Wednesday, June 16, 2004
From the New York Times:
The independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks has found that the Pentagon's domestic air-defense command was disastrously unprepared for a major terrorist strike on American soil and was slow and confused in its response to the hijackings that morning, according to officials who have read a draft report of the commission's findings . . . .See below.
The report, they said, suggests - though it does not say explicitly - that a more organized response by the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or Norad, might have allowed fighter pilots to reach one jetliner and shoot it down before it flew into the Pentagon, more than 50 minutes after the first of the hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York.
Instead, the report finds, an emergency order from Vice President Dick Cheney authorizing the hijacked planes to be shot down did not reach pilots until the last of the four commandeered jetliners had crashed into a field in western Pennsylvania, after a struggle between terrorists and passengers aboard that plane.
A spokesman for Norad, which is based in Colorado, had no immediate comment on accounts of the report. Norad's commander, Gen. Ralph E. Eberhart, and Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are to testify before the commission at the Thursday hearing, along with former officials of the F.A.A., which has been harshly criticized by the commission in the past.
Members of the commission, they said, are expected to question witnesses about hesitation among White House aides on the morning of the attacks, why President Bush was allowed to remain in a meeting with Florida schoolchildren for several minutes after it became clear that a terrorist attack was under way and why he was then taken on a perplexing, hopscotch series of flights on Air Force One that created the appearance of chaos among the nation's leaders.