On 9/11, Dick Cheney ordered navy to shoot down hijacked U.S. airliners

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“Mr. Vice President,” the agent mentioned, “we’ve acquired to go away now.”

“Earlier than I might reply, he moved behind my desk,” Cheney later wrote in his autobiography, “put one hand on my belt and one other on my shoulder, and propelled me out of my workplace.”

The vice chairman, a not small man, was actually being carried to security — on this case, a particular operations bunker.

“My jaw dropped and the jaws of my colleagues dropped,” Mary Matalin, one among Cheney’s high advisers, recalled in “The Solely Airplane within the Sky,” Garrett M. Graff’s oral historical past of that day. “We had by no means seen something like that.”

The nation was at battle. And now there have been reviews that extra hijacked planes have been headed towards Washington, together with one that will quickly hit the Pentagon.

With Bush evacuated into the sky on Air Pressure One, Cheney was hunkered down within the Presidential Emergency Operations Heart with senior White Home officers, together with nationwide safety adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Their mission, Cheney wrote: “stopping additional assaults” and, extra ominously, “guaranteeing the continuity of a functioning United States authorities.”

Which left Cheney within the terribly tough place of asking the president for authorization to shoot down any airplane trying one other assault — hijacked planes little doubt stuffed with Individuals.

Karl Rove, Bush’s senior adviser, overheard the dialog, telling Graff:

He mentioned “Sure,” then there was a pause as he listened. Then one other “sure.” You had an unreal sense of time that entire day. I don’t know whether or not it was 10 seconds or two minutes. Then he mentioned, “You’ve my authorization.” Then he listened for some time longer. He closed off the dialog. He turned to us and mentioned that he had simply licensed the shoot-down of hijacked airliners.

Bush, like Cheney, knew the gravity of such an order. There have been reviews of a number of planes heading for targets in Washington.

“I used to be an Air Nationwide Guard pilot,” Bush mentioned after hanging up. “I’d be one of many folks getting this order. I can’t think about getting this order.”

Cheney gave it a number of instances. In his autobiography, he wrote:

At about 10:15, a uniformed navy aide got here into the room to inform me {that a} airplane, believed hijacked, was eighty miles out and headed for D.C. He requested me whether or not our fight air patrol had authority to have interaction the plane. Did our fighter pilots have authority, in different phrases, to shoot down an American business airliner believed to have been hijacked? “Sure,” I mentioned with out hesitation. A second later he was again. “Mr. Vice President, it’s sixty miles out. Have they got authorization to have interaction?” Once more, sure.

In different moments, he was even blunter. Advised at one level there was a airplane 5 miles from the White Home, Cheney advised navy aides, “If it appears threatening, take it out.”

No American navy pilots ever needed to pull the set off.

Within the fog of (early) battle, a few of Cheney’s orders didn’t attain down by way of the chain of command to fighter pilots, in keeping with the 9/11 Fee Report. And the menace posed by United Airways Flight 93, hijacked by terrorists intent on attacking Washington, was dealt with in a special method.

“Conscious of the fates of the opposite planes hijacked that morning,” Cheney wrote, “the passengers on Flight 93 stormed the cockpit. By sacrificing their very own lives, these courageous women and men saved the lives of many others, probably together with these of us within the White Home that morning.”

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