The Richard Clarke teleconference
A considerable amount of 9/11 research has been concerned simply with verifying the 9/11 Commission's timeline of that day. Much of this focuses on the flights themselves, and when the FAA and NORAD knew each were hijacked, but there are many other issues that have also raised questions. When was Dick Cheney evacuated to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, for instance? What was Donald Rumsfeld doing before the Pentagon was hit? Where was Richard Myers?
One key source raised by many questioning the 9/11 Commission is Richard Clarke's book "Against All Enemies", which begins with Clarke's account of that day. He explains how he ran a teleconference involving the FAA, Department of Defence, CIA, Deputy Attorney General and more as they discussed what was happening. The 9/11 Commission talked about the teleconference here:
According to the Commission, then, the teleconference began late, included the wrong people, and so had no chance of playing a useful part in exchanging information, and perhaps preventing the attack on the Pentagon. However, after reading Clarke's book, other researchers have taken a very different view.
David Ray Griffin's "The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions", for instance, uses Clarke's account to derive a starting time of around 9:15 for the teleconference, notably earlier than the Commission describes. Especially as Clarke begins the conference with Jane Garvey of the FAA, who the Commission Report didn't have joining until at least 25 minutes later.
Further, while the Commission told us that "none of these teleconferences—at least before 10:00— included the right officials from both the FAA and Defense Department", Griffin points out that "Clarke's account suggests that his teleconference included exactly the right people: Jane Garvey, Richard Myers and Donald Rumsfeld". He suggests that "Garvey surely would have known at this time about the signs suggesting that Flight 77 had been hijacked", and says "Clarke's White House teleconference provided, therefore, one more context in which the US military - if it did not already know - could have learned about the hijacking of Flight 77". Griffin concludes:
It's important to note that Dr Griffin presents more evidence for his claims than we've quoted here, and so this page cannot refute his conclusion in full. Instead we will focus on a single issue, the teleconference: is it more likely that it began in full at 9:15 under the Clarke account, or 9:40 as reported by the 9/11 Commission?
Here's how Richard Clarke describes events between 8:45 and around 10:15 on the morning of 9/11.
However, some of Clarke's details were disputed by others on the scene. Condoleezza Rice aide Franklin Miller has said that he didn't talk to Rumsfeld on 9/11, didn't recall Ralph Siegler delivering the repeated messages about an approaching hostile aircraft, and that a later dramatic moment not described above was "complete fiction". These relatively minor disputes don't materially affect our calculations here, but are relevant when considering how accurate Clarke's account might be. Read more here.
We're more concerned here with the timetable, though. Clarke provides very few specific times to anchor the account, and so calculating precisely when an event occurred requires a little guesswork.
Still, there's no doubt that Clarke places the start of the teleconference at before 9:28. He also talks to Myers and Garvey prior to that time, and sees Rumsfeld on the screen, in contradiction to the 9/11 Commission account. A smoking gun? Let's find out.
David Ray Griffin discusses Richard Myers whereabouts in "The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions":
This is a near-textbook example in how to create something out of nothing.
We're told, for example, that the Commission not mentioning Clarke's account is somehow a major sign that they were covering up for Myers. Could it not also be the case that they didn't see it as an issue with any priority? There wasn't the time or space to rebut every theory in the final report.
Then Griffin tells us that Myers account could easily have been verified. "The Commissioners could have simply telephoned Cleland to ask him about this, but it evidently did not occur to them to make this call". Where is his evidence to support this? How does he know that the Commissioners didn't verify Myers whereabouts? Once again, the absence of evidence is used to "prove" a point, while other explanations are ignored.
If we are to accept Cleland and Myers account, though, this shoots a significant hole in Richard Clarke's version of his teleconference. Clarke said he was talking to Myers in the Pentagon just before 9:28, yet it seems in reality Myers was at Capitol Hill for at least another 10 minutes. And this is just the first problem with Clarke's timeline.
If this is accurate, and the teleconference began at 9:15, then this tells us that the FAA were "frantically looking for Norman Mineta, the Secretary of Transportation" at this time. And that's a little bizarre, because what you're rarely told during discussions of these issues is that Garvey was in a meeting with Mineta that very morning. Mineta mentioned Garvey in his 9/11 Commission testimony, for instance:
Further details appeared in an interesting interview with the Acadmey of Achievement:
If Mineta is correct, then it seems that Garvey called the FAA after the first WTC impact, but then returned to the meeting. She was present when Mineta saw footage of the second impact, which would have been at 9:03 at the earliest. Garvey then returned to the FAA (just down the street, I believe, so a very short walk), presumably had time to brief herself on what was going on, then called with a message about "the CEO of Delta Airlines".
That phone call is a further curiosity. Delta 1989 was eventually reported as a suspected hijack to NEADS, but the 9/11 Commission placed this at 9:41. There were concerns about the flight earlier, as it had several similarities to Flights 11 and 175 (airport, destination, departure time) but most media reports say it only got real attention from around 9:30. So if the CEOs call was about this plane, then how could it be happening prior to 9:15?
That issue aside, it's physically possible for Garvey to have got back to her office in time for a 9:15 teleconference, then, but why would she have been "frantically looking" for Mineta when they'd been together 12 minutes earlier, and she had been on the phone to his office only moments before?
And if we look at the content of what Garvey is saying, then it only gets worse.
Garvey begins by telling Clarke that "the two aircraft that went in were American flight 11, a 767, and United 175, also a 767", for instance. No if's, buts or qualifications, therefore we're supposed to believe that the FAA knew the second plane was Flight 175 by 9:15. So why is it that the 9/11 Commission timeline says that, while they had suspicions earlier, even United Airlines weren't sure what had happened until 9:20?
- (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001: UAL believe second crash was Flight 175
- (9:22 a.m.) September 11, 2001: UAL crisis center activated
Next, Clarke has Garvey reporting that "we have reports of eleven aircraft off course of out of communications, maybe hijacked", for instance. Really? Reports of eleven hijacked planes by 9:15? A 2002 USA Today story reports on some of the suspicious jets, but say the figure only reaches 11 "eventually":
The 9/11 Commission also say that there were only a few mistaken reports early on:
And MSNBC told us this in 2002:
If Clarke had spoken to the FAA at around 9:40, then, he may way have heard that there were 11 possibly hijacked planes. But we've yet to see anyone even begin to explain how this can have happened at 9:15. Of course it could be argued that he was right about the time, but she just didn't mention the eleven planes until later, however that's entering into a dangerous area (and still doesn't explain the "frantically looking for Mineta" problem). Once you know that one part of Clarke's story is incorrect, how are you able to decide which other elements are reliable?
Clarke reports that he could see Donald Rumsfeld in a Pentagon studio on 9/11, even before the teleconference began. However, Rumsfeld apparently takes no part it until after the Pentagon is hit. This account is contradicted by others, though, who place Rumsfeld in his office all along.
Mark Kirk describes being at the breakfast meeting with Rumsfeld and others:
Most of the reaction to such stories has concentrated in looking for discrepancies in Rumsfeld's own accounts. David Ray Griffin points out in "The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions" that Rumsfeld said in one account that he was at the scene for "half an hour", but in another that he was back in his office by 10:00, and most of that time would have been consumed in walking there and back. Griffin goes on to state:
Not at the scene at all? That's not what CNN appeared to think (although admittedly this footage doesn't clearly give a time):
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Dr Griffin calls these versions of the story "Rumsfeld on Rumsfeld", perhaps in an effort to persuade you that there's only his word for what happened. But as we've seen, that isn't true. Others report that he was in his office and make no mention of any trips to a teleconference studio. We could theorise that perhaps Rumsfeld slipped away without anyone noticing (or they're all lying to cover it up), reached the studio in time to be seen by Clarke, then returned again. But given that there's reason to doubt Clarke's account with regard to both Jane Garvey and Richard Myers, a simpler explanation may be that he's wrong here, too.
Many 9/11 researchers have pointed to the 9:10 to 9:15 start time of Clarke's teleconference as a clear contradiction of the 9/11 Commission account. They said, for instance, "none of these teleconferences—at least before 10:00— included the right officials from both the FAA and Defense Department", but David Ray Griffin stated that "Clarke's account suggests that his teleconference included exactly the right people: Jane Garvey, Richard Myers and Donald Rumsfeld".
However, look a little deeper and support for Clarke's version of events is very thin, at least amongst these key players. Max Cleland says Richard Myers was away from the Pentagon until after it was hit; witnesses place Rumsfeld in his office up until the same time; Clarke's account of what Garvey supposedly said at 9:15 makes very little sense.
None of this can conclusively prove Clarke is wrong, of course. There will always be people who say he is correct, and everyone else is lying. But until there's more evidence to support that, we would recommend you be particularly cautious about any conclusions drawn from Richard Clarke's teleconference timeline: most simply don't stand up to scrutiny.