Murphy's Law: June 28, 2004


Recently released information on the events of 9/11 indicate there were numerous failures of the United States government to establish effective communications channels, with problems leading all the way up to the White House. It is assumed the President of the United States, no matter where he is, has infallible communication links with the White House and his immediate subordinates, but the 9/11 Commission reported he was forced at one point to resort to a cell phone to talk to Vice President Chaney in Washington. No specifics are given on what system or systems broke down, but since the President was in the country at the time - specifically in Florida visiting an elementary school - the excuse of being in a foreign nation with poor infrastructure can't be used. During the Cold War, the President was expected to be "on-call" on a 24 x 7 basis in case of a surprise nuclear attack and would have less than 30 minutes to be contacted and make a decision on a retaliatory strike. 

Some communications problems between the FAA and NORAD still haven't been resolved, despite claims this week that the FAA had clearer lines of communication with the military since 9/11. It took at least 20 minutes for the FAA to notify the military of the first hijackings, and it took 36 minutes for the FAA to notify anyone that American Airlines Flight 77 - the plane that hit the Pentagon -- was hijacked. On June 9, the FAA was actively tracking the Kentucky Governor's plane as it traveled through controlled airspace in Washington D.C. with a broken transponder, but failed to notify a NORAD regional control center. The FAA had been tracking the plane for over 40 minutes when air defense officials scrambled F-15s and a UH-60 helicopter; police also ordered a panicked evacuation of the Capitol. It took another 5 to 7 minutes before the FAA had notified the control center of the situation. Law enforcement and military agencies were on heightened alert with dignitaries in town for Reagan's funeral - Doug Mohney


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