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NORAD, Lies and Audiotape

In a story worthy of front-page coverage, the Washington Post reported today that many members and staffers on the 9/11 commission considered the testimony given by military and aviation officials to be criminally misleading. The panel debated the matter at a secret meeting following the conclusion of its hearings. In the end, it decided to refer the issue to Inspector Generals at the Defense and Transportation departments. The IGs are completing their reports and can still make criminal referrals based on the evidence presented.

A Vanity Fair article also published today includes excerpts from audiotape recordings made at NORAD's (North American Aerospace Command's) northeast headquarters. These recordings, parts of which were aired on ABC News last night, tell a very different story from the one presented by Major General Larry Arnold and Colonel Alan Scott to the 9/11 commission in 2003. For instance, Arnold and Scott told the panel that NORAD was largely in control of its affairs by the time the fourth plane (United Flight 93) was hijacked, and that fighter jets were in place to shoot the plane down if it threatened Washington, D.C. Colonel Scott said that NORAD first learned about United 93 at 9:16 a.m. and gave launch orders for the fighter jets at 9:24. The only problem is that at 9:16, United 93 had not been hijacked yet. And the fighter jets were actually launched in response to a different flight: American Flight 11, which had already crashed into the World Trade Center. The chaos within NORAD in the midst of the hijackings is understandable—the deliberately misleading testimony by NORAD officials two years later is inexcusable and possibly criminal.

POGO has repeatedly spoken out against secrecy and over-classification in the post-9/11 intelligence community. Both the public and the 9/11 panel deserve to know the truth about NORAD's response to the hijacked planes. The IG reports will hopefully clarify how badly we have been misled thus far.