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Background Attack Aftermath Evidence Misinformation Analysis Memorial

Dick Cheney

Cover Stories of the People in Charge

Vice President Dick Cheney was in the White House during the attack. He said he learned of the attack from a clerical secretary.

Interestingly, Cheney, in an interview with Tim Russert on NBC, indicated that the President made the decision that day to scramble fighter jets. This is very unusual, as it is contrary to standard operating procedures, and raises the question of whether and why the President delayed the scrambling of jets. Here is the text of Vice President Cheney's comments on NBC: 1  

Tim Russert: "What's the most important decision you think he (President Bush) made during the course of the day?"
VP Cheney: "Well, the, I suppose the toughest decision was this question of whether or not we would intercept incoming commercial aircraft ... We decided to do it."

Here Cheney cleverly attempts to confuse the listener into thinking that "intercept" means "shoot down". In fact the routine procedure of interception consists of flying fighter jets to within close proximity to the off-course aircraft, and attempting to make visual contact with whoever is in the cockpit.

As the attack unfolded, news reports stated that Cheney had been whisked to a secret and secure location -- later revealed to be the Presidential Emergency Operating Center in the basement of the White House. Cheney was with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, directing the response to the attack. Or was he directing the attack? The testimony of Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta is suggestive in this regard.

MR. HAMILTON: We thank you for that. I wanted to focus just a moment on the Presidential Emergency Operating Center. You were there for a good part of the day. I think you were there with the vice president. And when you had that order given, I think it was by the president, that authorized the shooting down of commercial aircraft that were suspected to be controlled by terrorists, were you there when that order was given?

MR. MINETA: No, I was not. I was made aware of it during the time that the airplane coming into the Pentagon. There was a young man who had come in and said to the vice president, "The plane is 50 miles out. The plane is 30 miles out." And when it got down to, "The plane is 10 miles out," the young man also said to the vice president, "Do the orders still stand?" And the vice president turned and whipped his neck around and said, "Of course the orders still stand. Have you heard anything to the contrary?" 2  

Hamilton indicates that "the orders" were to shoot down commercial aircraft. But Mineta's account makes more sense if "the orders" were not to shoot down any such aircraft. The repeated questioning of Cheney by the junior officer whether "the orders still stand" had to be about whether the order NOT to destroy them still stood. Given the two prior attacks against the Twin Towers using the commercial airliners as weapons, an order to destroy the plane approaching the Pentagon would be the only order to give and would not be subject to question by a junior officer as the plane approached. Furthermore, had Cheney's order been to fire on the plane approaching the Pentagon (which first came near the White House), the anti-missile anti-aircraft capacity of the Pentagon (or White House), would have sufficed to take out that plane, and certainly to have attempted to take out that plane. Neither occurred, and since Mineta does not speak of a last-second change by Cheney, the only supportable conclusion is that Cheney's order was NOT to defend the Pentagon, an order so contrary to both common sense and military defense that it, and it alone, explains the repeated questioning by the junior officer. 3  


1. The Vice President appears on Meet the Press with Tim Russert, Whitehouse.gov, 9/16/01 [cached]
2. Public Hearing; Panel 1: September 11, 2001: The Attacks and the Response, 9-11commission.gov, 5/23/03 [cached]
3. How They Get Away With It, 9-11 Research,

page last modified: 2006-12-28