One common view amongst many 9/11 researchers is that the hijacked planes should not have been able to reach their destinations. The air defence system would have stopped them under normal circumstances, they claim, therefore perhaps those defences had been ordered to stand down. And they point to the account of Norman Mineta as possible evidence. Here's David Ray Griffin in the updated second edition of The New Pearl Harbor:
There's some confirmation of this account from stories soon after 9/11. Here, for instance, is Mineta on CBS:
Others say that Mineta's account is simply confused, however, and he's actually referring to an event that occurred after the Pentagon was hit. Here's the 9/11 Commission:
Repeated warnings of an approaching plane, followed by a shootdown order: the wrong distances, but similar to what Mineta was talking about. There's an even closer resemblance in this version, from Charlie Savage's "Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy":
The distances and words used are different, but still, we have an aide returning three times, reporting the approaching plane. On the third occasion we have the aide querying his order, and Cheney, becoming annoyed, confirming it. Perhaps something like this happened twice. But if it did only happen once, and this is the correct version, then another explanation may be that Mineta is simply wrong. A closer look at the accounts of the day will tell us more.
The Mineta story
Here's what Mineta told the 9/11 Commission about the events of 9/11. The testimony is lengthy, so we've snipped to include timeline-related issues only: by all means follow the link at the end to read the rest, or watch the full video here.
Mineta also gave an interesting interview to the Acadmey of Achievement, where he provided further information on the events of the day:
An interview with The Daily Californian confirms that Jane Garvey stayed in Mineta's conference room until after the second impact at the WTC, and included the detail that "the White House is only 7 minutes away" from Mineta's office:
And Mineta gave a lengthy interview to MSNBC:
Questioning the Mineta timeline
Mineta provides a considerable amount of information in his accounts, and this, along with other recollections of the day, gives us several reasons to believe his timeline is inaccurate.
One immediate issue with Mineta's story is the implausible number of activities he squeezes in to a very short time. The second impact at the WTC occurred at around 9:02:59, for instance, and Mineta told the 9/11 Commission that he reached the White House at 9:20: around 17 minutes later.
Mineta has said the White House was 7 minutes away, though, something we confirmed with Google maps.
10 minutes remaining.
He also has to make three shorter journeys: office to car, car through White House security and to the Situation Room, Situation Room to PEOC. If we allow 60 seconds for each of those (implausibly short: can anyone really check in to White House security and get into the Situation Room in a minute) then we have three minutes remaining.
And in those three minutes Mineta must react to the sight of the second crash, go to his conference room, cancel a meeting, return to his office, exchange words with Jane Garvey, talk on the phone to the CEOs of United and American Airlines, consult with his officials, and decide to go to the White House.
This seems very rushed. There are no no gaps between actions, Mineta doesn't have to wait for anything (there's no wait for his driver or security man to arrive from elsewhere in the building, say), and in addition we're assuming he's told us literally everything he did. This seems unlikely, but we have no option: there isn't time for anything else.
Still, while this may be reason to raise an eyebrow, it's not proof of anything. Especially as Mineta himself has, in other accounts, put his PEOC arrival time back as late as 9:27. That's still quick, but does provide more leeway, and we certainly can't say it's impossible for Mineta to have followed that kind of timetable.
Order of events
Mineta's recollections of times and the order of events don't always seem very accurate, particularly in this part of his Academy of Achievement interview:
Mineta says there was a "ground hold on planes going into New York" that happened at "maybe about 8:30 or 8:40 in the morning". This was before the first tower was even hit, though: the actual decision wasn't made until much later:
Mineta is giving a time for this "ground hold" that's around 30 minutes earlier than it should be.
He also appears to be saying that he delivered a "bring all the planes down" order after the Pentagon was hit, at "about 9:27". However, the Pentagon was hit at 9:37, the landing order wasn't delivered until around 9:45, and there are stories saying Mineta don't know about this until after the event (see the http://www.911myths.com/index.php/Norman_Mineta#Shoot_Down_Order Shoot Down Order] section on this page).
Some Mineta interviews show clearly inaccurate timelines, then. It's obviously wise to cross check what he's saying before you take it as fact.
Evacuating the White House
A more interesting issue is raised from Mineta's own testimony, taken from the accounts above:
The problem here is that there's plenty of documentation that tells us when the White House was evacuated, and that occurred after the Pentagon was attacked:
The evacuation occurred after the Pentagon was hit, not before.
In a search for a way out of this problem, those defending the accuracy of Mineta's timeline point to this CNN report:
Look, they say: this places the evacuation much earlier. And so it does, but there are at least three problems here.
First, there's nothing to explain how they know the White House evacuation began 30 minutes ago, around 9:22. As all other accounts place the evacuation much later, about 9:45, how can we be sure the CNN version is accurate? The idea that officials would have decided there was enough of a threat to evacuate at 9:22, but somehow ensured that evacuation lasted half on hour, makes little sense to us.
This evacuation timetable doesn't seem to be supported by the coverage elsewhere, either.
And then there's NBC:
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Bob Kur said after 9:55 "within just about 20 minutes ago, they were still conducting tours. You had hordes of tourists and others still in the White House on tour, lining up outside to get in. There seemed to be absolutely no unusual activity outside the White House until word came of the incident at the Pentagon. So it's been quite a dramatic shift here."
Are we really to believe that the White House would begin a partial evacuation around 9:22, yet still be conducting tours for more than another ten minutes, while all the time a correspondent noticed nothing odd at all?
It's notable that CNN didn't seem to maintain this idea of an early evacuation. The CNN timeline "September 11: Chronology of terror", dated September 12th, says only "9:45 a.m.: The White House evacuates." And the John King, the CNN White House correspondent who mentioned the idea on the 11th, seemed to have dropped it by the afternoon of the following day:
But second, even if we accept it as literally true, the CNN story still doesn't support Mineta's 9:20 arrival at the PEOC. If he were to spend a few minutes with Clarke, then Mineta needs to be driving up at around 9:15, but the CNN story doesn't have the evacuation beginning until 9:22. That may have been an approximation, and could fit with a 9:27 arrival time, however the reporter also said the initial evacuation "started slowly", and "people have come running out of the White House and the old executive office building" only in the last five minutes. Now compare this with Mineta's description:
Mineta is plainly describing the latter part of the evacuation according to CNN and Clarke, which based on this report began somewhere between 9:42 and 9:47. No-one else describes it happening any earlier, and as we've seen, NBC specifically say it was business as usual at the White House until after the Pentagon was hit.
The final issue comes at the very beginning of the CNN piece, when John King says "I'm standing in Lafayette Park, directly across the White House, perhaps about 200 yards away from the White House residence itself. The Secret Service has pushed most people all the way back to the other side of the park." NPR told us when this happened: "The evacuation--word came at 9:41 this morning everyone--staff, reporters--was moved out first into Layfayette Park and then across Layfayette Park." And here's how Mineta described what he saw when he arrived at the White House:
"Everybody" is being moved to Lafayette Park, something CNN, NPR and others describe as happening after the Pentagon was hit.
The usual excuse for Mineta, that somehow he witnessed a few people who happened to be running, clearly no longer applies here. The reality is that he described it as "everybody running out", with people coming from both the White House and the Executive Office building, and running over to Lafayette Drive: as accurate a description of the real events as you could hope within two or three sentences. Unless we're to believe this happened twice, and the press completely failed to notice the first time around, the only conclusion we can make is that Mineta arrived when the White House was being evacuated at some point after 9:40.
Norman Mineta told the 9/11 Commission that "Mr. Flaherty reported to me that Jane Garvey had phoned to report that the CEO of Delta Airlines had called the FAA and said it could not yet account for all of its aircraft." This happened before he left for the White House, and presumably refers to the scare over Delta 1989, a flight that was suspected of being hijacked on 9/11. But when did this occur?
USA Today told us:
(Read much more on the Delta 1989 page.)
A further report from the 9/11 Commission shows us that the FAA in Herndon, while concerned about Delta 1989 at 9:19, didn't appear to believe it had been hijacked.
So when Norman Mineta told the 9/11 Commission that "Mr. Flaherty reported to me that Jane Garvey had phoned to report that the CEO of Delta Airlines had called the FAA and said it could not yet account for all of its aircraft", before Mineta left his office for the White House, we're left wondering how that could be. If Mineta were to reach the PEOC by 9:20, then the Garvey call has to arrive by around 9:12 at the latest (allowing for the travel time and his "four or five minutes" with Clarke). But the earliest reported "probable hijacking" concerns here didn't arise until 9:28. Once again, Mineta's story doesn't fit with what we know.
To defend the Mineta timetable, then, we must either theorise that there was some earlier, unreported concern on the part of Delta that caused him to receive the call from Garvey.
Or, perhaps, this was just a coincidental alert that didn't specifically relate to Delta 1989 at all.
Perhaps one of these options are true. But we're struck by the contortions, allowances and stretches that must be made to sustain the idea of Mineta's early arrival at the White House. If we drop that, accept Mineta arrived in time to witness the evacuation, just as he said himself, then these problems almost entirely fade away.
And fortunately, that isn't necessary. We also have Garvey's interview with the 9/11 Commission, which includes the following line:
Garvey herself only refers to a Delta issue as occurring after the Pentagon crash, while Mineta talks about receiving Delta-related information before he left the office. Yet another awkward little issue that doesn't fit with Mineta's timeline.
Shoot Down Order
Mineta believes there was a shootdown order that applied when he says he was at the PEOC: from 9:20. However, the 9/11 Commission say this authorisation came much later:
(They then go on to point out that "there is no documentary evidence for this call", but that's a separate issue. Go read the chapter if you're interested.)
A contradiction, then, but there's an oddity in Mineta's account. He said "the president was in Florida, and I believe he was on his way to Louisiana at that point when the conversation that went on between the vice president and the president and the staff that the president had with him". By "the conversation", we assume he meant the one that led to the shootdown order, yet he also places this before 9:27. In reality Bush hadn't left the school yet, and wouldn't take off for another half hour:
Mineta appears to be placing the issuing of the shootdown order after the President was on his way to Lousiana, then, and before he heard the conversation with Cheney and the young man. But if he's right on the first part, then the conversation cannot have referred to Flight 77: it had already crashed.
The Clarke teleconference
Richard Clarke ran a video conference from the White House Situation Room on 9/11. This included representatives from the Pentagon, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Department of Defence, and more. According to Clarke's book Against All Enemies, he spoke first to Jane Garvey of the FAA, and reported: "They were frantically looking for Norman Mineta, the Secretary of Transportation... At first the FAA could not find him." Clarke reported that "Mineta called in from his car" shortly after this, so if this is correct then we have another pointer to Mineta's arrival time: at some point after Clarke's teleconference began. Here's what the 9/11 Commission had to say about that:
If this is correct then it places Clarke's conversation with Garvey at 9:40 or after. Mineta may then have arrived about five minutes later, which would allow him to see the evacuation of the White House as he claimed. But clearly he would have been too late to hear anything about Flight 77.
Clarke is short on times in his account, and the best you can say is he places the Garvey conversation before 9:28. Others go further, saying the teleconference began at 9:10, and this is necessary for Mineta's timeline; it allows him to arrive at around 9:15, talk to Clarke and be escorted to the PEOC.
This is a large topic in itself, so we've placed it on a separate page. (Read more on the issue here). But one person, in particular, makes us question how plausible the idea of a 9:10 teleconference might be: FAA chief Jane Garvey.
Cannot find Mineta
In this version he doesn't explicitly say when Jane Garvey left. However, in the Academy of Achievement interview, this is plainly stated to be after the second World Trade Centre impact:
Mineta clearly places Jane Garvey in his conference room at 9:03, then, and possibly in his office for some time after that. She presumably then returned to the FAA, later calling with a message that Mineta receives before he leaves for the White House.
And yet, Clarke also places Garvey first in his teleconference, which some defenders of the Mineta timeline tell us happened at 9:10. And so we're supposed to believe Garvey went to Mineta's office, returned to the FAA Operations Centre, familiarised herself with the situation, and joined the teleconference in only 7 minutes? The FAA OC is only down the street (0.2 miles on Google maps), so distance isn't an issue, but it takes time to pack up, return to the office, and find out what's going on.
What's more, Clarke tells us the FAA were "frantically looking" for Norman Mineta when the teleconference began. Frantically looking for someone whom Garvey was meeting just 7 minutes ago, and had passed on a telephone message after that? This seems unlikely, and suggests to us that the Clarke-Garvey conversation took place much later.
There's supporting evidence for this in Clarke's account of the teleconference. He reports Garvey explaining that there were "reports of eleven aircraft off course of out of communications, maybe hijacked". We've not seen anyone claim that there were so many alerts at 9:10, and in fact an MSNBC report says there were "at least 10... possible hijackings" by some time after 9:38. See The Richard Clarke teleconference for more.
Order everyone to land
Mineta tells us that he made a major and significant decision on 9/11:
But there are other versions of this story. This one appeared in April 2002:
This story says the "everybody land" decision was made by the FAA at 9:45, without consulting with Mineta, who was only informed of the decision when an FAA official called him. How is this possible, if Mineta had established phone bridges with Belger and Garvey on a 9:20 arrival at the PEOC?
It's true that this article makes an obvious error in saying that Mineta was informed of the order before he even knew of the attacks, and that doesn't help it's credibility. We also don't have a named source for the FAA side of things. There's some support for this version of events in a 2002 USA Today story, though:
According to this version, Ben Sliney made the actual decision. Garvey and Belger approved. They were then called "minutes later" by Mineta, more support for the idea that he's establishing the phone bridge after the White House was evacuated at 9:45, and not at 9:20. And this account then has Mineta misunderstanding what's happened, and presumably feeling like he's issuing a tougher order than the FAA, perhaps the reason why he continued to take the credit.
And in a private Commission interview, Sliney said the FAA tried to persuade him to go along with the idea that Mineta ordered the planes down, even though this was "a fiction":
It seems that Mineta's account of delivering the ground stop order does not prove that he was in the PEOC before 9:45, then. The USA Today story in particular, talking about Mineta contacting the FAA after the "land everyone" order had been issued, makes a good case that he didn't arrive until later. And Sliney's account is evidence that the FAA may have tried to cover this up.
Monte Belger and Jane Garvey
As we've seen, Mineta claims that he arrived at the PEOC before the Pentagon was hit, and established phone contact with Monte Belger at the FAA, who then reported the position of the approaching Flight 77 in the minutes before it hit the building. But what does Belger himself say about this? A couple of Commission interviews tell us more.
The "around 9:45" would seem to support Mineta in terms of the ground stop order.
However, Belger says nothing about monitoring the plane as it approached, or talking to Mineta just before the crash; rather, they only "got on the phone with Norm Mineta" after they heard of what had happened.
The second interview is fractionally more detailed:
Here Belger makes it clear that he didn't recall speaking with Mineta about the "high speed VFR". And there's no reference to discussing any similar incident with Mineta, either. Has Belger forgotten tracking Flight 77 in its final moments - or is there another explanation for Mineta's story?
Perhaps Jane Garvey's interview can tell us more.
There are several interesting points here.
Garvey tells the Commission that she leaves Mineta's office before the second tower was hit, for instance, while Mineta clearly says this was afterwards. Is Garvey revising her account to make it look like she responded more quickly, or is Mineta mistaken? We don't know.
There's confirmation here that the concerns over possibly missing Delta flights didn't arise until after the Pentagon was hit, yet Mineta appears to say that he heard about these before he left the office.
Garvey talks of feeling that "they needed to get the Secretary more into the decision-making loop", suggesting there was some notable period when he wasn't significantly involved.
And Mineta called and gave his order to "bring all of the planes down" only "after the fourth crash".
Putting it all together, then, there's no support here for Belger communicating the final moments of Flight 77 directly to Mineta in the PEOC. And while they vary on the detail, both Belger and Garvey talk of getting in touch with Mineta only after hearing of the Pentagon crash, and not at around 9:20, as he claims.
No other witnesses
We've seen the accounts of an incident similar to the one that Mineta describes, where an official repeatedly warns Cheney of an incoming plane, and is given a shootdown order. Mineta says something like this happened before the Pentagon was hit, but the uncomfortable truth is that everyone else places it afterwards.
We're not simply talking about Cheney or Libby, either. David Bohrer, the White House photographer regarded as reliable enough to use as a witness for placing Cheney in the bunker early, said this to ABC News:
Bohrer talks of a staffer repeatedly returning with warnings of an incoming plane, thought to be Flight 93. He does not say "strangely, this also happened just before the Pentagon was hit". (The programme does also cover Mineta's story as though it were Flight 77, but Bohrer doesn't comment on that. Follow the link to read the whole thing, if you haven't already.)
Similarly, Richard Clarke in the Situation Room only reports Ralph Siegler telling him of an incoming "hostile aircraft" after the Pentagon was hit, not before. (Although it's worth noting that Condoleezza Rice aide Franklin Miller, also in the Situation Room that day, says he doesn't recall those warnings happening at all.)
We've yet to see any record of another witness mentioning Cheney's order prior to the Pentagon being hit, then, or even just commenting on how the post-10:00 warnings weren't the first that had been received that day. Even witnesses happily quoted by David Ray Griffin on other issues, like Clarke and Bohrer, don't confirm his story here. What does that tell you? Is everyone else lying, or is Mineta just wrong?
Dana Hyde memo
Dana Hyde was a 9/11 Commission member who spent a great deal of time pursuing White House and FAA officials, in an attempt to put together a timetable for the day. And in a memo she reveals when logs say Mineta arrived at the WTC. 10:07:
Hyde wonders about the accuracy of these logs, which is something that defenders of the Mineta timeline will seize upon. But as the Commission accepted a time of 9:58, it seems reasonable to suggest they wouldn't argue with the 10:07 time for Mineta, either. And as we've seen, this log isn't out of place: it matches up with other evidence that suggests Mineta arrived at the PEOC far, far later than 9:20.
As we've seen, a 9:20 arrival at the White House would be difficult for Mineta to achieve. His description of people running from the White House fits the scene at 9:45, not 9:15. There are further issues with Delta 1989 and the timing of the shoot down order, while Richard Clarke's teleconference also suggests Mineta arrived later than he claimed. And it's reported that Mineta knew nothing of the FAA decision to ground all planes until some minutes after this had been issued. All these problems are resolved if we shift his timeline forward, but in that case the Cheney conversation Mineta overheard cannot have referred to Flight 77, and it's not evidence for a stand-down.
This isn't enough for some, though. "Ah," they say, "but what about..."
Clarke and the Mineta arrival
David Ray Griffin discusses this issue in his book 9/11 Contradictions. He claims that Richard Clarke tells us when Mineta arrives: "at about 9:15, Norman Mineta arrived". Here's what Clarke actually said, starting as he's talking to Jane Garvey during the teleconference:
On an accuracy note, there are reasons to question some of what Richard Clarke says. Mineta does not have "two sons who were pilots for United", for instance. They flew with Horizon Airlines and Delta Airlines. And although Clarke says he spoke to Richard Myers at 9:28, Myers said he was in a meeting with Senator Max Cleland at the time ([Cleland backs him up]).
More seriously, it's plain from the text that Clarke is not unambiguously saying that Mineta has arrived at this point. He could have delivered all both statements on the phone: "please come to the Situation Room first and I'll brief you on what's going on, but after that I think it's best if you join the Vice President". We might say that's less likely, as Clarke doesn't mention Mineta again, but then this is becoming horribly imprecise (on the Mineta arrival here). And this can in no way invalidate the arguments we've made earlier, especially as Richard Clarke's account has so many problems of its own.
Clear the Skies
We found the transcript of this programme online, though, and if accurate this doesn't present nearly such a clear-cut picture (something that Griffin appears to concede in a later section of the book):
The programme does repeat Mineta's story, then. But it also says Cheney wasn't evacuated until after 9:33, contradicting Mineta's claim that he was in the PEOC at 9:20/ 9:27, and meaning Cheney would arrive too late to take part in any "50 miles out" conversation. Which version is true? "Clear the Skies" provides no additional information to help us find out, and therefore cannot be seen as delivering real support for either account.
Cheney at the PEOC
A key part of the Mineta story is that Cheney was in the PEOC at 9:20 (or 9:27, depending on the account you choose). David Ray Griffin tells us that "His story, however, is in line with that of many other witnesses (source), and so defenders of the Mineta timeline are quick to point to these other witnesses as support for his story.
Take a closer look at these witnesses, though, and it turns out their stories don't offer nearly as much support as we're frequently being told. In fact, they don't stand up to scrutiny at all (read the full details here).
9/11 activist George Washington reports on "additional confirmation" of Mineta's story:
However, there's nothing here to say that Woodward is doing anything other than repeating Mineta's story, which was already in the public domain. He certainly provides no evidence that it's been independently corroborated. Further, when you look at the full text you find a significant contradiction:
Just as with with Clear the Skies, the Woodward piece doesn't place Cheney in the PEOC tunnel until after 9:32, too late to play a part in the "do the orders still stand?" conversation described by Mineta, at least if it related to Flight 77. This account may repeat Mineta's version of events, then, but other parts of the story contradict, rather than corroborate it.
50 miles out
Some people have tested Mineta's account by trying to compare his times and distances with the approaching Flight 77. The NTSB said Flight 77 was 38 miles out from the Pentagon at 9:29, for instance, so you could say it was around 50 miles out at 9:26, more or less as Mineta said.
There are complications here, though. Mineta reported hearing that the plane was "50 miles out", but from what? Unless it's believed that whoever was feeding the distances knew the Pentagon was a target, then the chances are they were referring to something else.
Let's suppose someone discovers this, and finds a new time: it's still possible to construct a case that makes Mineta look good. Mineta has said he reached the PEOC by 9:20 and 9:27 in the interviews above, 9:25 in a video interview, and in turn gave a two minute window for the time he overheard the conversation with Cheney. If we were to allow Mineta a further 1 minute margin of error either side of that window, then we could say he's scored a hit if Flight 77 were 50 miles out (from wherever) at 9:24-9:27 or 9:29-9:34. That's a substantial 10 minute range, more than half the time available between Mineta's supposed 9:20 arrival and the Pentagon being hit, so the odds are actually in favour of one of these accounts fitting the Flight 77 timetable.
The reality here is that these calculations depend on "9:20" and "5 or 6 minutes" being reliable figures, and that's most unlikely to be true. Mineta almost certainly didn't arrive at 9:20:00 precisely, didn't look at his watch to make sure, but instead worked back later to come up with an approximate figure that he rounded off to the nearest minute or two. It's what everybody does, and even without his other arrival times we wouldn't be placing too much reliance on this one.
But of course we do have the other arrival times, and all the other problems with Mineta's testimony, and they won't go away just because of the result of a calculation like this. Supporters of the Mineta timetable can at best argue it shows the movements of Flight 77 may be consistent with his story, but that's about it.
Flight 93 never 10 miles out
Another argument we hear is that Flight 93 never got remotely close to being "10 miles out", therefore it cannot have been the plane mentioned in the conversation Mineta overheard. The 9/11 Commission Report made an attempt to address this by talking of a projected flight path only:
The Commission also doesn't talk of the flight being "10 miles out", instead talking of 60 miles out at between 10:12 and 10:18. This could match up with a projected Flight 93, though, and there's confirmation from elsewhere of concerns about planes approaching after the Pentagon was hit. This story talks of a plane "basically coming down the [Potomac] River, perhaps matching Mineta's description:
The Arlington County after-action report also reported that Flight 93 was thought to be in the air, long after it had crashed:
And there were other alerts, including this one also referring to "a couple [of] unknowns heading north on the Potomac River toward the White House":
It's still a little frustrating that the Commission only say the FAA "may" have been using a projected path, but pilot and author Lynn Spencer has provided some independent confirmation (our emphasis):
And History Commons have also provided further details in a timeline entry 9:56 a.m. September 11, 2001: Air Traffic Controller Changes Flight 93’s Destination to Washington.
In the meantime, though, this question doesn't help the Mineta timeline much. If the plane mentioned in the conversation Mineta overheard was not Flight 93, it could be something else, and no amount of looking into this issue will make the problems surrounding his story go away.
Mineta cannot be that wrong
Another Mineta defence is that he simply "couldn't be that wrong", there's too much detail in what he says. How could he be that confused?
Well, as we've seen already, he has been substantially wrong in the past when talking about times:
The local ground stops didn't occur until after 9:00, some 20-30 minutes later than Mineta was saying here. And the full ground stop didn't happen until 9:45, not 9:27. These are not small errors.
In reality, though, this is a secondary question. The key issue here is whether Mineta's story is true, or false. We believe information already in the public domain shows his story is inaccurate. Figuring out why it's inaccurate is another question entirely. We could speculate, research examples showing the fallibility of memory and how unreliable witnesses can be, but that wouldn't prove anything. The "why" question simply isn't one that long-distance Internet researchers can usefully address.
Of course there is an explanation commonly used by 9/11 researchers, when they spot an apparent anomaly in someone's story: they say that individual is lying. However you'll only rarely hear that in connection with Mineta. His story is defended to the end, with all anomalies excused, and we believe for one reason only: it's required to implicate Cheney.
Mineta confirmed his testimony in 2007
Mineta was asked about his testimony in a 2007 video:
We're not entirely sure what this is supposed to prove, however. Yes, Mineta has said he's standing by his account: that's no surprise, it's the same story he's been telling since shortly after the attacks. But that doesn't make his account correct, nor does it get rid of the many problems with his timetable of events. In fact, the video introduces a new problem in the idea that "Lynn Cheney was also in the PEOC bunker already at the time of his arrival". The 9/11 Commission put her arrival at 9:52, something that fits with earlier accounts in the media:
There's a small issue here in Dick Cheney supposedly hearing about the Pentagon attack just before his wife arrived at 9:52; he said he heard just after arriving in the PEOC conference room, which the 9/11 Commission placed at around 9:58.
However, in terms of Lynne Cheney herself, all the accounts we've found say she didn't arrive until after the Pentagon was hit. If these are true, and Lynne Cheney was indeed in the PEOC when Mineta arrived, then the conversation he overheard could not have related to Flight 77.
Security Service Timeline
A recently released Secret Service timeline has been quoted in support of Mineta's claims.
The document tells us that the Secret Service were informed of a plane en route to the Washington area at 9:18, for instance. White House evacuation was initiated at 9:26; Cheney was in the PEOC tunnel at 9:30, and in the PEOC at 9:33 (source, page 6/18 in the PDF).
Of course if Cheney wasn't in the PEOC until 9:33, then Mineta couldn't have seen him there at 9:20 (or even 9:27), so how much support the document offers is open to question. Still, this does place the evacuation far earlier than other reports, so at first glance it may seem compelling. Until you look at the other documents contained within the file, that is, which turn out to contradict Mineta's version of events in several ways.
Page 4, for instance, talks of a phone call to Secret Service agent Truscott at 9:43, warning of an approaching aircraft and saying that the White House was being evacuated. Or evacuation may have followed afterwards, as it mentions Truscott initiating the evacuation; either way, it's hard to see how the Special Agent In Charge wouldn't hear about an evacuation until some 17 minutes after it had begun. And it fits very well with the idea that the evacuation didn't occur until around 9:45.
On page #5 Truscott talks of meeting Cheney in the tunnel, where he was on the phone, and advising him to move to the PEOC proper. And Truscott also says that "the report of the Pentagon being hit by the suspicious aircraft was announced to the VP and NSA Rice after they arrived at the PEOC", matching up with what Cheney has said.
Page #8 confirms Lynne Cheney's account of events, saying she only arrived at the PEOC after the Pentagon was hit (Mineta has said she was there when he arrived), and contains a note saying that the White House was being evacuated when she arrived.
Page #9 and #12 contain security service reports describing when and why Cheney was evacuated: some time after 9:30, when there was a report of an incoming plane (a match for the 9/11 Commission's timeline, but contradictory to Mineta's). Are we to believe that the White House was evacuated before Cheney was moved?
Page #13 has a timeline stating that Author (Lynne Cheney's codename) and Angler (Dick Cheney) were only "moved to relocation site at White House" at 9:55pm. (However, it also says "Plane crashed into Pentagon" at 9:50, showing you can't rely on these documents for very accurate timings.)
Page #14 has a timeline talking of Angler being moved to "secure location" earlier, at 9:36, which would fit with his initial relocation to the PEOC tunnel.
And there are assorted other pages repeating very similar information.
So: there is one page here that places the White House evacuation much earlier than normally claimed. It's not early enough to work for Mineta's 9:20 arrival time at the PEOC, though. And other pages contradict this, talking of Truscott initiating the evacuation far later, Cheney not being evacuated until after 9:30, Lynne Cheney not arriving at the PEOC until much later still, all in direct opposition to Mineta's claim of seeing them both in the bunker at 9:20.
Of course some people will ignore this, quote selectively from the document and hope no-one will bother to check. But the reality is that most of these pages contradict Mineta in various ways: please, go read the whole thing, find out for yourself.
The Mineta story is often presented as though it's clear and definitive fact, but as we've seen, if you take a close look at the details then major problems emerge.
- Mineta said that when he arrived people were "pouring out of the Executive Office building", "running out of the White House" and "running over towards Lafayette Park". This is a very accurate description of what happened after the Pentagon was hit, and precisely no-one describes it happening any earlier. It's clear evidence that Mineta arrived after the Pentagon was hit.
- Mineta said that, before he left for the White House, "Jane Garvey had phoned to report that the CEO of Delta Airlines had called the FAA and said it could not yet account for all of its aircraft". Mineta places the event well before 9:20, then, yet Garvey only mentions issues with Delta planes as occurring after the Pentagon was hit.
- Richard Clarke tells us Mineta wasn't at the White House when his teleconference begins. He puts this well before 9:28 in his book, but the content says it must have been later, most probably after the Pentagon was hit.
- At least two media reports tell us that Mineta did not give the 9:45 ground stop order, and that he wasn't in contact with the FAA until some minutes later. This doesn't fit with his claims of a 9:20 PEOC arrival - it would mean he took 30 minutes or more to call the FAA - but makes sense if he did arrive after the Pentagon was hit.
- Ben Sliney, the man who gave the ground stop order, said his recollection of events was different to Mineta's and Garvey's, yet an FAA official tried to persuade him support the story that Mineta ordered the ground stop, something he said would be to "go along with a fiction".
- Mineta reportedly said that Lynn Cheney was in the PEOC when he arrived. The 9/11 Commission place her arrival at 9:52, though, and since 2001 she's consistently said she arrived after the Pentagon was hit. Another indication that Mineta did, too.
- Dana Hyde's mention of the PEOC shelter log said Mineta didn't arrive until 10:07.
- Mineta says Monte Belger provided positional information on Flight 77 as it approached the Pentagon. Belger's interviews contain no reference to any such incident, though, and only talk about getting on the phone to Mineta after he'd heard of the Pentagon crash.
- And while Mineta claims he established a phone bridge with the FAA at 9:20/ 9:27, and issued the "bring all the planes down" order just before 9:45, Jane Garvey's 9/11 Commission interview reports that Mineta didn't call in until after Flight 93 had crashed (10:03), long after Ben Sliney had actually initiated the process.
The reality is that Mineta's account doesn't make sense. Not because the 9/11 Commission says so; his own retelling of events gives us the information we need to say he was mistaken, and arrived at the White House long after 9:20. And that's why, with the current information, we believe the simpler explanation is more likely to be true: Cheney arrived in the shelter preceding the PEOC at 9:37, Mineta came later, and the conversation he overheard did not refer to Flight 77.
This is such an important issue that you really shouldn't rely on these pages alone, though. Get out there, read the contrary views, see if they can deal with the points we raise, or have compelling new arguments of their own. A quick Google search will deliver plenty of information, but if you don't have time to browse then start with Peter Dale Scott's Journal of 9/11 Studies piece, Adam Letalik's paper at the same site, or this George Washington blog entry. Read, consider, check references to articles to be sure you're getting the whole picture: and make up your own mind.