9/11 saw the first time that terrorists used commercial jets as missiles, and for some it wasn't surprising that this new form of attack caught America off guard. But others were unconvinced. They say should never have been able to succeed, and if only normal procedures had been followed then the day would have finished very differently.
It's often argued that intercepts were common, prior to 9/11, for instance. Most of these intercepts are claimed to have taken place within minutes, and the case of golfer Payne Stewart is sometimes used as an example. We're told that three hijacked 9/11 planes could not have gone unchallenged for more than half an hour, unless someone wanted them to reach their targets.
NORAD did launch fighters eventually, but this had only raised more questions. Like why did they come from Langley, when Andrews Air Force Base was so much closer to Washington? And why were the Langley fighters ordered to fly out to sea, when they should have been heading in the opposite direction?
Occasionally you'll find books, videos or websites offering explanations as to how this situation came about. It's been claimed that Dick Cheney was in charge of NORAD on 9/11, for instance, and somehow he was responsible. Others say there were many war games being run on the day, perhaps intentionally, and they caused confusion both at NORAD and the FAA. And it's also been suggested that a change in intercept procedures in the summer of 2001 further delayed the military response.
The conclusion apparently drawn by most of the individuals advancing these positions is a simple, but dramatic one: somehow the US Air Force was made to stand down on 9/11, and therefore the attacks were allowed to take place. But do their arguments really stand up to scrutiny?
- NORAD must have known that a "plane as missile"-type attack was possible?
- Payne Stewart's jet was intercepted very rapidly in 1999, a sharp contrast with the 9/11 performance?
- There's evidence that fighters normally intercept planes in 10 to 20 minutes?
- Dick Cheney was in charge of NORAD on 9/11?
- False blips were inserted onto FAA radar screens, confusing air traffic controllers?
- The many war games and exercises scheduled for 9/11 paralysed the air defence system, fatally delaying any military response to the hijackings?
- NORAD were alerted of the Flight 175 hijacking at 8:43, not 9:03, as the 9/11 Commission claimed?
- FAA military liaisons must have informed NORAD about the hijacked flights?
- There were fighters on alert at Andrews AFB on 9/11, but NORAD chose not to use them?
- Flight 77 was tracked on radar all the way to Washington, contrary to the 9/11 Commission Report?
- Norman Mineta may have heard Cheney deliver a key stand down order?
- General Myers initial story was that no fighters were launched until after the Pentagon was hit?
- An FAA official destroyed taped interviews with air traffic controllers who dealt with the hijacked flights?
We agree with very little that the Loose Change creators have to say, but they do at least deserve praise for both securing the release of the full NORAD 9/11 tapes, and making them public immediately. These files reveal the actions and reactions of NORAD staff to the events of 9/11, as they happened. The audio is available elsewhere in torrent form, or you can download the individual files here (each ZIP archive contains a single WAV format audio file).