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John & Joe

Video    Story Corps    6 September 2011



has won a 71st Annual George Foster Peabody Award

for our September 11 audio and animated shorts.


John Vigiano Sr. is a retired New York City firefighter

whose two sons followed him into service

—John Jr. was a firefighter, too,

and Joe was a police detective.


On September 11, 2001,

both Vigiano brothers

responded to the call from the World Trade Center,

and both were killed while saving others.


Here, John Sr. remembers his sons

and reflects on coping with his tremendous loss.


Directed by: The Rauch Brothers

Art Direction: Bill Wray

Producers: Lizzie Jacobs & Mike Rauch

Animation: Tim Rauch

Audio Produced by:

Michael Garofalo, Lizzie Jacobs & Vanara Taing

Music: Fredrik

Label: The Kora Records

Publisher: House of Hassle


Funding provided by:

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting

The Carnegie Corporation of New York

National Endowment for the Arts

In partnership with POV.




































Fact Box


Timeline from 9/11 Commission Report

8:46:40 — American Airlines Flight 11 crashes into the WTC’s North Tower

(Note: National Institute of Standard Technology report says 8:46:30.)


9:03:11 — United Airlines Flight 175 flies into 2 WTC [the South Tower]

(Note: N.I.S.T. report says 9:02:59.)


9:37 — American Airlines Flight 77 hits the west wall of the Pentagon

9:58:59 — South Tower collapses


10:03:11 — United Airlines Flight 93 crashes in Pennsylvania


10:28:25 — WTC’s North Tower collapses





Time from impact to collapse:

1 World Trade Center: 102 minutes

2 World Trade Center: 56 minutes





Number of dead: 2,992

World Trade Center:


(includes 10 hijackers

and 157 passengers and crew members)



125 (includes 5 hijackers and 59 passengers and crew members)


Flight 93:

44 (includes 4 hijackers)





First responders killed at the World Trade Center:

New York Police Department: 23

Fire Department of New York: 343

Port Authority Police: 37

Emergency Medical Service: 3





The flights

American Airlines Flight 11
From: Boston, Mass. (Logan Airport)
To: Los Angeles, Calif.
Number on board: 92
Crashed into North Tower of World Trade Center

United Airlines Flight 175
From: Boston, Mass. (Logan Airport)
To: Los Angeles, Calif.
Number on board: 65
Crashed into South Tower of World Trade Center

American Airlines Flight 77
From: Washington, D.C. (Dulles Airport)
To: Los Angeles, Calif.
Number on board: 64
Crashed into the Pentagon

United Airlines Flight 93
From: Newark, N.J.
To: San Francisco, Calif.
Number on board: 44
Crashed into rural Pennsylvania (southeast of Pittsburgh)


added September 9 2009

















"U.S. Attacked,"

Potomac News and Manassas Journal Messenger (Manassas, Virginia)

September 11, 2001.


Courtesy of Potomac News and Manassas Journal Messenger.

Library of Congress

















9/11 memorials and remembrance




















Boston Globe > Big Picture

9/11: United States marks 11th anniversary of attacks    September 12, 2012






Boston Globe > Big Picture

Remembering September 11th    September 11, 2009






Obama Speaks at 9/11 Memorial Service    2009






9/11 Commemoration

8th Anniversary of 9/11 Terrorist Attacks        2009








Sept. 11 Memorials























"America's Bloodiest Day," Honolulu Advertiser

(Honolulu, Hawaii)

September 12, 2001.


Courtesy of Honolulu Advertiser.

Library of Congress

















A man stands in the rubble,

and calls out asking if anyone needs help,

shortly after the collapse of the first World Trade Center Tower

11 September, 2001, in New York City.


Photograph: DOUG KANTER

AFP/Getty Images


The Boston Globe > The Big Picture

Seven years since -- looking back and forward on 9/11

September 10, 2008



















The Pentagon, Sept. 14 2001




















Edition: U.S.        Vol. 158 No. 16        October 8, 2001



Table of contents



















Edition: U.S.        Vol. 158 No. 13        Sep. 24, 2001



Table of contents



















Anthony Suau        Time        2001



















Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden (R)

and Ayman Al-Zawahiri are shown in this file photo

of leaflets that were dropped over Afghanistan in 2001.


The CIA officer who led the first American unit into Afghanistan

after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks said on May 4 2005

that his orders included an unusual assignment:

bring back Osama bin Laden's head on ice.


Gary Schroen and his six-member CIA team

arrived in Afghanistan's Panjshir Valley

two weeks after bin Laden's al Qaeda network

orchestrated the attacks on Washington and New York,

prompting the Bush administration's war on terrorism.


CIA agents told to deliver bin Laden's head on ice


Wed May 4, 2005    6:56 PM ET
2005-05-04T225601Z_01_N04302534_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-SECURITY-BINLADEN-DC.XML - brokne link
































homegrown terror






homegrown extremist






terror attack






terror attack on civilians

















terrorism attack



















Boston Globe > Big Picture >

Terror at the Boston Marathon        April 15, 2013


With thousands of runners

still on the course at the Boston Marathon,

two explosions rocked Boylston Street

just yards from the finish line.


The blasts ripped through

crowded spectator viewing stands.


The death toll as we publish

stands at three and is expected to rise,

with over 140 others injured and transported

to local hospitals.


No arrests have been made.

















Reconstructing the Scene of the Boston Marathon Bombing        Monday 15, 2013






Boston Marathon bombers > Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev        UK / USA


















blast        USA






maim        USA






Inside Obama’s War on Terrorism        USA
















New York Times editorials: The Aftermath of 9/11        USA






The Guardian > The 9/11 decade        UK





































The New York Times > THE RECKONING                USA







The 9/11 Tapes: The Story in the Air


A selection of audio recordings

from the Federal Aviation Administration (F.A.A.),

North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad)

and American Airlines from the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.


The recordings,

some of which have been published previously,

are being released in a multimedia report

originally intended to be part

of the Sept. 11 Commission’s 2004 report.




Note: Some audio contains

explicit language and disturbing content.








9/11 anniversary:

10 years of terror attacks - interactive        UK        2011


See where bombings and other terrorist attacks

have occurred

since the 11 September 2001 atrocity































































National Counterterrorism Center














U.S. counterterrorism strategy > drone strikes >

Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of al-Qaida

1951 (Egypt) - 2022 (Afghanistan)        UK / USA

































USA > Bomb plot / International terror alert

as explosive packages found on planes bound for US    October 2010        UK / USA










































































Boston Globe > Big Picture

9/11 in 2010, Remembrance and Rebuilding    September 13, 2010










Remembering 9/11    2010










After Sept. 11, 2001,

street murals depicting the World Trade Center

began to appear in poor neighborhoods

across America.        2010










9/11 Health and Environmental Issues












9/11 Reconstruction        UK / USA












Ground Zero        September 2012












Reviving Ground Zero    September 2010















Cartoons > Cagle > Times Square Terror    May 2010










Faisal Shahzad

bomb plot / bomb scare / Times Square Bomb Attempt    NYC, USA

May 1, 2010    UK / USA










































bomb plot / bomb scare / Times Square Bomb Attempt    NYC, USA    May 1, 2010    UK / USA







































































































bomb squad








USA > 9/11 conspiracy theorist        UK






9/11 rescue workers face court battle to pay for healthcare    March 2010






Aerial Photos of Trade Center on 9/11 Released    January 2010






9/11 tragedy pager intercepts


From 3AM on Wednesday November 25, 2009,

until 3AM the following day (US east coast time),

WikiLeaks released

half a million US national text pager intercepts.


The intercepts cover a 24 hour period

surrounding the September 11, 2001 attacks

in New York and Washington.


The messages were broadcasted "live"

to the global community

— sychronized to the time of day they were sent.


The first message

was from 3AM September 11, 2001,

five hours before the first attack,

and the last, 24 hours later.


Text pagers are usualy carried

by persons operating in an official capacity.


Messages in the archive range from

Pentagon, FBI, FEMA

and New York Police Department exchanges,

to computers reporting faults at investment banks

inside the World Trade Center


The archive is a completely objective record

of the defining moment of our time.


We hope

that its entrance into the historical record will lead

to a nuanced understanding of how this event

led to death, opportunism and war.






Al-Qaida: eight years after 9/11    2009






The New York Times > Lens

Showcase: The World, as of 9/10/01    September 11, 2009, 12:00 am
















The 9/11 accused

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

Ramzi bin al-Shibh

Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali

Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi

and Walid bin Attash












Khalid Shaikh / Sheikh Mohammed

Alleged 9/11 mastermind goes to court    2008-2014        UK / USA


























National security letters

administrative subpoenas that can be issued

under the USA Patriot Act in terror and spy investigations    2008


http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Senate-FBI.html - broken link








U.S. Department of Defense / Pentagon >

Sept. 11 Co-Conspirators Charged    2008










U.S. Department of Defense / Pentagon    2008










Pentagon    2007







Navy SEALs






SEAL Team 6

unit best known for killing Osama bin Laden
















Weapons of Mass Destruction    WMD    2008

















 Sulaiman Abu Ghaith - Osama bin Laden's son-in-law    2014










Osama / Usama bin Laden / Al-Qaida    2007    UK / USA


http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/topten/fugitives/laden.htm - broken link



















The New York Times > 6th Anniversary of 9/11 Attacks    2007






The Guardian > 9/11 anniversary (12 pictures)    2007        UK





New York State Museum


The State Museum’s

significant collection of material

from the World Trade Center

and objects from the international response

to the events of September 11, 2001,

tell the story of that day and its aftermath.
















Patriot act    2001
































New York Times Topics > Sept. 11, 2001






New York Times > Perspectives on 9/11    2007


To mark the anniversary of 9/11,

the Op-Ed page asked five artists

to draw and write about one of the places

where hijacked airplanes crashed six years ago






Here Is New York    2007


The new exhibition

at the New-York Historical Society

is not a commemoration.


“Here Is New York: Remembering 9/11,”

which opens on Tuesday,

is exclusively about memory,

which doesn’t diminish its power.


In two galleries,

1,500 inkjet-printed photos

taken six years ago

during those apocalyptic days

are mounted with simple stationery clips.


They are reminders

of hidden pressure points

and buried sensations.


The photos, without credits, titles or dates,

from 790 contributors,

range from the amateur to the professional,

from the clearly posed composition

to the frenzied snap of a moment

in which hysteria had to be kept at bay.

— Edward Rothstein






New York Times > City room > Sept. 11 and Ground Zero    2007






Sept. 11: Five Years Later > NYT > Complete Coverage






USA > September 11, 2001 attacks / the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks        UK / USA












102 Minutes: Inside the Towers


A reconstruction

of the harrowing final minutes

inside the north and south towers

of the World Trade Center

on Sept. 11, 2001,

narrated by reporters of The New York Times.

/timestopics/subjects/s/sept_11_2001/attacks/index.html - broken link







Fatal Confusion: The Emergency Response


Emergency personnel in the World Trade Center

before its collapse.






Sept. 11 Dispatches


New York City released tapes of emergency calls

made on the morning of the attacks

at the World Trade Center.






How the Towers Stood and Fell


The World Trade Center's towers

employed many innovative technologies and techniques.


On Sept. 11, 2001,

some of them helped the towers survive attack.


Others led to their collapse.






9/11 > Library of Congress > Documentary photographs









on 11 September 2001








9/11 (American format date)












USA > September 11 (September the eleventh)        UK / USA






















9/11 > The Guardian > Interactive guides >

How the tragedy unfolded        UK



















TIME 09-11-2001 Cover:

The World Trade Center Twin Towers burning

after terrorists crashed two commerical airplanes

into the buildings.


Photograph by Lyle Owerko-Polaris.

Location: US

Date taken: September 11, 2001


Photographer: Lyle Owerko


Life Images

Edition: U.S.        Vol. 158 No. 12        Sep. 14, 2001



Table of Contents

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/0,9263,7601010914,00.html - broken link















Twin Towers / World Trade Center        WTC










The falling man






World Trade Center (WTC) > 1993 attack / 2001 attack








ground zero








Ground Zero cross





First steel column for WTC skyscraper

installed at ground zero        December 2006





The Hijackers


A series of interactive graphics

from Sept. 2001 to June 2002

looked at the identities of the hijackers,

the money trail and other issues

in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.






USA > 9/11 hijackers        UK








USA > 9/11 > Mohamed Atta    Egypt    1968 – September 11, 2001        UK, USA










USA > 9/11 > Khalid Sheikh Mohammed    Pakistan        UK, USA
























Steve Bell


The Guardian

11 September 2001

















Bojinka Jetliners Bomb Plot > Khalid Shaikh Mohammed






9/11 > United Airlines Flight 175 > WTC






9/11 > American Airlines Flight 77 > Pentagon blast





9/11 > United Airlines Flight 93








USA > United 93: full transcript        UK






Pakistan        UK









Cagle > best cartoons        2001






9/11 political cartoons: early reaction






911 calls from World Trade Center attack




The New York Times > Complete Coverage > The 9/11 records






Vast Archive Yields New View of 9/11






All documents






Oral Histories of 9/11 Friday






Oral histories of rescue workers and audio of dispatch transmissions






audio dispatches






USA > 9/11 inquiries > the NORAD tapes        UK






Suspect in 5 anthrax-letter deaths kills himself    August 2008








anthrax letters     2001  

















Photograph: James Nachtwey

Times        2001

http://www.time.com/time/photoessays/shattered/ - broken link



















Photograph: James Nachtwey

Times        2001

http://www.time.com/time/photoessays/shattered/4.html - broken link


















Will Eisner.

Reality 9/11, 2001.

Ink brush, ink wash,

opaque white and plastic overlay with tempera.

Published in Alternative Comics' 9-11 Emergency Relief.

Gift of the artist.

Prints and Photographs Division (125)























USA > (terror) plot / bomb plot        UK / USA





















USA > be thwarted by the CIA        UK








foiled        UK






terrorism        USA






terrorist        UK






terrorist        USA








enemy combatant






USA > terrorist > Saajid Badat        UK






USA > FBI > Most wanted terrorists >

Fahd al-Quso > top al-Qaida leader in Yemen





suicide bomber        UK






Miranda rights        USA






terrorism > suspect > Fifth Amendment > Supreme Court > Miranda


U.S. Supreme Court

MIRANDA v. ARIZONA, 384 U.S. 436 (1966)

384 U.S. 436



No. 759.

Argued February 28 - March 1, 1966.

Decided June 13, 1966.



















USA > Hollywood studios > 9 /11 films        UK

















Bojinka Jetliners Bomb Plot




















Theodore J. Kaczynski,

better known as the Unabomber,

was flanked by federal agents

as he was led from the federal courthouse

in Helena, Mont., in 1996.


Photograph: Associated Press


Ted Kaczynski, ‘Unabomber’ Who Attacked Modern Life, Dies at 81

Alone in a shack in the Montana wilderness,

he fashioned homemade bombs

and launched a violent one-man campaign

to destroy industrial society.


June 10, 2023











USA > Theodore J. Kaczynski / Ted Kaczynski    1942-2023        UK / USA

known as the Unabomber




podcast - Guardian podcast


































Ahmed Ressam,


Ahmed Ressam,

known as the millennium bomber,

was convicted

of plotting to detonate a bomb

at Los Angeles International Airport

on New Year’s Eve 1999.


Mr. Ressam, an Algerian,

was arrested in Washington State

in December 1999

with bomb components,

which he had transported

across the border from Canada

aboard a passenger ferry.


He was sentenced twice

before by Judge John C. Coughenour

of Federal District Court in Seattle,

to 22 years in prison each time;

both sentences were overturned

by federal appeals court panels.


On Oct. 24, 2012,

Judge Coughenour

increased Mr. Ressam’s total to 37 years,

but refused again to impose the maximum term,

life in prison, that federal prosecutors had asked for.

Updated: Oct. 24, 2012

http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/r/ahmed_ressam/index.html - broken link


















Oklahoma City bombing - 1995















USA > Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman

is charged with planning

to bomb the World Trade Centre    26 August 1993        UK

















UK > Scotland > 20th century >

Lockerbie plane bombing - 1988










Corpus of news articles


Terrorism > USA




The Deafness Before the Storm


September 10, 2012

The New York Times



IT was perhaps the most famous presidential briefing in history.

On Aug. 6, 2001, President George W. Bush received a classified review of the threats posed by Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network, Al Qaeda. That morning’s “presidential daily brief” — the top-secret document prepared by America’s intelligence agencies — featured the now-infamous heading: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” A few weeks later, on 9/11, Al Qaeda accomplished that goal.

On April 10, 2004, the Bush White House declassified that daily brief — and only that daily brief — in response to pressure from the 9/11 Commission, which was investigating the events leading to the attack. Administration officials dismissed the document’s significance, saying that, despite the jaw-dropping headline, it was only an assessment of Al Qaeda’s history, not a warning of the impending attack. While some critics considered that claim absurd, a close reading of the brief showed that the argument had some validity.

That is, unless it was read in conjunction with the daily briefs preceding Aug. 6, the ones the Bush administration would not release. While those documents are still not public, I have read excerpts from many of them, along with other recently declassified records, and come to an inescapable conclusion: the administration’s reaction to what Mr. Bush was told in the weeks before that infamous briefing reflected significantly more negligence than has been disclosed. In other words, the Aug. 6 document, for all of the controversy it provoked, is not nearly as shocking as the briefs that came before it.

The direct warnings to Mr. Bush about the possibility of a Qaeda attack began in the spring of 2001. By May 1, the Central Intelligence Agency told the White House of a report that “a group presently in the United States” was planning a terrorist operation. Weeks later, on June 22, the daily brief reported that Qaeda strikes could be “imminent,” although intelligence suggested the time frame was flexible.

But some in the administration considered the warning to be just bluster. An intelligence official and a member of the Bush administration both told me in interviews that the neoconservative leaders who had recently assumed power at the Pentagon were warning the White House that the C.I.A. had been fooled; according to this theory, Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as a greater threat. Intelligence officials, these sources said, protested that the idea of Bin Laden, an Islamic fundamentalist, conspiring with Mr. Hussein, an Iraqi secularist, was ridiculous, but the neoconservatives’ suspicions were nevertheless carrying the day.

In response, the C.I.A. prepared an analysis that all but pleaded with the White House to accept that the danger from Bin Laden was real.

“The U.S. is not the target of a disinformation campaign by Usama Bin Laden,” the daily brief of June 29 read, using the government’s transliteration of Bin Laden’s first name. Going on for more than a page, the document recited much of the evidence, including an interview that month with a Middle Eastern journalist in which Bin Laden aides warned of a coming attack, as well as competitive pressures that the terrorist leader was feeling, given the number of Islamists being recruited for the separatist Russian region of Chechnya.

And the C.I.A. repeated the warnings in the briefs that followed. Operatives connected to Bin Laden, one reported on June 29, expected the planned near-term attacks to have “dramatic consequences,” including major casualties. On July 1, the brief stated that the operation had been delayed, but “will occur soon.” Some of the briefs again reminded Mr. Bush that the attack timing was flexible, and that, despite any perceived delay, the planned assault was on track.

Yet, the White House failed to take significant action. Officials at the Counterterrorism Center of the C.I.A. grew apoplectic. On July 9, at a meeting of the counterterrorism group, one official suggested that the staff put in for a transfer so that somebody else would be responsible when the attack took place, two people who were there told me in interviews. The suggestion was batted down, they said, because there would be no time to train anyone else.

That same day in Chechnya, according to intelligence I reviewed, Ibn Al-Khattab, an extremist who was known for his brutality and his links to Al Qaeda, told his followers that there would soon be very big news. Within 48 hours, an intelligence official told me, that information was conveyed to the White House, providing more data supporting the C.I.A.’s warnings. Still, the alarm bells didn’t sound.

On July 24, Mr. Bush was notified that the attack was still being readied, but that it had been postponed, perhaps by a few months. But the president did not feel the briefings on potential attacks were sufficient, one intelligence official told me, and instead asked for a broader analysis on Al Qaeda, its aspirations and its history. In response, the C.I.A. set to work on the Aug. 6 brief.

In the aftermath of 9/11, Bush officials attempted to deflect criticism that they had ignored C.I.A. warnings by saying they had not been told when and where the attack would occur. That is true, as far as it goes, but it misses the point. Throughout that summer, there were events that might have exposed the plans, had the government been on high alert. Indeed, even as the Aug. 6 brief was being prepared, Mohamed al-Kahtani, a Saudi believed to have been assigned a role in the 9/11 attacks, was stopped at an airport in Orlando, Fla., by a suspicious customs agent and sent back overseas on Aug. 4. Two weeks later, another co-conspirator, Zacarias Moussaoui, was arrested on immigration charges in Minnesota after arousing suspicions at a flight school. But the dots were not connected, and Washington did not react.

Could the 9/11 attack have been stopped,
had the Bush team reacted with urgency to the warnings contained in all of those daily briefs?
We can’t ever know. And that may be the most agonizing reality of all.


Kurt Eichenwald, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair

and a former reporter for The New York Times,

is the author of “500 Days:

Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars.”

The Deafness Before the Storm, NYT, 10.9.2012,






Newly Published Audio

Provides Real-Time View

of 9/11 Attacks


September 7, 2011
The New York Times


For one instant on the morning of Sept. 11, an airliner that had vanished from all the tracking tools of modern aviation suddenly became visible in its final seconds to the people who had been trying to find it.

It was just after 9 a.m., 16 minutes after a plane had hit the north tower of the World Trade Center, when a radio transmission came into the New York air traffic control radar center. “Hey, can you look out your window right now?” the caller said.

“Yeah,” the radar control manager said.

“Can you, can you see a guy at about 4,000 feet, about 5 east of the airport right now, looks like he’s —”

“Yeah, I see him,” the manager said.

“Do you see that guy, look, is he descending into the building also?” the caller asked.

“He’s descending really quick too, yeah,” the manager said. “Forty-five hundred right now, he just dropped 800 feet in like, like one, one sweep.”

“What kind of airplane is that, can you guys tell?”

“I don’t know, I’ll read it out in a minute,” the manager said.

There was no time to read it out.

In the background, people can be heard shouting: “Another one just hit the building. Wow. Another one just hit it hard. Another one just hit the World Trade.”

The manager spoke.

“The whole building just came apart,” he said.

That moment is part of a newly published chronicle of the civil and military aviation responses to the hijackings that originally had been prepared by investigators for the 9/11 Commission, but never completed or released.

Threaded into vivid narratives covering each of the four airliners, the multimedia document contains 114 recordings of air traffic controllers, military aviation officers, airline and fighter jet pilots, as well as two of the hijackers, stretching across two hours of the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

Though some of the audio has emerged over the years, mainly through public hearings and a federal criminal trial, the report provides a rare 360-degree view of events that were unfolding at high speed across the Northeast in the skies and on the ground. This week, the complete document, with recordings, is being published for the first time by the Rutgers Law Review, and selections of it are available online at nytimes.com.

“The story of the day, of 9/11 itself, is best told in the voices of 9/11,” said Miles Kara, a retired Army colonel and an investigator for the commission who studied the events of that morning.

Most of the work on the document — which commission staff members called an “audio monograph” — was finished in 2004, not in time to go through a long legal review before the commission was shut down that August.

Mr. Kara tracked down the original electronic files earlier this year in the National Archives and finished reviewing and transcribing them with help from law students and John J. Farmer Jr., the dean of Rutgers Law School, who served as senior counsel to the commission.

At hearings in 2003 and 2004, the 9/11 Commission played some of the recordings and said civil and military controllers improvised responses to attacks they had never trained for. At 9 a.m., a manager of air traffic control in New York called Federal Aviation Administration headquarters in Herndon, Va., trying to find out if the civil aviation officials were working with the military.

“Do you know if anyone down there has done any coordination to scramble fighter-type airplanes?” the manager asked, continuing: “We have several situations going, going on here, it is escalating big, big time, and we need to get the military involved with us.”

One plane had already crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. Another had been hijacked and was seconds from hitting the south tower. At F.A.A. headquarters, not everyone was up to speed.

“Why, what’s going on?” the man in Herndon asked.

“Just get me somebody who has the authority to get military in the air, now,” the manager said.

In its 2004 report, the commission praised front-line aviation officials. But it then thoroughly dismantled the accounts of senior government officials, who in the weeks after Sept. 11, and for more than a year afterward, assured the public that fighter pilots had been in hot pursuit of the suicidal hijackers. During these chases, according to accounts from Vice President Dick Cheney, the F.A.A. and the Defense Department, the pilots were described as ready to carry out a wrenching order from President George W. Bush to shoot down airliners.

The commission discovered that little of that was true: of the four flights, military commanders had nine minutes’ notice on one before it flew into the World Trade Center, and did not learn the other three had been hijacked until after they had crashed. Military commanders, given an order outside the chain of command to shoot down hijacked airliners, did not pass it along to the fighter pilots, but instructed them instead to identify the tail numbers of any suspected rogue planes. That turned out to be a prudent call because by then, there were no longer hijackers in the air for them to shoot.

The newly published multimedia document spells out precisely how the recordings contradicted the accounts of the senior officials.

Throughout the recordings, listeners also get a visceral feeling for the desperate scramble for information, as well as the confusion and lack of coordination between the civil and military aviation authorities. One example is an exchange that began at 9:34 a.m.

A military aviation official contacted the Washington center of the F.A.A. to discuss the situation, and learned, to her surprise, that American Airlines Flight 77 had disappeared more than 30 minutes earlier. No one had told the military.

“They lost radar with him, they lost contact with him, they lost everything, and they don’t have any idea where he is or what happened,” an unidentified F.A.A. official said. The plane was a 767, he said, explaining that he had gotten his information from the F.A.A.’s Indianapolis center.

“All I need is the lat-long, last known position of the 767,” the military officer asked.

“Well, I don’t know,” the F.A.A. official replied. “That was Boston, that was Indy Center. But they said somewhere, it was, last time I talked to them, they said that it was east of York. And I don’t even know what state that is.”

Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon three minutes later.

At almost the same time, a military commander, Maj. Kevin Nasypany, discovered that some of the fighter pilots had been sent east of Washington, over the ocean, in pursuit of American Airlines Flight 11 — which had crashed nearly an hour earlier into the north tower of the World Trade Center.

Major Nasypany ordered them to head toward Washington at high speed. “I don’t care how many windows you break,” he said.

The account published this week is missing two essential pieces that remain restricted or classified, according to Mr. Kara. One is about 30 minutes of the cockpit recording of United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed into the ground after passengers tried to storm the cockpit as hijackers flew across Pennsylvania toward Washington, D.C. Families of some of those onboard have objected to the release of that recording, Mr. Kara said.

The other still-secret recording is of a high-level conference call that began at 9:28 and grew, over the course of the morning, to include senior figures like Mr. Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard B. Myers.

The recording was turned over to the National Security Council. The 9/11 Commission was not permitted to keep a copy of it or of the transcript, Mr. Kara said, and investigators were closely monitored when they listened to it. Mr. Kara said he believed that the only truly sensitive material on the recordings were small portions that concerned the provisions being made to continue government operations if the attacks took out some national leadership or facilities.

“There was a staffer who was designated to sit with us, who would stop and start the tape, in my estimation to mask continuity of operations,” Mr. Kara said.

Nevertheless, he noted, the commission ended up with hours and hours of recordings that it initially did not have access to or had been told did not exist, a point Mr. Farmer echoed in the preface to the Rutgers Law Review article.

When the commission began taking testimony, military and civil aviation officials said “that no tapes were made, and we were told at one point that a technical malfunction would prevent us from hearing them,” Mr. Farmer wrote. “If we had not pushed as hard as we did — ultimately persuading the commission to use its subpoena power to obtain the records — many of the critical conversations from that morning may have been lost to history.”

    Newly Published Audio Provides Real-Time View of 9/11 Attacks,
    NYT, 7.9.2011,






It’s Still the 9/11 Era


September 4, 2011
The New York Times


Osama bin Laden is dead. So is Saddam Hussein, and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and too many Qaeda No. 3’s to count. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is awaiting his military tribunal. George W. Bush is home on the ranch, Dick Cheney is on book tour, and even Gen. David Petraeus is a general no more, having traded in his stars for a civilian position atop the Central Intelligence Agency.

But 10 years to the week after the twin towers fell, we are still living in the 9/11 era. The names and faces are different, the White House has changed hands, and the country has turned its gaze from our distant wars to the economic crisis on the home front. But American foreign policy is still defined by the choices our leaders made while ground zero smoldered, and the objectives they set. Our approach to the world was fundamentally altered by 9/11, and nothing that’s happened since has undone that transformation.

Part of this transformation was tactical: a shift from a criminal justice approach to counterterrorism that emphasized investigations, arrests and successful prosecutions, to a wartime approach that emphasized detention, interrogation and assassination. The other part was strategic: a decision that America’s national security required promoting democracy across the Muslim world — by force of arms, if necessary — rather than accepting the kind of stability that various dictators had promised to supply.

Taken together, these two shifts gave us the Bush administration’s most controversial policies, from Guantánamo Bay and “extraordinary rendition” to the invasion of Iraq and the nation-building effort that followed. Some of those policies were walked back in the second Bush term. (The waterboard vanished from our interrogation repertoire, and there were no further wars of choice.) But the overall transformation endured.

It has endured under Barack Obama as well, his campaign promises notwithstanding. We are still fighting a war on terrorist groups, complete with the indefinite detention, drone attacks and covert warfare that infuriated civil libertarians during the Bush presidency. Meanwhile, Obama’s first term has featured an expanded nation-building effort in Afghanistan, a regime-change operation in Libya, a possibly permanent military footprint in Iraq — and the gradual adoption, amid the ferment of the Arab Spring, of Bush’s freedom agenda rhetoric as well.

The question is whether this continuity is evidence of success or an example of the stay-the-course bias to which all governments are prone. Here it’s worth asking a version of Ronald Reagan’s famous question: Are we better off than we were 10 years ago?

The case for answering yes is strongest on the counterterrorism front, where our shadow war has clearly diminished our enemies’ capacity to do us harm in ways that our pre-9/11 efforts never did.

There are significant moral costs to a policy that depends on routinized assassination and detention without trial. But 10 years without a major attack, the death of Osama bin Laden and the steady degradation of Al Qaeda and its affiliates are not achievements to be taken lightly. The United States will always be vulnerable to terrorists, but in the decade since we were blindsided by Mohammed Atta’s team of hijackers, our spies and SEALs and interrogators have dramatically improved our odds.

On the strategic front, though, it is extremely difficult to argue that America’s geopolitical position is stronger today than it was 10 years ago.

Some of this weakening was inevitable: Our extraordinary post-cold-war dominance couldn’t last forever, and the rise of rival powers is a phenomenon to be managed rather than resisted. But our post-9/11 attempts to transform the Muslim world have cost trillions of dollars and thousands of lives, and won us — well, what? A liberated Iraq that’s more in Iran’s sphere of influence than ours, an Afghan war in which American casualties keep rising, an Arab Spring that threatens to encircle Israel with enemies, a Middle East where our list of reliable allies grows thin ...

This list doesn’t account for various counterfactuals (how much worse off we might be with Saddam Hussein in power, for instance). Nor does it account for democracy promotion’s long-term benefits.

But after 10 years of conflict, we aren’t exactly in short-term territory anymore. And pointing out that things could have been worse doesn’t change the fact that our post-9/11 grand strategy has been associated with a steady erosion of America’s position in the world.

In this context, the fact that President Obama has kept the United States enmeshed in occupations and interventions across the Muslim world isn’t evidence that our strategy is working. It’s a sign that he doesn’t know how to get us out.

In my Aug. 22 column, I should have said

that the Texas-Mexico border is 1,250 miles, not 1,969 miles.

Also, Texas’s black eighth graders

were tied with their peers in Massachusetts

for best score on the 2009 National Assessment

of Educational Progress math exam.

They did not beat all other states.

    It’s Still the 9/11 Era, NYT, 4.9.2011,






Sept. 11 suspects to be tried

at Guantanamo Bay


WASHINGTON | Mon Apr 4, 2011
6:14pm EDT
By David Alexander
and James Vicini


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama yielded to political opposition Monday, agreeing to try the self-professed mastermind of the September 11 attacks in a military tribunal at Guantanamo and not in a civilian court as he had promised.

Attorney General Eric Holder blamed lawmakers for the policy reversal, saying their December decision to block funding for prosecuting the 9/11 suspects in a New York court "tied our hands" and forced the administration to resume military trials.

His announcement was an embarrassing reversal of the administration's decision in November 2009 to try September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four co-conspirators in a court near the site of the World Trade Center attack that killed nearly 3,000 people.

That decision had been welcomed by civil rights groups but strongly opposed by many lawmakers -- especially Republicans -- and New Yorkers, who cheered Holder's announcement that the Obama administration had reversed course.

In moving the case back to the military system, the Justice Department unsealed a nine-count criminal indictment that detailed how Mohammed trained the 9/11 hijackers to use short-bladed knives by killing sheep and camels.

Another of the five -- Walid bin Attash -- tested air security by carrying a pocket knife and wandering close to the doors of aircraft cockpits to check for reactions, said the indictment, which prosecutors asked the court to drop so the case can be handled by a military commission.



The decision to abandon civilian prosecution was an admission that Obama has not been able to overcome political opposition to his effort to close the prison for terrorism suspects and enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, a key 2008 campaign promise. It came on the day he kicked off his campaign for re-election in 2012.

James Carafano, a foreign policy expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, said a military trial for the five men was "the only rational course of action" and Obama was unlikely to be hurt politically by the decision.

"The (U.S.) public basically just ignores the issue these days. Even overseas, Europeans who were so critical before of Guantanamo have really gone to sleep on the issue," he said.

Obama has called the Guantanamo Bay facility, set up by his predecessor President George W. Bush, a recruiting symbol for anti-American groups and said allegations of prisoner mistreatment there had tarnished America's reputation.

He promised to close the prison by the end of his first year in office, but that deadline passed with no action as the administration confronted the hard reality of finding countries willing to accept custody of the inmates.

The prison still holds 172 people, down from 245 when Obama took office in January 2009.



The decision to try the five men before military commissions was praised in New York and Washington. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the cost of holding and securing the trials in Manhattan would have been near "a billion dollars" at a time of tight budgets.

Chuck Schumer, a Democratic senator for New York, called it "the final nail in the coffin of that wrong-headed idea."

Julie Menin, who spearheaded opposition to the trials in New York, said the decision was a "victory for lower Manhattan and my community."

But others, like Valerie Lucznikowska, said the use of military commissions was "just not satisfying to people who want real justice." The 72-year-old New Yorker, whose nephew died in the World Trade Center attack, said the military commissions could be viewed by the world as "kangaroo courts."

Holder said he still believed the 9/11 suspects would best be prosecuted in U.S. civilian courts, despite strong congressional opposition.

Captain John Murphy, the chief prosecutor of the office of military commissions, said his office would swear charges in the near future against the five suspects for their alleged roles in the 2001 attacks.

In addition to Mohammed, an al Qaeda leader captured in Pakistan in 2003, and bin Attash, the accused co-conspirators are Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed al Hawsawi.


(Reporting by Phil Stewart, James Vicini,

Jeremy Pelofsky, Matt Spetalnick

and Susan Cornwell in Washington

and Basil Katz in New York;

writing by David Alexander;

Editing by Sandra Maler and Todd Eastham)

    Sept. 11 suspects to be tried at Guantanamo Bay, R, 4.4.2011,






The Threat to Miranda


May 14, 2010
The New York Times


For nearly nine years, the threat of international terrorism has fueled a government jackhammer, cutting away at long-established protections of civil liberties. It has been used to justify warrantless wiretapping, an expansion of the state secrets privilege in federal lawsuits, the use of torture, and the indefinite detention of people labeled enemy combatants. None of these actions were necessary to fight terrorism, and neither is a dubious Obama administration proposal to loosen the Miranda rules when questioning terror suspects and to delay presenting suspects to a judge.

A change to a fundamental constitutional protection like Miranda should not be tossed out on a Sunday talk show with few details and a gauzy justification. If Attorney General Eric Holder really wants to change the rules, he owes the public a much better explanation.

At the most basic level, it is not even clear that the warning requirement can be changed, except from the bench. The Miranda warning was the creation of the Supreme Court as a way of enforcing the Fifth Amendment. Since 1966, it has reduced coerced confessions and reminded suspects that they have legal rights.

The Rehnquist court warned against meddling with the rule in a 2000 decision forbidding Congress to overrule the warnings to suspects, which over the decades became an ingrained law enforcement practice.

In 1984, the court itself added a “public safety” exception to Miranda. If there is an overriding threat to public safety and officers need information from a suspect to deal with it, the court said, the officers can get that information before administering the Miranda warnings and still use it in court. We disagreed with that decision, but in the years since, the exception has become a useful tool to deal with imminent threats.

The question now is whether the exception needs to be enlarged to deal with the threat of terrorism. Clearly an unexploded bomb or a terror conspiracy would constitute a safety threat under the existing rule. But must investigators “Mirandize” a suspect before asking about his financing sources, his experience at overseas training camps, his methods of communication? In a world that is differently dangerous than it was in 1984, these seem to fit logically under the existing exception, without requiring a fundamental change to the rule.

Miranda does not seem to be an impediment to good antiterror police work, as Mr. Holder himself noted on Thursday before the House Judiciary Committee. Investigators questioned Faisal Shahzad, the suspect in the Times Square bombing attempt, for three or four hours before giving him a Miranda warning, receiving useful information both before and after the warning. He readily waived his right to a quick hearing before a judge.

Investigators also questioned the suspect in the attempted airliner bombing last Christmas for 50 minutes before his rights were read. After both incidents, there were alarmist and unproven outcries from some politicians that Miranda was a hurdle to the cases.

We hope the Obama administration is not simply reacting to shortsighted pressure. To allay those concerns, it must quickly explain precisely what changes it wants to make, what time limits would be set on any new exceptions, and why the existing rules are inadequate.

    The Threat to Miranda, NYT, 14.5.2010,






Op-Ed Contributor

Tales From Torture’s Dark World


March 15, 2009
The New York Times


ON a bright sunny day two years ago, President George W. Bush strode into the East Room of the White House and informed the world that the United States had created a dark and secret universe to hold and interrogate captured terrorists.

“In addition to the terrorists held at Guantánamo,” the president said, “a small number of suspected terrorist leaders and operatives captured during the war have been held and questioned outside the United States, in a separate program operated by the Central Intelligence Agency.”

At these places, Mr. Bush said, “the C.I.A. used an alternative set of procedures.” He added: “These procedures were designed to be safe, to comply with our laws, our Constitution and our treaty obligations. The Department of Justice reviewed the authorized methods extensively and determined them to be lawful.” This speech will stand, I believe, as George W. Bush’s most important: perhaps the only historic speech he ever gave. In his fervent defense of his government’s “alternative set of procedures” and his equally fervent insistence that they were “lawful,” he set out before the country America’s dark moral epic of torture, in the coils of whose contradictions we find ourselves entangled still.

At the same time, perhaps unwittingly, Mr. Bush made it possible that day for those on whom the alternative set of procedures were performed eventually to speak. For he announced that he would send 14 “high-value detainees” from dark into twilight: they would be transferred from the overseas “black sites” to Guantánamo. There, while awaiting trial, the International Committee of the Red Cross would be “advised of their detention, and will have the opportunity to meet with them.”

A few weeks later, from Oct. 6 to 11 and then from Dec. 4 to 14, 2006, Red Cross officials — whose duty it is to monitor compliance with the Geneva Conventions and to supervise treatment of prisoners of war — traveled to Guantánamo and began interviewing the prisoners.

Their stated goal was to produce a report that would “provide a description of the treatment and material conditions of detention of the 14 during the period they were held in the C.I.A. detention program,” periods ranging “from 16 months to almost four and a half years.”

As the Red Cross interviewers informed the detainees, their report was not intended to be released to the public but, “to the extent that each detainee agreed for it to be transmitted to the authorities,” to be given in strictest secrecy to officials of the government agency that had been in charge of holding them — in this case the Central Intelligence Agency, to whose acting general counsel, John Rizzo, the report was sent on Feb. 14, 2007.

The result is a document — labeled “confidential” and clearly intended only for the eyes of those senior American officials — that tells a story of what happened to each of the 14 detainees inside the black sites.

A short time ago, this document came into my hands and I have set out the stories it tells in a longer article in The New York Review of Books. Because these stories were taken down confidentially in patient interviews by professionals from the International Committee of the Red Cross, and not intended for public consumption, they have an unusual claim to authenticity.

Indeed, since the detainees were kept strictly apart and isolated, both at the black sites and at Guantánamo, the striking similarity in their stories would seem to make fabrication extremely unlikely. As its authors state in their introduction, “The I.C.R.C. wishes to underscore that the consistency of the detailed allegations provided separately by each of the 14 adds particular weight to the information provided below.”

Beginning with the chapter headings on its contents page — “suffocation by water,” “prolonged stress standing,” “beatings by use of a collar,” “confinement in a box” — the document makes compelling and chilling reading. The stories recounted in its fewer than 50 pages lead inexorably to this unequivocal conclusion, which, given its source, has the power of a legal determination: “The allegations of ill treatment of the detainees indicate that, in many cases, the ill treatment to which they were subjected while held in the C.I.A. program, either singly or in combination, constituted torture. In addition, many other elements of the ill treatment, either singly or in combination, constituted cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”

Perhaps one should start with the story of the first man to whom, according to news reports, the president’s “alternative set of procedures” were applied:

“I woke up, naked, strapped to a bed, in a very white room. The room measured approximately 4 meters by 4 meters. The room had three solid walls, with the fourth wall consisting of metal bars separating it from a larger room. I am not sure how long I remained in the bed. After some time, I think it was several days, but can’t remember exactly, I was transferred to a chair where I was kept, shackled by hands and feet for what I think was the next two to three weeks. During this time I developed blisters on the underside of my legs due to the constant sitting. I was only allowed to get up from the chair to go [to] the toilet, which consisted of a bucket.

“I was given no solid food during the first two or three weeks, while sitting on the chair. I was only given Ensure and water to drink. At first the Ensure made me vomit, but this became less with time.

“The cell and room were air-conditioned and were very cold. Very loud, shouting-type music was constantly playing. It kept repeating about every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day. Sometimes the music stopped and was replaced by a loud hissing or crackling noise.

“The guards were American, but wore masks to conceal their faces. My interrogators did not wear masks.”

So begins the story of Abu Zubaydah, a senior member of Al Qaeda, captured in a raid in Pakistan in March 2002. The arrest of an active terrorist with actionable information was a coup for the United States.

After being treated for his wounds — he had been shot in the stomach, leg and groin during his capture — Abu Zubaydah was brought to one of the black sites, probably in Thailand, and placed in that white room.

It is important to note that Abu Zubaydah was not alone with his interrogators, that everyone in that white room — guards, interrogators, doctor — was in fact linked directly, and almost constantly, to senior intelligence officials on the other side of the world. “It wasn’t up to individual interrogators to decide, ‘Well, I’m going to slap him. Or I’m going to shake him,’” said John Kiriakou, a C.I.A. officer who helped capture Abu Zubaydah, in an interview with ABC News.

Every one of the steps taken with regard to Abu Zubaydah “had to have the approval of the deputy director for operations. So before you laid a hand on him, you had to send in the cable saying, ‘He’s uncooperative. Request permission to do X.’”

He went on: “The cable traffic back and forth was extremely specific.... No one wanted to get in trouble by going overboard.”

Shortly after Abu Zubaydah was captured, C.I.A. officers briefed the National Security Council’s principals committee, including Vice President Dick Cheney, the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, and Attorney General John Ashcroft, in detail on the interrogation plans for the prisoner. As the interrogations proceeded, so did the briefings, with George Tenet, the C.I.A. director, bringing to senior officials almost daily reports of the techniques applied.

At the time, the spring and summer of 2002, Justice Department officials, led by John Yoo, were working on a memorandum, now known informally as “the torture memo,” which claimed that for an “alternative procedure” to be considered torture, and thus illegal, it would have to cause pain of the sort “that would be associated with serious physical injury so severe that death, organ failure, or permanent damage resulting in a loss of significant body function will likely result.” The memo was approved in August 2002, thus serving as a legal “green light” for interrogators to apply the most aggressive techniques to Abu Zubaydah:

“I was taken out of my cell and one of the interrogators wrapped a towel around my neck; they then used it to swing me around and smash me repeatedly against the hard walls of the room.”

The prisoner was then put in a coffin-like black box, about 4 feet by 3 feet and 6 feet high, “for what I think was about one and a half to two hours.” He added: The box was totally black on the inside as well as the outside.... They put a cloth or cover over the outside of the box to cut out the light and restrict my air supply. It was difficult to breathe. When I was let out of the box I saw that one of the walls of the room had been covered with plywood sheeting. From now on it was against this wall that I was then smashed with the towel around my neck. I think that the plywood was put there to provide some absorption of the impact of my body. The interrogators realized that smashing me against the hard wall would probably quickly result in physical injury.”

After this beating, Abu Zubaydah was placed in a small box approximately three feet tall. “They placed a cloth or cover over the box to cut out all light and restrict my air supply. As it was not high enough even to sit upright, I had to crouch down. It was very difficult because of my wounds. The stress on my legs held in this position meant my wounds both in the leg and stomach became very painful. I think this occurred about three months after my last operation. It was always cold in the room, but when the cover was placed over the box it made it hot and sweaty inside. The wound on my leg began to open and started to bleed. I don’t know how long I remained in the small box; I think I may have slept or maybe fainted.

“I was then dragged from the small box, unable to walk properly, and put on what looked like a hospital bed, and strapped down very tightly with belts. A black cloth was then placed over my face and the interrogators used a mineral water bottle to pour water on the cloth so that I could not breathe. After a few minutes the cloth was removed and the bed was rotated into an upright position. The pressure of the straps on my wounds was very painful. I vomited.

“The bed was then again lowered to horizontal position and the same torture carried out again with the black cloth over my face and water poured on from a bottle. On this occasion my head was in a more backward, downwards position and the water was poured on for a longer time. I struggled against the straps, trying to breathe, but it was hopeless.”

After being placed again in the tall box, Abu Zubaydah “was then taken out and again a towel was wrapped around my neck and I was smashed into the wall with the plywood covering and repeatedly slapped in the face by the same two interrogators as before.

“I was then made to sit on the floor with a black hood over my head until the next session of torture began. The room was always kept very cold.

This went on for approximately one week.”

Walid bin Attash, a Saudi involved with planning the attacks on American embassies in Africa in 1998 and on the Navy destroyer Cole in 2000, was captured in Pakistan on April 29, 2003:

“On arrival at the place of detention in Afghanistan I was stripped naked. I remained naked for the next two weeks.... I was kept in a standing position, feet flat on the floor, but with my arms above my head and fixed with handcuffs and a chain to a metal bar running across the width of the cell. The cell was dark with no light, artificial or natural.”

This forced standing, with arms shackled above the head, seems to have become standard procedure. It proved especially painful for Mr. bin Attash, who had lost a leg fighting in Afghanistan:

“After some time being held in this position my stump began to hurt so I removed my artificial leg to relieve the pain. Of course my good leg then began to ache and soon started to give way so that I was left hanging with all my weight on my wrists.”

Cold water was used on Mr. bin Attash in combination with beatings and the use of a plastic collar, which seems to have been a refinement of the towel that had been looped around Abu Zubaydah’s neck:

“On a daily basis during the first two weeks a collar was looped around my neck and then used to slam me against the walls of the interrogation room. It was also placed around my neck when being taken out of my cell for interrogation and was used to lead me along the corridor. It was also used to slam me against the walls of the corridor during such movements.

“Also on a daily basis during the first two weeks I was made to lie on a plastic sheet placed on the floor which would then be lifted at the edges. Cold water was then poured onto my body with buckets.... I would be kept wrapped inside the sheet with the cold water for several minutes. I would then be taken for interrogation.”

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the key planner of the 9/11 attacks, was captured in Pakistan on March 1, 2003.

After three days in what he believes was a prison in Afghanistan, Mr. Mohammed was put in a tracksuit, blindfold, hood and headphones, and shackled and placed aboard a plane. He quickly fell asleep — “the first proper sleep in over five days” — and remains unsure of how long the journey took. On arrival, however, he realized he had come a long way:

“I could see at one point there was snow on the ground. Everybody was wearing black, with masks and army boots, like Planet X people. I think the country was Poland. I think this because on one occasion a water bottle was brought to me without the label removed. It had [an] e-mail address ending in ‘.pl.’”

He was stripped and put in a small cell. “I was kept for one month in the cell in a standing position with my hands cuffed and shackled above my head and my feet cuffed and shackled to a point in the floor,” he told the Red Cross.

“Of course during this month I fell asleep on some occasions while still being held in this position. This resulted in all my weight being applied to the handcuffs around my wrist, resulting in open and bleeding wounds. [Scars consistent with this allegation were visible on both wrists as well as on both ankles.] Both my feet became very swollen after one month of almost continual standing.”

For interrogation, Mr. Mohammed was taken to a different room. The sessions lasted for as long as eight hours and as short as four.

“If I was perceived not to be cooperating I would be put against a wall and punched and slapped in the body, head and face. A thick flexible plastic collar would also be placed around my neck so that it could then be held at the two ends by a guard who would use it to slam me repeatedly against the wall. The beatings were combined with the use of cold water, which was poured over me using a hose-pipe.”

As with Abu Zubaydah, the harshest sessions involved the “alternative set of procedures” used in sequence and in combination, one technique intensifying the effects of the others:

“The beatings became worse and I had cold water directed at me from a hose-pipe by guards while I was still in my cell. The worst day was when I was beaten for about half an hour by one of the interrogators. My head was banged against the wall so hard that it started to bleed. Cold water was poured over my head. This was then repeated with other interrogators. Finally I was taken for a session of water boarding. The torture on that day was finally stopped by the intervention of the doctor.”

Reading the Red Cross report, one becomes somewhat inured to the “alternative set of procedures” as they are described: the cold and repeated violence grow numbing. Against this background, the descriptions of daily life of the detainees in the black sites, in which interrogation seems merely a periodic heightening of consistently imposed brutality, become more striking.

Here again is Mr. Mohammed:

“After each session of torture I was put into a cell where I was allowed to lie on the floor and could sleep for a few minutes. However, due to shackles on my ankles and wrists I was never able to sleep very well.... The toilet consisted of a bucket in the cell, which I could use on request” — he was shackled standing, his hands affixed to the ceiling — “but I was not allowed to clean myself after toilet during the first month.... I wasn’t given any clothes for the first month. Artificial light was on 24 hours a day, but I never saw sunlight.”

Abu Zubaydah, Walid bin Attash, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed — these men almost certainly have blood on their hands. There is strong reason to believe that they had critical parts in planning and organizing terrorist operations that caused the deaths of thousands of people. So in all likelihood did the other “high-value detainees” whose treatment while secretly confined by the United States is described in the Red Cross report.

From everything we know, many or all of these men deserve to be tried and punished — to be “brought to justice,” as President Bush vowed they would be. The fact that judges, military or civilian, throw out cases of prisoners who have been tortured — and have already done so at Guantánamo — means it is highly unlikely that they will be brought to justice anytime soon.

For the men who have committed great crimes, this seems to mark perhaps the most important and consequential sense in which “torture doesn’t work.” The use of torture deprives the society whose laws have been so egregiously violated of the possibility of rendering justice. Torture destroys justice. Torture in effect relinquishes this sacred right in exchange for speculative benefits whose value is, at the least, much disputed.

As I write, it is impossible to know definitively what benefits — in intelligence, in national security, in disrupting Al Qaeda — the president’s approval of use of an “alternative set of procedures” might have brought to the United States. Only a thorough investigation, which we are now promised, much belatedly, by the Senate Intelligence Committee, can determine that.

What we can say with certainty, in the wake of the Red Cross report, is that the United States tortured prisoners and that the Bush administration, including the president himself, explicitly and aggressively denied that fact. We can also say that the decision to torture, in a political war with militant Islam, harmed American interests by destroying the democratic and Constitutional reputation of the United States, undermining its liberal sympathizers in the Muslim world and helping materially in the recruitment of young Muslims to the extremist cause. By deciding to torture, we freely chose to embrace the caricature they had made of us. The consequences of this choice, legal, political and moral, now confront us. Time and elections are not enough to make them go away.


Mark Danner, a professor of journalism

at the University of California, Berkeley,

and Bard College, is the author of "Torture and Truth: America,

Abu Ghraib and the War on Terror.”

This essay is drawn from a longer article

in the new issue of The New York Review of Books,

available at www.nybooks.com .

    Tales From Torture’s Dark World, NYT, 15.3.2009,







The Torture Report


December 18, 2008
The New York Times


Most Americans have long known that the horrors of Abu Ghraib were not the work of a few low-ranking sociopaths. All but President Bush’s most unquestioning supporters recognized the chain of unprincipled decisions that led to the abuse, torture and death in prisons run by the American military and intelligence services.

Now, a bipartisan report by the Senate Armed Services Committee has made what amounts to a strong case for bringing criminal charges against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld; his legal counsel, William J. Haynes; and potentially other top officials, including the former White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and David Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff.

The report shows how actions by these men “led directly” to what happened at Abu Ghraib, in Afghanistan, in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and in secret C.I.A. prisons.

It said these top officials, charged with defending the Constitution and America’s standing in the world, methodically introduced interrogation practices based on illegal tortures devised by Chinese agents during the Korean War. Until the Bush administration, their only use in the United States was to train soldiers to resist what might be done to them if they were captured by a lawless enemy.

The officials then issued legally and morally bankrupt documents to justify their actions, starting with a presidential order saying that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to prisoners of the “war on terror” — the first time any democratic nation had unilaterally reinterpreted the conventions.

That order set the stage for the infamous redefinition of torture at the Justice Department, and then Mr. Rumsfeld’s authorization of “aggressive” interrogation methods. Some of those methods were torture by any rational definition and many of them violate laws and treaties against abusive and degrading treatment.

These top officials ignored warnings from lawyers in every branch of the armed forces that they were breaking the law, subjecting uniformed soldiers to possible criminal charges and authorizing abuses that were not only considered by experts to be ineffective, but were actually counterproductive.

One page of the report lists the repeated objections that President Bush and his aides so blithely and arrogantly ignored: The Air Force had “serious concerns regarding the legality of many of the proposed techniques”; the chief legal adviser to the military’s criminal investigative task force said they were of dubious value and may subject soldiers to prosecution; one of the Army’s top lawyers said some techniques that stopped well short of the horrifying practice of waterboarding “may violate the torture statute.” The Marines said they “arguably violate federal law.” The Navy pleaded for a real review.

The legal counsel to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time started that review but told the Senate committee that her boss, Gen. Richard Myers, ordered her to stop on the instructions of Mr. Rumsfeld’s legal counsel, Mr. Haynes.

The report indicates that Mr. Haynes was an early proponent of the idea of using the agency that trains soldiers to withstand torture to devise plans for the interrogation of prisoners held by the American military. These trainers — who are not interrogators but experts only on how physical and mental pain is inflicted and may be endured — were sent to work with interrogators in Afghanistan, in Guantánamo and in Iraq.

On Dec. 2, 2002, Mr. Rumsfeld authorized the interrogators at Guantánamo to use a range of abusive techniques that were already widespread in Afghanistan, enshrining them as official policy. Instead of a painstaking legal review, Mr. Rumsfeld based that authorization on a one-page memo from Mr. Haynes. The Senate panel noted that senior military lawyers considered the memo “ ‘legally insufficient’ and ‘woefully inadequate.’ ”

Mr. Rumsfeld rescinded his order a month later, and narrowed the number of “aggressive techniques” that could be used at Guantánamo. But he did so only after the Navy’s chief lawyer threatened to formally protest the illegal treatment of prisoners. By then, at least one prisoner, Mohammed al-Qahtani, had been threatened with military dogs, deprived of sleep for weeks, stripped naked and made to wear a leash and perform dog tricks. This year, a military tribunal at Guantánamo dismissed the charges against Mr. Qahtani.

The abuse and torture of prisoners continued at prisons run by the C.I.A. and specialists from the torture-resistance program remained involved in the military detention system until 2004. Some of the practices Mr. Rumsfeld left in place seem illegal, like prolonged sleep deprivation.

These policies have deeply harmed America’s image as a nation of laws and may make it impossible to bring dangerous men to real justice. The report said the interrogation techniques were ineffective, despite the administration’s repeated claims to the contrary.

Alberto Mora, the former Navy general counsel who protested the abuses, told the Senate committee that “there are serving U.S. flag-rank officers who maintain that the first and second identifiable causes of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq — as judged by their effectiveness in recruiting insurgent fighters into combat — are, respectively, the symbols of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo.”

We can understand that Americans may be eager to put these dark chapters behind them, but it would be irresponsible for the nation and a new administration to ignore what has happened — and may still be happening in secret C.I.A. prisons that are not covered by the military’s current ban on activities like waterboarding.

A prosecutor should be appointed to consider criminal charges against top officials at the Pentagon and others involved in planning the abuse.

Given his other problems — and how far he has moved from the powerful stands he took on these issues early in the campaign — we do not hold out real hope that Barack Obama, as president, will take such a politically fraught step.

At the least, Mr. Obama should, as the organization Human Rights First suggested, order his attorney general to review more than two dozen prisoner-abuse cases that reportedly were referred to the Justice Department by the Pentagon and the C.I.A. — and declined by Mr. Bush’s lawyers.

Mr. Obama should consider proposals from groups like Human Rights Watch and the Brennan Center for Justice to appoint an independent panel to look into these and other egregious violations of the law. Like the 9/11 commission, it would examine in depth the decisions on prisoner treatment, as well as warrantless wiretapping, that eroded the rule of law and violated Americans’ most basic rights. Unless the nation and its leaders know precisely what went wrong in the last seven years, it will be impossible to fix it and make sure those terrible mistakes are not repeated.

We expect Mr. Obama to keep the promise he made over and over in the campaign — to cheering crowds at campaign rallies and in other places, including our office in New York. He said one of his first acts as president would be to order a review of all of Mr. Bush’s executive orders and reverse those that eroded civil liberties and the rule of law.

That job will fall to Eric Holder, a veteran prosecutor who has been chosen as attorney general, and Gregory Craig, a lawyer with extensive national security experience who has been selected as Mr. Obama’s White House counsel.

A good place for them to start would be to reverse Mr. Bush’s disastrous order of Feb. 7, 2002, declaring that the United States was no longer legally committed to comply with the Geneva Conventions.

    The Torture Report, NYT, 18.12.2008,






Ahead for Obama:

How to Define Terror


November 30, 2008
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — Early last Tuesday morning, a military charter plane left the airstrip at Guantánamo Bay for Sana, Yemen, carrying Osama bin Laden’s former driver, Salim Hamdan. Once the Bush administration’s poster boy for the war on terror — the first defendant in America’s first military tribunals since World War II — Mr. Hamdan will spend less than a month in a Yemeni prison before returning to his family in Sana, having been acquitted by a jury of United States military officers of the most serious charge brought against him, conspiracy to support terrorism.

The turn of events underscores the central challenge President Obama will face as he begins to define his own approach to fighting terrorism — and the imperative for him to adopt a new, hybrid plan, one that blends elements of both traditional military conflict and criminal justice.

Until now, much of the debate over how best to battle terrorism has centered on the two prevailing — and conflicting — paradigms: Is it a war or a criminal action? The Hamdan case highlights the limitations of such binary thinking. As the verdict in his tribunal this summer made clear, Mr. Hamdan was not a criminal conspirator in the classic sense. Yet, as an aide to the world’s most dangerous terrorist, neither was he a conventional prisoner of war who had simply been captured in the act of defending his nation and was therefore essentially free of guilt.

So how should Americans think about Mr. Hamdan? More broadly, how should they think about the fight against terrorism?

The problems with the war paradigm are by now familiar. Because the war on terror is unlike any other the United States has waged, traditional wartime policies and mechanisms have made for an awkward fit, in some instances undermining efforts to defeat terrorism. The traditional approach to dealing with captured combatants — holding them until the end of hostilities to prevent them from returning to the battlefield — is untenable in a war that could last for generations.

If you treat the fight against terrorism as a war, it’s hard to get around the argument that it’s a war without boundaries; a terrorist could be hiding anywhere. Yet by asserting the right to scoop up suspected terrorists in other sovereign nations and indefinitely detain and interrogate them without hearings or trials, the administration complicated its efforts to build an international coalition against terrorism.

“The war-against-Al-Qaeda paradigm put us in a position where our legal authorities to detain and interrogate didn’t match up with those of our allies, so we ended up building a system that’s often rejected as strategically unsound and legally suspect by even our closest allies,” says Matthew Waxman, a law professor at Columbia who worked on detainee issues in the Bush administration.

Perhaps the most problematic consequence of the war paradigm, though, is that it gave the president enormous powers — as commander in chief — to determine how to detain and interrogate captured combatants. It was the use, or abuse, of those powers that produced the Bush administration’s string of historic rebukes at the Supreme Court, starting in 2004 when the justices ruled in Rasul v. Bush that the president had to afford the Guantánamo detainees some due process.

Some critics of President Bush are now urging President-elect Obama to abandon the war paradigm in favor of a pure criminal-justice approach, which is to say, either subject captured combatants to criminal trials or let them go. This will almost certainly not happen.

Mr. Obama may be more inclined to prosecute suspected terrorists in the federal courts than Mr. Bush has been, and he may even avoid referring to the battle against terrorism as a “war.” But ceding the military paradigm altogether would severely limit his ability to fight terrorism. On a practical level, it would prevent him from operating in a zone like the tribal areas of Pakistan, where American law does not reach.

“If you seriously dialed it back to the criminal-justice apparatus you will paralyze the executive branch’s ability to go where they believe the bad guys are,” says Benjamin Wittes, a fellow at the Brookings Institution. “When people talk about a return to the criminal-justice system, they’re ignoring the geographical limits of that system.”

In fact, the military approach to fighting terrorism predates the Bush administration. After Al Qaeda attacked two American embassies in Africa in 1998, President Clinton launched cruise missiles against terrorist camps in Afghanistan and a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan thought to be making chemical weapons. During the presidential campaign, Mr. Obama said he would not hesitate to take out terrorist targets in Pakistan — an act of war — if that country’s government was unwilling to do so itself.

Going forward, the fight against terrorism will have to be something of a hybrid. This is a novel idea, as the Constitution lays out only two distinct options: the country is at war, or it is not. Such a strategy may require building new legal systems and institutions for detaining, interrogating and trying detainees.

There has already been talk of creating a national security court within the federal judiciary that would presumably give more flexibility on matters like, say, the standard of proof for evidence collected on an Afghan battlefield. Similarly, it may be necessary to set clear legal guidelines for when the government can detain enemy combatants, and how far C.I.A. agents can go when interrogating terror suspects.

This won’t be easy. It will require striking a balance between the need to preserve and promote America’s rule-of-law values, protect its intelligence gathering and ensure that no one who poses a serious threat is set free.

Such an infrastructure is not likely to survive unchallenged, let alone win popular support, if the executive branch builds it alone. Its chances would be far better with input from Congress, acting as the elected representatives of the people to ensure that any new systems protect both the public and America’s values. And direct advice from the courts could ensure that they are found to be constitutional.

Paradoxically, such an approach might ultimately enhance a president’s power. “We need a strong president to fight this war,” says Jack Goldsmith, a law professor at Harvard who worked in the Bush Justice Department, “and the way to ensure that there’s a strong president is to have the other institutions on board for the actions he feels he needs to take.”

Jonathan Mahler, a contributing writer for The Times Magazine,

is the author, most recently, of “The Challenge:

Hamdan v. Rumsfeld and the Fight Over Presidential Power.”

    Ahead for Obama: How to Define Terror, NYT, 30.11.2008,







The Torture Sessions


April 20, 2008
The New York Times


Ever since Americans learned that American soldiers and intelligence agents were torturing prisoners, there has been a disturbing question: How high up did the decision go to ignore United States law, international treaties, the Geneva Conventions and basic morality?

The answer, we have learned recently, is that — with President Bush’s clear knowledge and support — some of the very highest officials in the land not only approved the abuse of prisoners, but participated in the detailed planning of harsh interrogations and helped to create a legal structure to shield from justice those who followed the orders.

We have long known that the Justice Department tortured the law to give its Orwellian blessing to torturing people, and that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved a list of ways to abuse prisoners. But recent accounts by ABC News and The Associated Press said that all of the president’s top national security advisers at the time participated in creating the interrogation policy: Vice President Dick Cheney; Mr. Rumsfeld; Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser; Colin Powell, the secretary of state; John Ashcroft, the attorney general; and George Tenet, the director of central intelligence.

These officials did not have the time or the foresight to plan for the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq or the tenacity to complete the hunt for Osama bin Laden. But they managed to squeeze in dozens of meetings in the White House Situation Room to organize and give legal cover to prisoner abuse, including brutal methods that civilized nations consider to be torture.

Mr. Bush told ABC News this month that he knew of these meetings and approved of the result.

Those who have followed the story of the administration’s policies on prisoners may not be shocked. We have read the memos from the Justice Department redefining torture, claiming that Mr. Bush did not have to follow the law, and offering a blueprint for avoiding criminal liability for abusing prisoners.

The amount of time and energy devoted to this furtive exercise at the very highest levels of the government reminded us how little Americans know, in fact, about the ways Mr. Bush and his team undermined, subverted and broke the law in the name of saving the American way of life.

We have questions to ask, in particular, about the involvement of Ms. Rice, who has managed to escape blame for the catastrophic decisions made while she was Mr. Bush’s national security adviser, and Mr. Powell, a career Army officer who should know that torture has little value as an interrogation method and puts captured Americans at much greater risk. Did they raise objections or warn of the disastrous effect on America’s standing in the world? Did anyone?

Mr. Bush has sidestepped or quashed every attempt to uncover the breadth and depth of his sordid actions. Congress is likely to endorse a cover-up of the extent of the illegal wiretapping he authorized after 9/11, and we are still waiting, with diminishing hopes, for a long-promised report on what the Bush team really knew before the Iraq invasion about those absent weapons of mass destruction — as opposed to what it proclaimed.

At this point it seems that getting answers will have to wait, at least, for a new Congress and a new president. Ideally, there would be both truth and accountability. At the very minimum the public needs the full truth.

Some will call this a backward-looking distraction, but only by fully understanding what Mr. Bush has done over eight years to distort the rule of law and violate civil liberties and human rights can Americans ever hope to repair the damage and ensure it does not happen again.

    The Torture Sessions, NYT, 20.4.2008,






Pentagon Censors 9 / 11 Suspect's Tape


September 13, 2007
Filed at 1:05 p.m. ET
The New York Times


WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Pentagon has censored an audio tape of the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks speaking at a military hearing -- cutting out Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's explanation for why Islamic militants waged jihad against the United States.

After months of debate by several federal agencies, the Defense Department released the tape Thursday. Cut from it were 10 minutes of the more than 40-minute closed court session at Guantanamo Bay to determine whether Mohammed should be declared an ''enemy combatant.''

Since the March hearing, he has been assigned ''enemy combatant'' status, a classification the Bush administration says allows it to hold him indefinitely and prosecute him at a military tribunal.

Officials from the CIA, FBI, State Department and others listened to the tape and feared it could be copied and edited by other militants for use as propaganda, officials said.

''It was determined that the release of this portion of the spoken words of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would enable enemies of the United States to use it in a way to recruit or encourage future terrorists or terrorist activities,'' said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman. ''This could ultimately endanger the lives and physical safety of American citizens and those of our allies.''

Calling Mohammed a ''notorious figure,'' Whitman added, ''I think we all recognize that there is an obvious difference between the potential impacts of the written versus the spoken word.''

Some of the statements deleted from the tape have already been widely reported because the Pentagon released a 26-page written transcript of the hearing several days after it was held. Others statements were cut both from the audio and the transcript because of security and privacy concerns, officials said.

Mohammed was the first of 14 so-called ''high-value'' detainees who were held in secret CIA prisons before being transferred to the Pentagon facility at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

At the hearing, he portrayed himself as al-Qaida's most active operational planner, confessing to the beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl and to playing a central role in 30 other attacks and plots in the U.S. and worldwide that killed thousands.

The gruesome attacks range from the suicide hijackings of Sept. 11, 2001 -- which killed nearly 3,000 -- to a 2002 shooting on an island off Kuwait that killed a U.S. Marine.

Among statements that appeared in the transcript, but were cut from the audio, was Mohammed saying he felt some sorrow over Sept. 11.

''I'm not happy that 3,000 been killed in America,'' the transcript quoted him as saying in broken English. ''I feel sorry even. I don't like to kill children and the kids.''

But he says there are exceptions in war.

''The language of the war is victims,'' Mohammed said in a part of the transcript that was cut from the audio. He compared al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden to George Washington, saying Americans view Washington as a hero for his role in the Revolutionary War and many Muslims view bin Laden in the same light.

''He is doing same thing. He is just fighting. He needs his independence,'' Mohammed said.

During much of Mohammed's hearing, he spoke in English. The audio released by the Pentagon includes Mohammed responding to questions.

Audio tapes of other high-value detainees have been released by the Pentagon. Whitman said he did not know if any of those have been used as propaganda by extremist groups on the Internet.

The audio tape also includes a number of other redactions that reflect portions of the written transcript that were deleted, because of security and privacy concerns, when it was first released.

One of the sections initially held back by the Pentagon, but later released, was Mohammed's confession to the beheading of Pearl. ''I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew, Daniel Pearl, in the city of Karachi, Pakistan,'' Mohammed said in a written statement read by his U.S.-appointed representative for the hearing.

Officials at first held back the section to allow time for his family to be notified, Whitman said at the time.


AP Washington reporter Lolita Baldor contributed to this report.


On the Net:


    Pentagon Censors 9 / 11 Suspect's Tape, NYT, 13.9.2007,






'Everyone was screaming,

crying, running.

It's like a war zone'

As millions watched, a second plane hit.
Then the Pentagon was struck.
The entire US was thrown into a state of siege

Wednesday September 12, 2001
Julian Borger in Washington,
Duncan Campbell in Los Angeles,
Charlie Porter in New York
and Stuart Millar


American Airlines flight 11 from Boston to Los Angeles had been in the air for a matter of minutes when the terrorists seized control just after 8am and changed course towards New York City. The hijacking heralded the start of a series of appalling attacks which reduced America's two most important cities to war zone-like scenes of carnage and threw the entire nation into a panic-fuelled state of siege. From start to finish, the operation took less than three hours.

The first attack came within 45 minutes of flight 11 being seized. At the World Trade Centre in downtown Manhattan, staff were already at their desks and the working day was in full flow. On the densely packed streets of the financial district around the base of the 110-storey twin towers, other New Yorkers were strolling to work in the pristine early autumn sunshine when disaster struck.

The initial reports were patchy and confused, but according to eyewitnesses, what appeared to be a passenger plane had crashed into the north tower. As emergency services rushed to the scene they were joined by dozens of news crews and onlookers who stared in horror at the upper storeys, most of which had been destroyed in impact. The devastation was horrific: vast palls of smoke billowing from twisted window frames and sheets of flame shooting up the side of the building. In desperation, some of those who were trapped began leaping from the windows of the building.

One employee at London firm Garban Intercapital was on the phone to a colleague in the north tower when the first plane hit. The last words he heard were: "Help, we are all dying. Get us out."

Around the world, television images of the north tower, smoke billowing from its upper floors, were being broadcast live. The news anchors were already speculating that terrorists were responsible when the unthinkable happened.

Watched by millions of shocked viewers, a second airliner headed straight for the south tower, dipped its port wing slightly and accelerated into the building somewhere around the 60th storey. The explosion caused by the impact sent a huge, debris-laden fireball cascading down the building on to the streets below.

"The first tower was smoking hard," said Joe Trachtenberg, who was watching from the top of his building. "Then there was another plane, and before we knew, it just kamikaze went straight into the other tower. There was a mass explosion and windows flying. It was horrible."

On the ground, there was chaos. "People were running in all directions jumping over barriers, desperately trying to get away from the area. I guess they were just desperate to escape," said one eyewitness.

There was worse to come. A little before 9.30am, reports emerged that another plane had been hijacked. Within 10 minutes, a medium-sized passenger plane flew in low over Arlington and the Navy Annexe in Washington DC and plunged into the Pentagon's south-west face, throwing up a huge fireball.

Omar Campo, a Salvadorean, was cutting the grass on the other side of the road when the plane flew over his head.

"It was a passenger plane. I think an American Airways plane," Mr Campo said. "I was cutting the grass and it came in screaming over my head. I felt the impact. The whole ground shook and the whole area was full of fire. I could never imagine I would see anything like that here."

Afework Hagos, a computer programmer, was on his way to work but stuck in a traffic jam near the Pentagon when the plane flew over. "There was a huge screaming noise and I got out of the car as the plane came over. Everybody was running away in different directions. It was tilting its wings up and down like it was trying to balance. It hit some lampposts on the way in."

A pilot who saw the impact, Tim Timmerman, said it had been an American Airways 757. "It added power on its way in," he said. "The nose hit, and the wings came forward and it went up in a fireball."

Smoke and flames poured out of a large hole punched into the side of the Pentagon. Emergency crews rushed fire engines to the scene and ambulancemen ran towards the flames holding wooden pallets to carry bodies out. A few of the lightly injured, bleeding and covered in dust, were recovering on the lawn outside, some in civilian clothes, some in uniform. A piece of twisted aircraft fuselage lay nearby. No one knew how many people had been killed, but rescue workers were finding it nearly impossible to get to people trapped inside, beaten back by the flames and falling debris.

In New York, police and fire officials were carrying out the first wave of evacuations when the first of the World Trade Centre towers collapsed. Some eyewitnesses reported hearing another explosion just before the structure crumbled. Police said that it looked almost like a "planned implosion" designed to catch bystanders watching from the street.

As the tower crumbled in on itself, throwing a vast mushroom cloud of choking grey ash, smoke and debris across the densely packed streets of south Manhattan, the air was filled by a terrifying sucking sound akin to the roar of a rocket engine, caused by the sheer volume of air displaced by the collapse.



The dust cloud roared through block after block, blanketing the entire area in a thick layer of grey ash and soot, at least three inches thick in some places.

"Everyone was screaming, crying, running, cops, people, firefighters, everyone," said Mike Smith, a fire marshal. "It's like a war zone."

"Windows shattered, people were screaming and diving for cover," one eyewitness said. "People walked around like ghosts, covered in dirt, weeping and wandering dazed."

At 10.15am in Washington, another alert was sounded. "Get them out of here. We've got another threat coming," a policemen yelled, pushing survivors back from the building. Another officer said a report had come in saying another plane was on its way into Washington.

A US air force fighter jet flew around the Pentagon banking steeply, as the air around the defence department began to buzz with military and police helicopters.

Stanley St Clair was stumbling along the road away from the vast building, covered in dust. He had been working on renovations on the first floor of the section which was struck by the plane.

"It shook the whole building and hurt our ears. Papers and furniture and debris just went flying through the hallway and I thought it was a bomb or something. Then someone started shouting get out, get out."

Renovation work on the upper floors had just been completed and they had been handed back to the defence department.

According to Navy Commander Tom O'Loughlin, the third and fourth floors of the outer ring which took the brunt of the impact housed senior navy officers, including vice-admirals. There were also offices used by secretaries of the different armed services and the assistant secretaries. A Pentagon spokeswoman said the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, was unharmed.

A mobile secret service command centre raced west on H Street, with sirens blaring, shortly after 11am as police drew a growing cordon around the White House. Metal gates and yellow tape blocked access to streets and alleys. People scrambled to find working pay phones or reach friends or family on mobile phones.

Just before 10.30am, the north tower of the World Trade Centre collapsed. Authorities had been trying to evacuate the glass-and-steel skyscraper when it came down in a thunderous roar.

At 11.30 in Washington, police cars again screamed up and down the roads around the Pentagon ordering passers-by off the street. One officer said there had been another report of an incoming plane heading down the Potomac river at high speed.

The wide and normally crowded bridges across the Potomac were deserted and the scene resembled a city at war: deserted streets, billowing smoke and warplanes circling above. An elderly man, Tom O'Riordan, standing in the shade of a tree near the Jefferson Memorial, said he had not seen anything like it since Pearl Harbour.

Paul Begala, a Democratic consultant, said he witnessed an explosion near the Pentagon. "It was a huge fireball, a huge, orange fireball," he said in an interview on his mobile phone.

He said another witness told him a helicopter exploded. AP reporter Dave Winslow also saw the crash. He said, "I saw the tail of a large airliner ... It ploughed right into the Pentagon."

General Richard Myers, vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that before the crash into the Pentagon, military officials had been notified that another hijacked plane had been heading from the New York area to Washington.

"We heard what sounded like a missile, then we heard a loud boom," said Tom Seibert, 33, a network engineer at the Pentagon. "We were sitting there and watching this thing from New York, and I said, you know, the next best target would be us. And five minutes later, boom."

Within an hour of the New York explosions, the federal government took the additional step of shutting down national landmarks across the country, including the Washington Monument, the Statue of Liberty and the St Louis Gateway Arch, among other locations, according to the National Park Service.

The plane crashed on the helicopter landing pad adjacent to the Pentagon. There were reports of injuries, but no details. The Pentagon building was partially blackened on the outside and at least a portion of the structure had collapsed, witnesses said.

Earlier reports of other explosions in the Washington region, at the State Department and the Capitol, were not accurate, law enforcement officials said.

The crash at the Pentagon, which occurred less than an hour after the New York attacks, triggered immediate security steps in the Washington area, including evacuation of the State Department, the Capitol building and the West Wing of the White House. The nine top leaders of the house and senate were taken into federal protection, according to the US Capitol police. The federal aviation administration shut down airports nationwide.

The federal government closed all of its facilities around Washington at 10.30am and told the region's 340,000 federal employees they could leave.



Across the United States, passengers queuing for flights and relatives waiting to meet arriving planes stood in airport lobbies staring at the arrival and departure monitors and listening with a growing sense of bewilderment and dismay to the announcements over the loudspeakers. Every major airport has had its rehearsals for disaster but not since Pearl Harbour had the country experienced such a widespread series of attacks.

Los Angeles International airport, the destination for three of the four hijacked flights, announced a suspension of operations as soon as it became clear what had happened. Worried callers were diverted to the lines of American Airlines and United, which were trying to supply information of who had been on the flights.

The airport itself was closed to the public and its operations suspended with only key staff allowed to remain. California governor Gray Davis made the National Guard available to assist.

Grief counsellors were called in by American Airlines and United to be ready to meet the friends and relatives of those on the flights. Switchboards were jammed as people tried to get information from the airport.

Lieutenant Howard Whitehead of the Los Angeles police said: "We are working with all the other agencies and a total evacuation of the airport has been ordered for precautionary reasons. Right now everything is fluid." Mr Whitehead said that the airport had never previously had to deal with such a serious situation.

    'Everyone was screaming, crying, running. It's like a war zone', G, 12.9.2001,






February 27 1993

Five killed

in Manhattan 'bomb' blast

From The Guardian archive


February 27 1993
The Guardian


Terrorism was yesterday blamed for an explosion which tore through the World Trade Centre in New York, killing at least five people, injuring up to 500 and paralysing lower Manhattan.

Late last night rescue workers were still going through the eerily dark twin towers, one of New York's most famous landmarks, looking for trapped workers. Television networks quoted fire officials as saying that a large bomb caused the blast. Accidental causes were ruled out.

Governor Mario Cuomo put units of the National Guard on alert. New York's airports were placed on security alert for possible "terrorist activities". Police said the explosion took place in an area of the underground car park reserved for the security services and the president when he visits New York.

Police took no chances with a bomb threat at another landmark, the Empire State building, later in the afternoon and evacuated the building.

The explosion at the World Trade Centre brought down the ceiling in an underground station below the car park. Scores of passengers were in the station, which services New Jersey. Fires at the base of the complex of seven office buildings sent heavy smoke throughout.

In one dramatic rescue, a police helicopter hovered over the roof of one of the twin towers, and hoisted a pregnant woman into the aircraft.

"I was standing there waiting for the train when I heard an explosion," said Robert Ashley as he was carried away. Fred Ferby spoke of his panic as dense black smoke filled the concourse below the World Trade Centre. "It was like a tomb. I panicked, I tried to get out as fast as I could."

Rescue workers, hampered by icy conditions, worked to free people from the rubble on the station platform. Workers emerged, faces blackened with soot. With electricity cut, workers had to make their way down the buildings on foot. Hospitals around New York treated hundreds of patients, mostly for smoke inhalation.

"The building shook," said Lisa Hoffman, who works nearby. "I looked out the window to see if New Jersey had disappeared."

The explosion occurred at 2.15pm, when the area around the centre was filled with employees on their lunch break. Minutes later, the area, where 100,000 people work, was filled with the wail of sirens.

Trading ground to a halt as all of New York's commodity markets which share the building closed early because of smoke. The incident caused huge disruption in the New York subway system as the World Trade Centre is a major transfer point.

From The Guardian archive > February 27 1993 >
Five killed in Manhattan 'bomb' blast, G,
Republished 27.2.2007, p. 32,






On This Day - August 8, 1998

From The Times archive


On the eighth anniversary of the deployment
of US troops to Saudi Arabia
two American embassies in East Africa
were bombed almost simultaneously


WITH lax airport security and thousands of miles of porous borders with countries in a state of war, Kenya and Tanzania presented a soft underbelly to the international terrorists who detonated two car bombs outside American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es-Salaam yesterday.

The prime suspect, intelligence sources said last night before formal investigations, is Osama bin Laden, 44, a Saudi Arabian-born Islamic fundamentalist zealot behind a wave of similar bomb attacks, who has good contacts in East Africa.

Mr bin Laden has extensive links inside Sudan, where he is based when he moves outside Afghanistan, and in Somalia, where he has a network of extremists on his payroll.

He would have had little difficulty in smuggling the explosives and detonators required to devastate reinforced concrete buildings in both Kenya and Tanzania.

To observers it has been a surprise that terrorist groups have not exploited the almost non-existent security at most African airport terminals and anarchic frontiers to unleash terror against American embassies.

US and Saudi investigators believe that the millionaire scion of a wealthy Saudi family funded the bombing of the World Trade Centre in New York and the murder of 19 American airmen in a bomb attack in Dhahran in 1996.

From The Times Archive,
On This Day - August 8, 1998,
http://www.newsint-archive.co.uk/pages/main.asp - broken link










Related > Anglonautes > Vocapedia


terrorism, global terrorism,

militant groups,

intelligence, spies, surveillance



religion / faith,

abuse, sexual abuse, violence, extremism,

secularism, atheism






Related > Anglonautes > History


USA > 21st century > Osama bin Laden is killed



USA > 21st century > 11 September 2001 - 9/11



USA > 2001 > 9/11 > Frontpages



UK > Scotland > 20th century > 1988 >

Lockerbie plane bombing



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