Washington, which NEADS believed was under attack. According to the 9/11 commission, the Langley pilots were never briefed by anyone at their base about why they were being scrambled, so, despite having been given the order from NEADS to fly to Washington, the pilots ended up following their normal training flight plan out to sea — a flight plan dating from the Cold War. As one pilot later told the commission, “I reverted to the Russian threat — I’m thinking cruise-missile threat from the sea.”
At NEADS, a 28-year-old staff sergeant named William Huckabone, staring at his Green Eye, is the first to notice that the Langley jets are off course. His voice is a mix of stress and dread as he and the controller next to him, Master Sergeant Steve Citino, order a navy air-traffic controller who’s handling the fighters to get them turned around toward Baltimore to try to cut off the phantom American 11. The navy air-traffic controller seems not to understand the urgency of the situation.
NAVY A.T.C.: You’ve got [the fighters] moving east in airspace. Now you want ’em to go to Baltimore?
HUCKABONE: Yes, sir. We’re not gonna take ’em in Whiskey 386 [military training airspace over the ocean].
NAVY A.T.C.: O.K., once he goes to Baltimore, what are we supposed to do?
HUCKABONE: Have him contact us on auxiliary frequency 2-3-4 decimal 6. Instead of taking handoffs to us and us handing ’em back, just tell Center they’ve got to go to Baltimore.
NAVY A.T.C.: All right, man. Stand by. We’ll get back to you.
CITINO: What do you mean, “We’ll get back to you”? Just do it!
HUCKABONE: I’m gonna choke that guy!
According to the timestamp, the above conversation occurred four minutes before the Pentagon was struck.
Was this confusion purely “natural,” based on just an innocent miscommunication? Or was it deliberately created or intensified somehow?
One important question, to which I don’t yet know the answer, is whether there was an abnormal number of training exercises on 9/11/2001. I know that there were at least five “war games” scheduled for 9/11, but I don’t yet know how many training exercises per day (or per week) is normal. If indeed the number of training exercises on 9/11 was significantly higher than normal, that might be cause for suspicion.
As noted in recent posts, there are plenty of odd things about the behavior of high officials on that day. It’s also strange that there would not have been scramble-ready planes at Andrews Air Force Base, the base nearest to Washington, D.C.
Anyhow, after discovering that the NORAD tapes contained an actual, explicit no-shoot order, I wondered what other people have said about it, if anything. So I Googled:
A page on antiwar.com claims that Michael Bronner’s Vanity Fair article has “debunked” two “conspiracy theories,” including “(2) That the air force was ordered to ‘stand down’ on 9/11.” What???? Admittedly, since none of the hijacked planes were ever intercepted, one could dismiss the no-shoot order as irrelevant. But there was indeed such an order. The mere existence of such an order was anything but “debunked” by Bronner’s article. To “debunk” that, one would have to claim that tapes were voice-morphed – with no conceivable motive.
A Prison Planet article, NORAD Tapes Only Intensify Implausibility Of 9/11 Official Story by Paul Joseph Watson, August 2 2006, says:
Despite the lies of Cheney in his subsequent TV interviews and statements given under oath to the 9/11 Commission, those shoot down orders never arrived, even after United 93 had crashed in Pennsylvania.
A reasonable summary.
Another Prison Planet article, NORAD Tapes Expose Lax Military Attitude On 9/11 Air Defense by Paul Joseph Watson, August 4 2006, deals with the lackadaisical attitude of the Navy air traffic controller who was in charge of the two planes from Langley Air Force Base. Watson says, “NORAD tapes released this week which shed light on the negligence of the U.S. military in providing adequate air defense on 9/11 contain a conversation with a Navy air traffic control operator that provides another smoking gun for the assertion of a deliberate stand down policy on the morning of the attacks.” Of course, the Navy ATC himself probably just didn’t know what was going on. But why didn’t he know? Why wouldn’t he have been told?
Also on Prison Planet is an interesting article about Robin Hordon: Boston Air Traffic Controller Says 9/11 An Inside Job by Paul Joseph Watson, Thursday, December 14, 2006.
On 911Truth.org I found 9/11 Live or Fabricated: Do the NORAD Tapes Verify The 9/11 Commission Report? by David Ray Griffin. The contents of this article are similar to what Griffin says about the NORAD tapes in Debunking 9/11 Debunking.
Griffin’s main point is that the tapes themselves are suspect. For one thing, the tapes contradict many previous accounts, by many different officials, including people in both the FAA and the military.
Furthermore, the 9/11 Commission’s tapes-based account differs from all previous accounts in an amazingly consistent way, consistently placing 100% of the blame upon the FAA, whereas all previous accounts consistently do not place 100% of the blame upon the FAA. According to the 9/11 Commission’s tapes-based account, the military was not informed at all about any of Flights 175, Flight 77, or Flight 93 until after they had crashed. On the other hand, in all previous accounts, from the military as well as from the FAA, the military was notified about at least Flights 175 and Flight 77 (and, in many accounts, Flight 93 too) before they crashed. In all previous accounts, the military also tried to do something about each flight they heard about before it crashed. Also, according to the 9/11 Commission’s tapes-based account, the fighters from Langley were scrambled not in response to any real hijacked plane, but only in response to “phantom Flight 11,” a false FAA rumor that WTC 1 had been struck by something other than Flight 11, and that Flight 11 was still in the air and on its way to Washington, D.C. According to Griffin, “phantom Flight 11” had never been mentioned in any previous reports.
So, if the tapes are genuine and all previous reports are false, then it is understandable why the FAA would have lied earlier, to cover its own ass. But, Griffin argues, why would military officials lie to cover the FAA’s ass, at the expense of opening themselves up to charges of incompetence or worse? (It is also very unlikely that military officials could have honestly forgotten that they were informed too late to do anything about any of the hijacked planes.)
Furthermore, Griffin finds it incredible that the FAA could actually be as incompetent as the tapes portray. I’m not as incredulous as Griffin is about the possibility of false alarms, such as “phantom Flight 11,” on such a panic-inducing day as 9/11. But it does seem very unlikely to me that anyone in the FAA would have been so extremely lax about reporting any abnormal behavior by either Flight 77 or Flight 93 after both WTC towers had been hit, at which point it was clear that there was a coordinated attack. It also seems very unlikely to me that anyone in either the Boston FAA Center or the New York FAA Center would have been lax about communicating with the military about Flight 175, after Flight 11 crashed into WTC 1.
Griffin then suggests that the tapes could have been fabricated via voice-morphing. This is possible, but I think it more likely that some of the timestamps may have been massaged a bit. Doctoring the timestamps would have been simpler to accomplish than a convincing voice-morph.
Griffin also endorses the idea that phone calls from the passengers on Flight 93 may have been voice-morphed. That’s an idea I personally find very hard to believe. As far as I am aware, no families or co-workers of the passengers have ever expressed any doubts about the authenticity of those calls. And a convincing voice-morph would have required lengthy voice samples plus familiarity with the person’s idiosyncrasies. That being the case, it seems to me more likely that the “cell phone” calls were in fact Airfone calls, and that the cell phone vs. Airfone issue was merely an error in early reports.
Back to the NORAD tapes. It should be noted that the tapes do not include absolutely everything that happened. They do not include conversations amongst the high-level officials, for example. Only on some phone lines were conversations recorded. In addition, perhaps there might have been some cherry-picking of the conversations that were recorded.
Griffin writes, regarding his belief that the NORAD tapes were fabricated:
But Would All Those People Participate in a Lie?
There is, to be sure, a rather obvious objection to this hypothesis: If the NORAD and FAA tapes as described by Bronner have both been altered, then many military and FAA personnel would know this. Surely at least some of them would speak up? Surely not everyone would be willing to be complicit in such an enormous fraud by remaining silent!
However–and this could turn out to be the most important implication of the new story–it is now known that members of both the FAA and the military are capable of such deceit and complicity. On the one hand, if the new story is true, then many people in both the FAA and the military knew the old story to be false and yet supported it–whether actively or by their silence–from 2001 to 2004. On the other hand, if the new story is false, then many people in both the FAA and the military know this and yet have supported it–whether verbally or merely by not challenging it–since the publication of The 9/11 Commission Report in July 2004. Given Bronner’s portrayal of some of the people at NEADS, to be sure, it is not pleasant to think of them as consciously participating in an enormous lie. But we have no choice, because if the new story is true, then they were complicit in an enormous lie between 2001 and 2004. And if so, we have no reason to believe they would not participate in a new, improved lie.
I would add that, if voice-morphing were not done but only the timestamps were altered, then a lot of people might not even notice the changes, or might honestly just assume that both their own and everyone else’s memories were wrong.
For future reference, I should make a note of some of the footnotes in Griffin’s article, especially footnote 25, about the frequency of intercepts:
25. According to the FAA, the military scrambled fighters at its request 67 times between September 2000 and June 2001 (FAA News Release, August 9, 2002). According to the Calgary Herald (Oct. 13, 2001), NORAD scrambled fighters 129 times in 2000. According to a report by the US General Accounting Office in 1994, moreover, NORAD scrambled fighters 1518 times during the previous four years, which would have been an average of 379 times per year (http://www.fas.org/man/gao/gao9476.htm).
Also of interest are links to (1) a copy of NORAD’s press release of September 18, 2001 (on the Stand Down site by Mark R. Elsis) and (2) a copy of Laura Brown’s “FAA clarification memo to 9/11 Independent Commission,” May 22, 2003 (on 911truth.org). At some point I should try to track down the originals for these.
Anyhow, if indeed the timestamps on the NORAD tapes were fiddled with, as I suspect, then perhaps the presence of an explicit stand down order might be one of the reasons why someone thought it necessary to doctor the timestamps.
Of course, I haven’t really proven anything here. But the no-shoot order is a very interesting find, for whatever it may eventually turn out to be worth, in view of the possibility that the timestamps may have been altered.