June 22, 2004

Clues Poking Through

From John Judge

This article in today's Washington Post reveals some things I have been talking about for some time in relation to the air defenses on 9/11/2001. In addition to the NORAD/FAA defenses, there is a special air defense perimiter around Washington, DC and the Capitol and White House. The area is called P-56, and while the center is a small space inside DC, it is clear from the article that the DC Air Defense Identification Zone extends to 50 miles outside DC to the west, and presumably at least as far in each direction. Unidentified craft entering this space set off alarms with what used to be called the National Capital Region Coordination Center (now?) located in Herndon, Virginia, which uses Internet-based air control display to identify potentially hostile targets. The FAA failed to communicate with them about a plane they had cleared for landing at Reagan airport which had a faulty transponder, which was carrying the Governor of Kentucky. The incident set off alarms at the (former) NCRCC (which now includes Secret Service, Pentagon, Customs and Immigration), and with National Capitol Police, and initiated a massive evacuation during the Reagan funeral proceedings. Note that the interception was handled by a Blackhawk helicopter from Customs and a Cessna plane. Having seen interceptions in the air space here during my life, I have often seen helicopters and jets respond to the incoming craft approaching the restricted air space over DC. During an incident, years earlier, when a small plane crashed on the White House lawn, radar surveillance was being handled from National Airport. I am not sure if they are a separate operation from or replaced by the Herndon Center. The most significant thing to me is that this NCRCC with its one-minute response time was not ever mentioned during the two public hearings of the 9/11 Commission on the FAA/NORAD response to 9/11. What disabled them that day? And what of the Pentagon itself, which has its own defensive surveillance radar? Layer after layer of possible responses and standard operating procedures to air emergencies and threats had to be simultaneously inoperable for the already anticipated attack plane to get to its target without any interference. -- John Judge

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