The exercise Operation Vigilant Warrior may have been a significant factor in the success of the 9-11 attacks.
We'll examine this case as it's portrayed in "The Military Drills on 9-11: "Bizarre Coincidence" or Something Else?", by Four Arrows (aka Don Jacobs).
Another drill, ‘‘Operation Vigilant Warrior,’’ was referenced in Richard Clarke’s book, Against All Enemies. He writes that acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Richard Myers, tells him via video link that ‘‘We are in the middle of Vigilant Warrior, a NORAD exercise’’ (Clark, 2004, p. 5). This exercise may have been the attack component of the Vigilant Guardian exercise. It is also discussed in ‘‘Air Force Magazine Online.’’13 In a published transcript of the 9/11 hearings, the lead pilot for the exercise who was finally dispatched for the real thing on 9/11 stated, ‘‘I reverted to the Russian threat. I’m thinking cruise missile threat from the sea. You know, you look down and see the Pentagon burning and I thought the bastards snuck one by us. You couldn’t see any airplanes, and no one told us anything.’’14
"The Military Drills on 9-11: "Bizarre Coincidence" or Something Else?"
We’ve written before that the problem with this account is that Clarke is the only mention of “Operation Vigilant Warrior”, as an exercise running on 9/11. It was the name of a major and famous exercise from 1994, though (see here), so could Clarke have heard “Vigilant Guardian” and, with the stress of the day, remembered it incorrectly later? This seems at least possible. You could of course argue that no-one else mentioned it because it was the top secret cover for the attacks, but then why is Myers blurting it out over the phone, and to Clarke, who judging by his actions later was no friend of the Bush administration?
Andrew Burfield provides support for this idea, by pointing out that these exercise names aren’t simply dreamed up from nowhere, they actually mean something. And the name “Vigilant Warrior” doesn’t fit with what it’s claimed to be:
Richard Clarke, who was counter-terrorism advisor on the National Security Council during the September 11 attacks, claims, in his book Against All Enemies, that an additional exercise named “Vigilant Warrior” was occurring on that day. However this claim from Clarke is based entirely on overhearing Richard Myers during a phone call.
According to NORAD regulations, “Warrior” is a JCS approved, Commander-in-Chief NORAD Sponsored Field Exercise – that is “Live Fly” or involving operational units.
However “Vigilant” is the name reserved for NORAD HQ CPXs, while “Amalgam” is the name used for NORAD HQ FIXs (Field Exercises). Hence such an exercise would be named “Amalgam Warrior”, not “Vigilant Warrior”. Amalgam Warrior is held every second year, with exercises occurring in 2000 and 2002.
“Vigilant Warrior” was in fact the name of an Operation that occurred in the Persian Gulf region in 1994, in response to a movement of Iraqi ground forces towards the Kuwait border. The following year Iraq again tested the UN by moving forces towards Kuwait, resulting in Operation Vigilant Warrior II.
Andrew Burfield on NORAD's response on 9/11
According to Jacobs, however, the “misremembered” argument doesn’t stand up because the exercise “is also discussed in ‘‘Air Force Magazine Online”. We’ve learned the importance of checking claims, though, and visited the URL Jacobs mentioned to read the details. And there was no mention of Vigilant Warrior, at all. Go look, confirm it for yourself.
Okay, there’s another chance in “the lead pilot for the exercise” quote. Here’s the relevant section from the source Jacobs quotes:
Philip Zelikow: There was only one set of fighters orbiting Washington, D.C. during this timeframe - the Langley F-16's. But the Langley pilots were never briefed about the reason they were scrambled.
As the lead pilot explained, "I reverted to the Russian threat. I'm thinking cruise missile threat from the sea. You know, you look down and see the Pentagon burning and I thought the bastards snuck one by us. You couldn't see any airplanes, and no one told us anything."
NORAD officials have maintained that they would have intercepted and shot down United 93. We are not so sure. We are sure that the nation owes a debt to the passengers of United 93. Their actions saved the lives of countless others, and may have saved either the U.S. Capitol or the White House from destruction.
No mention of him being “lead pilot for the exercise”. No mention of “Vigilant” or “Warrior” in the entire page, in fact. No details on the exercises at all.
None of this proves that Vigilant Warrior didn’t exist, of course -- we can’t prove a negative. But it does show that, despite what Jacobs writes, there’s still no confirmation beyond Clarke’s account, and so it remains possible that he remembered the name incorrectly.