Point MC-6: The Activities of General Richard Myers
during the 9/11 Attacks
On September 11, 2001, General Richard B. Myers, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), became the Acting Chairman, because the JCS Chairman, General Hugh H. Shelton, was flying to a NATO meeting in Budapest.1An account of Myers’ activities during the morning of 9/11 was provided by The 9/11 Commission Report and Myers himself. But some features of this account raise questions.
The Official Account
General Myers was not at the Pentagon during the attacks, because he was on Capitol Hill with Senator Max Cleland to discuss the upcoming hearing to confirm Myers to be the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.2Senator Cleland verified that the meeting with him on 9/11 did occur.3
While Myers was waiting in Cleland’s outer office, a television report gave him the impression that the World Trade Center had been hit by “a small plane or something like that,” so he and Cleland went ahead with their meeting.4Soon, having learned from a staffer that the second tower had been hit, they ended their meeting. Returning to the exterior office, they learned from TV that flames had erupted in the WTC.5
While watching the TV coverage, Myers received a call on his military aide’s cell phone from General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD, saying that he was working with the FAA to get all planes grounded. Myers then got a call from his executive assistant, who said that a major hijacking seemed to be underway and recommended that Myers “return to the Pentagon as soon as possible.”6 “As we raced away from Capitol Hill,”7Myers wrote, “the Pentagon was hit . . . [b]efore we even got to the 14th Street Bridge.”8
At 9:46, NORAD staff “reported that they were still trying to locate Secretary Rumsfeld and Vice Chairman Myers.” General Myers returned to the National Military Command Center (NMCC) “shortly before 10:00,” at which time he joined the NMCC’s air threat conference call9- which had begun without him at 9:37.10
General Myers, accordingly, was not in the Pentagon during the attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon. With regard to the hijacking of United Flight 93 (which, the 9/11 Commission claimed, crashed in Shanksville PA),Myers could not have ordered fighter jets to bring it down, because “[b]y the time the military learned about the flight, it had crashed.”11
The Best Evidence
Questions about the accuracy of the accounts provided by The 9/11 Commission Report (2004), along with Myers in 2004 and later years, are raised by:
- Contradictions with accounts provided by Counter-terrorism coordinator Richard Clarke, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Navy Captain Charles Joseph Leidig, General Hugh Shelton, and Army Secretary Thomas White;
- Inconsistencies with accounts Myers had provided in 2001;
1. The official account of General Myers’ activities during the attacks contradicts the account that had been provided in counter-terrorism coordinator Richard Clarke’s 2004 book, Against All Enemies,12which had appeared several months before the publication of The 9/11 Commission Report, and whichdescribed Myers as being in the Pentagon during the attacks:
- Describing the beginning of the White House videoconference, which his account suggests began at approximately 9:10,13Clarke wrote:
- “As I entered the Video Center, . . . I could see people rushing into studios around the city: Donald Rumsfeld at Defense and George Tenet at CIA. . . .
- “Air force four-star General Dick Myers was filling in for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Hugh Shelton, who was over the Atlantic.”14
- Shortly before 9:28, Clarke reported, he had this exchange with Myers:
[Clarke] “JCS [Joint Chiefs of Staff], JCS. I assume NORAD has scrambled fighters and AWACS. How many? Where?”
[Myers]: “Not a pretty picture Dick. . . . We are in the midst of Vigilant Warrior, a NORAD exercise, but . . . Otis has launched two birds toward New York. Langley is trying to get two up now.” . . .
Accordingly, Clarke’s account – which was not mentioned in either The 9/11 Commission Report or in Myers’ 2009 book, Eyes on the Horizon – was contradicted by the account given by Myers and the 9/11 Commission.
2. The official account of Myers’ activities was also contradicted by statements made in 2002 by Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, with regard to two points:
(A) In an interview conducted by Alfred Goldberg (who would later become the first author of Pentagon 9/11, a major study published in 200717), Wolfowitz gave a report that contradicted the claim, made by Myers and The 9/11 Commission Report, that Myers had been away from the Pentagon until he returned “shortly before 10:00”:
- Wolfowitz stated that after the Pentagon attack, he and others were told to go outside the building, but that they were allowed to go back in within “less than ten minutes” – which means, if the Pentagon was attacked at 9:38, he was referring to going back in at roughly 9:50.
- Wolfowitz reported: “We went into the NMCC, where the Secretary was, and General Myers. General Shelton was in Europe.”
- Wolfowitz next said: “We proceeded with discussions by secure video conference. One issue was what to do about the plane over Pennsylvania, getting orders to get fighters up to intercept it, and the Secretary getting approval from the President to shoot it down.”18
This report by Wolfowitz, therefore, contradicted the claims by The 9/11 Commission Report that (a) Myers was not in the Pentagon when the building was attacked and that (b) the military, led by General Myers, had not been informed about United Flight 93’s troubles before it crashed.
(B) In 2001, Wolfowitz – as well as Myers himself – contradicted the claim about United 93 that would be made by The 9/11 Commission Report – that the military did not know anything was wrong with it until it crashed.
- Wolfowitz, answering a question on the PBS “NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” said: “We responded awfully quickly . . . and, in fact, we were already tracking in on that plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. I think it was the heroism of the passengers on board that brought it down. But the Air Force was in a position to do so if we had had to.”19
- Also in 2001, Myers said at his confirmation hearing: “[I]f my memory serves me, . . . we had launched on the [airliner] that eventually crashed in Pennsylvania. . . [W]e had gotten somebody close to it, as I recall.”20
3. One of the claims by Myers and The 9/11 Commission Report that was contradicted in the interview of Wolfowitz - that Myers was not in the Pentagon during the attacks – was also contradicted in a 9/11 Commission document labeled “Secret Memorandum for the Record.”21This memorandum, which was dated a year earlier than The 9/11 Commission Report, reported statements that were made in 2003 by Navy Captain Charles Joseph “Joe” Leidig, who about two months before 9/11 had assumed duties in the NMCC as Deputy for Command Center Operations.22According to this document:
- Leidig said that, on the morning of 9/11, he served as the NMCC’s Deputy Director of Operations (DDO) in place of Brigadier General Montague Winfield from 8:30 until Winfield relieved him some time after 10:00.
- During a discussion of Delta Flight 1989, which occurred between 9:23 and 9:26,23Leidig was “certain that the Vice Chairman [of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] was in the room at the time. He [Leidig] recalled looking at him and saying there is a recommendation to evacuate the Sears tower in Chicago. He remembered General Meyers [sic] saying that was a good idea.”24
According to this memorandum, therefore, Captain Leidig supported Wolfowitz’s report that Myers was in the Pentagon, not somewhere else, shortly before the Pentagon attack.
4. The claim by the 9/11 Commission and Myers that he was not in the NMCC until “shortly before 10:00,” and hence was not there immediately after the Pentagon attack, was contradicted by the officer he was replacing that day, General Hugh Shelton:
- In Shelton’s 2009 book, describing what happened on the plane that had been taking him to Europe – but which he, after learning about the attack on the Pentagon, turned around – he wrote: “Meanwhile, Dick [Myers] was on the phone, and the first report was that a hand grenade had just gone off in the Pentagon parking lot. . . . Since our connection was encrypted, he was able to give me a complete status report from the NMCC.”25
- Continuing his discussion with Myers, Shelton added: “I need you to call Ed Eberhart . . . at NORAD and let him know that we’re coming back on Speckled Trout, and that I would consider it a personal favor if he would see to it that the Chairman and his crew are not shot down on their way back to Andrews.” Myers replied: “Will do.”26
5. Thomas White, the Secretary of the Army, indicated that General Myers had been at a breakfast meeting in the Pentagon from 8:00 until 8:46, when the first plane hit the World Trade Center (not in Senator Cleland’s office on Capitol Hill).27
- White told Frontline: “Don Rumsfeld had a breakfast, and virtually every one of the senior officials of the Department of Defense—-service chiefs, secretary, deputy, everybody, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And as that breakfast was breaking up, the first plane had hit the World Trade tower.”28
- By “chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff,” White had to mean Myers, the acting and soon-to-be-confirmed chairman, because General Hugh Shelton, the outgoing chairman, was on his way to Europe.29
1. The official story about Myers, which was based on The 9/11 Commission Report and Myers’ statements in 2004 and later, contradicted assertions Myers had made in 2001:
2. Senator Cleland’s stories also contained inconsistencies:
- At the confirmation hearing in 2001, Cleland said to Myers: “It’s a good thing we were meeting here [on Capitol Hill] and not us meeting in the Pentagon because about the time you and I were having our visit, . . . at just about that very moment, the Pentagon was being hit.”36
- In 2003, Cleland said that just at the moment after “Myers rushed out of [his] office, headed for the Pentagon, . . . the Pentagon was hit.”37
1. In a 2001 interview, Myers said that while he was meeting with Cleland in his office, the second tower was struck, but “[n]obody informed us of that.” It was only when they finished their meeting and came out of the inner office, Myers said, that he and Cleland realized “that the second tower had been hit.”It was “right at that time,” Myers added, that “somebody said the Pentagon has been hit”39- thereby indicating that the meeting had lasted until almost 9:37.
- But the idea that nobody – neither Cleland’s secretary nor anyone at the Pentagon or otherwise in the military – had notified him (the Acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), so that he did not know anything about the second attack until just before the Pentagon was struck, is implausible.
- This realization likely motivated the later version of his story, according to which a staff person from the outer office told Myers and Cleland about the second WTC attack right after it occurred.40
2. In a 2003 speech, Senator Cleland said: “The first plane had already hit the World Trade Center and Gen. Myers bolted from his seat. We rushed into an adjoining office as we saw on TV the second plane slam into the second tower. Gen. Myers rushed out of my office, headed for the Pentagon. At that moment, the Pentagon was hit.”41
- There were 30-some minutes between these two attacks.
- Cleland’s account was implausible, because it suggested that there were at most 10 minutes between the two attacks.
In light of the above problems –
- the contradictions between the 2004 accounts by Myers and the 9/11 Commission, on the one hand,and the accounts by Richard Clarke, Paul Wolfowitz, Captain Leidig, General Shelton, Thomas White, and, even the Myers of 2001, on the other;
- the inconsistencies between the earlier and later stories told by Myers;
- and the implausibilities in the accounts by Myers and Cleland –
the evidence suggests that the official account about Myers – according to which he was not in the Pentagon during the attacks and also could not have been involved in a decision to bring down United 93 – is false, and should be further investigated.
References for Point MC-6
2.Richard B. Myers, Eyes on the Horizon: Serving on the Front Lines of National Security (New York: Threshold Editions, 2009), 7. See also “Interview: General Richard B. Myers,” Armed Forces Radio and Television Services, 17 October 2001, and The 9/11 Commission Report, 463n199, citing an interview of 17 February 2004.
3.Sen. Max Cleland said: “General, it’s a good thing that . . . you and I were meeting . . . here [on Capitol Hill] and not us meeting in the Pentagon.” Quoted in “General Myers Confirmation Hearing,” September 13, 2001.
8.Jim Garamone, “Former Chairman Remembers 9/11 Attacks,” American Forces Press Service, September 8, 2006.
9.The 9/11 Commission Report, 38.
10.Ibid., 37. At 9:29 AM, a “significant event” conference had begun, but it was canceled at 9:34, which “resumed at 9:37 as an air threat conference call.” (The 9/11 Commission Report added: “All times given for this conference call are estimates, which we and the Department of Defense believe to be accurate within a ±minute margin of error” [ibid.].)
13.Clarke reported that he had a brief meeting with Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice, which began after his arrival at the White House shortly after 9:03. The starting time of approximately 9:10 is further supported by Clarke’s statement that this conference had been going on for several minutes before Norman Mineta arrived, combined with Mineta’s statement that, after he arrived, he spent “four or five minutes”talking with Clarke before going down to the Presidential Emergency Operations Emergency Center, which he reached “at about 9:20 AM.” 9/11 Commission Hearing, May 23, 2003.
19. “Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Interview with PBS NewsHour,” PBS, September 14, 2001.
23.An FAA transcript shows that Delta 1989 was reported hijacked at 9:23 but then shortly reported as OK at 9:26.
25.Gen. Hugh Shelton et al., Without Hesitation, 432-33. Just before that statement by Shelton, he had written: “Until I crossed back into United States airspace, all the decisions would be Dick’s to make. . . . “ (ibid., 432). There is no hint in these pages that Myers was not in the Pentagon.
27.This meeting is mentioned in Robert Burns, “Pentagon Attack Came Minutes after Rumsfeld Predicted: ‘There Will Be Another Event,’” Associated Press, September 12, 2001.
29. See Consensus Point MC-7, “The Time of General Shelton’s Return to his Command.”
30.In June 2004, Myers said he learned that the Pentagon was hit while he was on his “way back to the Pentagon.” 9/11 Commission Hearing, June 17, 2004. In his 2009 book, Myers likewise said that he was told “the Pentagon’s just been hit” as he “raced away from Capitol Hill” (Eyes on the Horizon, 9).
31.At his confirmation hearing, Myers said: “I was with Senator Cleland when this [attack on the Pentagon] happened” (“General Myers Confirmation Hearing”). In an interview of October 17, 2002, Myers said that when he and Cleland came out of his office, the fact that the second tower had been hit “was obvious. Then right at that time someone said the Pentagon has been hit” (“Interview: General Richard B. Myers,” Armed Forces Radio and Television Services, October 17, 2001).
32. “I was called out by Gen. Eberhart . . . and my executive assistant,” Myers wrote. He then immediately got into his car and rushed back to the Pentagon. “Before we even got to the 14th Street Bridge, the Pentagon was hit,” he said. “The scene coming across the bridge was the Pentagon with black smoke rolling out of it.” Jim Garamone, “Former Chairman Remembers 9/11 Attacks,” American Forces Press Service, September 8, 2006. In his 2009 book, Myers also said that the call from Eberhart came before he learned that the Pentagon had been hit (Eyes on the Horizon, 9).
33.In 2001, Myers said: “Sometime during that office call the second tower was hit. Nobody informed us of that. But when we came out, that was obvious. Then right at that time somebody said the Pentagon has been hit. . . . [S]omebody handed me a cell phone, and it was General Eberhart out at NORAD in Colorado Springs,” “Armed Forces Radio and Television Service Interview, General Richard B. Myers, October 17, 2001.”
34. “I was called out by Gen. (Ralph) Eberhart . . .and my executive assistant,” he said. Myers immediately got into his car and rushed back to the Pentagon. “Before we even got to the 14th Street Bridge, the Pentagon was hit,” he said. “The scene coming across the bridge was the Pentagon with black smoke rolling out of it.” Jim Garamone, “Former Chairman Remembers 9/11 Attacks,” American Forces Press Service, September 8, 2006. In his 2009 book, Myers also said that the call from Eberhart came before he learned that the Pentagon had been hit (Eyes on the Horizon, 9).
35. “Sometime during that office call the second tower was hit. Nobody informed us of that. But when we came out, that was obvious. Then right at that time somebody said the Pentagon has been hit. I immediately, somebody handed me a cell phone, and it was General Eberhart” (“Interview: General Richard B. Myers”).
37.Tom Baxter and Jim Galloway, “Max Returns, With Fire in His Eyes,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, June 16, 2003. This talk is also available as “Max Cleland Speech,” St. Marks Episcopal Church, Raleigh NC. Although this document spelled Myers’ name “Meyers,” it otherwise appears to be an accurate transcription of a speech given by Cleland.
40.In his 2009 book, Myers said: “He [Cleland] had started preparing a pot of tea, but we hadn’t taken a sip when a staff person came in from the outer office and informed us that the second tower had been hit. We both knew the interview was over” (Myers, Eyes on the Horizon, 8).
41.Baxter and Galloway, “Max Returns.”
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