The threat wan’t unthinkable because they were in a Tom Clancy novel. I forget which one but it’s the one where Jack Ryan becomes president after a jet liner is crashed into the capitol during the state of the union address.
I’m pretty sure that was an international best seller.
Don’t forget the G-8 Conference in Italy of August 2001 – which both Bush and Rice attended – had anti-aircraft batteries deployed out of fear that terrorists would fly an explosives-loaded jet and crash it into the conference center.
Because they didn’t know it was happening until too late. Those planes all hit their targets within minutes of each other - AFAIK (having served in the AF but in support roles not directly related to combat) they didn’t have enough time to determine the next target(s) and get fighters out there. Let’s not forget that we’re talking civilian air liners over US soil - the AF isn’t about to start shooting things down without being damned sure they know what they’re shooting at.
There is a big difference between knowing that something is a threat, and being able to counter it.
Protecting one (say, where world leaders happen to be meeting) target may be easy. Much more difficult is to protect all targets.
I can think of a plausable threat right now - someone loads a home-made nuke into a cargo ship, sails it into the harbour of a major city - and blows it up at the dock. Aside from some high-teck wizardry I don’t know about, I can’t see any real way to counter this threat - except to carefully inspect cargo ships: but that usually happens, if I am not mistaken, when the ship is already in harbour.
I’m just once again disappointed by the dishonesty. Haven’t they said all along that no one had ever considered the use of a jet as a missile? I mean, it’s one thing to say they considered it and decided it was unlikely, which I’d buy. But hasn’t Rice said that hijacking was considered, but not hijacking to use the plane as a missile? If so, then the lying continues.
Wrack my brains as I might, I can’t think how this threat can be countered without a lot of aggravation. Ships come and go all the time; they are inspected in port, not on the high seas; they sometimes fly flags of convenience, making it difficult to tell who their true owners are. One can only hope that the planning stage of such a venture is interrupted.
To be honest, after the second airplane hit the WTC, there’s no excuse for inactivity from either the Air Force or the Bush Administration. The airplanes had already deviated from their flight plans and tracked by NORAD, and given the amount of time after UA175 hit the south WTC tower, the lack of any rapid response is … disturbing, to say the least.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but couldn’t a smallish nuclear weapon, detonated underwater in international waters, still produce a wave that would do catastrophic damage to a coastal city? So it seems like a terrorist wouldn’t even need to worry about customs searches. Plus it’s not like the police are combing the ocean floor, so you could drop it off, make your port call, get well away from danger, and then kaboom.
On the plane thing:
Of course Rice knew it was possible. Everyone knew it was possible. The Japanese did it in WWII, Clancy wrote about it, it’s happened more than once with small aircraft, and we’ve had worries about terrorists doing it for some time. How many of you saw the news clips on 9/11 and said, “Holy shit, who knew planes could do that?” I’ll wager it wasn’t many.
No, rjung, you’re being too generous. If you check that timeline, the point at which all the alarm bells should have gone off, and the US government, from the President on down, should have been alerted that they were to be at battle stations, was at 8:43 a.m., three minutes before Flight 11 hit the North Tower.
That’s when NORAD was aware that three, three, count 'em, THREE jetliners had been hijacked in the northeastern U.S., just five weeks after the President had been warned that al-Qaeda was determined to attack the US, with hijackings as a likely part of the plan.
I seriously doubt that we’d ever had a pair of simultaneous airplane hijackings prior to 9/11. Yet here had three hijacked airplanes all at once. If NORAD or the FAA had gotten any sort of alert as a result of that PDB, surely they would have said, “this is the big one,” and called the country to battle stations.
If some equivalent of the War Cabinet had gotten on a conference call within the next few minutes, chances are Flight 175 would have still hit the South Tower; the window of opportunity there was very small. But the order to land all the jets could have been issued before 9am, and Air Force fighters could have been sent up to escort all noncomplying/nonresponding planes, meaning Flights 77 and 93 in particular, and (after the South Tower was hit) been ordered to shoot them down if necessary.
Maybe none of this would have done any good. But the response should have been there, period. Maybe it would have at least saved the people who were burned in the Pentagon. The fact that there was no response at all until way too late - that the Administration, from the President on down, was asleep at the switch - is a crime.
Ever since I put the 8/6 PDB together with the 9/11 timeline, I’ve been furious. I’d ask what was Bush thinking, except that there’s no evidence that he does.
And that’s even without considering the matter of the OP. If NORAD had been doing this sort of thing for two years, and nobody in the higher levels of the Bush administration knew about it, plus the Genoa G-8 meetings, plus the other bits and pieces of warnings they’d gotten…well, if the Bushies just couldn’t imagine that airplanes might have been used as missiles against us, it’s their own damned fault.
Hell, it’s even stranger than that. Some conspiracy theorists thought that Flight 93 had been shot down, and there were a few witness reports of another plane in the vicinity when 93 went down. The White House’s response was that fighters were en route, but hadn’t gotten there yet. Which leaves the question, why the hell weren’t they there yet?
Debt of Honor, published in 1993 IIRC. And like everything with Clancy’s name on it, it was read by a lot of people. So the idea of planes as weapons has been in the public conciousness for a while. I have a feeling that could be contributing to some of the outrage. If Tom Clancy could think of it, why couldn’t the government? Especially since military folk are probably more inclined to read Clancy’s work. Then again, that might be the reason why NORAD was training for it in the first place… some high up in the chain of command reads DOH, goes “Oh, shit! He’s right!” and includes a planes-as-weapons drill in the next set of scenarios.