Standing on top of a crumpled fire truck with retired New York City firefighter Bob Beckwith, President George W. Bush rallies firefighters and rescue workers Friday, Sept. 14, 2001, during an impromptu speech at the site of the collapsed World Trade Center towers. “I can hear you,” President Bush said. “The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.” (Photo by Eric Draper, Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library)

Behind the 9/11 White House Order to Shoot Down U.S. Airliners: ‘It Had to be Done’

It’s hard to imagine an American leader authorizing the shoot-down of civilian aircraft. But in the first hour following the attacks of September 11, 2001, when it was unclear how many passenger jets had been weaponized by terrorists—and then aimed at America’s seats of power—that’s exactly what happened.

According to what historic record exists from that chaotic morning, however, it’s unclear that the decision came directly from someone in the operational chain of command, which runs from the President to the Secretary of Defense down to military commanders. President George W. Bush, who began the day at an education event in Florida, was sequestered in the skies on Air Force One, frustrated by scant information, spotty communication and handlers determined to keep him safely away from the capital. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, meanwhile, became unreachable after the Pentagon itself had been struck.

That left Vice President Cheney, positioned in a bunker beneath the White House, in the decision-making hot seat.

Read more at History

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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