Editor’s Note: References supporting this Overview Point are included on the linked pages of the individual Points summarized below.
One of the most remarkable features of 9/11 is the fact that the official accounts of the activities of six political and military leaders with central roles on 9/11 — roles that put them in position to affect the outcome of crucial events of that day — are challenged by facts suggesting that each story is false or at best dubious.
On the morning of 9/11, President Bush was visiting a grade school in Sarasota, Florida. When it appeared that hijackers were going after high-value targets, the head of the Secret Service detail allowed President Bush to remain at the school for 30 minutes, and to make a television address to the nation, thereby letting any terrorists know that the President was still there.
The Secret Service is charged with protecting the President. One of the unanswered questions, wrote the St. Petersburg Times, is “why the Secret Service did not immediately hustle Bush to a secure location.” The 9/11 Family Steering Committee asked: “Why was President Bush permitted by the Secret Service to remain in the Sarasota elementary school?”
The 9/11 Commission Report merely said, “The Secret Service told us they were anxious to move the President to a safer location, but did not think it imperative for him to run out the door.”
This break in protocol suggests — even if it does not prove — that the Secret Service, at some level, knew that the President was not in danger.
In addition, the White House, during the week of the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, described Bush’s visit to the school room in a false way (see MC Point 2), which later had to be corrected after a videotape of the event emerged.
According to the 9/11 Commission, Vice President Dick Cheney did not enter the PEOC (Presidential Emergency Operations Center), where he took charge of the government’s response to the attacks, until “shortly before 10:00,” hence after the Pentagon attack.
However, a number of witnesses — including Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, White House photographer David Bohrer, and Cheney himself (on Meet the Press) — reported that Cheney was in the PEOC before the Pentagon attack. Most important was Mineta, who reported that Cheney had given responses to questions from a young officer, as a plane approached the Pentagon, about whether the “orders still stand.” Cheney’s reply that they did stand can best be understood as Cheney’s confirmation of a stand-down order.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (MC Point 5)
According to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and The 9/11 Commission Report, Rumsfeld was in his office and oblivious to the attacks until he felt the attack on the Pentagon.
However, counter-terrorism coordinator Richard Clarke’s book Against All Enemies, which appeared in 2004 several months before the publication of The 9/11 Commission Report, portrayed Rumsfeld as being in the Pentagon’s video center in the Executive Support Center from shortly after the second WTC attack until after the attack on the Pentagon. Also, Robert Andrews, a deputy assistant secretary of defense, stated independently that, after the second WTC attack, Rumsfeld went across the hall to the Executive Support Center to join Clarke’s video conference.
It appears that the accounts given by Secretary Rumsfeld and the 9/11 Commission were false.
General Richard Myers (MC Point 6)
According to The 9/11 Commission Report and General Richard Myers, the Acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Myers was on Capitol Hill during the attacks, not returning to the Pentagon until after it had been attacked. However, this account is contradicted by several witnesses:
- The 2004 book Against All Enemies, by counter-terrorism coordinator Richard Clarke, portrayed Myers as having, along with Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, gone to the Pentagon’s video center at roughly 9:10 AM — it was shortly after the second (9:03) attack on the World Trade Center – which would mean that Myers could not have been on Capitol Hill at that time.
- Thomas White, the Secretary of the Army, indicated that Myers was in a breakfast meeting with Rumsfeld from 8:00 AM until 8:46 AM (when the first plane hit the WTC).
- The 2009 book by General Hugh Shelton, for whom Myers was substituting that morning, portrayed Myers as being in the Pentagon when it was hit.
It thus appears that the account given by Myers and the 9/11 Commission was false.
General Hugh Shelton, Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff (MC Point 7)
On the morning of 9/11, General Hugh Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, later reported that he was on a plane — the Speckled Trout — to Europe.
After learning of the second WTC attack, he ordered his crew to return to the Pentagon. According to Shelton, he was almost immediately given permission to return to the USA, returned to Andrews Air Force Base by roughly noon, and reached the Pentagon shortly thereafter.
However, the claim that Shelton’s plane returned to the Pentagon shortly after noon is contradicted by several facts:
- The Speckled Trout flight navigator reportedly said that the plane, having not quickly received clearance, had to go into a holding pattern over Greenland (for two hours) and again over Canada.
- The flight tracking strip indicated that the Speckled Trout did not land at Andrews until 4:40 PM.
- A military assistant traveling with Shelton stated that they drove from Andrews to the Pentagon in the “late afternoon.”
- General Myers stated that Shelton had arrived at the Pentagon at 5:40 PM, having “just returned from an aborted European flight.”
It appears that this part of General Shelton’s story is not true.
Brigadier General Montague Winfield (MC Point 8)
For two years it was both assumed and reported on television that Army Brig. Gen. Montague Winfield,the Deputy Director of Operations (DDO) at the National Military Command Center (NMCC), was in charge the morning of 9/11.
But in July 2003, the 9/11 Commission was told that between 8:30 AM and roughly 10:00 AM, Winfield had been replaced — at his own request, to attend a meeting to discuss the ratings of Air Force officers — by Navy Captain Charles Joseph “Joe” Leidig, who two months earlier had been made the Deputy for Command Center Operations and in August had qualified to stand watch in Winfield’s place.
However, this account raises several puzzling questions, including these
- Why did Brig. Gen. Winfield present himself, in CNN and ABC programs in 2002, as the DDO during the attacks?
- Why was Brig. General Winfield not called back to the NMCC after the second attack on the Twin Towers (which made clear that America was being attacked)?
- Why did General Richard Myers, who had been the acting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,describe Winfield — in a memoir published in 2009 — as the “duty officer in charge” of the NMCC on the morning of 9/11?
These unanswered questions suggest the untruth of the claim of the Pentagon and the 9/11 Commission that Leidig, rather than Winfield, served as the DDO during the 9/11 attacks — even though it is not clear why, if this claim is untrue — the Pentagon and the 9/11 Commission made the claim.
These six accounts are of different types: two of them are about men — Bush and Shelton — who were out of town, whereas the other four are about men who were in Washington. But all six accounts have two things in common:
- All six men were officials who had positions from which they could have affected the outcome of the 9/11 attacks.
- The 9/11 Commission gave an account of each man that is contradicted by considerable evidence.
These six accounts provide, therefore, a remarkable fact: that the 9/11 Commission has evidently given false accounts of the behavior of six officials occupying positions from which they could have affected the outcomes of the 9/11 attacks.
This interlocking evidence clearly points to the need for further investigation into the roles of key government and military officials on September 11, 2001.