Senator Dayton Accuses FAA and NORAD
of Lying on 9/11 Failures
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Dayton: FAA, NORAD hid 9/11 failures
Greg Gordon, Star Tribune Washington Bureau Correspondent
July 31, 2004
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., charged Friday that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) have covered up "catastrophic failures" that left the nation vulnerable during the Sept. 11 hijackings.
"For almost three years now, NORAD officials and FAA officials have been able to hide their critical failures that left this country defenseless during two of the worst hours in our history," Dayton declared during a Senate Governmental Affairs Committee hearing.
(several paragraphs omitted)
Dayton: 'NORAD lied'
During the hearing, Dayton told leaders of the Sept. 11 commission, that, based on the commission's report, a NORAD chronology made public a week after the attacks was grossly misleading.
The chronology said the FAA notified the military's emergency air command of three of the hijackings while those jetliners were still airborne. Dayton cited commission findings that the FAA failed to inform NORAD about three of the planes until after they had crashed.
And, he said, a squadron of NORAD fighter planes that was scrambled was sent east over the Atlantic Ocean and was 150 miles from Washington, D.C., when the third plane struck the Pentagon -- "farther than they were before they took off."
Dayton said NORAD officials "lied to the American people, they lied to Congress and they lied to your 9/11 commission to create a false impression of competence, communication and protection of the American people."
He told Kean and Hamilton that if the commission's report is correct, President Bush "should fire whoever at FAA, at NORAD ... betrayed their public trust by not telling us the truth."
Asked about Dayton's allegation, a spokesman for Colorado Springs-based NORAD said, "We stand on our testimony to the commission" and declined to discuss the 2001 chronology.
Erin Utzinger, a spokeswoman for Dayton, said the senator "assumes the FAA knew of NORAD's coverup."
FAA spokeswoman Rebecca Trexler said the agency "has never and would never intentionally misrepresent or alter information. We worked very closely with the 9/11 commission and provided them with everything that was available to us."
Dayton told reporters that he skipped festivities at the Democratic National Committee Tuesday night and sat in his hotel room until 2:30 a.m. reading the commission report. After piecing together the section about the FAA and NORAD, he said, he could not fall asleep.
"I'm a strong defender of government," he said. "When government fails, it really outrages me. It just destroys peoples' trust and faith."
Using the chronology, Dayton argued that if the FAA had promptly sent a systemwide message about the hijackings, the pilot of the fourth plane seized, United Airlines Flight 93, might have been able to secure the cockpit doors and land the plane.
Passengers, including Minnesota native Tom Burnett, Jr., "could very well be alive," he said.
"This is unbelievable negligence," Dayton said. "It doesn't matter if we spend $550 billion annually on our national defense, if we reorganize our intelligence or if we restructure congressional oversight if people don't pick up the phone to call one another."
He also noted that NORAD could not find the hijacked jetliners because terrorists turned off their transponders and NORAD lacked adequate radar to locate them without that beamed signal.
Dayton said NORAD also falsely claimed that during the hijackings, it had F-16 Combat Air Patrol planes in place at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia and an AWAC command ship in the air to protect the nation's capital.
Dayton, a former Minnesota state auditor, called the FAA's and NORAD's failures "the most gross incompetence and dereliction of responsibility and negligence that I've ever, under those extreme circumstances, witnessed in the public sector."
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July 31, 2004
During the hearing, Sen. Mark Dayton reconstructed the Sept. 11 commission report and NORAD's accounts this way:
• The FAA did not notify NORAD of the first hijacking of American Airlines Flight 11 for 23 minutes, just nine minutes before the plane slammed into the World Trade Center. NORAD's 2001 chronology said it was notified six minutes before impact.
• The FAA didn't notify NORAD of the second hijacking until the same minute it hit the second Trade Center tower. NORAD said it was notified nine minutes before impact.
• It took the FAA air traffic controller 15 minutes to notify the regional FAA center about the third hijacking, and the regional center another 15 minutes to inform FAA headquarters. Yet, even though two planes had hit the Trade Center, the FAA did not let NORAD know about that hijacking until after the plane hit the Pentagon. NORAD's chronology said it was informed 13 minutes before impact.
• At 9:36 a.m., eight minutes after the fourth plane was hijacked, the FAA command center phoned agency headquarters asking it to alert the military.
• Thirteen minutes later, a Command Center official told headquarters, "Uh, do we want to, uh, think about scrambling aircraft?" Headquarters replied: Oh, God, I don't know."
The plane crashed in Pennsylvania at 10:03 a.m., before NORAD was notified.
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