Six more Griffin examples
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The 9/11 Commission told us that “the threat of terrorists hijacking commercial airliners within the United States -- and using them as guided missiles -- was not recognized by NORAD before 9/11”.

In “The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions”, though, David Ray Griffin tells us the Commission Report itself provides nine examples “that either clearly do, or at least may” contradict this claim. We’ve discussed these here.

In addition, though, Dr Griffin tells us that “the claim is even further undermined if we look outside this document”. He then delivers six further examples, which we’ll examine here.

1. In 1993, a panel of experts commissioned by the Pentagon suggested that airplanes could be used as missiles to bomb national landmarks. In 1994, one of these experts wrote in the Futurist magazine:

Targets such as the World Trade Center not only provide the requisite casualties but, because of their symbolic nature, provide more bang for the buck. In order to maximise their odds for success, terrorist groups will likely consider mounting multiple, simultaneous operations.
Page 266
The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions

This example sounds very impressive, however take a closer look and issues begin to emerge.

First, Dr Griffin presents the panel of experts views and the Futurist magazine quote together, which might persuade you that the second quote was about the use of airplanes to fly into the WTC. But you’d be wrong. The Futurist article discussed chemical, biological and nuclear attacks, economic attacks on the Internet, banking system and more, but nothing at all to do with using planes as missiles.

So why mention the WTC? Hardly surprising, as it had been attacked the previous year, but the author suggested plenty of other potential targets, too:

Governments generally respond to increased terrorism by beefing up the security of government installations, key components of the nation's infrastructure, and other lucrative targets. This pressures the terrorists to seek softer targets that effectively coerce the government to meet their demands. Operations that generate large civilian casualties fit these parameters and are anywhere large numbers of people gather. Choice targets include sports arenas, shopping malls, houses of worship, and movie theaters. Targets such as the World Trade Center not only provide the requisite casualties but, because of their symbolic nature, provide more bang for the buck. In order to maximize their odds for success, terrorist groups will likely consider mounting multiple, simultaneous operations with the aim of overtaxing a government's ability to respond, as well as demonstrating their professionalism and reach.
Cached locally here

It could be argued that if you’d read the report produced by these experts, then come across the Futurist article, you should have been able to figure out that a 9/11-type attack could occur. But there’s a problem with this: the idea about using planes as missiles didn’t make it into the final report:

When the Pentagon commissioned a report on terrorism and U.S. vulnerabilities after the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, author Marvin Cetron came up with a similar scenario. "We said the United States was very vulnerable. You could make a left turn at the Washington Monument, and take out the White House, and you could make a right turn and take out the Pentagon." said Cetron.

But the final report never mentioned this detail.

"We were told by the Department of Defense not to put it in," Cetron said. "And I said, 'It's unclassified, everything is available.' And they said, 'We don't want it released, because you can't handle a crisis before it becomes a crisis. And no one is going to believe you.'"

As far as we’re aware, it only became public knowledge after 9/11, when the study participants recalled what had happened:

...the assignment for the Pentagon panel charged with writing a report called "Terror 2000" was to think broadly about international terrorism's evolution in a world that suddenly had a single superpower. The group of military officials, terrorism experts and "futurists" met at Virginia's Langley Air Force Base in 1993 to kick around a variety of scenarios, some of which seemed far-fetched, in the days before the Oklahoma City bombing.

"The main interest was to get people to think outside the box," said "Terror 2000" co-author Peter S. Probst, a Fairfax terrorism expert. "You begin with a blank sheet of paper and start to think about the United States through the eyes of a terrorist."

Several participants remembered discussing the possibility of a commercial airliner being deliberately flown into a public building in the nation's capital. The idea may have been inspired by disclosures about an alleged plot by hijackers to destroy France's Eiffel Tower using an aircraft, Probst said.

"Coming down the Potomac, you could make a left turn at the Washington Monument and take out the White House, or you could make a right turn and take out the Pentagon," Marvin J. Cetron, a Falls Church author and a leader of the exercise, recalled telling the group.

A version of the report marked "interim draft" correctly predicts several aspects of the Sept. 11 attack. "In the future, horrified civilians will get to watch every step in a terrorist plot," it says. "CNN and other networks will certainly air the footage."

Presaging a break from the state-sponsored terrorism familiar to most Americans at the time, the report said tomorrow's "most dangerous" terrorists would be "motivated not by political ideology but by fierce ethnic and religious hatreds."

"Their goal will not be political control but utter destruction of their chosen enemies," it said.

In a 1994 article commenting on the panel's findings and the broader discussions that inspired them, Cetron wrote that future terrorists motivated by ethnic and religious hatreds would pick "soft" targets -- sports arenas or shopping malls, for example -- because of their high visibility and greater opportunities for mass casualties.

"Targets such as the World Trade Center not only provide the requisite casualties but, because of their symbolic nature, provide more bang for the buck," he wrote in the Futurist magazine. "In order to maximize their odds for success, terrorist groups will likely consider mounting multiple, simultaneous operations with the aim of overtaxing a government's ability to respond, as well as demonstrating their professionalism and reach."

The decision not to publish detailed scenarios was made partly out of a fear that it could give terrorists ideas, participants said. A draft was circulated through the Pentagon, the Justice Department and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but senior agency officials ultimately decided against a public release.

"That was a mistake," Probst said.

Still, panel participants said even they were stunned by the scale of the Sept. 11 attacks, never imagining how hijackings could cause such devastation and push the nation to the brink of war.

Menarchik, the Terror 2000 organizer, said future war-gamers now have to consider a broader range of disasters -- and they always run the risk of getting it wrong.

"You can plan your brains out for something that never occurs," said Menarchik, who now directs the presidential library and museum of former president George Bush. "No one will ever be able to completely predict the future."

Did the “planes as missiles” scenario even make the interim draft of the report? That’s not clear from these stories, however if it didn’t then obviously there was no chance of the idea influencing policy.

And even if the concept had been included the finished report, there’s no guarantee it would have made the slightest difference. What you’re not seeing from Dr Griffin’s snipped few words is that Terror 2000 was a substantial document, totalling more than four hundred pages. It considered many world trends, and proposed four different future scenarios: “Economics dominate”, “Violence dominates”, “Status Quo” and “Environment dominates”. Each scenario was then followed by all kinds of predictions, with “Economic dominates”, for instance, being covered as follows:

In the survey’s most probable future, in which economics dominates other global forces, industrial and financial facilities predictably are most at risk. For the remainder of the 1990’s, three forms of attack were rated as having high probability and high impact: physical attack on a firm that offers electronic data-processing services, physical attack on a major stock exchange or on the Securities Exchange Commission; and a credible hoax involving the threat of an improvised nuclear weapon or dispersal device. In the first decade of the new century, a disruption of banking communications joins the list. One low-impact item also becomes highly probable after the year 2000: hijacking.

In addition, our participants believed that many potential threats, though unlikely, would have a sufficiently high impact to justify monitoring them. These included disruption of satellite communications, seizure of a communications system, attacks at a main power station or substation on the grid, disruption of transportation, an attack on imported energy sources at a port or other choke point, use of chemical or biological weapons to contaminate food or water supplies, and the use of a functional nuclear bomb or contamination device. 

As might be expected, terrorist attacks in this scenario primarily cause economic disruption. It is a future with many potential high-impact targets, but relatively few that also suffer a high risk of attack. Terrorism appears to be a continuing problem. In large part, this is because the poor are likely to remain poor, but in an increasingly information-rich world they will be even less isolated from the knowledge that others are far wealthier. This is a source of bitterness and potential violence that the world would do well to address more effectively. In addition, a small but growing number of terrorist-style incidents will arise from corporate competition. This may well account for many of the anticipated attacks on electronic data-processing firms.

In early years, the “information superhighway” proposed by the Clinton Administration could be an ideal target for terrorism: highly centralized, expensive, probably fragile, and increasingly important to the American economy and to national communications. As the system develops further, it should become as robust as today’s packet-switched networks. Multiple communication lines and automatic rerouting of interrupted calls will make it far more difficult to disable. Individual nodes of the network will remain vulnerable, but with impact limited to the immediate users.
Page 6-3 and 6-4
Terror 2000
Found at this DoD Master Reading List

This was apparently regarded as the most likely future, and you can see that specifying hijacking as more likely after 2000 seems impressive. But on the other hand, they specify many other threats before then that haven’t materialised at all. Why should that particular element be taken above all others, including those in the other futures? 

And while we can point at the “planes as missiles” idea now, and say how prescient it was, we don’t know how many other detailed scenarios were discussed (and left out) that weren’t accurate at all. Picking this out with hindsight is easy, deciding what was valuable in this report at the time would be rather more difficult.

Let’s try the second example.

2. In 1995, Senator Sam Nunn, in Time magazine’s cover story, described a scenario in which terrorists crash a remote-controlled airplane into the US Capitol Building.
Page 266
The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions

The mention of “remote-controlled airplane” should be enough to make you wonder what Nunn was describing. Here’s the relevant paragraph from the original Time story:

Even very sober public officials are deeply concerned. Three weeks ago, Georgia's Senator Sam Nunn sketched a lurid fantasy: how terrorists might wreck the central government of the U.S. On the night of a State of the Union address, when all the top officials are in the Capitol, Nunn said, a handful of fanatics could crash a radio-controlled drone aircraft into the building, "engulfing it with chemical weapons and causing tremendous death and destruction.'' This scenario, said Nunn, "is not far-fetched,'' and the technology is all readily available.,9171,982759,00.html

This was about a method of delivering chemical or biological weapons, then, not hijacking or suicide attacks. It could be argued that the cumulative effect of examples like this should have persuaded NORAD to do more, but we’ll deal more with that later. In the meantime, here’s example three.

3. In 1999, the National Intelligence Council, which advises the President and US intelligence agencies on emerging threats, said in a special report on terrorism: “A-Qaeda’s expected retaliation for the US cruise missile attack [of 1998]... could take several forms of suicide attack in the nation’s capitol. Suicide bombers belonging to al Qaeda’s Martyrdom Battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives... into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), or the White House.”
Page 266-267
The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions

This sounds impressively specific, until you read the full paragraph and discover everything else the author said:

Al-Qaida’s expected retaliation for the U.S. cruise missile attack against al-Qaida’s training facilities in Afghanistan on August 20, 1998, could take several forms of terrorist attack in the nation’s capital. Al-Qaida could detonate a Chechen-type building-buster bomb at a federal building. Suicide bomber(s) belonging to al-Qaida’s Martyrdom Battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives (C-4 and semtex) into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), or the White House. Ramzi Yousef had planned to do this against the CIA headquarters. In addition, both al-Qaida and Yousef were linked to a plot to assassinate President Clinton during his visit to the Philippines in early 1995. Following the August 1998 cruise missile attack, at least one Islamic religious leader called for Clinton’s assassination, and another stated that “the time is not far off” for when the White House will be destroyed by a nuclear bomb. A horrendous scenario consonant with al-Qaida’s mindset would be its use of a nuclear suitcase bomb against any number of targets in the nation’s capital. Bin Laden allegedly has already purchased a number of nuclear suitcase bombs from the Chechen Mafia. Al-Qaida’s retaliation, however, is more likely to take the lower-risk form of bombing one or more U.S. airliners with time-bombs. Yousef was planning simultaneous bombings of 11 U.S. airliners prior to his capture. Whatever form an attack may take, bin Laden will most likely retaliate in a spectacular way for the cruise missile attack against his Afghan camp in August 1998.

This was not necessarily about hijackings, then (the idea of a plane “packed with high explosives” suggests it’s one they’ve prepared themselves). Also, the suicide attack by plane scenario was only one of many discussed here, and the most likely response was judged to be a more conventional bombing of planes.

Example 4, then:

4. In October 2000, Pentagon officials carried out an emergency drill to prepare for the possibility that a hijacked airliner might be crashed into the Pentagon.
Page 267
The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions

Dr Griffin references two stories for this claim, one a Military District of Washington account, the other from the UK’s Daily Mirror. Neither provides any evidence that the drill was specifically about a hijacking, however, and an article Dr Griffin doesn’t mention points out that it was not:

Pentagon and Arlington, Va., emergency responders rehearsed how they would respond if a plane crashed into the Pentagon in October 2000, less than a year before the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.

The scenario did not necessarily involve a hijacked aircraft. It addresses only a crash and the effect on the ground response team.

But the scenario, taken as a whole with other recent revelations of intelligence warnings abut hijacking and military exercises that contemplated hijacked planes hitting landmark buildings, casts further doubt on national security adviser Condoleezza Rice's claim that no one could have anticipated a Sept. 11-like disaster.

This article also does its best to use the incident to cast blame, but points out that it was only about a crash. So why plan for this scenario at all? The same article later provides a reason:

The Oct. 24-26, 2000 Pentagon Mass Casualty Exercise, part of an annual emergency response rehearsal, envisioned a commercial airliner crashing into the Pentagon, killing 341 victims. The Pentagon is less than a mile from Reagan National Airport and is daily in the flight path of small commuter planes. Larger airliners generally fly to the east of the massive building over the Potomac River.

Other scenarios rehearsed included a terrorist "incident" at the Pentagon subway stop and a construction accident.

It was sensible to plan for a potential accidental crash into the Pentagon because the building is very close to an airport: it’s as simple as that. Just another accident scenario, like the construction accident mentioned above.

This incident wasn’t about terrorists, then, or hijacking, or using planes as missiles. As such it fails to counter the NORAD case. Perhaps the fifth example will do better.

5. In July 2001, according to an article headed “NORAD Had Drills of Jets as Weapons”, the military planned a drill in which hijacked airliners, originating in the United States, were used as weapons to crash into targets, including the World Trade Center. 
Page 267
The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions

Here Dr Griffin misrepresents his source by telling us that the hijacked airliners in these cases were “originating in the United States”. The story is quite clear on this:

The exercises differed from the Sept. 11 attacks in one important respect: The planes in the simulation were coming from a foreign country.

It does say there were exceptions, however the only specific example provided seems to have been a conventional, not a suicide hijacking:

Until Sept. 11, NORAD was expected to defend the United States and Canada from aircraft based elsewhere. After the attacks, that responsibility broadened to include flights that originated in the two countries.

But there were exceptions in the early drills, including one operation, planned in July 2001 and conducted later, that involved planes from airports in Utah and Washington state that were "hijacked." Those planes were escorted by U.S. and Canadian aircraft to airfields in British Columbia and Alaska.

Then we get comments that might allude to further exercises of planes being used as weapons, although this is unclear, but nothing definitive on flights originating in the US:

NORAD officials have acknowledged that "scriptwriters" for the drills included the idea of hijacked aircraft being used as weapons.

"Threats of killing hostages or crashing were left to the scriptwriters to invoke creativity and broaden the required response," Maj. Gen. Craig McKinley, a NORAD official, told the 9/11 commission. No exercise matched the specific events of Sept. 11, NORAD said.

"We have planned and executed numerous scenarios over the years to include aircraft originating from foreign airports penetrating our sovereign airspace," Gen. Ralph Eberhart, NORAD commander, told USA TODAY. "Regrettably, the tragic events of 9/11 were never anticipated or exercised."

NORAD, a U.S.-Canadian command, was created in 1958 to guard against Soviet bombers.

Until Sept. 11, 2001, NORAD conducted four major exercises a year. Most included a hijack scenario, but not all of those involved planes as weapons. Since the attacks, NORAD has conducted more than 100 exercises, all with mock hijackings.

NORAD fighters based in Florida have intercepted two hijacked smaller aircraft since the Sept. 11 attacks. Both originated in Cuba and were escorted to Key West in spring 2003, NORAD said.

It’s worth also noting that the exercises were also mentioned in the 9/11 Commission Report:

The North American Aerospace Defense Command imagined the possible use of aircraft as weapons, too, and developed exercises to counter such a threat -- from planes coming to the United States from overseas, perhaps carrying a weapon of mass destruction. None of this speculation was based on actual intelligence of such a threat. One idea, intended to test command and control plans and NORAD's readiness, postulated a hijacked airliner coming from overseas and crashing into the Pentagon.The idea was put aside in the early planning of the exercise as too much of a distraction from the main focus (war in Korea), and as too unrealistic.As we pointed out in chapter 1, the military planners assumed that since such aircraft would be coming from overseas; they would have time to identify the target and scramble interceptors.
Page 345
9/11 Commission Report

This example does not in itself counter the NORAD and 9/11 Commission position, then. Let’s move on to the sixth and final offering.

6. At 9.00 on the morning of 9/11, the National Reconnaissance Office, which operates spy satellites and draws its personnel from the military and the CIA, had planned to simulate the accidental crashing of an airplane into its headquarters, four miles from Dulles Airport in Washington. The simulation was evidently to be run by “John Fulton and his team at the CIA”.
Page 267
The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions

Remember, these examples are supposed to be countering the claim that “the threat of terrorists hijacking commercial airliners within the United States -- and using them as guided missiles -- was not recognized by NORAD before 9/11”.

This particular incident did not involved terrorists, or hijackings. From Mike Ruppert’s account, it didn’t involve commercial airliners, either:

...the NRO’s drill was “based on the idea of a Lear Jet or a FedEx plane having a flame-out on takeoff from nearby Dulles airport and crashing into the building.” The NRO is close to the end of one of Dulles’ runways. However, Oborn said, since there was no flying involved, there was no need to coordinate with the military or the FAA.
Page 381, "Crossing the Rubicon"

As it didn’t have anything to do with using planes as missiles, either, this example clearly does nothing whatsoever to counter the NORAD “no recognition” claims. 

The NRO exercise is used in other claims, though. Read more about those here.

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