The minutes leading up to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 were ones of confusion among government personnel, according to a bipartisan commission report.
In reaction to the event, there was a “hurried attempt to create an improvised defense by officials who had never encountered or trained against the situation they faced,” the panel said.
The efforts to respond were hampered by obstacles detailed in the commission’s report. Many of the problems were miscommunications among the different agencies involved.
The military had only nine minutes of warning from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) before the first plane, American Airlines Flight 11, hit the north tower of the World Trade Center. This was the only notice the military received about any of the four hijackings. The FAA also failed to notify the military that one of the planes had been hijacked, and wrongly reported that American Flight 11 was still in the air after its impact with the north tower.
Another problem was that an air traffic controller was in charge of two of the hijacked planes at the same time. While trying to locate American 11, the controller failed to notice the changing of the assigned transponder code of United 175.
Even Vice-President Dick Cheney received inaccurate information, believing that the military had shot down two hostile aircraft.
Despite these miscommunications, the panel praised government personnel on their quick-thinking decisions that day. “We do not believe that an accurate understanding of the events of that morning reflects discredit on the operational personnel,” the report said.
The report commends personnel for thinking “outside the box” in recommending a nationwide alert, in stopping local traffic on the ground, and in landing nearly 4,500 planes in the air as quickly as they did.
To purchase a copy of the final 9-11 Commission Report visit Http://bookstore.gpo.gov/911commission.html.