Perhaps the most remarkable thing about 9/11 is that people often ask us to “Never Forget” while at the same time never learning, let alone remembering, anything about the crimes. This is a beautiful example of Orwell’s concept of Doublethink in which citizens covet their own unconsciousness in order to avoid acknowledging uncomfortable facts. One such fact is that we were given a string of false, contradictory official accounts for the failure of the national air defense systems that day and the last one given is the most unbelievable.
The ever-changing accounts for the failure to intercept any of the four hijacked planes began two days after the attacks. That first account was provided in an official hearing to confirm General Richard Myers as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS). Myers testified that no fighter jets were scrambled to intercept any of the hijacked flights until after the Pentagon was hit. Although Myers did not sound terribly confident in his knowledge, people thought he should have been, considering that more than 48 hours had passed and he had been serving as acting CJCS during the attacks.
A second, contradictory story was given five days later, when the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) provided a partial timeline of the notifications it had received from the Federal Aviation Administration and the responses that followed. The timeline showed that NORAD was notified about the hijacking of Flight 175 at 8:43 am, a full 20 minutes before it impacted the south tower of the WTC. Moreover, F-15 interceptor jets from Otis Air Force Base were said to be airborne by 8:52, having been scrambled in response to the first hijacking.
General Ralph Eberhart, who was commander of NORAD on 9/11, reiterated the timeline in testimony to the U.S. Senate in October 2001 and for two years it stood as the official account. Eberhart added that NORAD was notified about the hijacked Flight 77 coming into Washington at 9:24 am, fourteen minutes before it impacted the Pentagon. He repeatedly told the Senate Armed Services Committee that this was a “documented notification.”
A book released in January 2003 further established this account of the military’s response. The book, called Air War Over America: Sept. 11 Alters Face Of Air Defense Mission, was based on hundreds of interviews with the personnel responsible for conducting the nation’s air defenses that day. It was authored by Leslie Filson, public affairs officer for the 1st Air Force, and had been reviewed for accuracy by all the top brass who were in charge of the air defenses on 9/11.
In May 2003, Eberhart’s subordinates General Larry Arnold and Colonel William Alan Scott gave the third version of the story by presenting a slightly revised version of NORAD’s timeline. They contradicted the timeline for Flight 175, saying that NORAD was not notified of the hijacking until three minutes after that aircraft had crashed into the south tower. This was despite the fact that when asked by a U.S. Senator about “the second hijacked plane somewhere up there,” Eberhart had previously said “Yes, sir. During that time, we were notified.”
Arnold and Scott also revealed for the first time that NORAD was notified about the hijacking of Flight 93 at 9:16 am. This was 47 minutes before that flight allegedly crashed in Pennsylvania, at 10:03 am. Obviously, interceptor jets could have easily reached and escorted Flight 93 given this revised timeline.